Can you be forced to be charge nurse?

Nurses Relations


Hi guys! I've been a nurse for 1 year and 2 months. My charge nurse just recently came to me and told me that I would be charge nurse tonight and I would be the charge nurse when 2 of our other relief charge nurses leave in just 2-3 months. I was a nervours reck for that first night, we had 7 admissions and 2 unplanned transfers to special care, which left me feeling horrible and with a knot in my stomach the whole night. Btw. I work on an acute care peds unit. This charge nurse position is a responsibility that I do not want right now and neither do I feel that I have enough experience for. As I told u before 2 of the older nurses are leaving and they've only been nurses for 2-3 years. This leaves our night shift team with 10 new nurses that have been doing nurses for less than 1 year and 1 senior nurse that's part time with 20+ years experience. I'm overwhelmed and feel like all of this is unsafe. Can I refuse charge nurse position, do I have a choice? Is this unsafe nursing practice? If you were in my position would u start looking for jobs immediately. (Btw this is what I'm doing). All advice appreciated!!!

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

1 Article; 3,377 Posts

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU.

Nursing duties, including charge nurse duties like making assignments and managing conflict, are within your scope of practice. There's no additional training or certifications required to be a charge nurse in the eyes of the BON, therefore this would not be inherantly considered unsafe. Refusing to be in charge would likely be considered refusal to perform assigned duties within your line of work, and could subject you to disciplinary action according to your facility's policies. Honestly, while I agree you're still a new nurse and charge duties are undoubtably scary and overwhelming, being put in charge with only a year of experience is not uncommon and it actually sounds like you're one of the more senior nurses on your shift.

That being said, the high turnover and very low cumulative experience of the nurses on your unit makes it sound like this may not be the best place to work, and looking for another job you feel will give you the support and training you require is a good idea.

Delia37, MSN

158 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care.

Usually, the possibility of (occasionally) being in charge, would be in your job description; make sure to review it, before refusing. However, it is an expectation that at some point you will be trained to be in charge. Rather than stress about it, view this experience as an opportunity to grow...and who knows, you might even like it.

Specializes in critical care, ER,ICU, CVSURG, CCU.

Here I go again, diploma graduate on a Saturday at 11am, charge nurse that same evening in the CCU, of my hospital trading program....., I had spent 9 weeks on that same unit doing charge nurse rotation...on each shift.....

two weeks later get married, moved to Memphis, only spent 2-3 days in formal orientation at city of Memphis Hosp, ( now called THE MED).....after maybe a week of CCU classes, was charge in CCU on nights....of course that was 1972....

It happened to me too. :/

I was relief charge with no training then my charger quit and i became full charge

I would ask for training or at least a check list of additional responsibilities of the charge nurse. I have to do an handful of things that floor nurses don't know how. Other than that it really isn't so bad. Best advice i can give is be confident and have tough skin.

Horseshoe, BSN, RN

5,879 Posts

Can they "force" you? Of course not. Can they require you to be charge as a condition of employment? Of course they can.

Specializes in Critical Care, Education.

BONs do not interfere with or attempt to regulate employer policies. So they have absolutely no jurisdiction over things like changing shifts or taking on additional leadership responsibilities. In my experience, the only additional duties associated with charge nurses are making assignments, operational tasks like checking/ordering supplies, notifying House Sup for transfers, unusual events, etc. The nurses you are supervising are all functioning under their own licenses... you are not responsible for their clinical practice, just your own.

Are there any additional clinical duties that come with the charge nurse role? If you do not yet feel competent, ask for additional training or backup. Otherwise, your only option is to look for another job.


746 Posts

Specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown.

If you're not charge at this job, you'll eventually be charge somewhere else. Just talk to your manager and say you felt unprepared. Maybe get a better idea of what your role is if you are uncomfortable. I walked in one night and found out I was in the charge rotation. It's not ideal but it happens. Granted, as nightshift charge there, you pretty much did a couple extra tasks on top of your assignment, so it wasn't a big deal once I knew what I had to do.

Either do it or risk loosing your jobs. Those are your options. Are they unfair yes but it is the reality of nursing. Honestly I think I am eventually going to have to do it myself. It is what it is.

Extra Pickles

1,403 Posts

Like the others said, it's a part of being an RN. You can and should request some training time with another charge nurse, you can insist you don't feel comfortable and would be better able to do the job if you felt more sure about policies and so on, and appeal to them with the tone that you want to do the best job possible for them and you want to make sure you do all that needs to be done, and done well. I know this is effective because I did it myself lol, a million or so years ago now but still I was an RN for less time than you and management was insisting that I take charge of the floor, night shift and very busy unit. I felt overwhelmed, told them so, and said I'd be more than happy to do the charge job but I really needed some time 1:1 with a good charge nurse so I can see how the shift flows from her perspective, what needs to be done and how things are prioritized from her end of things. They gave me several shifts to be a shadow, and I felt much better going forward. There's always nursing supervisors for resources but yes your job as an RN is also to include being the charge when needed. Just do your best to play it to your advantage by requesting the orientation/preceptor time, and then you should be good to go!

I would not refuse because, as others said, it is likely included as part of your job description. I would ask for more help/training and explain to your supervisor what makes you uncomfortable.

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