Leadership development is an oft-overlooked issue in nursing, so it's no surprise that charge nurses rarely receive the training they need. Many organizations promote nurses into the charge position simply because they are good nurses and no one else wants to do it. But the charge nurse is crucial to the smooth operation of a patient care unit, and spending time on training and development can reap dividends in organizational efficiency.
At the basic level, charge nurses manage the operations of patient care units during a particular shift. They assign tasks, workloads, and oversee the care provided to patients. But they also provide support, mentorship, and guidance to bedside nurses. For those reasons, it's important to train charge nurses so they are up to the job.
Tammy Berbarie is an accreditation coordinator at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas, and a former director of education, who created a charge nurse orientation program for her hospital. Berbarie believes charge nurses are an organization's untapped resource. She says these frontline leaders—the eyes and ears of the patient care operation—are vital to ensuring patient safety, quality, and satisfaction, and staff retention.
"I believe that most organizations are in an infant stage when it comes to developing their charge nurses," says Berbarie. "It is important to develop a robust orientation program to give them the confidence to manage the patient units."
Berbarie recommends organizations provide all charge nurses with an orientation program, which includes a preceptor and leadership development training.
1. Charge nurse orientation. To be effective, charge nurses must know their responsibilities. The best way to outline expectations and ensure competency is to spend time orienting them to their new role.
Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.