You are currently viewing What Does the Head Nurse Do?

What Does the Head Nurse Do?

While all nurses are important, head nurses play a vital role in any medical setting. Here’s your guide to the duties of head nurses, general statistics on the role of head nurse, and the desired qualities of a head nurse.

What Is A Head Nurse?

A head nurse is an RN who holds a leadership or a managerial position. They must have a BSN in nursing, but an MSN is preferred. These nurses oversee a group of nurses in their facility, hospital, or another medical setting. They are the go-to nurses for higher-level questions and an intermediary between nursing staff and management.

What Does the Head Nurse Do?

The head of nursing is ultimately responsible for the organization and direction of their nursing unit. They oversee all of the operations of their staff and provide leadership to the nurse managers under their supervision. Their many duties and responsibilities include:

  • Preparing schedules for all shifts, allowing for no overlaps, gaps, or scheduling conflicts among the nurses they oversee.
  • Organizing and overseeing committee meetings and nursing events while catering to the schedule that best benefits both the patients and the nurses.
  • Planning and assisting in creating training and scheduling meetings with other departments.
  • Collaborating with their nursing staff, upper facility management, and other departments or outside facilities to ensure quality patient care and proper outsourcing.
  • Maintaining accurate medical records and ensures nursing staff is keeping their own detailed records of patients in the daily rotations.
  • Coordinating training programs and orientation plans of new employees while creating a quality assurance program that determines how effective new hire training and onboarding is.
  • Supervising nursing staff while overseeing all medical and laboratory services per their facility requirement and ultimately evaluating nursing performance for raises or disciplinary action.
  • Ensuring adherence to company policies by enforcing that patient care meets regulatory standards and all nurses are adhering to compliance with all objectives and goals of the facility.
  • Developing quality assurance systems for nursing activities and facility happenings to maintain the control standards and improve quality of care as time goes on.

Head Nurse Job Outlook

Head nursing careers are expected to grow over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of medical and health service managers is projected to grow 18% from 2018 to 2028 which is much faster than average for all occupations. Compared to other managerial positions, medical and health service manager career paths are more likely to grow 11% faster.

This growth is due to the immense need of medical professionals as the larger baby boomer generation grows older as well in part to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, as more nurses begin their chosen field, the higher the leadership demand. With medical technology increasing, BLS projects more nurses will be needed at offices of health practitioners such as general or specialized practitioners, retirement facilities, and hospices. The widespread usage of electronic health records and specialized practices of these facilities will call for managers with at least a general knowledge of computers and organizational skills in these technologies.

Qualities of A Good Head Nurse

The following qualities are crucial for a great head nurse to have:

  • Experience: Head nurses are able to deal with difficult managerial decisions and questions as they’ve been in various situations throughout their career experience. The more experience a head nurse has, the greater the chances they’ll have the ability to navigate a situation for the best of the patients, other nurses, and the medical facility. It is recommended in most settings to have at least 3-5 years of experience before considering a head nurse position.
  • Compassion: Empathy for patients and being able to place yourself in their shoes is an important quality in a head nurse. Compassion allows you to see situations or issues from another’s point of view which allows for de-escalation of potential conflicts as well as creating suitable solutions for all involved.
  • Flexibility: Along with their main managerial role, the head nurse is also involved in the overall well being of patient care. They must tend to patient treatments, progress, reports to doctors, etc. all while creating schedules, monitoring nurses, and managing their nursing staff. This requires excellent flexibility and multitasking skills. For example, some nurses may need a different schedule or a patient has to have their medications on a different rotation. These adjustments must be made and communicated in a flexible manner.
  • Analytical skills: It’s important for a head nurse to have the ability to look at a situation from multiple perspectives and take the time to evaluate all options before making a decision, especially when that decision is needed in seconds. While analytical skills can be inherent, they also can be learned over time. A head nurse with strong analytical skills is able to deal with upper management, patients, and the patient’s families all while supervising nurses assigned to each patient’s case.
  • Conflict resolution: As the mediator and first point of contact for their nursing staff, it’s crucial for head nurses to have effective conflict resolution and negotiation skills. From scheduling conflicts to personal conflicts among staff, head nurses will utilize these skills on a daily basis and also know when it’s time to escalate a conflict to either HR or another department.
  • Communication skills: The ability to relay information accurately can mean the matter of life or death in the nursing field. It’s incredibly important that a head nurse has the ability to communicate with a multitude of people and keep track of records, schedules, and phone conversations in an organized manner.
  • Organizational skills: With all a head nurse has to juggle, their organizational skills must be top-notch in order to keep track of it all. These organizational skills can be compared to that of a corporate manager. Since head nurses are unable to keep track of each individual patient, it’s vital they’re keeping track of the daily staff rotation, distribution of resources, and the nursing unit’s daily rotation. Organizing these duties ensures patients receive excellent medical care on time such as timely medications.

Are you ready to step into the role of head nurse? Clipboard Academy has a multitude of resources to assist you in building your resume and diversifying your career experience.

Cassie Damascus

Cassie focuses on public relations and communications. She is active in her local community’s entrepreneur ecosystem and founded “Women in New Orleans,” a women's professional development group.

Leave a Reply