Charge Nurse Job Description
Charge nurses ensure that hospitals and medical centers provide excellent patient care by leading teams of nurses. In this role, charge nurses assess the current needs of patients and medical staff and ensure adequate staffing to prevent treatment delays. Charge nurses are typically registered nurses (RNs), balancing direct patient care tasks with organizing and directing the activities of their teams.
Additionally, charge nurses support facility operations and effectiveness by overseeing administrative tasks and directing team assessment and improvement activities. Because this role has so many different responsibilities, charge nurses need to balance nursing expertise with administrative oversight and effective time management.
Charge Nurse Duties and Responsibilities
Based on postings that we analyzed, most charge nurses share several core responsibilities:
Manage and Schedule Nurses
One of the central duties of a charge nurse is directing a team of nurses throughout the shift to provide patient care and support doctors throughout the hospital or medical facility. This aspect of the role typically involves assessing current needs, determining how to best use available staff, and assigning duties to nurses. Additionally, charge nurses provide hands-on support during busy periods.
Determine Patient Care Needs
Charge nurses play a key role in assessing patient care needs and developing care plans. In many cases, charge nurses oversee nurses tasked with collecting patient data, and they may interview or screen patients to determine the best course of action to help them resolve their health issues. Charge nurses also monitor patient well-being throughout the patient's stay in the facility.
Conduct Nurse Assessments
As part of their leadership role, charge nurses conduct assessments and performance reviews for nurses on their teams. This typically includes direct observation while a nurse performs their duties and patient procedures, along with one-on-one meetings to discuss areas for improvement and provide constructive feedback. Charge nurses may also prepare reports related to their team's activities.
Collaborate with Doctors and Medical Teams
Throughout the patient care process, charge nurses work closely with doctors and other medical professionals to address urgent and ongoing patient care needs. For example, if a doctor requests that a nurse conducts periodic observations of a patient's vital signs before determining the next steps, a charge nurse will assign a member of their team to this patient.
Resolve Team Conflicts
Charge nurses ensure team cohesion and efficiency by resolving conflicts between members of the nursing staff. This requires the charge nurse to work closely with team members in conflict to understand the nature of the dispute and to develop a solution that helps the team run more effectively without interrupting the flow of patient care.
Maintain Administrative Needs
Most charge nurses also support hospital or medical facility activities by maintaining administrative records, particularly those related to their teams or to the patients in their care. This can involve collecting and filing nurse or patient data, submitting certification paperwork to oversight organizations, and providing reports related to patient care procedures and outcomes.
Charge Nurse Skills and Qualifications
Charge nurses oversee teams of nurses while performing the day-to-day duties of an RN. Most charge nurses have a bachelor's degree and the following skills:
- Nursing expertise – charge nurses should have a solid grasp on the responsibilities of an RN and the ability to perform duties that support doctors and other medical staff
- Patient support skills – effective patient support is central to this role, so charge nurses need excellent bedside manner and observation skills to assess patient health needs
- Team leadership – charge nurses lead teams that include RNs and other nurses, so they should be effective team leaders and coordinators, able to direct team members to where they are most needed
- Critical thinking – critical thinking is central to a nurse's role, so charge nurses should be able to examine and assess situations and patients and make quick decisions to support patient health outcomes
- Organization and time management – charge nurses often manage their teams' schedules and direct their activities throughout the shift, so organization and effective time management are key
- Communication skills – written and verbal communication are central to this role, since charge nurses need to communicate with medical professionals and patients and prepare reports and other paperwork related to their duties
Charge Nurse Education and Training
This role requires a significant amount of education, beginning with achieving an RN license. Most RNs have either a bachelor's or associate’s degree in nursing, along with additional training. Some RNs opt to complete courses through hospitals or medical centers. Bachelor's degree programs typically provide students with additional preparation to take on leadership roles, so nurses who intend to become charge nurses generally opt for a bachelor's degree.
Charge Nurse Salary and Outlook
Charge nurses are RNs, although they have additional leadership responsibilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earn a median annual salary of $70,000. The highest-paid 10 percent of RNs earn more than $104,100 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent of workers in this role earn less than $48,690 annually.
The BLS expects employment of RNs to increase at a much faster-than-average rate of 15 percent through 2026.
If you'd like to learn more about starting a career as a charge nurse, we found several resources on the web for further reading and information:
Strategies for Nurse Managers – this website features articles and resources specifically tailored toward charge nurses, with information to help them lead more effectively and improve patient care processes
A Charge Nurse's Guide: Navigating the Path of Leadership – read this book to build effective leadership skills and learn how to resolve conflicts, manage change, and support patient outcomes
American Nurses Association – ANA is the largest professional organization for nurses, providing career and professional development resources, opportunities to connect and network with other professionals, and certification programs
The Nurse Leader Handbook: The Art and Science of Nurse Leadership – this book explores effective strategies for balancing patient care and nursing team leadership, providing charge nurses with a quick reference while making decisions on the job