From the staff development bookshelf: Essential traits for charge nurses

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, August 2, 2012

Charge nurses customarily “manage the unit for a shift.” It is a leadership position and is a link in the chain of command for most organizations.

All charge nurses should possess the following traits:

  • Fairness and honesty: If your peers trust you, you must be honest and treat everyone fairly. Often, a charge nurse must make difficult decisions, and sometimes the right decision is not the most popular one. But if you are honest and fair 100% of the time, your peers will receive and accept those moments with little pushback.
  • Flexibility: The only thing predictable in healthcare is that it is unpredictable! A charge nurse must be prepared to chart a different course if the winds of change demand!
  • Empathy: This attribute is for patients, their loved ones, and the staff. Everyone needs to know that someone understands his or her issues and has concern for him or her.
  • The ability to maintain control: Like the captain of a ship, the charge nurse is looked to in times of crisis for direction. It is important for a charge nurse to maintain a sense of calm and to demonstrate confidence in his or her decisions and actions.
  • The ability to motivate others: As a charge nurse, asking others for their opinion or input in a matter demonstrates that you value them as part of the team, and thus motivates the team to perform well.
  • Positive attitude: This is not to say that you would expected to be all roses and sunshine every minute of every shift, but when things are getting rough and storms are just over the horizon, a charge nurse should be able to navigate a course that stresses the positive and not the negative.
  • Sense of humor: This trait can get you through the hardest of times. Research shows how laughter and humor can be a factor in healing and bridging wide rivers of diversity (Biggers 1997).

Book excerpt adapted from Stressed Out About Your Nursing Career by Jill Duncan, RN, MS, MPH, and Kathleen L. Garrison, MSN, RN.

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