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Facts

Roles & Responsibilities of a Charge Nurse

December 1, 2021

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In case you are thinking of becoming a charge nurse then your interest in the nursing profession extends far beyond the scope of just patient care. Charge nurses are responsible for overseeing specific departments and performing many duties that lead to a smooth running of a unit.  Even though charge nurses may have bedside responsibilities, they are also supposed to coordinate the schedules while assigning different duties and responsibilities to each nurse. If you wish to become a charge nurse in Canada then you have to ensure that admissions and discharges are running smoothly while being in control of the supplies and medications.  There are some essentials to know for becoming a Charge Nurse. These essentials will offer answers to your frequently asked questions about this field. You can also spot real insights into what can be expected from this role. 

Who is a Charge Nurse? 

A registered nurse leader who is responsible for overseeing a specific department or unit is called a charge nurse. Being a nurse leader, a charge nurse is eligible to assign nursing duties and assignments, coordinate schedules, monitor admissions and discharges, and oversee the supply and demand of medications and supplies.  Jobs for nurses are focused on anticipating problems before they arise, advocating for clinical nursing staff members, unit humming, etc. A charge nurse can have a great impact on a nursing unit. Charge nurses care both for the patients and take on leadership responsibilities for their units, departments, or shifts.  

What Does a Charge Nurse Do? 

As a charge nurse, your core duties include being responsible for ordering supplies, scheduling nursing assignments for others on your shift, and delegating responsibility while also interacting with the patients and their families regularly. It will be your responsibility to continue providing care while also being the person who oversees admissions and discharges. You will be the one to whom family members and patients can address concerns and issues whenever they arise.  Nursing in Canada is strengthened by Charge Nurses who work in different facilities or wherever there are nursing units that require a minimal level of orientation, organization, and oversight for the new staff. The responsibilities of a charge nurse can differ based on the departments in which they work but they can include: 
  • Overseeing nurses and mentoring them whenever it is necessary. 
  • Monitoring the staffing needs. 
  • Creating work schedules and assigning patients to nursing staff. 
  • Serving as a liaison among nurses, patients, families, physicians, management, and other patients. 
  • Conducting performance evaluations and job interviews. 
  • Delegating tasks and coordinating patient care. 
  • Ordering and monitoring medical supplies, medicines, and other resources. 
  • Providing reports on a regular and intermittent interval. 
  • Ensuring compliance with policies, laws, and procedures, while keeping up to date with policy changes. 
  • Disciplining nursing staff whenever it is necessary. 
  • Overseeing the process of patient admissions, discharges, and transfers. 
  • Assisting other nurses in handling challenging patients. 
  • Investigating patient complaints. 
  • Signing off on staffing paperwork that includes competency evaluations and staffing budgets. 
  • Maintaining a safe environment for patient care. 
As a charge nurse, one must have excellent communication, organizational, and leadership skills. It is also important to be competent in decision making, evaluating patient care, resolving conflicts, and anticipating problems much before they arise. Charge nurses are hired during recruitment drives of jobs for nurses because of their willingness to solve problems as and when they arise. Charge nurses should demonstrate ambition, awareness, and professionalism at all times. 

How to Become a Charge Nurse? 

Becoming a charge nurse offers you a wide exposure to different sides of patient care. Charge nurses are required to show their competence and compassion at the bedside along with ensuring coordination of staffing and supplying. As a charge nurse, you will be the first person who will serve as the connecting link between the hospital administration and the team on the floor.  As a charge nurse, you require everything that goes into being a registered nurse coupled with years of experience so that you can demonstrate the personal and professional characteristics that the position demands. To become a charge nurse, the below-mentioned steps are important. 
  1. You have to start by earning a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree in nursing so that you can become a licensed nurse by passing the NCLEX RN exam. 
  2. Once you have become a registered nurse, it is now time to gain some experience. Hence, your focus should be on acquiring clinical nursing experience. In case you wish to become a charge nurse in a specific field then you can pursue certifications relevant to that field for gaining experience and enhancing your skill set. 
  3. Finally and most importantly, you should gain and display leadership skills. If you want to be promoted into the charge nurse role then it is necessary that you distinguish yourself as an organized and empathetic individual who has leadership skills. Charge nurses are multi-tasking professionals who have the ability to remain calm under pressure. This requires working with families and other healthcare professionals at all levels which means that the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately is also important for success. 

Traits of an Effective Charge Nurse: 

A charge nurse must be diligent, patient, and skilled. Although the below-mentioned traits are important to many leadership positions suitable for the students of nursing courses in Canada. However, they are particularly more important for charge nurses who are leaders of nursing cohorts. All these traits allow a successful care nurse to coordinate with work and resources, meet the changing requirements, and help the unit produce positive outcomes.  1. Delegation: A charge nurse should be able to understand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all the nurses in the team so that suitable tasks and procedures can be delegated to other nurses.  The Five Rights of Delegation are Right Task, Right Circumstances, Right Person, Right Directions, Right Supervision, and Evaluation.  2. Leadership: This includes a wide range of abilities and a mindful charge nurse understands the difference between leading and managing. A leader helps people work towards a goal through integrity, learning agility, empathy, self-awareness, respect, courage, gratitude, and influence.  With these traits, a charge nurse can unite the staff members who are striving for successful patient outcomes. They can also encourage professional growth and development amongst nurses in their unit using these traits. A good charge nurse always makes a way out in any given situation while treating others with respect. These qualities can strengthen positive relationships in the unit.  3. Flexibility: No day is similar in the life of a nurse. Things such as patient admission and discharge coupled with the intensity of patient care can create chaos within a few minutes. All strong charge nurses are flexible in distributing resources as the population of a unit changes.  The charge nurses should adapt to new circumstances and navigate or overcome challenges so that the right decision can be taken without relying on others. Flexible charge nurses maintain a stable situation and they respect the needs of other nurses while accommodating different working styles. Charge nurses offer feedback whenever needed and support as necessary.  4. Self-Confidence: A charge nurse who has been employed recently after the completion of a nursing course in Canada can have moments of doubt but the confidence to step out and learn new skills is important. This includes soft skills for nurses such as the ability to motivate others or strong communication skills.  This nursing role is mostly about leading a group of highly educated and motivated individuals. Self-confident charge nurses must be excited when other nurses come up with great ideas. This way, the pressure is taken off and the morale on the unit also increases.   5. Critical Thinking: Anyone who is a critical thinker can suitably apply knowledge in challenging circumstances for solving problems and evaluating solutions. Particularly in the healthcare field, this could mean the difference between life and death.  For example, if a patient’s behaviour changes suddenly, it is important to determine if they are reacting to something personal or something that might have gone wrong in the treatment. An effective charge nurse uses critical thinking skills for quickly assessing and deciding if immediate action should be taken to protect the health of a patient. 
Conclusion: 
Stepping into the role of a charge nurse is a defining moment in the professional life of an RN. All charge nurses do not start out with a strong foundation but their willingness to learn and seek out professionals who can teach them keeps them moving ahead.  The charge nurse role can lead to many advanced nursing positions and other opportunities that improve a person’s management abilities. No matter which career path a charge nurse may choose, the traits gained as a charge nurse can do a nurse well in the long run. 

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