The head nurse is responsible for overseeing patients and other nursing staff within their unit over the course of their shift. Nurses in the unit report to the head nurse and consult them if there is a problem or general guidance is needed. Tasks performed by the head nurse include carrying out doctors' orders in terms of patient care, evaluating patients' needs and responses to treatments, discussing treatment options with patients and conducting other duties related to patient care. Additionally, the head nurse often helps assign nurses' rotations, and they must report any behavior among the nursing staff requiring discipline and administer disciplinary action if needed.
The head nurse must participate in staff meetings, collaborate in the hiring process for their unit and participate in terminating current employees as required. They analyze nursing services to increase patient satisfaction, recommend changes and analyze the effectiveness of any changes made. For patients with complex and/or multidisciplinary needs, head nurses may initiate and attend client care conferences. Head nurses must follow privacy and safety rules and laws at all times.
A bachelor’s degree in nursing is required for these positions, and normally a master’s degree in nursing with clinical rotations in the relevant type of unit is recommended. A head nurse should have excellent interpersonal, communication and patient care skills. They are in charge of overseeing other team members, so they should have experience managing other individuals in a nursing setting.
Head Nurse Tasks
Evaluate and assess nursing needs of the client.
Observe signs and symptoms and report to the physician and/or other appropriate health professionals as often as needed, or upon changes in the client's condition.
Initiate diagnostic, preventive and rehabilitative nursing procedures as appropriate to the client's care and safety.
Attend client care conferences and initiate client care conferences for complex and/or multidisciplinary clients whenever needed.
Coordinate the total plan of care and maintain continuity of client care by acting as a liaison with other health professionals assigned to the same clients.