Charge Nurse Role: What You Need To Know

Charge Nurse Role: What You Need To Know

Charge Nurse Role: What You Need To Know

One of the most important things to know about being a charge nurse is that effective communication and strong leadership skills are essential. As a charge RN, you will be responsible for coordinating the activities of the nursing staff, ensuring proper patient care, and addressing any issues or conflicts that arise.

The functionality of the nursing unit depends on having a charge nurse with the skills to lead. Great charge nurses are known for keeping the department organized and running efficiently while encouraging great teamwork and inspiring a team of nurses to perform at their best.

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” -John Maxwell

What Is A Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse, also sometimes referred to as a charge RN, is a nurse who oversees an entire team of nurses in a particular hospital unit or department. They serve as a liaison between nurses, upper administration, nurse educators, and other hospital clinicians.

Charge RNs are needed to manage hospitals, residential care facilities, nursing homes, surgery centers, and outpatient units. Although they can give direct patient care- and often do if the unit is short-staffed – they mostly work peripherally to bedside nurses and within a more administrative role than medical professionals.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities usually have several charge nurses who are responsible for various health services managers in different departments and specialties.

Charge Nurse Duties And Responsibilities

Some duties include the following:

  • Managing nurses
  • Supervising and assisting nursing staff when needed
  • Providing administrative support
  • Assigning nurses to patients
  • Creating nurse schedules
  • Managing the in and outflow of patients to a unit
  • Being flexible and responsive to nurses’ needs on the unit
  • Prioritize patient care needs, especially during urgent or emergent situations
  • Document nurse performance
  • Work with upper administration to address any hospital issues or issues with staff

Other ancillary charge RN roles might include:

  • Checking the crash carts daily in the unit
  • Counting medications in the Pyxis or other automated drug dispenser once a shift
  • Working with the facility’s patient placement
  • Attend a daily staff meeting with social workers, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, and doctors to make sure patients get what they need for discharge and ensure a timely discharge

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan

How To Become A Charge Nurse?

To become a charge RN, you must already have several years of nursing experience and a deep understanding of the workflow and population where you work. You need to master your nursing skills and, if possible, become as involved as possible with team-building activities in your workplace.

It is also imperative that you express your desire to be promoted to management and ask them precisely what you need to do to earn the position.  Each facility is different.

Note:  It is more challenging to start as a charge RN on a unit where a nurse has never worked before, even if they have many years of nursing practice under their belt. It helps to know many of the nurses already personally, as it helps to build trust as a leader. Knowing other ancillary medical professionals, such as respiratory therapists, social workers, case managers, nurse practitioners, and doctors on the unit, will also help you get started on the right foot.

Tips To Prepare For A Charge Nurse Role:

  • Become certified in your nursing specialty
  • Master your workflow as a nurse
  • Become an expert on nursing skills needed in your unit
  • Offer help to other nurses whenever you can
  • Become a preceptor for new nurse graduates on the unit
  • Express your desire to be promoted into a charge nurse role to administration
  • Take leadership classes, either online or through your facility if they have them
  • Join the Unit Practice Counsel UPC – if your unit has one
  • Offer to help in all team-building projects on your unit

The Difference Between A Charge Nurse And A Unit Manager

A unit manager is sometimes referred to as a unit director. And while both charge RNs and unit managers are leadership positions, they are still very different positions and require different levels of education.

A unit manager oversees the entire nursing unit, including all of the charge nurses. Unit managers also handle more of the business management of the unit than charge RNs do. Also, unit nurse managers typically work more closely with the upper hospital administration to keep the unit aligned with the goals of the entire organization.

Charge nurses must have an ADN or BSN to hold the position.  A unit manager often holds a master’s degree (MSN) or higher, usually with an emphasis on leadership and hospital management.

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What Is A Charge Nurse’s Salary?

Charge RNs often make a few dollars an hour more than floor nurses.  However, there are many other factors at play when it comes to earning potential.

The salary of a charge nurse can vary depending on several factors, including geographic location, years of experience, level of education, certifications, and the specific healthcare setting. In general, charge nurses earn a higher salary compared to regular staff nurses due to their additional responsibilities and leadership roles.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for registered nurses (which includes charge nurses) was $76,600 as of May 2021. However, it’s important to note that this figure encompasses all registered nurses across various specialties and positions.

Nurses in states with a higher cost of living, such as California or New York, usually make a higher hourly wage, while other lower cost of living states, such as North Dakota or Iowa, might make less than the median U.S. pay.

It’s best to consult reliable salary resources specific to your location and healthcare system to obtain more accurate and up-to-date information on charge nurse salaries. Additionally, factors such as overtime pay, shift differentials, and benefits can also impact the total compensation package for charge RNs.

Qualities Of A Great Charge Nurse

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”  –

John Maxwell

There is no question that a charge nurse’s role is extremely challenging at times. But a great charge nurse needs to be able to see through the stress and inspire other registered nurses to rise above and perform at their best. Here are three qualities of a great charge nurse.

Resilience – When the work gets tough, great charge nurses get even tougher and push through.  Some days will seem impossible, but resilient leaders persevere.

Emotional Intelligence – The dictionary describes emotional intelligence as: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and sympathetically.” Many great leaders say emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.

Decision-making capabilities – Charge nurses need to be able to make quick decisions. The hospital setting moves quickly, and patient safety depends on taking action fast, especially in an emergency.

Certifications To Be A Charge Nurse

To become a charge nurse, you must first be a registered nurse who has graduated from an accredited program. There are several ways to do this – including achieving an associate degree  (ADN), a 2-year degree, or a bachelor’s Degree In Nursing (BSN), which takes a minimum of four years to complete.

While many of the same topics taught at the ADN level are covered in a BSN, a four-year program will provide a deeper set of skills and education. The field of nursing is becoming more competitive and more employers require newly appointed RNs to hold.

There are no national or state certifications to become a charge nurse. However, many charge nurses are certified on the specialty floor where they work. In most cases, the charge nurse worked as an R.N. on the floor for several years and has a clear understanding of the clinical setting and how the unit functions.

Charge Nurse Career Outlook

According to the BLS, the nursing profession is expected to grow by 6% from 2021-2031, which is about as fast as average. That means that there will also be plenty of opportunities for nurses to take on charge roles.

Charge Nurse Frequently Asked Questions

What is the charge nurse’s role?

A charge RN is a registered nurse who takes on additional responsibilities and leadership roles within a healthcare setting, typically on a particular shift or unit. Their primary responsibilities include overseeing the nursing staff, coordinating patient care, and ensuring the smooth functioning of healthcare facilities in the unit.

What is the difference between a charge nurse and a regular nurse?

The main difference between a charge RN and a regular RN is the additional responsibilities and leadership role that a charge nurse assumes. While regular nurses focus primarily on direct patient care, charge nurses have supervisory responsibilities and coordinate the activities of the nursing staff.

Who is higher up than a charge nurse?

In the nursing hierarchy, a charge RN typically falls below a nurse manager or a nurse supervisor. Nurse managers or supervisors are responsible for overseeing multiple units or departments and have broader managerial responsibilities.

What power does a charge nurse have?

Charge nurses have the authority to assign patient care responsibilities to other nurses and healthcare professionals. They coordinate admissions, admissions and discharges,, and transfers, ensure proper documentation, address any conflicts or issues that arise during the shift, and serve as a resource for the nursing staff.

Is a charge nurse over an RN?

A charge nurse is an RN who takes on additional responsibilities and leadership roles. While a charge nurse is an RN, they have specific responsibilities related to overseeing the unit and coordinating patient care, which regular RNs may not have.

Is a charge nurse your boss?

A charge nurse may have some supervisory responsibilities over other nurses and healthcare professionals on the unit, but they are not typically considered the direct boss of the nursing staff. They work alongside nurse managers or supervisors who have broader administrative responsibilities and managerial roles.

How long does it take to be a charge nurse?

The timeline to become a charge RN can vary. Typically, it requires several years of experience as a registered nurse to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and leadership abilities. Some charge nurse positions may also require additional education or certifications. The exact duration depends on an individual’s progression and professional development.

Is it hard to be a charge nurse?

Being a charge nurse can be challenging as it involves juggling various responsibilities, managing the nursing staff, coordinating patient care, and addressing any issues that arise. It requires strong leadership skills, effective communication, critical thinking, and the ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment. However, with experience, ongoing education, and support, many nurses successfully take on the role of a charge nurse.

Do charge nurses take patients?

Charge nurses may or may not take direct patient assignments, as it depends on the specific policies and needs of the healthcare facility. In some cases, charge nurses may have a reduced patient load to allow them to focus on their administrative and supervisory duties. However, in other situations, charge nurses may continue to provide direct patient care while also overseeing the unit.

Who gets to be a charge nurse?

The criteria for becoming a charge nurse can vary among healthcare facilities. Generally, charge nurses are experienced registered nurses who have demonstrated strong clinical skills, leadership abilities, and the ability to work well with a team. They may also receive additional training, clinical experience, or education related to management or leadership.

Is charge nurse a promotion?

Yes, becoming a charge nurse is often considered a promotion within the nursing profession. It represents an advancement in responsibilities and leadership roles compared to regular nursing positions.

What are the weaknesses of being a charge nurse?

While charge nurses have important responsibilities, they may face challenges such as balancing administrative tasks with patient care, managing conflicts or difficult situations among the staff, dealing with high levels of stress and responsibility, and working long hours or irregular shifts.

Nurse working on a unit taking notes

What Are The Most Important Things To Know About Being In A Charge Nursing Role?

The most important thing to know about this position is that it requires strong leadership skills and the ability to multitask effectively. As a charge RN, you will be responsible for overseeing a team of nurses and ensuring the smooth operation of the unit or department.

Here are some key points to consider:


As a charge RN, you need to provide guidance, support, and direction to your team. Strong leadership skills are essential for effectively delegating tasks, making decisions, and resolving conflicts.


Clear and effective communication is crucial in your role as a charge nurse. You’ll need to communicate with various healthcare professionals, patients, families, and your team. Being able to convey information clearly, listen actively, and provide feedback is essential.


The ability to stay organized is vital as a charge RN. You’ll be responsible for coordinating patient care, managing resources, and ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently. Prioritization and time management skills are essential.

Clinical Expertise

Charge nurses are expected to have a solid clinical foundation and expertise in their specialty area. This knowledge allows you to make informed decisions, provide guidance to your team, and respond appropriately to patient needs and emergencies.


You’ll face various challenges and unexpected situations. The ability to think critically, make quick decisions, and problem-solve effectively is essential. You should be able to remain calm under pressure and adapt to changing circumstances.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Building a positive and collaborative team environment is crucial for charge RNs. Foster open communication, encourage teamwork, and support your team members. Collaboration with other healthcare professionals is also important for coordinated patient care.

Continuous Learning

Healthcare is an ever-evolving field, and it’s important to stay updated with the latest evidence-based practices and advancements in nursing. Pursue opportunities for professional development, attend conferences, and stay informed about current research to enhance your knowledge and skills.

Remember that being a charge RN is a significant responsibility, and it’s important to maintain a balance between leadership and being a supportive team member. By focusing on these key aspects, you can excel in your role and positively impact patient outcomes and the overall functioning of the healthcare unit.


Taking on higher leadership positions in health care, such as charge nurse, can help you create a satisfying and long-term healthcare career, earn a higher salary, and open up more opportunities away from the bedside.

Best of luck in your nursing career!

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