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The Ultimate Guide to the Role of a Charge Nurse in Healthcare

Amanda Guarniere

Charge Nursing is a vital position in healthcare. Charge Nurses are in charge of supervising and directing the work of nursing staff. They are critical in maintaining high-quality patient care and efficient resource usage.

This article will show you the key differences between a Charge Nurse and a Nurse Manager, as well as their roles, education, and certification requirements. You will also be given a brief overview of the pros and cons of working as a Charge Nurse or Nurse Manager.


  • A charge nurse oversees a hospital unit or department.
  • The role of a charge nurse varies depending on the type of facility and the type of care provided. 
  • There are no particular credential or certification requirements for charge nurses.

Table of Contents

What is a Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse is an important position in a hospital. They serve as the point of contact for nursing staff, doctors, and hospital administrators, ensuring everything in their unit or department operates well. They assist in getting the day started by allocating duties to their team and ensuring that everything runs smoothly throughout their shift.

In addition, they monitor patients and ensure they receive the necessary care. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s a great way to make a difference in patients’ lives.

Duties and Responsibilities

You will be in charge of the nursing operations during your shift as a charge nurse, and your responsibilities will include the following:

  • Assigning duties to nurse staff.
  • Updating the status of patients.
  • Ensuring that all patients receive appropriate treatment.
  • Handling disagreements and referring them to a manager when necessary.
  • Assigning patients to bays as they are transferred from other units.
  • Informing bed control staff on daily space requirements.
  • Making sure the healthcare facility’s policies are implemented by nursing staff.
  • Ensuring the team is fully stocked with supplies and medications.
  • Coordination of patient transportation to other departments for tests and treatments.
  • Keeping patient files and care plans up to date.
  • Checking lab and different test results and documenting them in patient charts.

In addition to these administrative duties, you may be asked to use your clinical knowledge as a charge nurse, such as:

  • Direct patient care or assist a less experienced nurse during a medical emergency.
  • Approached by other nursing team members for assistance and guidance as a leader.

Importance of a Charge Nurse in a Healthcare Setting

A charge nurse oversees the quality of patient care and manages work and resource allocation in a hospital setting, notably in an emergency department. They act as frontline leaders and must be appropriately trained and supported to carry out their responsibilities efficiently.

According to a study of 12 charge nurses from four Swedish emergency departments, their purpose is to manage daily work and significant incidents. However, they encounter difficulties such as coping with chaos, needing additional training, feeling inadequate, and lacking strategies.

Where Do Charge Nurses Work

Charge nurses can work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and clinics. They usually work in patient care units such as:

  • Emergency departments
  • Critical care units
  • Surgical units

The role of a charge nurse varies depending on the type of facility and the type of care provided. However, the primary responsibility is to manage the nursing activity of the unit during their shift and ensure that quality patient care is delivered.

How to Become a Charge Nurse? 

To become a charge nurse, one must first get a nursing degree, pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), and obtain a state license. Aside from these requirements, becoming a charge nurse is about gaining experience and skills rather than furthering a formal education.

Education and Certification Requirements

There are no particular credential or certification requirements for charge nurses. Charge nurses in specialized units, on the other hand, must get the required credentials or certificates to operate in that unit. Furthermore, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and clinics frequently prefer candidates with extra credentials, like Basic life support and CPR certifications. 

Experience and Skills

A charge nurse must have at least three years of experience working in the nursing field. Years of expertise in that particular speciality are required if the goal is to oversee a specialized unit or ward. In addition, healthcare administrators favor applicants with excellent leadership skills, such as effective communication, organization, and problem-solving skills, when hiring for a charge nursing role. Obtaining experience and finding a mentor can help you advance to the charge nurse position.

Difference Between a Charge Nurse and Nurse Manager

A Charge Nurse is the captain of the ship in their hospital unit or ward. They ensure that everything runs smoothly and that everyone works together to deliver the best possible care for patients. They have a strong bond with their staff and are the go-to person for advice and assistance. They monitor things like patient assignments, personnel, and resource allocation daily to ensure everything runs well.

A Nurse Manager, on the other hand, is the leader of several units within a hospital. They are in charge of the overall quality of patient care and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. In addition, they oversee a Charge Nurses team, ensuring they have all they need to execute their work efficiently. 

In short, Charge Nurses are the heroes of their units, ensuring that everything functions correctly daily. In addition, nurse Managers are the leaders of multiple units, working around the clock to provide the best possible care for patients throughout the healthcare facility.

Short Overview of Pros and Cons of Charge Nurse and Nurse Manager

Pros of being a Charge Nurse:

  • By overseeing and guiding nursing staff, you can directly impact patient care.
  • Possibility of gaining leadership and management experience.
  • Dealing with real-world events might help to strengthen decision-making skills.
  • Earning potential is greater than that of a staff nurse.

Cons of being a Charge Nurse:

  • More responsibility and tasks.
  • Dealing with staffing concerns, patient complaints, and maintaining the quality of service can be stressful.
  • Shift work and on-call duties must be available.
  • The stress of increased responsibility

Pros of being a Nurse Manager:

  • Higher level of authority and control in the healthcare setting.
  • Possibility of advancement in one’s career.
  • It has the potential to have a more significant influence on patient care and overall healthcare outcomes.
  • Possibility of increased earnings.

Cons of being a Nurse Manager:

  • Increased workload and responsibility.
  • Longer hours, including on-call responsibilities.
  • Risk management responsibilities.
  • Making difficult decisions, such as budget cuts or layoffs, is required.

Tips/Recommendations for Those Considering a Career as a Charge Nurse

If you’re thinking about becoming a charge nurse, here are some essential tips to consider:

Improve your clinical skills: As a charge nurse, you will be in charge of overseeing patient care, so you must be well-versed in patient assessment, treatment, and management. Consider taking continuing education courses to sharpen your skills and stay up to date on medical advances.

Learn to lead: Charge nurses have an essential role in leading the healthcare team and must be able to delegate duties, inspire staff, and provide direction in a fast-paced setting. Consider taking leadership classes or volunteering to lead projects or teams.

Improve your communication skills: Charge nurses must communicate clearly and effectively with patients, families, and other healthcare team members. Consider taking communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation classes.

Keep up with current healthcare regulations and policies: Charge nurses must stay current on current healthcare regulations and procedures and ensure that their unit meets all relevant rules and regulations.

Find a mentor: A charge nurse mentor can provide significant guidance and support as you navigate the challenges and opportunities of this role. Seek out experienced nurses for advice.

Be organized and adaptable: Charge nurses must be organized and adaptive to manage many duties and priorities while also adapting to changing situations. Therefore, you must have excellent organizational abilities and flexibility to thrive in this capacity.

Continue your education: The healthcare profession is continuously changing, and charge nurses must stay updated on new treatments, technologies, and patient care developments. Consider committing to continuous learning and professional growth.

Career Path for a Charge Nurse 

A typical charge nurse career consists of the following steps:

  • Earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse.
  • Gain professional experience as a registered nurse by working for 3-5 years in a clinical setting and focusing on a specific field.
  • Continue your education, participate in community and professional organizations, seek mentorship, and coach others to develop your leadership skills.

Some hospitals and clinics may prefer to charge nurses with a BSN or MSN, and some states may require registered nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, your workplace may have additional criteria for licensure, certification, and credentials.

FAQs About Charge Nurse 

Can a charge nurse also work as a staff nurse?

A charge nurse can serve as a staff nurse as well. Charge nurses are registered nurses with advanced training, experience, and leadership qualities, although they can also perform staff nurse tasks as needed.

What are the challenges of being a charge nurse?

The nursing assignment has to be challenging tasks for a charge nurse. Furthermore, staffing management is one of the most difficult tasks. First, you must understand the need for your unit. Some hospitals refer to the procedure as Workload Management, while others refer to it as a staffing grid.

Is there a difference in the charge nurse role between different healthcare facilities?

Yes! The duty of a charge nurse can vary depending on the type of healthcare facility. For example, the charge nurse manages staffing and patient care in a hospital. Still, in a long-term care facility, they may monitor the care of a specific unit or patient population. Furthermore, depending on the size of the hospital and its organizational structure, the responsibilities of a charge nurse may differ.


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