Head nurse is a key position in medical teams in hospitals, care homes, hospices, and smaller specialty medical practices. In consultation with doctors, the head nurse supervises all patient care in her department as well as acting as line manager to the other nurses on the team. It is a role that requires leadership ability as well as advanced skills in nursing.
As head nurse you would be expected to have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing. It is possible to become a staff nurse with an associate's degree, but the level of seniority of head nurse means that employers tend to demand more advanced qualifications. All nurses have to pass the licensing examination run by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
You must display a sound understanding of nursing practice, as you are responsible for the care of all patients in your unit. A head nurse also requires a high level of people skills, as she interacts frequently with doctors, hospital managers, other nurses, patients and patients' families. All patients must be treated with kindness and respect, and the head nurse must be able to role-model these qualities at all times. In addition, the job includes a number of administrative duties and a lot of reporting and paperwork. The head nurse should be well organized and a clear communicator.
The head nurse is responsible for supervising the work of the nurses on her team and for ensuring that they have the appropriate training and direction. She works with doctors to prepare and follow individual care plans for each patient, and updates the doctors regularly on progress and any changes in patients' conditions. The head nurse also cares for patients directly herself, builds relationships with them and ensures that they are well cared for.
The traditional route to becoming a head nurse is after at least five years of experience as a staff nurse. If you are a staff nurse who would like to develop your nursing career and become head nurse, it is advisable to gain as much varied experience as possible. Accept shifts in different departments and perhaps apply to become a charge nurse.
Lalla Scotter has been writing professionally since 1988, covering topics ranging from leadership to agriculture. Her work has appeared in publications such as the "Financial Times" and "Oxford Today." Scotter holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Bristol.