How Can I Become a Charge Nurse?

Research what it takes to become a charge nurse. Learn about education requirements, job duties and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Charge Nurse Do?

Charge nurses manage the operation of medical facilities, such as clinics, hospital units and nursing homes. They supervise nursing staff and oversee patient admissions and discharges. In addition, they may handle financial issues such as budget allocation and supply and equipment ordering. At the end of each shift, they make sure that patient conditions are fully communicated to incoming staff. In cases of emergency, they are responsible for implementing safety procedures.

The following chart gives you an overview of the requirements for a career as a charge nurse.

Degree Required Post-secondary certificate or diploma (LPN), Associate's or bachelor's degree (RN)
Education Field of Study Practical nursing
Key Responsibilities Manage nursing staff in medical unit; plan, assign and coordinate nursing duties for staff; advise and educate staff about required nursing care
Licensure and/or Certification LPNs and RNs must be licensed in all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all licensed practical nurses*
Median Salary (2017) $68,863**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is a Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) who supervises nursing aides and other nurses in a clinical environment. As a charge nurse, you would be responsible for assigning patients to your staff members, working with physicians and registered nurses to evaluate patients and develop treatment plans, observing staff performance and managing scheduling and payroll for your staff.

In order to become a charge nurse, you must fulfill the education and examination requirements of your state and obtain your LPN or RN license. Then, once you begin working, you can advance to the level of charge nurse.

What Are the Education Requirements?

LPN's must complete a practical nursing training course at a state-approved program. These courses are generally about one-year in length and can be completed at a technical school, community college or junior college. You should check with your state's nursing board for a list of approved programs.

Practical nursing training programs include both classroom and clinical training. Some programs provide internship or externship opportunities for their students to complete in addition to coursework. Your classroom education would cover topics like nursing fundamentals, pharmacology and general anatomy. You may also be able to take a course on clinical care management, which can help you prepare you for a management role as a charge nurse.

Do I Need to Obtain a License?

Most practical nursing training programs prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN), which tests your knowledge on many different aspects of patient care. Once you complete your education, you will need to apply to your state's nursing board for an authorization to test, pay any necessary fees and schedule your test date. After you pass the NCLEX-PN you can apply for state licensing, which typically requires you to complete education and examination requirements.

How Do I Advance to the Role of Charge Nurse?

Charge nurses are needed in many different types of environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. Starting as a LPN in one of these clinical environments, you may be able to advance to a leadership position. Depending on your experience, type of work environment and size of the staff, you may have to work in at your job for some time before you can be promoted.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As an RN, instead of working as a charge nurse, you could choose to specialize in a different area of the field. For example, as a genetic nurse, you would screen patients for genetic disorders and counsel patients on treatment options. Alternatively, as a critical care nurse, you would work in the intensive care unit or emergency room of a hospital, working closely with physicians and other support staff to treat patients with acute injuries and diseases. Outside of the nursing field, you could consider becoming a medical assistant, where you would divide your time between clerical work in the office of a healthcare facility and direct patient care. Medical assistants need to complete a postsecondary certificate program before they can work.

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