What is a Head Nurse?

A head nurse facilitates the managerial and administrative duties of a group of nurses in a healthcare facility.

These healthcare professionals supervise, educate, support, and manage other registered nurses and staff.

They also develop nursing teams, training programs, and other resources to ensure staff receives adequate training.

As a result, head nurses ensure hospitals, healthcare facilities, and treatment center nursing staff run efficiently.

What Do Head Nurses Do?

Head nurses perform numerous duties to ensure staff and patients receive adequate support, information, and leadership.

These professionals oversee the performance and effectiveness of all nursing staff under their management.

In this case, they may oversee an entire institute, an individual department, or a section of a healthcare facility.

Head nurses hand out assignments, maintain medical records, and review and sign nursing procedures and practices.

They also train and educate nurses and develop effective and cohesive nursing teams.

Head nurses may report directly to physicians, healthcare specialists, and upper management.

It enables them to act as liaisons, coordinate with other healthcare staff and maximize patient care and organization.

Finally, head nurses act as intermediaries between nursing staff and management.

They coordinate, organize, and communicate vital information to the entire staff to ensure they work effectively.

Head Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Perform management and administrative duties
  • Supervise registered nurses and CNAs
  • Educate and train registered nurses and CNAs
  • Conduct patient assessments
  • Ensure proper patient admission/discharge
  • Submit daily reports
  • Maintain medical records
  • Develop nursing care plans
  • Review and sign nursing procedures
  • Coordinate with physicians and specialists
  • Perform inventory checks
  • Coordinate patient assignments and delegate tasks
  • Develop work schedules
  • Act as a liaison between various medical professionals
  • Oversee patient safety, comfort, and hygiene
  • Conduct interviews

Administrative Duties

Head nurses are often in charge of many administrative tasks.

For instance, they sign off on patient records, manage paperwork, and keep track of employee and legal documents.

It requires excellent organizational skills and a take-action mentality.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by work if a nurse has trouble staying organized.

Responding quickly to tasks requires immediate attention, proper training, and good management skills.

Being a head nurse may not be a promising career for those who don’t enjoy organization, leadership, and team challenges.

Handling paperwork, leading an effective medical team, assisting nurses with difficult choices, and being an intermediary between upper management and nursing staff are vital to this occupation.

As a result, it may be overwhelming and undesirable for those who prefer fewer administrative duties.

Healthcare facilities hiring a head nurse look for professionals with effective listening, leadership, and delegation skills.

They also desire candidates with a high level of education and training to prepare and formulate effective nursing teams.

Emotional competence, alertness, and a focus on patient care are essential attributes for those operating as head nurses.

Patient Care

Everything a head nurse does impacts the quality of patient care, from hiring staff to delegating responsibilities and supporting nurses.

As a result, they must deeply understand their patient’s needs and support staff to ensure they provide adequate care.

Head nurses may oversee a particular department or entire healthcare facility.

They’ll develop care plans, create work schedules, act as a liaison between patients and staff and perform other duties.

They also work directly with patients and families to determine their needs, answer questions and provide assistance.

Education and Training

Head nurses conduct various education and training programs to support new and existing nurses.

For instance, they organize orientation programs for new staff.

They also develop training programs, seminars, and workshops, offer mentorship, and create resources for existing nurses.

Head nurses conduct formal or informal training to ensure nursing staff understands the ins and outs o their roles.

It includes offering bedside demonstrations, computer program training, and education on other duties.

Finally, head nurses provide support in other nurse-related fields, including research and academia. 


Excellent communication skills are vital for head nurses.

Their decisions and how they communicate tasks impact patient care and the team’s mental/emotional health.

As a result, head nurses must be influential leaders during critical times.

It requires developing communication and management skills to assist nurses in complex and often personal situations.

Nurses deal with numerous physical, emotional, and psychological situations that impact their mood and performance.

They also deal with personal matters at home or the workplace that affect their judgment or effectiveness at work.

Accordingly, head nurses must understand how to communicate effectively and support their staff’s needs.

A head nurse’s input is also vital in crafting an effective nursing team, which extends to choosing their staff effectively.

Therefore, head nurses at the highest level in their field may hire and assign nursing staff directly.

By allowing head nurses to hire the staff, they have a better opportunity to ensure that the right people are in place to handle essential tasks and provide effective patient care.

Where Do Head Nurses Work?

Head nurses work in various healthcare departments providing support, management, and administrative aid.

It includes hospitals and specific departments such as an emergency room, intensive care unit, or neonatal care unit.

Head nurses may work as the doctor’s first assistant and team leader for other nurses.

It allows individual departments to focus their resources on providing adequate care to their respective patients.

They may also operate as administration or management for specific departments to ensure optimal workflow.

How to Become a Head Nurse

Obtaining a career as a head nurse is relatively straightforward.

Nevertheless, it requires years of education, training, and dedication to develop the skills necessary for this profession.

The first step to becoming a head nurse is acquiring a four-year BSN from an accredited nursing school.

To enter a nursing program, students must complete the required prerequisite courses.

It takes roughly 1 – 2 years to complete the nursing prerequisites depending on previous education.

Students must also maintain a certain GPA to qualify for the program.

At the end of the four-year program, students must complete the NCLEX exam to obtain licensure and start working.

Aspiring head nurses spend several years obtaining work experience and providing direct care to patients.

It helps them understand their patient’s needs and develop vital communication skills.

After obtaining adequate training and work experience, registered nurses may apply for head nurse positions.

Some head nurse positions may require nurses to possess an MSN degree.

In this case, registered nurses must return to school to obtain additional education.

Those with MSN or DNP degrees become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

APRNs have the broadest scope of practice and can seek careers in education, management/leadership, and research.

It also allows head nurses to play more significant roles in management and leadership positions.

Additional Resources: