How much experience before being charge nurse

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    I just surpassed my one year mark last week, so technically not my first year anymore but I still feel very much like a new grad so I hope I am welcome to keep posting here for a long time!

    I was just wondering how much experience someone usually has before becoming a charge nurse. I am on a medsurg unit and we rotate being charge rn.

    Unfortunately we have an extremely high turnover rate of staff. People keep quitting or getting fired. With only one year of experience I am somehow one of the more experienced people on my unit. Also my unit is considered toxic by the float pool - they apparently argued so much about having to come to my unit that they keep a record of when they do and its now mandatory for them to take their turn without complaining. There are still several on my unit with more experience, but a lot of the people I work with are even green-er than I am. It scared me like crazy one day when I realized I was the most experienced person there. Newer grads were coming to me with questions. Questions I sometimes didn't have answers to. My manager took the role of charge nurse that day but then was gone at a meeting almost all day so all problems were coming to me. The next day I was there again but with some experienced people from the float pool. They asked me why I don't just consider doing the brief charge nurse training and being in charge. They acknowledged it might be difficult with only a year of experience but that I could probably get by. Is it expected for people to start being in charge on medsurg units after only a year? Am I behind if I don't feel ready for it?
    Last edit by babysteps25 on Mar 12, '13
    serenitylove14 likes this.
  2. 18 Comments so far...

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    Gosh, this sounds like a difficult place to work. High turnover is both the cause & effect of poor management. Experienced managers will analyze the cause (data from multiple sources, including exit interviews) and intervene to fix it - as their highest priority. One of the contributory causes is lack of effective leadership - especially at the first-line (charge nurse) level.

    You are exercising good judgment by questioning the process of stepping in to the CN role without extra preparation. The Charge Nurse role has additional responsibilities/competencies. Prior to assuming the role, you should be provided with training to assume these responsibilities. This usually includes clarification of authority & responsibility, conflict resolution, delegation, staffing/assignments, refresher on nurse practice act, chain of command, risk management, etc. . . Is this being offered to you? If not, can you request it?
    Altra likes this.
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    I have been working now for 8 months ....I got no orientation to charge -buuut I became a charge nurse with 5 months of experience ...due to phsically needing a body of an RN for the position rt firings and retirements and ppl quitting ...yay for me - I shouwed up one night ...and had charge written next to my name ...*** - for that I get a whole 50 cents per hour more ...and a butt load of added responsibility ...
  5. 0
    Quote from obizyanka
    I have been working now for 8 months ....I got no orientation to charge -buuut I became a charge nurse with 5 months of experience ...due to phsically needing a body of an RN for the position rt firings and retirements and ppl quitting ...yay for me - I shouwed up one night ...and had charge written next to my name ...*** - for that I get a whole 50 cents per hour more ...and a butt load of added responsibility ...
    Wow sorry to hear you were suddenly put in that position. I guess a lot of units are just as disorganized as mine!
  6. 0
    Quote from HouTx
    Gosh, this sounds like a difficult place to work. High turnover is both the cause & effect of poor management. Experienced managers will analyze the cause (data from multiple sources, including exit interviews) and intervene to fix it - as their highest priority. One of the contributory causes is lack of effective leadership - especially at the first-line (charge nurse) level.

    You are exercising good judgment by questioning the process of stepping in to the CN role without extra preparation. The Charge Nurse role has additional responsibilities/competencies. Prior to assuming the role, you should be provided with training to assume these responsibilities. This usually includes clarification of authority & responsibility, conflict resolution, delegation, staffing/assignments, refresher on nurse practice act, chain of command, risk management, etc. . . Is this being offered to you? If not, can you request it?
    Thanks for the input. There is a brief class, I think its just an informal discussion on the responsibilities that go with being in charge. I guess from what I am hearing it is reasonable that they are expecting me to become charge soon.. I just don't feel like I'm there yet though. =(
    I know I won't have answers to a lot of questions. And there is often a lot of arguing about assignments that goes on. I don't think I have the confidence yet to be stern with people who are fighting since I'd just be second guessing myself wondering if I really am being unfair etc...
  7. 0
    I've only been a nurse for about 7 months and people on my floor kept warning me I was going to be in charge soon due to high turnover. I asked one of the more experienced nurses to show me all of the paperwork and how she handles everything. That weekend I was in charge for the first time. I was petrified something would happen, but luckily it was a very smooth night. I had my coworkers look at the assignment after I made it to see if it sounded fair to them. Working as a team seemed to help a lot. Good luck!
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    Here's some more questions I would ask myself if I was in your shoes. Sorry to hear about your troubles, but I'm sure you're getting really incredible experience with such stress. If you're dealing with it well, I'd hazard to guess you're heads and shoulders above many people your peers b/c of how much you've had to deal with on your floor.

    1) Are you ACLS/PALS qualified? Can you lead a code team in the absence of the ICU, ED Charge Nurse or Physician?
    2) Do you feel ready to handle delegation, assignment changes, enforce regulatory standards like isolation protocols?
    3) Do you want to give up taking care of just 4-8 patients by yourself and miss out on the continued experience at the direct bedside role?

    Just those three things are points I thought about when reading. Whatever happens, I wish you the best! I used to work on a toxic floor as a PCA before becoming an RN. I know how it feels to work in an environment like that and it's never easy. My benefit was that we had excellent first line leaders (the Charge Nurses). Maybe you can be part of the solution for your floor and be that awesome leader that the floor needs!
    strength4unityRN likes this.
  9. 0
    Quote from girlmeetsworld
    ...Working as a team seemed to help a lot. Good luck!
    Great point, I love crowd sourcing solutions. When this type of democratic, diplomatic decision making is utilized in non-emergency situations (like assignments, delegation, etc.) then the whole group benefits, in my opinion. Next time you're in charge, OP, food for thought if you have problems.
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    A year is the magic number on my floor. There is a class but most people don't go through it, just have a few shifts orienting to charge. We have quite a few experienced nurses on my floor though, I have been there a year and a half and I was the last one hired. I haven't been charge yet but everyone else has so there really isn't a point because I would never need to be in charge.

    Ask to take the class and try to learn as much as you can the days you aren't charge because it seems that is where you are headed, whether you like it or not. Good luck! You know more than you think you do!
  11. 0
    I was hired into a position with "rotating charge responsibility" (the two 2nd shift RNs took turns being in charge) 4 months after I graduated (I worked at the hospital where I went to school for the four months from graduation until I found a position in the specialty I wanted). It was kinda spooky to be in charge of a unit (just for the shift) that fresh out of school, but it worked out fine (I had a great NM and plenty of support).


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