How to Become a Charge Nurse

Becoming a charge nurse can lead to great career satisfaction while providing financial rewards. Having the required educational preparation, nursing experience, and leadership skills is key to being able to secure one of these sought-after positions.

What Is a Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse oversees patient care and ensures that a nursing ward or unit in a hospital or medical facility runs smoothly. Ensuring continuity of care on a given shift also falls to the charge nurse. Some patient care is often part of this supervisory role. Responsibilities often include:

  • Managing admissions and discharges
  • Preparing nursing staff schedules
  • Delegating tasks to healthcare staff
  • Coordinating patient care with physicians and other healthcare providers
  • Problem-solving patient and family concerns and grievances

Managing complex and challenging situations that arise in a ward or unit often falls to charge nurses, too.

What Educational Preparation Is Required to Be a Charge Nurse?

The minimum educational requirement to be a charge nurse is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Online programs such as UL Lafayette’s Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing prepare nurses with the critical thinking and assessment skills to take their career to the next level.

Courses such as Nursing Leadership and Management for RN to BSNs provide preparation for the challenging role of charge nurse. In this course, nurses gain the knowledge and skills they need for “decision-making, negotiating, collaborating, problem-solving, and team-building in assuring patient-care quality.” This course and others in the program ensure nurses develop the communication and nursing management skills they need to be successful in the charge nurse role.

What Nursing Experience Is a Charge Nurse Required to Have?

It takes at least three to five years of experience in a specific area of nursing to become a charge nurse. Demonstrated leadership experience is also a plus. Volunteering to serve on committees and offering to mentor less experienced staff are ways for nurses to build leadership skills and experience.

What Other Skills Are Required to Be a Charge Nurse?

Charge nurses must be equipped to help other nurses who may be new or who simply need assistance with patient care.

Providing leadership during a disaster is a particularly difficult job for a charge nurse. Challenges include:

  • Triaging patients
  • Prioritizing ongoing nursing care
  • Working with limited medical supplies and reduced nursing staff
  • Scheduling and finding staff to work on short notice
  • Preparing staff-patient assignments
  • Supporting staff experiencing high levels of stress and fatigue
  • Communicating with and serving as a liaison between physicians, families and patients

Taking an online course such as UL Lafayette’s Nursing in a Disaster for RN to BSN provides invaluable education for those who aspire to be charge nurses. The knowledge and preparation is also useful for charge nurses who may find themselves working in fast-paced, rapidly changing, high-acuity areas such as busy emergency and trauma departments.

RN to BSN programs provide nurses with an advanced skill set that is required of charge nurses. Being able to complete thorough and detailed physical and mental health assessments of patients with complex health needs often falls to charge nurses. This includes all types of patients, from premature newborns to the frail elderly.

Because charge nurses play a key role in decision-making, it is important that they understand evidence-based practice to ensure high quality patient care. RN to BSN programs include coursework on evidence-based practice, methods for seeking out reliable data for decision-making, and ways to use this information for the best possible patient outcomes.

Extensive nursing experience coupled with BSN preparation positions ambitious nurses to take the next step in their career by becoming a charge nurse.

Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.


HealthLeaders: Charge Nurses: Developing Frontline Leaders What Is a Charge Nurse?

UL Lafayette: Online RN to BSN Program – Courses

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