RN Charge Responsibility

I manage a unit where an RN is assigned as the charge nurse. There are a couple of experienced RNs who have come to my office telling me that they don’t want to be assigned the charge nurse role. Aren’t RNs expected to take on this role?

  • Key components of The Registered Nurses Act (1988) identify that RNs are responsible for the assignment and coordination of client nursing care.
  • RNs coordinate point-of-care health service delivery with clients, the health care team, and other sectors to ensure continuous, safe care (1).
  • RNs provide and support leadership in nursing for optimal coordination and provision of care (2).
  • RNs collaborate with other health care providers and other interested parties to maximize health benefits to persons receiving care and with health care needs and concerns, recognizing and respecting the knowledge, skills and perspectives of all (3).
  • RNs consult with clients and health care team members to make ongoing adjustments required by changes in the availability of services or client health status (4).

How should I respond when these RNs tell me they don’t want to be assigned the charge nurse role? 

  • It might be helpful for you to explore the reasons why they are hesitant to accept the charge nurse role. Once you know the reasons, it will be easier to offer them the supports they need to transition into this role. You may also want to meet with these RNs to do several things:
    • Remind them that coordination of care is an integral part of the RN role;
    • Share your performance expectations with them and explain how important it is to the team that they embrace the charge nurse role;
    • Reassure them that they have your support as they learn and grow in this role; and,
    • Collaboratively develop a plan that supports and enables them to begin developing the ability and confidence to act as the charge nurse.
  • The CRNS practice team offers support for those who wish to better understand the RN role and the expectations of practice. The team can be reached at practiceadvice@crns.ca

I have heard from some of the staff that one of the RNs accepts the charge nurse role on evenings or weekends, but then lets one of the other more assertive staff members on the team make all the client care decisions. What is the best approach to solving this issue? 

  • The first step is to give the RN an opportunity to share their side of this story. If they identify that this is occurring, it might be helpful for you to explore the reasons why this is happening. Once you know the reasons, it will be easier to resolve this situation. You may want to also discuss the following:
    • Coordination of care is an integral part of the RN role.
    • As members of a self-regulating profession, RNs practice according to the ethical responsibilities in the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses and in Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2 & 5).
    • The RN is accountable and accepts responsibility for their own actions and decisions (6). If they are assigned as the charge nurse, then they must perform the duties and functions of a charge nurse.
    • Share your performance expectations with them.

CRNS Resources

Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses, 2017

Registered Nurse Practice Standards, 2019

Registered Nurse Entry-level Competencies, 2019

What is a Registered Nurse?

External Resources

CNPS InfoLaw: Supervision


Resource Key
1Registered Nurse Entry Level-Competencies (2019)Competency 5, page 10
2Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 40, page 6
3Code of Ethics (2017)B4, page 10
4Registered Nurse Entry Level-Competencies (2019)Competency 5.1, page 9
5Code of Ethics (2017)A1, page 8
6Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 1, page3


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