A charge nurse is essentially the head nurse in charge of a particular shift. As a charge nurse, you will be responsible for many aspects of nursing including scheduling other nurses, overseeing patient care, and even the admission or release of patients to and from the hospital. The following skills are essential for being a successful charge nurse.
Since a charge nurse is essentially the nurse in ‘charge’ of the rest of the nursing staff, if this is your chosen career path, you will need strong leadership skills in order to succeed. This means much more than simply telling the other nurses what to do. You will be responsible for scheduling and will need to consider each nurse’s preferences carefully. You may also be responsible for hiring and terminating nurses on your shift. As a charge nurse, you will report statistics and other information to your superiors, and you will be generally responsible for all of the nursing care that is provided in the facility in which you work.
Since the actions and competency of the other nurses in your facility will be your direct responsibility, you will need to develop and maintain organizational skills so that you can keep accurate records. Most facilities will require that you keep personnel records on each nurse, including any disciplinary actions you have issued, requests for time off, their licensure and certification status and more. You should have an effective filing system so that you can easily retrieve any information that you need or that you are asked to provide.
Attention to Detail
There is a lot that goes into making a healthcare facility run at peak capacity, so the ability to pay attention to detail is a critical skill. You will need to be able to quickly pick up on any staffing shortages and make the appropriate changes to schedules. You will also need to be able to spot mistakes that the nurses in your care may make and correct them as quickly as possible. In general, you will need to be proactive about these things rather than waiting for another nurse or member of the staff to bring them to your attention. This applies to standard healthcare, charting, scheduling and even the administration of medications.
Strong Work Ethic
Nurses in general work hectic hours, and the charge nurse who leads the team often has the most hectic schedule of all. In some facilities, there is only one charge nurse who leads a team of dozens of nurses working three different shifts. You will often be ‘on call’ in the event that a nurse cannot report for duty or there is some other staffing shortage, meaning that you will be expected to report to work with very little notice—and sometimes with very little sleep. You will also have to care for patients and perform your typical nursing duties in addition to overseeing the actions of the other nurses in your charge.
While the responsibilities associated with a career as a charge nurse are many as well as the job itself can be incredibly demanding, the ability to run a healthcare facility like a well-oiled machine is very rewarding. The skills listed here can help a nurse develop the skills he or she needs to become an effective and successful charge nurse.