A ward or floor nurse is in charge of a particular floor or unit usually in a hospital setting. Generally known as charge nurses, they are responsible for all the patient care performed by other nursing staff in their assigned unit. These units are generally divided by the hospital into general care, critical care, and post-operative floors. Ward nurses assign duties to other staff members and observe all patients under their care.
Hospitals require an associate degree and many prefer bachelor's degrees in nursing for job applicants. These can be obtained in a number of ways. Some hospitals offer a diploma program that lasts about three years and includes on-the-job training and employment. To receive a Bachelor of Science degree, the applicant must attend a college or university. A licensed graduate of any of these programs is qualified for an entry-level position as a staff nurse. With continued education and some specialization, along with excellent references and staff recommendations, an applicant can be promoted to a charge nurse.
A charge or ward nurse establishes or contributes to the overall health care plans for their patients. They may be required at any time to help other nurses on the floor by providing personal care to their patients. A charge nurse provides staff with schedules of work duties and assigns them to certain areas or patients. They observe all patients and record their observations in reports to patients’ primary physicians. Other duties may include administering medications, and checking medication dosages and patients' histories for possible interactions. They may start, maintain and discontinue intravenous lines for administration of fluids, blood or blood products and medications. A charge nurse must provide direction and education for licensed vocational nurses and nurses aides. They will provide advice and emotional aid to patients’ families and educate patients and the public on various medical conditions.
Charge nurses may continue their educations to become specialized health care providers as advanced practice nurses such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse practitioners. Many will go into administrative or teaching positions. They may become credentialed in specialties such as pediatrics, gerontology, ambulatory care and other fields.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the nursing industry will have a much faster than average growth. It is expected to rise by 22 percent from 2008 through 2018. Much of this growth is because of an aging populace that will require more nursing care. It will also be driven up by technological advances in health care and an increased emphasis on preventative medicine.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics the median annual salary for a registered nurse was $62,450 in May of 2008. The middle 50 percent received $51,640 to $76,570. The lowest 10 percent reported was less than $43,410 and the highest 10 percent reported was more than $92,240. According to O*NET OnLine, the median wage in 2009 was $30.65 per hour and $63,750 annually.