Education and Training: Nursing training, college degree preferred
Average Salary: $47,107 to $87,428 per year
Job Outlook: Very good
A charge nurse is a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse with demonstrated experience who is in charge of a ward, unit or floor during their shift. Charge nurses work in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Depending on the employer, the charge nurse position can be a permanent one or performed on a rotating basis.
The charge nurse performs specific responsibilities when on charge nurse duty, including: leading the team; creating daily nursing assignments; admitting, discharging and transferring patients; mediating between staff and patients; and helping other nurses with care when needed.
When not on charge duty, nurses care for patients in a variety of ways. Registered nurses start IVs, administer medications and treatments, record patient observations and educate patients about conditions and diseases. They may also direct or supervise licensed practical nurses. Licensed practical nurses record vital signs and patient history, give injections, help feed and bathe patients and collect laboratory samples.
Education and Training Requirements
Charge nurses are first and foremost nurses. Registered nurses must first earn a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, an Associate’s degree in Nursing or a Diploma in Nursing from an official nursing program approved by the state’s board of nursing. Licensed practical nurses must first complete a training program approved by the state’s board of nursing, which are often offered at community colleges and vocational schools.
Aspiring nurses must then apply for and earn state licensure, which includes passing the National Council Licensure Examination. This is the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN for licensed practical nurses.
A nurse must have worked at least six months with his or her current employer in order to be considered for a charge nurse position. Once selected by the employer as a potential charge nurse, the nurse must then complete orientation training, which typically lasts for one month. There the nurse is trained in specific charge nurse duties, such as leading the team; creating daily nursing assignments; admitting, discharging and transferring patients; mediating between staff and patients; and helping other nurses with care when needed.
Getting the Job
Charge nurses serve an essential function in a healthcare setting as leaders and mediators; however, the position in itself is a promotion for nurses. Nurses must have worked at least six months with their current employer to be considered for a charge nurse position.
Employers look for leadership potential, people skills, organizational abilities and nursing competence in a potential charge nurse.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Charge nurses enjoy a positive employment outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22 percent increase in employment for registered nurses and a 21 percent increase in employment for licensed practical nurses between 2008 and 2018. As charge nurses are often rotating positions, there is plenty of opportunity in this field.
Charge nurses may further advance their careers by eventually becoming a supervisory nurse, which is a permanent management position.
Working Conditions and Environment
Charge nurses work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. They work with sick and injured patients as well as handle potentially toxic chemicals and substances, for which they must take appropriate safety precautions.
On the job, charge nurses may experience stress from some high-pressure situations. In addition, they may be required to work some weekends, nights and holidays.
Salary and Benefits
Charge nurses earn from $47,107 to $87,428 each year, which includes some compensation from an annual bonus. Charge nurses who are registered nurses earn more than those who are licensed practical nurses. Nurses typically enjoy a benefits package with medical, dental, vision and 401k benefits as well as vacation and sick time.
Where to Go for More Information
American Nurses Association
8515 Georgia Ave., Ste. 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3492
American Society of Registered Nurses
1001 Bridgeway, Ste. 233
Sausalito, CA 94965
National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
111 East Wacker Dr., Ste. 2900
Chicago, IL 60601-4277
National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
111 West Main Street, Ste. 100
Garner, NC 27529