The charge nurse-nursing role is a leadership position within an organization. The easiest way to understand what a charge nurse is to think of a nurse that has been appointed the responsibility to lead and take charge of a unit on a particular shift. Charge nurses can work in several units or specialties such as the emergency room, pediatrics, or even the intensive care unit.

Become a Charge Nurse Guide

Table of Contents

Quick Summary

Charge nurses carry the primary task of ensuring the nursing staff members are doing their duties and all things in a unit are moving along smoothly. The charge nurse sometimes known as the shift manager directs and manages the complete daily patient care of a hospital facility unit.

You can think of the charge nurse as an air traffic controller of a healthcare facility unit. Only because the nurses and organizations depend on them for their professional guidance and direction. The work environment for the charge nurse is often fast-paced and fast-moving. For example, the charge nurse is expected to perform a variety of path that often demands a high level of flexibility. Aside from this, their work environment can sometimes be unpredictable yet exciting.

Recommended level of education for this career: Bachelor of Science (BSN)

License Needed: Registered Nursing License (RN)

Certification: The Certified Nurse Manager and Leader certification can be obtained from The American Hospital Association (AHA).

How much do Charge Nurses make? The median annual salary for charge nurses is $67,490*


What does a Charge Nurse do?

The charge nurse oversees registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA). Further, the Charge Nurse reports to a Nurse Manager or Director assigned above them.

On their shift, they hold many duties and responsibilities. Some duties include supervising the patient flow, ensuring communication within a unit is maintained with a purpose to ensure patients and nurses receive the support they need. During the charge nurses’ shift, some of the duties will include supervision over problems and concerns that may come up during their shift.

The charge nurse has a heavy responsibility, as they are always the constant center of all activities that go on during the shift; additionally, their role also requires them to ensure that all the available resources are available to provide safe patient care.

They are also known for their strong organizational skills, their ability to delegate many tasks, think critically out-of-the-box, and troubleshoot issues that may arise, as well as remain calm in all of the situations. Therefore, as we can see the charge nurse wears many hats.


Universal Charge nurse’s duties

Universal Charge nurse’s duties include:

  • Delegating duties to the nursing staff
  • Trains staff
  • Reviews all nursing plans
  • Handle complaints from staff and patients
  • Ensure workplace safety is maintained for staff and patients
  • Ensuring facility equipment usage is properly managed
  • Ensuring the nurse staff follows service written policies, procedures, and regulations
  • Supervise daily the nursing staff activities
  • Prepares work schedules
  • Maintains composure in stressful situations
  • Being a role model, mentor, or coach to staff
  • Being a resource for the staff and patients
  • Sometimes providing patient care as needed this could be when the staff is behind, or a nurse needs to take a lunch break
  • Ensuring proper care for patients is following nursing standards
  • Review and transcribe physician orders
  • Ensure patients are getting the best level of care by serving as a patient advocate

Charge nurses are expected to hold the staff accountable at times enforce disciplinary actions and inshore that everyone on their team is pulling their weight to inshore that the team works together efficiently and smoothly.

The charge nurse role requires delegating tasks to staff to get things done. When the charge nurse is on duty, they must measure the nurse’s performance and ensure they are following state and nursing regulatory guidelines.

One of the main tasks of being a charge nurse is ensuring the staff and team all work together, frequently many of the nurses have their knowledge, skills, and different attitudes, turf protection, or just mistrust that can make sometimes working together difficult.

The good news about the charge nurse is they find common ground between the nurses and set clear goals of what has to be expected. The charge nurse provides support to help ensure the staff and teamwork effectively.

During a given shift, the charge nurse will assess unit productivity and often conduct performance hourly rounds. Frequently the charge nurse will need to interact with physicians in regards to ensuring the patients are being provided with the best level of care. As patient care issues arise, the charge nurse may have to deal with challenging or difficult patients.

At times, this can be a bit difficult. Nevertheless, the great news of getting experience as a charge nurse is the valuable skills you will learn as well as leadership skills in a vast number of areas.

Many times hospital units can often be a bit chaotic and the patients, the staff as well as the interdisciplinary team look and relied heavily upon the charge nurse for their expertise, direction, and guidance.

The charge nurse will often spend a majority of their time communicating with their peers, team members, supervisors as well as the patient; their work environment additionally requires them to have good organizing, planning as well as documenting skills.

Becoming a charge nurse, you have many options for where you might decide to work. Many charge nurses are employees in hospitals that can include acute care community hospitals, specialty hospitals, teaching hospitals as well as territory hospitals.

Because the role of the charge nurse often requires keeping track of large amounts of patient and staff member data many charge nurses are expected to be proficient using spreadsheet software, understand office suite software that includes Microsoft, PowerPoint as well as Excel software.


What education will I need to become a Charge Nurse?

To be a charge nurse, you must first be a registered nurse. To become a registered nurse you will either need a diploma that is provided by the hospital-based nursing program.

Hospital diploma-based nursing school can take about three years and once completed you can become eligible to take your nursing examination to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Upon graduation, no degree is provided.

The second option is to get a two-year Associate’s Degree of Science in Nursing (ADN). These are typically found at community colleges and universities. Once completed one can sit for the NCLEX-RN and become an (RN). The ADN is the fastest route to becoming a Registered Nurse and allows you to earn later a BSN if you decide to go back to school.

The last but most attractive option is going to school and receiving your Bachelor’s Degree in Science with a concentration in Nursing (BSN). This route can be completed in 4 years if you opt to go full time without any breaks. Obtaining your BSN will provide you with the qualifications to take the national exam NCLEX-RN to become an (RN).

Although a BSN is not required to be a Charge Nurse, more tellingly it is highly recommended.

BSN nurses often have more career opportunities with leadership and management nursing positions.

Despite which educational route you decide to pursue. It is best to pick the educational path that can fit with your long and short-term career goals and needs. Charge nurses are required to have nursing experience before they can work as charge nurses.


What Credentials/Certifications will I need?

Certification is optional. The American Organization of Nurse Executives offers a credential for nursing managers and nursing leaders (CNML). This certification was made for nurses who would like to enter the nursing role as manager or leader.

To be eligible to take this certification you will need:

  1. Have a current and active Registered Nursing License
  2. Education and work experience will be necessary to be eligible to sit for the CNML certification:

Option #1: Bachelor’s Degree in Science with two years of nursing manager experience

Option #2:  Or 3 years of nursing manager experience plus a bachelor’s degree, which is not in nursing.

Option#3: If you have, a hospital-based nursing diploma or ADN you will need at least five years of nursing manager experience.

3. Pay the required fee


4 Critical roles and qualities you should have to be a successful charge nurse

Mentor: You will be expected to use your expertise, skills, and knowledge to help to educate your team. Charge nurses are experts but more than anything else they are true advocates for both their patients and staff. They are expected to support their team by being a good listener and helping the nurses to have time by contributing to teaching one another.

Good nursing mentoring can be highly efficient and improve patient as well as staff performance.  Good nursing mentoring can help keep the staff unit operating at its best while allowing them all the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

Role Model: the nurses you will manage will look to you as a role models. Either as a role model, you inspire the nurses that you oversee, or you will discourage and disappoint them.

Charge nurses take on a leadership role in they must continually be aware that the staff is constantly watching and listening to everything that they do.

Part of being a role model includes not just talking the talk but also walking the walk. Besides, to be respected within this role the charge nurse must display being a good role model. By making the best short best decisions for all parties involved that includes patients along with staff members.

Assertive: charge nurses often have to work with a variety of people and at times emotions often run high when patients are unhappy, or the staff is not happy. This is where being assertive goes a long way for the charge nurse.

Assertiveness is also an active skill charge nurses will need to display within this role.

Confident charge nurses can stand up for the staff member’s rights, the patient’s rights as well as their rights without being passively aggressive, defensive, overly aggressive or even being pushy.

They often get their points across while working with a full spectrum of people by being aware of the way they respond to situations.

Fairness: charge nurses have to inshore that they are fair among their team. When the charge nurse is not displaying fairness this often, times can create a negative vibe among the attitudes of the nurses they are managing.

When the nurses or even the patients perceived they are not being treated fairly this will, often, affect their behavior for either the positive or the negative so is very important as a charge nurse to ensure fairness is being displayed among all employees involved.

Charge nurses that are often successful within this role will often emphasize a positive work environment. That includes flexibility within work schedules, providing support to the nurses when they need it.

Thus ensuring that all the team members treat each other with respect, as well as providing an opportunity for employees to share their experience of what is working and what is not working within their unit.

The purpose of fairness is to create unity and to prevent a high turnover rate for the unit as well as the hospital.


How can I advance my career as a Charge Nurse?

Taking on the charge-nursing role can frequently be perceived as a test position to take on. However, taking on the role of charge nurse can often time great opportunities and open doors for you to become qualified more nursing jobs.

Preferably, these positions will be leadership positions, and these positions offer can provide more pay while additionally allowing you to advance your career at a much quicker rate.

Charge nurses can move into more expanded roles as they gain more education and experience as nurse managers, preceptors, mentor nurses, or even nurse leaders.


Career Outlook

One reason for the demand for charge nurses will become more in demand is due to the number of nurses who are afraid to take on this position. Some nurses feel as if they are not ready to lead, while others feel this job is overwhelming, however, this creates more opportunities for this specialty due to the lack of interest among nurses.

The nursing field is by far the largest healthcare occupation within the United States. The Department of Labor (DOL) expects the employment opportunities for RNs will grow much faster than average. Opening many opportunities for charge nurses.

Read also – How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Guide

Check out our other Nursing School Guides.