Qualities Desired In A Head Nurse

Qualities Desired In A Head Nurse

Qualities Desired In A Head Nurse

A head nurse essentially holds a management position, conducting supervisory duties. A head nurse is placed above staff nurses, responsible for the resources, patient care and personnel aspect of a nursing unit. Needless to say, the job comes with a higher paycheck and equally large responsibilities. Head nurses are also responsible for nursing practice standards implementation and care guidelines. In this article, we’ll take a look at the qualifications, experience and specific qualities that a person should possess in order to become a head nurse.


To become a head nurse, you need at least BSN in nursing, though a master’s degree from an accredited school is preferred in most hospitals. The master’s degree endows a nurse with skills in the areas of leadership, communication and critical thinking during emergencies.


You should put in three to five years of experience in a care facility before you can apply for the position of a head nurse, or be considered for this position. Nurses with experience in a long term care facility are preferred.

Qualities And Desired Characteristics

The following qualities and characteristics are desired in head nurses in most long term health care facilities. Many of these qualities must be inherent, while some are expected from nursing experience.

Compassionate Approach

Head nurses are required to possess a compassionate approach that does not wane in the face of pressure under critical situations.


A nursing manager or head nurse must be able to facilitate and deliver quality nursing care, while managing the environment. This includes coordinating with other nurses involved in patient care. The ability to perform management duties should be part of a nurse’s work experience in order to qualify for this post.

Analytical skills

The ability to quickly grasp a situation and analyze it is a carefully cultivated skill. Though this skill is inherent in some people, it can be grown. In a head nurse, this skill can prevent emergencies from occurring in a patient care scenario. A head nurse with strong analytical skills will know which nurse to place in care of which patient and how to handle patient’s families, doctors and their demands and how to defuse situations before they blow out of control.

Negotiation And Conflict Resolution

Nursing candidates for a head nurse post must possess effective negotiation and conflict resolution skills. A head nurse or nurse manager is required to smoothly manage the care environment of the nursing unit under him or her. This means that the head nurse has to effectively manage any conflicts that may arise with regard to patient care schedules, or even personal conflicts that can occur among the staff. All issues of bickering, non-cooperation, unethical behavior and non-compliances are first dealt with by the head nurse. The head nurse performs the initial evaluation, primary negotiations, necessary monitoring and disciplining of non-compliant staff. Matters are escalated to HR and hospital management only if they don’t get sorted at the head nurse’s level.

Humanistic Management Philosophy

The head nurse is encouraged to practice a humanistic management philosophy that involves considering staff as people first and nurses later. Though this attitude can be taught, some nurses possess this quality inherently. Approaching any situation from a humanistic perspective allows for greater staff morale and better performance.

Ability to multi-task

Head nurses, apart from their management duties also have to be in charge of the overall care a patient receives. This means the head nurse has to supervise patient treatments, progress, reporting to doctors, monitoring nurses, changing routines, managing staff schedules and so on. All these tasks require the head nurse to have excellent multitasking abilities.

Excellent Interpersonal Skills

A nurse manager is essentially a manager and in general, managers are not liked in any facility. This makes any head nurse’s job challenging. Excellent interpersonal skills need to be partly inherent, partly cultivated and carefully grown during nursing experience. It’s an effort to ensure that members of the nursing staff remain calm, focused and work as a cooperative group. Great interpersonal skills along with an even tempered, calm attitude can help head nurses manage their staff better.

Excellent Organizational Skills

A head nurse cannot manage each individual patient. That’s why it’s important for the head nurse to structure the nursing unit’s activities and responsibilities, manage the staff rotation calendar, ensure critical medications are obtained in time, and determine effective resource distribution. All of these tasks require considerable organizational skills, similar to those of a corporate manager.

Impartial Advocacy

Head nurses should be seen as highly credible, even tempered and innovative people when it comes to advocacy. It’s the head nurse’s job to meet the needs of nurses: clinical, professional, or personal. Helping nurses to resolve their issues and manage advocacy for them with management is a task that requires an unbiased attitude and sincerity.

Responsibility And Leadership

Some people have inherent leadership skills while others have to cultivate them. It’s important for a head nurse to have a strong self esteem, sense of responsibility and belief in himself or herself as the group leader. Without this, the head nurse has no hope of getting anyone to listen to him or her. Understanding that the post comes with grave responsibilities is the first step to developing a certain level of believable authority, which lends assurance and confidence. If the head nurse does not trust himself or herself, then the staff nurses won’t trust the person either! The nurse manager should demonstrate the ability to foster sound relationships with staff, management and other specialty departments, in order to create a patient-centered environment. Last but not the least, a friendly, open attitude is always a winner.

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