Charge nurses take a step beyond clinical practice to work in leadership or managerial roles. Like any RN, charge nurses must start their professional training in an accredited diploma, associate or bachelor's degree program. After graduating from school and obtaining licensure, future charge nurses may take postgraduate classes or get on-the-job training in leadership and management.
If you have your sights set on becoming a charge nurse but aren't an RN yet, you'll need to start at beginning before you're ready to run the ship. Charge nurses must hold a valid RN license, enabling them to work with patients prior to getting the leadership skills necessary to manage other nurses and supporting medical staff. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that diploma, associate and bachelor's programs can all lead to the eligibility to sit for the RN examination -- NCLEX. You'll need to choose a program that your state board of nursing approves. Diploma and associate degrees typically take two years of full time study, while bachelor's programs take four. Although you can get an RN with a diploma or an associate, a bachelor's provides additional training that employers may prefer when hiring a charge nurse. Additionally, if you plan on getting a master's, you'll need a bachelor's degree first.
Although there is no state or national certification or specialized license to practice as a charge nurse, some employers may have their own staff certifications. A staff certification means that you have completed your hospital or medical facility's training course in charge nurse responsibilities. For example, the Colorado Health Care Association and Center for Assisted Living offers a certification course for employee RNs who show promise as a charge nurse. This course includes content on what acting as a charge nurse means, management training and communication skill development. Depending on where you work, your employer may -- or may not -- offer this type of educational opportunity.
Working as a charge nurse, you must function as a leader or manager on your floor or unit. Some health-care schools, medical centers and hospitals may offer leadership training courses or workshops for management-level staffers. While these programs may include different types of managers from across the hospital's medical departments, this type of training program is appropriate for charge nurses looking to develop leadership skills. For example, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences offers Leadership Essentials, a continuing education program for RNs and other medical professionals who want to gain the managerial skills necessary to work in a leadership role, such as charge nurse. This type of course provides instruction on the role of a manager and how to succeed as a leader in a health-care setting.
Master's of Science in nursing programs in nursing leadership can provide the aspiring charge nurse with a comprehensive educational program in health-care management. For example, Indiana University offers an MSN in nursing leadership in health systems that provides students with knowledge in administration, leadership and organizational theory. Classes include topics such as leadership for advanced practice nursing, administrative management in nursing and data analysis for clinical and administrative decision-making. This type of program provides charge nurses with the high-level skills that they'll need to effectively lead a nursing staff and eventually transition into a position such as nurse manager.
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences: Charge Nurse Materials
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Registered Nurse
- Colorado Health Care Association and Center for Assisted Living: LTC Charge Nurse Certification Course
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences: Leadership Education Programs
- Indiana University: Master of Science in Nursing, Nursing Leadership in Health Systems
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