Career Development

What Does a Head Nurse Do?

Find out what a head nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a head nurse.

A head nurse is a senior-level position in the nursing field. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of their hospital’s nursing department, including managing other nurses and ensuring that they are performing their jobs effectively.

Head nurses may also be tasked with developing new programs or initiatives to improve patient care or hospital efficiency. This might include creating new training programs for nurses or implementing new technology systems to streamline workflow.

Head Nurse Job Duties

A head nurse typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Developing protocols for treatment of common illnesses or injuries
  • Communicating with physicians and other members of the medical team to ensure proper care is provided to patients
  • Supervising and training nursing assistants and other support staff members, as well as ensuring that they are adhering to established policies and procedures
  • Participating in staff meetings to discuss new developments in the field of healthcare and changes in institutional policies and procedures
  • Performing administrative tasks such as ordering supplies and maintaining inventory records
  • Reviewing patients’ charts and updating them with new information as needed
  • Coordinating with physicians to schedule appointments and administer treatments as prescribed by physicians
  • Providing direct patient care, such as administering medications or assisting patients with bathing or dressing
  • Educating patients about their conditions and treatment plans, as well as answering their questions about their care or treatment options

Head Nurse Salary & Outlook

Head nurses’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and location of the hospital or nursing facility.

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,500 ($39.66/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of head nurses is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for healthcare services will increase as the large baby-boom population ages and people continue to live longer. Nurses will be needed to provide care for these patients.

Related: Head Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Head Nurse Job Requirements

A head nurse typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Head nurses are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s degree in nursing. A master’s degree in nursing takes about two years to complete and includes coursework in leadership, management, ethics, research, health care policy and other topics.

Training & Experience: Most of a head nurse’s training will take place while obtaining their education. They will learn about the role of a nurse, the different specialties and how to work in a hospital setting. They will also learn about the different roles and responsibilities of a head nurse.

Once hired, a head nurse will receive on-the-job training to learn more about the hospital’s specific policies and procedures. They will also learn about the hospital’s computer systems and software.

Certifications & Licenses: After obtaining a nursing license, candidates can increase their earning potential by earning additional certifications. Head nurses can earn certifications that allow them to manage different types of departments and make them more competitive when applying to head nurse positions.

Head Nurse Skills

Head nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: As a nurse, you communicate with patients, doctors, other nurses and other hospital staff on a daily basis. As a head nurse, you may be required to communicate with hospital administrators and other staff members to ensure that the hospital is operating smoothly. Effective communication skills can help you to be an effective leader and to ensure that your team members are working together to meet the needs of patients.

Leadership: As a nurse with supervisory responsibilities, you can use leadership skills to motivate your team and help them develop their own leadership skills. You can also use leadership skills to develop a vision for your unit and help your team achieve its goals.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking allows a nurse to make quick decisions based on the situation. As a nurse, you may need to make decisions about patient care, treatment plans and other aspects of your job. Having strong critical thinking skills can help you make the best decisions for your patients.

Time management: As a nurse, you likely have a full schedule of duties and responsibilities. As a head nurse, you may have several other nurses reporting to you. It’s important to manage your time effectively so you can complete all of your tasks and duties in a timely manner. This can help you maintain a positive work environment and keep your team members on task.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As a nurse, you may encounter patients who are experiencing a variety of emotions, including fear, anxiety, anger and sadness. As a head nurse, you can use empathy to help you understand the needs of your patients and develop a rapport with them. This can help you provide the best care for your patients and improve their overall experience in the hospital.

Head Nurse Work Environment

Head nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. They typically work full time, and some head nurses may work more than 40 hours per week. They may work nights, weekends, and holidays, and their hours may vary depending on the needs of their patients. Head nurses may be on call, which means they are available to work at any time. Head nurses often work with other nurses and medical staff to provide care for patients. They may also work with patients and their families to provide education and support. Head nurses must be able to handle stress and be able to work well under pressure.

Head Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how head nurses work. Head nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Importance of Cultural Competency

The healthcare industry is becoming increasingly diverse, which means that nurses need to be culturally competent in order to provide the best care possible.

As the population becomes more and more diverse, nurses will need to be able to understand the cultural differences that exist between patients and their families in order to provide the best care possible. This includes understanding different beliefs about health and medicine, as well as how to communicate effectively with patients who speak different languages.

Nurses Will Be More Involved in Patient Care

As hospitals continue to reduce costs, they are moving towards a model where nurses are more involved in patient care. This means that head nurses will need to be able to manage a larger team and be responsible for overseeing all aspects of patient care.

Head nurses will need to be able to manage staff members and ensure that they are providing the highest quality care to patients. They will also need to be able to handle difficult situations and make quick decisions when necessary.

Patient Satisfaction Becomes More Important

As patient satisfaction becomes more important, head nurses will need to focus on improving customer service.

This means that head nurses will need to be familiar with current trends in patient satisfaction, such as the importance of having a comfortable bedside manner. In addition, they will need to be able to identify ways to improve patient satisfaction within their hospital or nursing home.

How to Become a Head Nurse

A head nurse career path can be rewarding and fulfilling. It offers the opportunity to lead a team of nurses, manage patient care, and make important decisions that affect the lives of patients. However, it’s important to consider all aspects of this career before embarking on it.

One of the most important things to think about is where you want to work. Do you want to work in a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare setting? What type of nursing do you want to specialize in? What size facility do you want to work for? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when planning your head nurse career.

Another important consideration is your personal life. Are you willing to relocate if necessary? Do you have enough time to dedicate to your job? Are you able to handle stress well? These are just some of the factors you should take into account when planning your head nurse career.

Advancement Prospects

Head nurses may advance to nurse manager, nursing supervisor, or nursing administrator positions. Some may also become educators or researchers. With additional education, they may qualify for positions as clinical specialists or nurse practitioners.

Head Nurse Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality patient care by recruiting the best nurses in the area. We are looking for a head nurse to lead our team of nurses and provide them with the support they need to do their jobs effectively. The ideal candidate will have experience working in a hospital setting, as well as experience leading and managing a team. He or she will be a skilled communicator with the ability to build relationships with both nurses and patients. The head nurse will be responsible for ensuring that our nurses have the resources they need to provide excellent patient care.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Oversee the daily operations of the nursing staff, ensuring quality patient care is provided in a safe and efficient manner
  • Serve as a resource to nurses and other health care professionals, providing guidance and support as needed
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with regulatory standards
  • Monitor patient care for trends and issues, intervening as necessary to resolve problems
  • Collaborate with physicians and other members of the health care team to develop individualized care plans for patients
  • Supervise the administration of medications and treatments, ensuring they are carried out correctly and in a timely manner
  • Keep accurate records of patient care, documenting progress and changes in condition
  • Participate in performance improvement initiatives to enhance the quality of patient care
  • Serve on committees and work groups as needed, providing input on nursing-related issues
  • Attend continuing education courses and seminars to keep abreast of new developments in the field
  • Mentor and train new nurses and other health care professionals
  • Perform annual evaluations of nursing staff

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Registered Nurse (RN) with valid state license
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 5+ years of experience in a nursing leadership role
  • Proven track record of improving patient outcomes
  • Strong understanding of evidence-based nursing practices
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 7+ years of experience in a nursing leadership role
  • Experience working in a Magnet designated hospital
  • Familiarity with Lean Six Sigma methodology
  • Certification in nurse executive leadership


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