Could You Be a Charge Nurse?

Student Nurses just ready to take qualifying exams are prudently planning their career steps in the years ahead. And suddenly the whole world of nursing occupations is open to them. But the administrative division of a leadership position in any nursing facility or medical institution is the position of charge nurse. Nursing students can focus their study courses on these supplemental electives when possible.

The charge nurse supervises other nursing staff, facility housekeeping staff, manages patient care for a ward or section or entire floor, and/or directs all activities. The nursing supervisor may be the charge at the same time, in smaller nursing homes. Student nurses with excellent grades and high score may be cleared to apply for the charge nurse level employment. The charge nurse is not an entry-level position.

A charge nurse is a multi-tasker on a whole new level. The nursing student preparing to become a new medical nurse will have to be spotless on their practicals, well above average on their anatomy and pharmaceutical knowledge, and excel at learning new tasks as well as retaining endorsements, special instructions, and handling special nursing cases. The charge nurse will perform or supervise and review all admission paperwork, as well as onsite bed placement and endorsement responsibilities.

Often the charge nurse is the only RN on a shift on any given ward or floor for a nursing institution or long term care facility. All emergencies, scheduled treatments, and call light actions fall to the RN on duty whether they are busy or not, whether they are involved in charting, on a break, or even otherwise engaged with another patient.  The new hires in a facility often will be observed for the capability and potential for serving as charge nurse in any institution. The pay rate is higher, and the night service for this function often has a pay differential for the overnight shift.

The charge nurse must be comfortable with supervising other nursing staff, even staff who are over twenty years older than them. In today’s new small business environment, many nursing homes and medical institutions will have a nurse who is barely twenty-three serving as supervisor over other nurses who are over twenty or even thirty years older than they are. This is a psychological challenge that tests the new nurse’s maturity. Hiring managers in nursing will look for skills like autonomy, independent ability to multi-tasks, good attendance and timekeeping, and a professional appearance and demeanor.

How can a student nurse train themselves to be chosen to serve as charge nurse? By preparing across disciplines of study to perform at a higher level of nursing professionalism. The charge nurse will be accountable to the facility for a higher level of performance at al times during their shift. The charge nurse must also be competent to communicate with other hospitals, the pharmacy, law enforcement, the coroner‘s office, and make family relations calls and other communications as necessary.

Any student nurse or new hire in the nursing profession will be working under the supervision of charge nurse. So, if you don’t like your supervisor, the only answer is to become the charge nurse. This can be done by proving yourself in a progressive level of responsibilities and absorbing training commands and endorsement details over time.

A charge nurse must perform their tasks as well as competently supervise med pass nurses, certified nursing assistants, manage any crises that come, and document all other aspects of their shift and endorse the details to the next shift‘s incoming charge nurse. If a student nurse feels their studies are too easy, or they feel they have enough grasp on their material to stop preparing, they need to think again. The practical application of nursing knowledge in the field tests any nurses‘ patience and skills. The test environment is not the same as performing work for hours on end, and meeting every challenge and task with a freshness and attention to detail the work deserves.

Many nursing homes and hospitals do not have time to train new nurses and spend time and energy allowing them to come up to speed without an endgame in view. Many nursing homes and hospitals view any new student nurse hire or new entry into their staff as a potential charge nurse, whether the candidate knows it or not. They may need any member of staff to fill in as charge nurse, when gaps in their nursing staff schedule occur.

In an emergency, a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital supervisor will look for the on-duty nurse to assign the charge nurse duties to. If the RN or LVN is not ready to perform at this level, the facility runs the risk of patient safety risks, medication problems, treatment gaps, and documentation errors. These issues put the facility license at risk.

In the new world of budgets cuts, understaffing, and high nursing staff turnover, the LVN often be asked to perform their own tasks at the charge nurse level, and report as such. Thus, any new student nurse must realize that they may be asked to perform at the charge nurse work level, professionally, even though their hiring title is med pass nurse, floater, or desk nurse.

The student nurse seeking work must understand that if the phone doesn’t ring, it’s because their experience and scores, course work and practical training does not measure up to this standard. The interview and review of student nursing experience , testing, skills and education will come under this scrutiny.

Student nurses should train while taking courses and performing internships to qualify for work at this level. Otherwise, they many see their fellow student nurses pass them by in the career path to a future in progressively responsible nursing jobs.  A student nurse could look back at the monetary investment in their nursing school, as well as the energy and effort to prepare for a career in nursing, and wish they had planned better.




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