Head Nurse

ProfGuide Updated 
Head Nurse

As the healthcare industry continues to grow, so does the demand for skilled professionals in various roles. One of the most important positions within healthcare is that of the head nurse. A head nurse is a registered nurse who has assumed a leadership role within a healthcare organization. In this article, we will discuss the profession of head nurse, including their roles and responsibilities, the demand for the profession, and how to become one. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.


Introduction to Head Nurse as a profession

A head nurse is a registered nurse who has a supervisory role over other nurses within a healthcare organization. They are responsible for the coordination and management of patient care services, ensuring the highest level of quality and safety is maintained. In addition to their clinical responsibilities, head nurses also manage the budget, personnel, and administrative aspects of their department.


Head nurses may specialize in different areas of healthcare, such as critical care, emergency room, pediatrics, or oncology. The type of specialization determines the nature of their work environment and the types of patients they care for.

Tasks and responsibilities

The tasks and responsibilities of a head nurse vary depending on their area of specialization, but generally include the following:

  • Managing the nursing staff and delegating tasks appropriately
  • Coordinating patient care services and ensuring the highest level of quality and safety
  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures for patient care and staff management
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure a coordinated approach to patient care
  • Managing the budget and ensuring financial goals are met
  • Ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements

Pros and Cons


  • A challenging and rewarding career with opportunities for growth and advancement
  • A high level of autonomy and responsibility
  • The ability to make a positive impact on patients' lives and well-being
  • Competitive salaries and benefits


  • A high level of stress and responsibility
  • Long and irregular work hours
  • The potential for exposure to infectious diseases
  • The emotional toll of dealing with critically ill patients and their families


The demand for head nurses is expected to grow in the coming years due to the aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses, including head nurses, is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030.

Salary ranges

The salary of a head nurse varies depending on their experience, location, and area of specialization. According to Payscale, the average salary for a head nurse in the United States is $84,400 per year, while in Canada it is C$87,817 ($66,521 USD), in the United Kingdom it is £37,221 ($51,463 USD), and in Australia it is AU$93,153 ($69,763 USD).

Where do Head Nurses work?

Head nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and rehabilitation centers. They may also work in non-traditional settings, such as schools, correctional facilities, and community health centers. The role of a head nurse is critical in ensuring that the delivery of healthcare services is efficient, effective, and safe.

Important qualities of a successful Head Nurse

To be a successful head nurse, one must possess the following qualities:

  • Strong leadership skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Advanced clinical knowledge and skills
  • The ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities
  • Strong problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • The ability to work well under pressure

Step-by-step career path

The following is a step-by-step career path for becoming a head nurse:

  1. Obtain a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. This can be an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).
  2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse.
  3. Gain clinical experience as a registered nurse, which may include working in a specialty area or in a leadership role.
  4. Pursue advanced education, such as a master's degree in nursing or a related field, to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for a leadership role.
  5. Obtain certification as a nurse leader or administrator, which can demonstrate expertise in the field and enhance career opportunities.
  6. Pursue leadership roles within healthcare organizations, such as charge nurse, assistant nurse manager, or clinical nurse manager, to gain experience in managing staff and resources.
  7. Apply for head nurse positions as they become available, and continue to pursue professional development opportunities to enhance leadership skills and knowledge.

How to become a Head Nurse

To become a head nurse in the United States, a nursing degree from an accredited program and a valid registered nurse license are required. While higher education, such as a master's degree in nursing or healthcare administration, is not required, it can enhance career opportunities and provide the knowledge and skills necessary for a leadership role. Some head nurse positions may require additional certifications, such as a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) certification.

Where to become a Head Nurse

Head nurse positions are available in healthcare organizations across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Some examples of healthcare organizations in each country that may offer head nurse positions include:

United States:

  • Mayo Clinic
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Cedars-Sinai
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Kaiser Permanente


  • Toronto General Hospital
  • McGill University Health Centre
  • Vancouver Coastal Health
  • Alberta Health Services
  • Hamilton Health Sciences

United Kingdom:

  • NHS
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Bupa
  • The Priory Group
  • HCA Healthcare UK


  • Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • St Vincent's Hospital Sydney
  • Queensland Health
  • Epworth Healthcare
  • Ramsay Health Care

Can you enter the profession with a different degree?

While a nursing degree and license are required to become a head nurse, individuals with a different degree may be able to transition into the profession through additional education and training. For example, someone with a degree in healthcare administration or business may pursue a master's degree in nursing or healthcare management to gain the necessary knowledge and skills for a leadership role in healthcare. However, it is important to note that clinical experience as a registered nurse is typically necessary to become a head nurse, regardless of educational background.

Additionally, healthcare organizations may have specific requirements for head nurse positions, such as a minimum number of years of clinical experience as a registered nurse or specific certifications. Therefore, it is important to research the specific requirements of the organization and position before pursuing a career as a head nurse with a different degree.

In conclusion, the profession of head nurse is an essential role within healthcare organizations, requiring strong leadership, communication, and clinical skills. While the job can be demanding and stressful, it offers opportunities for growth, advancement, and making a positive impact on patients' lives. Pursuing a career as a head nurse requires a nursing degree, a valid registered nurse license, and typically, clinical experience as a registered nurse. Advanced education, certifications, and experience in leadership roles can enhance career opportunities and success in the profession. With the growing demand for healthcare services, the role of head nurse is expected to continue to be an important and rewarding career choice.

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