How to Become a Charge Nurse

by | Oct 12, 2021 | Charge Nurse | 0 comments

Nursing is a vast field with a lot of different roles and duties. Some excel at taking care of patients, and some excel at leadership. One role in nursing that requires a substantial amount of managerial abilities is charge nurse. In every healthcare facility, you will see a leader.

In the nursing field, a charge nurse is a type of leader. They are also responsible for scheduling and assigning duties and responsibilities to other nurses on their unit in addition to their regular bedside duties.

Becoming a Charge Nurse is not easy. The charge nurse role needs years of experience. That’s why we are going to share with you how you can become a charge nurse.

How to Become a Charge Nurse

What Is a Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse is an RN in charge of wards in hospitals or other healthcare facilities during their shift. Charge nurses are primarily responsible for the care of patients in their assigned unit. That nurse is in charge or in command of all others assigned to that particular area. 

According to policies, they are ultimately responsible for compliance with nurse-patient ratios and proper treatment/procedure standards. They also play a leadership role for their unit while caring for patients.

The nurse typically has at least one nurse’s assistant working under them, taking patient vitals, drawing blood, giving baths, etc. 

A professional charge nurse recognizes the staff member’s needs and helps facilitate the most comfortable environment possible during long shifts. 

For example, if an employee must leave early to attend a child’s school play or sporting event, they should do so without jeopardizing job security.

Becoming a Charge Nurse:

Once you get the degree and RN licensure, you just need a minimum of 3 to 4 years of experience to become a charge nurse. Also, you have to be a registered nurse with a license issued by the nurse licensing agency of your state. 

All RNs must have an associate’s degree from an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become a nurse.

Step 1.) Become a Licensed Registered Nurse

You have to be a practical nurse before becoming a charge nurse. You must complete courses on first aid, patient communication skills, and basic nursing techniques. 

It will help you to understand the science behind everyday medical practices. Prepare yourself with practical knowledge of nutrition, medications, history-taking, and vital signs, which are essential for your future role as a charge nurse.

Step 2.) Gain Experience

It is not possible to become a charge nurse job in one or two years of your nursing degree because this position requires years of experience. However, if you can gain at least three to four years of practical experience, you can apply for charge positions in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. 

Try different positions during these roles to select the more comfortable place where there are chances of becoming a charge nurse.

Charge Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Monitor patients’ conditions and make sure they are receiving proper treatment and care.
  • Provide patients with emotional support and reassurance.
  • To ensure proper care during treatments or procedures, be aware of patients’ needs and preferences, such as allergies or special considerations.
  • Supervise other nurse’s assistants in taking patient vitals, drawing blood, giving baths, etc.
  • Utilize time management skills to ensure that staff members are prepared for procedures or treatments and that patient care is not compromised due to lack of necessary supplies or staffing.
  • Respond promptly to nurse’s assistant requests for assistance in caring for patients.
  • Oversee proper use of medical equipment and direct nurse’s assistants to ensure safe and effective use of equipment.
  • Assist nurse’s assistants as necessary, such as by taking vital signs.
  • Prepare patient charts with a record of all treatments provided and the nurse’s assistant activities during each shift. 
  • Document nurse’s assistant observations or treatment administered to patients.
  • Check for errors in nurse’s assistant records and report any errors to the nurse manager.
  • Maintain nurse’s assistant supplies, such as medications and dressings.
  • Ensure that nurse’s assistants have completed the required training for their nurse position.
  • Serve as a mentor or coach to nurse’s assistants and new healthcare professionals.
  • Guide nurse’s assistants in the use of equipment.
  • Prepare nurse’s assistants for procedures or treatments by explaining what they will experience and answering questions.
  • Be aware of how nurse’s assistants feel while caring for patients, especially in emotionally charged situations such as during emergencies or when several patients may be experiencing the same condition.

Skills you need to Become a Charge Nurse:

  • Ability to make decisions as an assigned nurse on duty
  • Good communication skills.
  • Leadership abilities to ensure that all nurse’s assistant tasks are completed successfully, and that patient needs are being met.
  • Ability to remain calm during emergencies and stressful situations.
  • Patient confidentiality knowledge.
  • Time management skills to ensure that nurse tasks are completed promptly.
  • Good organization skills, especially when responsible for a large staff or supervising nurse’s assistant tasks simultaneously.

Education Requirements for Charge Nurses

For charge nurse positions, nurse managers prefer nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing or a related field, such as health care administration. You must at least hold a degree of BSN and have at least 3 or 4 years of experience. 

Nurses with higher degrees like MSN or Ph.D. are more likely to become charge nurses. So it is recommended that you don’t stop your studies after BSN or getting into any position.

Experience Requirements for Charge Nurse

Employers typically require at least 3 or 4 years of practical experience as a registered nurse. If you have more practical nursing experience, you will likely be promoted to charge nurse before those with less practical experience.

Standard of Living and Salary of Charge Nurses

According to Salary.com, as of March of 2020, the national average salary for a charge nurse was $87,752, with a range starting at $81,499 and going as high as $97,563. 

Factors that can affect the wages of a charge nurse include experience, geographic location, and demand for nurses in general. 

In addition, because practical nursing shortages are expected to continue to increase through 2025, charged nurses may see an increase in their salaries as more people choose practical nursing over other occupations.

What Are the Career Opportunities for Charge Nurses?

Many healthcare facilities such as hospitals and long-term care facilities hire practical nurses who wish to become charge nurses. Charge nurses can work in a variety of settings such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing units
  • Emergency department
  • Intensive care
  • Labor & Delivery
  • Surgery services
  • Medical Offices
  • Ambulatory specialty departments
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Home Health

Also, if you search “nurse job boards” on Google, you will find plenty of other places to work as a charge nurse. So now, let’s move to some FAQs.

How do I become a charge nurse?

To become a charge nurse, you must first work as a registered nurse. Most employers prefer that you have at least 3 to 4 years of experience working as an RN before applying for the charge nurse position. You may also need to obtain some supervisory training depending on your facility’s requirements.

What qualities should I have to be a reasonable charge nurse?

The best way to succeed as a charge nurse is by keeping calm and collected during stressful situations, being organized and efficient with your time, being patient and compassionate with patients and their families, having strong communication skills – verbal and written – and leading others through example.

Is being a charge nurse difficult?

While it can be challenging at times, being a charge nurse also has its rewards. First, of course, you can take the patient’s pulse and condition into your own hands like other nurses. Still, you will also receive added responsibility and 

respect for providing leadership to other staff members.

Ending thoughts

The career of a charge nurse is demanding but rewarding. Keep calm under pressure, follow directions carefully, work as part of a team with other healthcare practitioners to provide exceptional care for patients and patient families. 

Charge nurses typically earn higher salaries than regular registered nurses because they have more responsibilities on their shoulders. If you want to become an RN specializing in hospital nursing jobs, check out our courses or blogs to learn more about nursing.

Are you intimidated by the thought of being a charge nurse?

Charge Nurse Jump Start: Communication and leadership skills for growing charge nurses

Becoming a charge nurse is an exciting step in your nursing career path, but sometimes this responsibility can come sooner than expected. Being confident as a charge nurse is in your grasp, but you have to prepare for it. While you’ll absolutely learn on the fly, I want you to walk into your first shift as a charge nurse with all of my experience and lessons I learned the hard way.

Start Now


More Resources on How to Become a Charge Nurse:

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.