Learn About Being a Charge Nurse

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a charge nurse do?

Charge nurses manage a ward in a hospital or other health care facility. They are experienced nurses who delegate tasks to other staff in their unit. Charge nurses may do a combination of the following tasks:

  • Coordinate with physicians who need assistance 

  • Detect patient issues that could result in injuries or other difficulties

  • Prepare and maintain schedules 

  • Monitor admissions and discharges

  • Order and monitor supplies

  • Oversee policy, safety and procedure compliance 

Average Salary

Most charge nurses work full-time. Overnight, weekend or holiday shifts may be required. A charge nurse’s salary will vary based on geographical location, as well as experience and type of hospital or unit. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $26.65 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $16.33 to $36.11 per hour.

Charge nurse requirements

Charge nurse jobs require specific skills and certifications: 

Education

To become a charge nurse, one must first receive a Bachelor’s of Science in nursing or BSN. These typically take four years to complete. Some employers prefer that charge nurses also have a Master’s of Science in nursing or MSN. Most MSN programs require a BSN and nursing license and generally take two years to complete. 

Training

Most charge nurses are promoted from nursing positions. Many receive on-the-job training from another charge nurse or member of the hospital leadership team. Training will differ based on the facility. Formal training sessions are available from various organizations and educational institutions. Training in leadership development, critical thinking and other charge nurse skills can help strengthen nurses’ resumes and prepare them to apply for charge nurse roles. 

Certifications

There is one required certification for becoming a charge nurse, as well as plenty of optional certificates that can strengthen your resume and nursing skills. 

  • Registered Nurse: Every state requires nurses to take and pass the NCLEX-RN, offered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to be a licensed nurse. You’ll complete this exam after nursing school. Nurses and charge nurses both need to become licensed RNs. 

  • ANCC Credentials: The American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a certification body for nurses to earn advanced certificates in nursing. The ANCC offers a variety of optional certifications in everything from ambulatory care and pain management to gerontological nursing and medical-surgical nursing. 

Skills

Charge nurses help deliver patient care while managing staff. This requires mastery of specific hard skills, such as math and science, but also a deep knowledge of soft skills, like communication. Prospective charge nurses develop these skills through education and experience. To be a successful charge nurse job candidate, work towards acquiring the following skills: 

  • Communication: Charge nurses are constantly in verbal and written communication with patients, staff members and physicians. Charge nurses should be masters of direct, complete and clear communication to get patients the care they need and successfully manage the nursing staff at the same time. 

  • Clinical skills: Though charge nurses spend a large portion of their time managing nurses and directing the procedures on their unit, they also take part in patient care. They use their clinical nursing skills to create care plans, assess and monitor patients, confer with doctors and report special circumstances. The type and amount of nursing care a charge nurse does will depend on the type of facility, department and shift. 

  • Leadership: Charge nurses are the leaders in their department. They manage staff, answer questions, write reports and make schedules. Nurses come to them for guidance, mentorship, discipline and more. Charge nurses need leadership skills that will help them maintain authority while also building a positive, productive and safe environment within their facility.

  • Computers: Another portion of a charge nurse’s duties are administrative. These individuals type up reports, enter data into spreadsheets and consult care plans. Computer skills prepare charge nurses to do the administrative part of their job efficiently and effectively. 

  • Decision-making: Charge nurses are the voice of authority on a nursing floor. They give their opinions on patient care and make decisions that directly impact patients’ lives. They need to be both thoughtful and decisive when it comes to patient care. 

Charge nurse work environment

Charge nurse jobs can be found in a wide variety of medical settings, including hospitals, medical clinics, physician’s offices, nursing homes and urgent care clinics. The day-to-day experience of being a charge nurse will depend on the facility, but there are a few things that almost any charge nurse can expect out of their work environment: 

  • Charge nurses work with people, including patients, families, nurses and physicians. Their decisions about scheduling and work duties directly affect the lives of other employees. 

  • With their combination of managerial, administrative and clinical responsibilities, charge nurses divide their days between desk work and time on the hospital or clinic floor. The job requires plenty of physical energy, walking and occasionally carrying/lifting. 

  • Since they do work in medical environments, charge nurses may encounter emergencies. They need to be flexible and willing to work under pressure. 

  • Some charge nurses may be required to attend off-site meetings that require travel. 

How to become a charge nurse

If you’d like to become a charge nurse, you can follow these steps:

  1. Pursue an education. After completing high school, you will need to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. 

  2. Become a licensed nurse. Become an RN by passing the NCLEX-RN. 

  3. Gain nursing experience. Most employers are hoping to hire charge nurses with at least three years of nursing experience. Many employers will prefer even more experience, especially if the position is in a specialty field, such as gerontology or pediatrics. 

  4. Prepare your resume. Whether you want to be promoted at your current facility or are searching for jobs elsewhere, you will want to update your resume and cover letter to reflect your experience, education and skills. Highlight any certifications and specializations you might have. 

  5. Search for jobs. You can start your job search online. You may be able to do some in-person searching too. Consider all the different medical sites in your area, such as hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. 

Charge nurse job description example

Regional Hospital is hiring a charge nurse for the cardiology unit. The successful candidate will be responsible for guiding, directing and managing the staff, completing daily managerial tasks and providing optimal patient care.  Must have at least three years of nursing experience. Cardiology specialty or experience is preferred. The successful candidate will be a well-organized RN with a positive, professional demeanor who values safety, security and patient wellness.

Related careers

There are many similar occupations related to healthcare for you to explore. Related careers include:

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  • Nurse

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