Nursing professionals who want to take on leadership roles have a few options available to them. Becoming a charge nurse is one of them. Charge nurses extend their expertise beyond patient care. In addition to their regular bedside duties, they also coordinate schedules and assign duties and responsibilities for other nurses in their unit.
In this article we will explore the following:
- What does a charge nurse do?
- What are the education and licensure requirements?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for charge nurses?
- What are the continuing education requirements for charge nurses?
What does a charge nurse do?
Charge nurses can work in several healthcare settings, including clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Nursing units that require even a minimal amount of oversight can benefit from the expertise and skills of charge nurses.
Charge nurses are caretakers, liaisons, and supervisors all rolled into one. They are masters at balancing the medical competencies of a registered nurse (RN) with the responsibilities of a manager. There is a lot of flexibility with a career in charge nursing. While continuing to provide bedside care to patients, charge nurses also oversee admissions and discharges. When concerns arise, it is the charge nurse’s responsibility to address them with the patient and their family members.
Some other common job responsibilities include:
- Delegating nurse assignments
- Developing educational and training programs for nurses
- Directing patient care
- Documenting and evaluating nurse performance
- Monitoring and ordering medications and medical supplies
- Providing bedside care to patients
Charge nurses must have excellent communication and organizational skills to be effective at their jobs. Multitasking and staying calm under pressure are a must. Leadership roles in nursing require a calm demeanor. Charge nurses must be able to think on their feet and make split-second decisions regarding patient care and conflict resolution.
What are the education and licensing requirements?
Charge nurses are licensed registered nurses (RNs). To begin your career in this nursing specialty, you must first obtain your RN license. Here are the steps needed to become a licensed RN:
- Earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. Most ADN programs take between 18-24 months to complete with full-time attendance. A BSN program takes four years when following a full-time schedule. Some BSN programs are offered online to make it easier for nurses who already have an associate degree to work while furthering their education. There is an ADN to BSN bridge program that requires about 12-18 months to complete.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN exam. After completing your nursing degree, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to earn your RN licensure. The test evaluates your application and analysis of the knowledge and skills gained in nursing school. RN candidates can expect a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions. You have six hours to complete the exam, which includes scheduled breaks.
- Gain experience as a licensed RN. To prepare for a leadership role as a charge nurse, you must obtain at least three years of hands-on clinical nursing experience.
- While not necessary to work as a charge nurse, you may wish to earn a Clinical Nurse Leader Certificate (CNL) from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Possessing this certification shows employers you are willing to go the extra mile to hone your leadership skills. It can make you a more attractive candidate when competing against other charge nurses without certification. In addition to being more employable, earning a CNL helps give you greater confidence in your leadership abilities and increased autonomy in the workplace.
What are the salary and career outlooks for charge nurses?
Demand for charge nurses is expected to grow by 7% between now and 2029, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a charge nurse working in the U.S. is $90,353. Some of the highest wage earners make $109,657, while the bottom 10% earned $78,045 per year.
Cities and states where charge nurses are in high demand – and earn the best wages– include:
|CITY/STATE||PERCENT ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGE|
|San Francisco, CA||25.0|
|New York, NY||20.3|
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What are the continuing education requirements for charge nurses?
Each state has its own nursing continuing education requirements for RNs. Check with your state licensing board to ensure you meet all expectations for CEUs after you have earned your licensure. Some nurses find online CEUs convenient with their busy schedules. Incredible Health offers nurses free continuing education courses for all 50 states. All courses are ANCC-accredited, so you can be sure they will count toward your CEU requirements. Just create a free account to access an online library of premium continuing education courses for charge nurses.
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