Travel Nurse Advice: How to Deal with a Difficult Charge Nurse

charge nurseBy M. Nell Quest, Ph.D., Contributor

Even as a travel nurse, relating with your charge nurse can challenge you personally and professionally. 

As a new and temporary member of a hospital unit, what do you do if your charge nurse seems to be targeting you?

Those in charge nurse roles have difficult jobs, as they’re responsible for the most problematic parts of working on a hospital unit. 

The charge nurse spends their day waiting for the inevitable moment when they have to solve a problem they didn’t cause.

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Given the lack of nurses in leadership roles, you might even want to find a little gratitude that your charge nurse is willing to take on this task. 

7 Concrete Strategies for a Challenging Charge Nurse

Even if your charge nurse has problems you’re not causing, you still have to find a way to get through it. Here are six tips:

1. Focus on your job

This sounds easy, but isn’t. Avoid complaining, don’t pretend to know everything, be thorough, and keep work at work. Don’t give a difficult charge nurse the power to ruin your experience.

2. Put yourself in their shoes

What feels like a charge nurse haranguing you might make sense when you look at it from their perspective. A charge nurse’s role involves assigning patients to nurses based on factors like unit knowledge, experience, skills and personality. 

As a travel nurse, your charge nurse doesn’t know you, might not have a say in your placement, and hasn’t had time to size up your skills.

3. Use this as an opportunity

 As a travel nurse, you can get to know many management styles and ways of handling charge nurses. Take notes on how your charge nurse handles things, and what you might do differently. 

This might make it easier to integrate into a new assignment later.

4. Ask questions

 If you sense that your charge nurse has concerns about your performance, figure out what they are. Choose a moment when your charge nurse isn’t swamped. 

Ask if there are things you could do differently. Take critiques seriously, remembering that time is a gift.

5. Never trash talk

Nothing good ever comes from complaining about a coworker, especially if they are your charge nurse. You never know whether something you say will get back to them. It’s unprofessional, and it isn’t worth the risk.

6. Practice Self-Care

All nurses experience a difficult charge nurse at some point. The first step to handling this is to check your self-care through stress management techniques for nurses.

Self-care includes eating well, maintaining your support system, and keeping your energy up. Sometimes, it helps to channel your stress into working out, which can be easier with apps that help make your workouts better.

7. Remember, this isn’t permanent

The beauty of travel nursing is that your assignment is limited. Even if your charge nurse is the most difficult person you’ve ever had to work with, you won’t be there forever. 

Looking on the Bright Side

While travel nursing comes with benefits, it means you’ll have to prove yourself often. Challenging colleagues and supervisors provide an opportunity to get better at that, which will serve you well wherever your career takes you.

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