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Charge ain’t so easy!

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It’s hard to take charge on a floor where you are the new nurse. Heck, it’s hard to charge a floor no matter who you are, right?

As a nurse who is newly “in charge” I have been really struggling with how to make the most of my position without acting out. Ever had a charge nurse who “acted out?” I’m probably not the only person who has witnessed a charge nurse who goes overboard–or shirks from duty. And am I the only person who has seen a charge nurse throw a fit? Not pretty!

Plus, depending on what hospital and floor you work in, charge nursing can look very different. When I started as a new nurse, I had charge nurses over me with loads of experience who assigned patients, were at every delivery, and ok, did some hand holding. They also didn’t take any patients which left them free to do such things! I liked coming in and knowing which patient I had and knowing I had some support when the crap hit the fan, as it were.

Things are different in my new job. First of all, I am a newbie trying to charge other much more experienced nurses. And as charge, I don’t assign patients (instead, we pick our assignments when we come in)–which can be great and not-so-great!  Like when the assignments are deemed unfair or even worse, unsafe. I also take patients–which means I can be in a patient room for a couple hours at a time, and when I emerge I no longer know what is going on on my floor!

In fact, I am struggling with being charge “in name only” but yet still being responsible for the floor. I feel as if I have no say in anything, but when things go wrong, my head is up on the chopping block. I am responsible but feel I am unable to take action.

What makes a good charge nurse in a situation like mine? I have talked to my manager who is trying to change things–but we all know how change is resisted in nursing, so it’s a slow-go. Meanwhile I am assigned charge each night I work and feel pretty powerless to HELP. I am still working this all out in my head and trying to really figure out what this role looks like for me–and if I even want to continue in it!

I work on amazing floor, love my coworkers, and enjoy my job. Being charge is yet another learning opportunity that is adding to the stress of my job already. I’ll let you guys know how it pans out (and will try not to throw a fit)!

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.
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6 Responses to Charge ain’t so easy!

  1. Danielle

    I’m not sure what kind of patient load you carry but would it be possible to ask your nurses to take an extra patient from your load, if they have a light load? That can leave your time more open and remind those who are willing to take your patients that you are still there to help them if they feel things are getting tough.

  2. Jo

    My dear I feel for you! I am in a situation much like you. I have been a Nurse 22 years and after being off for 7 years I decided to return last year on a PRN basis. It was, needless to say,difficult. I had 2 med techs practically try to run me out the door and even try to “fool” with my nursing license.
    Always remember, You are there for the patient #1! Never doubt your abilities and sometimes you have to show those around you, even your Manager, that while you don’t mind helping out where needed, that YOU are in charge and that means so many duties and that legally to prevent mishaps not only for yourself but for the facility you work in, CHANGE is needed and Yes people don’t welcome change but of all the professions where it is critical, Nurses need it to protect everyone!!! It not only will help you out but possibly it will work even better. This is where the Manager and those in Higher positions need to step up and DO their jobs!
    Good Luck and Stay Safe!

  3. ANTOINETTE FOWLER-LEACH

    I UNDERSTAND FULLY WHAT IS BEING SAID. I HAVE ASSUMED A CHARGE NURSE ROLE IN MY UNIT, THIS IS MY SECOND TIME OCCUPYING THIS POSTION. IT’S DIFFICULT BUT ALSO A CHALLENGE. WHY NURSES HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME WITH CHANGE BAFFLES ME. MY MANAGER TOLD ME ITS MIDDLE MANAGEMENT. I FIND IT TO BE A WELCOME CHALLENGE.

  4. Carey, RN

    I am a new nurse, just started on the floor by myself last night, and they are already training me to do charge. It is so much work and so scary to me! I still have 2 more orientation days for charge, but I feel that I do good to take care of my own patients, let alone oversee care for the WHOLE FLOOR!

    • Nurse Rene RN

      JUST SAY NO if you do not feel ready to ‘take charge’! It is YOUR license that ‘they’ are messing with and they do not CARE whether you are ready or not so long as they can fill a spot with a ‘warm body’ labeled RN!
      YOU will know when and IF you are ever ready and willing to ‘take charge’. I do not believe that this should be dumped on a new nurse but hospitals WILL do it (and then ‘hang you out to dry’ if something happens!).
      However, When you are in Command-COMMAND! -Adm. William ‘Bull’ Halsey

  5. Mary, RN

    In our 50 bed hospital it is called supervisor because I am responsible for all 50 pts and their nurses. I don’t mind the administrative responsibilities as much as the daycare I seem to be providing. By daycare I mean separating nurses who cannot get along, trying to be empathetic to nurses who believe their assignment is to hard, and those that just are unhappy in general. I work in long term acute care and our patients are intense – traches, vents, wound vacs, Q8h 45min dressing changes with a ratio of 5-6 patients per nurse. I try to help when I don’t have an assignment but have had to learn to sometimes say no, let me see if I can find someone else to assist you. Last night I did not even start the required supervisor paperwork until after 0500. I had to lead 2 rapid responses, pick a fallen patient off the floor, trouble shoot a Dilaudid gtt, push meds for 2 LPN’s and then listen to complaints from the next shift about their difficult assignments. It is exhausting. Good luck with your charge duties and just tell yourself they picked you because of your shining abilities (or the fact that you made eye contact!).

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