Charge Nurses as Mentors: How CNOs Can Encourage a Culture of Learning

The case for mentoring in Nursing

The Future of Nursing 2020-2030 (2021) report identifies mentoring as critical in transitioning to a more equitable healthcare system stating that “new and established nurse leaders – at all levels and in all settings – are needed to lead change” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, [NAM] 2021, p. 291). The American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL) Nurse Leader Competencies (2022) recognizes “mentoring staff” as a key competency for nurse leaders (p. 442). Additional competencies championing the case for mentoring include developing the ability of others, recognizing opportunities for staff, and providing learning opportunities (AONL Nurse Leader Competencies, 2022).

Promoting diversity, belonging, and inclusion

Nurse leaders, including charge nurses, play a critical role in building greater diversity in the nursing workforce. Mentoring provides a pathway for nurses from traditionally underrepresented communities to achieve opportunities within all areas of nursing, including nursing leadership. Increasing diversity within the nursing workforce, including nursing leadership, is “essential to achieving health equity” (NAM, 2021, p. 290).

What does the literature tells us?

There is little research regarding the role of charge nurses as mentors. Kennedy et al. (2021) paired new graduate nurses with charge nurses as mentors. The study revealed that charge nurses are important to new graduate nurses and encourages the preparation of charge nurses as mentors (Kennedy et al., 2021). Hoover, Koon, Rosser, and Rao (2020) conducted a scoping review of mentoring programs for nurses. While there was great variation in the programs, charge nurses were used as mentors in several programs (Hoover et al., 2020).

Dirks (2021) notes that “mentoring can occur informally or through participation in a structured program”, however, formal mentoring programs “greatly enhance opportunities for a mentee’s individual growth and…professional engagement” (p. e10). Minguez Moreno et al. (2023), in their scoping review, found that all mentoring programs “improve practice and retention, enhance nurse performance, and create a supportive and positive environment” (p. 13).

The case for charge nurses as mentors

Charge nurses are expert clinical nurses who work alongside the nursing staff and are responsible for the smooth running of their unit or work setting (ANA, n.d.). ANA recognizes charge nurses as “de facto mentor[s]” (n.d.). ANA recognizes that through their presence on the unit, charge nurses function routinely as informal mentors by answering questions and providing feedback, providing direction and education, and serving as a role model for the nursing staff in their work settings. 

Charge nurses have already established trust with the nursing staff, therefore, they are positively situated to participate in formal mentoring that is both clinically focused and professionally focused (Hoover et al., 2020).  Professionally focused mentoring includes career advice and networking (Hoover et al., 2020). Charge nurses have a unique perspective regarding the nursing staff and may be the first to recognize growth opportunities and potential career trajectories/transitions.

American Nurses Association (n.d.). Charge nurse vs. nurse manager: What’s the difference? Charge Nurse vs. Nurse Manager: What’s the Difference? | ANA (

Dirks, J. L. (2021). Alternative approaches to mentoring. Critical Care Nurse, 41(1), pp. e9-e16. doi:

Hoover, J., Koon, A. D., Rosser, E. N., & Rao, K. D. (2020). Mentoring the working nurse: a scoping review. Human Resources for Health, 18(52).

Hughes, R., Meadows, M. T., & Begley, R. (2022). AONL nurse leader competencies: Core competencies for nurse leadership. Nurse Leader, 20(5), 437-443.

Mínguez Moreno, I.; González de la Cuesta, D.; Barrado Narvión, M.J.; Arnaldos Esteban, M.; González Cantalejo, M. Nurse Mentoring: A Scoping Review. Healthcare 2023, 11, 2302. https://

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.