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    2. Head Nurse: Definition, Skills and Job Description Example

    By Indeed Editorial Team

    Published April 20, 2021

    In hospitals and other medical facilities, the nursing department is important for the continued safety, treatment and comfort of patients. Head nurses oversee the nursing department, directly managing the nursing staff and ensuring they follow all procedures and medical best practices. Understanding what a head nurse is can help you decide whether becoming one is the correct career path for you. In this article, we define what a head nurse is, describe what they do and list their top qualities, along with a sample job description.

    Related: 25 Best Nursing Jobs To Consider

    What is a head nurse?

    Head nurses are healthcare professionals who fulfill both nursing and managerial duties. Often, staff nurses who demonstrate experience and a high skill level earn a promotion to this more management-oriented position. Head nurses direct the nursing staff and serve as the primary point of communication between the nurses and the doctors, administration and other professionals in their healthcare facility.

    Head nurses can work in many types of healthcare facilities with a large enough staff to require someone to oversee and coordinate these employees. These facilities include hospitals, nursing homes and other treatment centers.

    What does a head nurse do?

    Head nurses perform many duties throughout the facility in which they work. As nurses, they accomplish typical day-to-day nursing responsibilities for patients. As managers, their responsibilities involve supervision, administration and communication.

    Some of a head nurse's daily responsibilities are:

    • Assisting with and coordinating patient care

    • Allocating nursing and healthcare resources where needed

    • Organizing nurses' notes regarding patients

    • Providing patient paperwork to doctors

    • Coordinating patient payments with payments department or process payments on their own

    • Participating in the hiring of new nursing staff and training new hires

    • Creating schedules for nursing staff

    • Resolving employee conflicts

    • Resolving patient issues

    • Creating reports for facility management

    • Placing orders for equipment and supplies

    Important skills for a head nurse

    In order to complete their daily tasks, head nurses require a combination of abilities related to office administration, interpersonal skills and managerial proficiency.

    The skills most helpful for head nurses include:

    • Leadership** :** Head nurses use strong leadership skills to ensure their nursing staff performs their jobs correctly and safely.

    • Communication: It's important for head nurses to communicate patient needs, nursing instructions and other medically important information clearly and efficiently.

    • Organization: Coordinating the nursing staff, managing patient records and monitoring patient treatment all rely heavily on the head nurse's organization skills.

    • Customer service: Head nurses often work together with vendors to place and fulfill orders for supplies and equipment. Also, though they don't view patients as customers, customer service skills are helpful when interacting with patients, listening to their needs and fulfilling their requests.

    • Empathy and compassion: Head nurses use empathy and compassion when working with patients so that they can better understand their patients' needs, which helps them better address their patients' medical issues.

    • Analytical skills: Since head nurses often diagnose patients, analyzing test results or studying patient files can help them understand what the medical issue may be. Also, analyzing hospital records can help with their administrative duties.

    • Conflict resolution: As the manager of the nursing staff, head nurses must often resolve any conflicts the staff may have with each other or with their patients to help facilitate a positive and productive environment for all.

    • Ability to multitask: Medical facilities are often fast-paced work environments with many tasks in need of completion. As a manager, head nurses take responsibility for completing many of these tasks in addition to typical nursing duties.

    • Responsibility: As the head of the nursing staff, much of the responsibility for patient care belongs to the head nurse. Employers expect their head nurses to welcome this responsibility and prioritize patient health and safety.

    Related: Skills in Nursing: Definition and Examples

    Education requirements for a head nurse

    Most employers expect their head nurses to have a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree as a minimum. Common areas of study can include:

    • Nursing

    • Biology

    • Pre-medicine

    • Social work

    • Nutrition sciences

    Like other nurses, head nurses complete an LPN or RN program before they are able to begin working as a nurse. Head nurses typically hold an RN license.

    Some head nurses hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Before choosing to pursue this credential, you may wish to research the job descriptions for this role at medical facilities in your desired geographic area to see if this is a common hiring requirement at the locations where you'd like to work.

    Related: How To Choose the Right Nursing Degree Program for You

    Salary and job outlook for a head nurse

    On average, a head nurse can earn an average of $71,942 per year . This may vary based on experience, credentials and geographic location.

    While the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics doesn't list the job outlook for head nursing specifically, it expects job opportunities in the similar medical and health service management to grow by 32% by 2029 . They cite the large number of people living long lives for the growth of medical professions in the coming decades.

    Experience requirements for head nurses

    At most facilities, head nurses typically need at least 5 years of nursing experience to qualify for consideration for the position. Additionally, many employers prefer their head nurses to have 1-3 years of experience in a supervisory position. This can include some supervision or training assistance for staff like nursing aides or less experienced LPNs.

    Related: Complete Guide to the Nursing Qualifications

    Sample job description for head nurse

    When seeking a head nurse position, studying the job descriptions listed with job openings can help you understand whether you match the employer's expected requirements and whether that particular job and facility are right for you.

    The following is an example of what you might find when looking at a head nurse job description:

    Job title: Head Nurse

    Department: Nursing

    Job objective:

    The head nurse is responsible for managing the overall safety and comfort of hospital patients through ensuring the nursing staff provides competent care, follows safety procedures and remains stocked with necessary tools and equipment.

    Job duties and responsibilities:

    • Monitor, organize and update hospital patient records

    • Create and distribute weekly duty roster

    • Distribute and collect consent forms before all procedures

    • Manage nursing staff, including ensuring adherence to safety processes

    • Deliver weekly reports to head of facility

    • Assist in training of new nurses or those who require aid

    • Accompany doctors on rounds

    • Manage hospital floor inventory





    5 years minimum. Hospital experience preferred.


    Bachelor's degree at minimum. Nursing, pre-med, biology or related.

    What's a head nurse called?
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    Source: www.indeed.com

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