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NOC Code: NOC Code: 3151 Occupation: Head Nurses and Supervisors
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Head nurses and supervisors supervise and co-ordinate the activities of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and other nursing personnel in the provision of patient care. They are employed in health care institutions such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and in nursing agencies. Head nurses and supervisors supervise and co-ordinate the activities of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and other nursing personnel in the provision of patient care. They are employed in health care institutions such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and in nursing agencies.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
  • Skill levels are assigned to tasks: Level 1 tasks are the least complex and level 4 or 5 tasks (depending upon the specific skill) are the most complex. Skill levels are associated with workplace tasks and not the workers performing these tasks.
  • Scroll down the page to get information on career planning, education and training, and employment and volunteer opportunities.

Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Text Reading Text 1 2 3 4
Writing Writing 1 2 3 4
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3
Computer Use Computer Use 1 2
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3 4
Money Math Money Math 1 2 3
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2 3
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2 3
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1 2 3
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2 3
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3


  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.


Reading Text
  • Read directions for use, caution statements and storage instructions on the labels of medications and medical supplies. (1)
  • Read shift reports to learn about problems encountered and concerns expressed by nursing staff and patients during previous shifts. For example, a head nurse in a long-term care unit may read a shift report entry about damage to the hydraulic equipment which is used to lift patients in and out of baths. (2)
  • Read entries in referral, admitting, discharge, treatment and consent forms. Read these entries to learn about patients' medical histories, diagnoses and treatment plans. For example, read discharge forms to determine specific release plans and care for patients. (2)
  • Read a variety of manuals for information about healthcare, budgeting and regulations. For example, read long-term care manuals to review legislation governing health care provision. Read the organization's policy and procedures manuals for information about budgeting and scheduling. Read union collective agreements to understand contract clauses governing human resource matters such as scheduling, overtime pay, holidays, grievance procedures and benefit plans. (3)
  • Read drug abstracts, such as those found in the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals to obtain information about the benefits and limitations of new and unfamiliar drugs before administering them to patients. (3)
  • Read articles in medical journals and reference textbooks. For example, read articles about new cures for breast cancer in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in textbooks such as Best Practice Guidelines, Benign Disorders and Diseases of the Breast to understand clients' diagnoses and learn about recommended treatments. (4)
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Writing
  • Write shift reports. Describe the work completed on the shift, outline patients' treatment needs and describe behaviours that may be problematic or of concern to following shifts. (2)
  • Write descriptions of examinations and treatments in patient care records. Include longer passages to explain patients' medical conditions and histories as required. (2)
  • Write job postings to advertise for nurses. Outline the positions' tasks, responsibilities, skills and educational requirements using information from previous postings. (2)
  • Write email and memos to the nurses you supervise. For example, write email responding to scheduling and vacation requests. Write memos outlining patient care directives and upcoming courses and seminars such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training. (2)
  • Complete personnel evaluations and incident reports. Write annual performance evaluations of nurses describing their strengths and weaknesses. Complete incident reports to document medical errors and substandard patient care. (3)
  • Write and adapt patient care policies and procedures. For example, write new guidelines for staff to follow when accompanying and assisting patients in examination rooms. Use various regulations, codes and nursing standards as models. (3)
  • Write letters. For example, write letters in response to complaints from patients and their families explaining the investigations conducted, discussing the findings and outlining corrective actions. Write reference letters for nurses applying for transfers, senior postings and further educational opportunities. (3)
  • Write operational reports and proposals for managers. Describe reviews of programs, nursing care initiatives, financial operations, staff scheduling, human resources and incidents that have occurred. Include recommendations on caseloads, nursing responsibilities and patient care plans to ensure set standards of practice continue to be met. Write proposals requesting additional funding. For example, a head nurse may write a proposal requesting funding to extend a teen education program and provide background information and rationale for continuation of the program. (4)
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Document Use
  • Scan labels to locate ingredients, expiry dates and recommended dosages when administering medications. (1)
  • Scan lists and tables. Scan contact lists for data such as the names, telephone numbers and email addresses of health care professionals. View tables showing budget variances, workloads and scheduling data in staff reports. (1)
  • Scan a variety of patient care forms. For example, read health assessment forms to learn about patients' medical histories, lifestyles and current health statuses. Read doctors' order forms to ensure care, medications and instructions have been carried out by nursing staff. Scan entries on patient tracking forms to ensure that nursing staff are entering data correctly and following prescribed treatment plans. (2)
  • Interpret a variety of graphs. For example, analyse electrocardiograms to understand patients' heart functioning. Interpret graphs showing changes in patients' temperatures and blood pressures. (3)
  • Interpret anatomical drawings and diagnostic imagery to understand and explain medical procedures. For example, interpret angiograms to trace blood flow throughout the body and identify blocked arteries. Use anatomical drawings to illustrate normal heart anatomy and to answer questions from other nurses regarding cardiac patients. (3)
  • Complete medical reporting forms such as daily logs, hospitalization records and level of care directives. Record measurements such as temperatures, blood pressures, heart rates, bowel movements, fluid intakes and outputs and observations of patients' conditions. Record medications administered, unusual findings and medical problems that require attention. (3)
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Computer Use
  • Use computer and software applications. For example, supervisors in hospital cardiac units may use telemetry receivers to monitor patients' vital signs. Head nurses in community health programs may use personal digital assistant devices to download and display patient files. They may use specialized software such as Baycrest On-line Documentation to retrieve and view patient charts. (2)
  • Search the Internet for medical research papers and articles about healthcare initiatives. (2)
  • Exchange email and attachments with co-workers and colleagues in various health care facilities. Enter appointments in calendars and set reminder notices. (2)
  • Create spreadsheets for scheduling purposes and use existing ones to record budget expenditures. (2)
  • Use management databases to view master schedules and monitor budgets. Use medical record databases to review patients' files and to record details of patients' care. (2)
  • Use word processing programs such as Word to write and format referral letters, articles for newsletters, reports and policies. Use basic text editing and formatting features to create documents. Use templates to minimize text editing and formatting. (2)
  • Use graphics. For example, use presentation software such as PowerPoint to create slides for healthcare presentations. (2)
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Oral Communication
  • Discuss products, prices, delivery dates and other matters with suppliers and service providers. For example, nursing supervisors in long-term care facilities place orders for a variety of items such as incontinence supplies and hydraulic lifts to assist nurses in moving patients. Supervisors of public health nurses check with suppliers to ensure that influenza vaccines will be ready for vaccination clinics. (2)
  • Discuss patient care plans with nursing staff and assign duties. Exchange health care information with nurses, explain operating practices and confirm modifications to schedules and assignments. (2)
  • Discuss learning goals with nurses, monitor learning plans, suggest further training and provide feedback during annual performance reviews. Lead staff meetings. (3)
  • Discuss the care of patients with doctors, psychologists, therapists and nurses. Exchange information about patients' health, seek professional opinions and coordinate patient care. For example, contact medical specialists to make patient referrals and to discuss details of patients' medical histories. (3)
  • Discuss health and medical treatments with patients and their family members. Explain medical procedures, reassure them of the quality of care and answer questions. (3)
  • Make presentations and deliver educational seminars. For example, present information to community groups and to colleagues and peers at seminars and conferences. For example, supervisors of nurses in long-term care facilities may make presentations to small community groups and organizations on issues pertinent to geriatric care and fall preventions. They adapt their presentations to suit their audiences. (4)
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Money Math
  • Verify invoice amounts before approving payments. Calculate costs for quantities of medical supplies, apply discounts and applicable taxes. (3)
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Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Create work schedules for nursing staffs. For example, unit supervisors in large hospitals create six-week work schedules for more than one hundred nurses. They consider numbers of full-time, part-time and casual nursing staff, years of experience and vacation and leave requests. They frequently adjust the schedules due to staff illnesses and emergencies. They ensure that government-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are met and collective agreements respected. (3)
  • Develop and monitor budgets. Project costs of salaries for nursing staff, purchases of equipment and supplies, costs of new programs to be developed and operational costs such as travel expenses. Monitor budget expenditures which can fluctuate due to overtime wages and variations in the numbers of patients admitted. (3)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Determine quantities and dosages of medications to administer to patients. For example, measure volumes of liquid dosages when administering prescribed medications. Count the number of drops per minute flowing through intravenous drips to ensure the correct amounts of medication are administered. (2)
  • Measure vital health functions when providing care to patients. For example, use scales to measure weights, sphygmomanometers for blood pressures and glucometers for blood glucose levels. (2)
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Data Analysis
  • Analyze patients' vital health measurements over time to monitor health changes. For example, compare measurements of pulse rates, temperatures, blood pressures and weights over time to identify changes in patients' health. (2)
  • Collect and analyze operational and demographic data. For example, supervisors of public health nurses may analyze data on quantities of influenza vaccines used during previous years in their areas and calculate average numbers of people who were inoculated per year. (3)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate time. For example, head nurses in clinics estimate lengths of wait times for next available examination rooms. They consider the needs and health problems of patients' currently being served and the numbers of patients waiting. (3)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Head nurses and supervisors organize their own job tasks and plan their daily activities in order to meet the overall objectives of health units and care facilities. They juggle multiple duties such as attending meetings, developing operational policies, communicating with nurses and patients, adjusting schedules and overseeing budgets. Although many of the same activities occur over the course of a day, their schedules vary considerably because of unexpected events such as patient care emergencies. Head nurses and supervisors plan work schedules and assign duties to nurses, practical nurses and nurses' aides. (3)
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Decision Making
  • Decide to assist with patient care when there are staff shortages and when patients require increased care. (1)
  • Decide which nurses to send for external training programs. Consider available training budgets, schedules, collective agreement provisions and the urgency of nurses' learning needs. Be perceived to be acting fairly to avoid grumbling and disharmony. (3)
  • Select tasks to assign to nursing staff. Consider the nurses' qualifications, skills and previous experience. For example, select the most senior nurses to act as charge nurses and choose experienced nurses for triage in emergency departments. (3)
  • Choose disciplinary actions to take with nursing staff who have violated rules. Investigate the allegations and review the employees' past records to search for any previous violations. Consider the seriousness of the violations, precedents and human resources policies and procedures. (3)
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Problem Solving
  • Operational and financial data contains mistakes. For example, nursing supervisors in hospitals may find that beds have been charged to the wrong units. They contact their finance departments to report the errors and request the charges be reversed. Supervisors in long-term care facilities may find they have been overcharged for incontinence products and linen supplies. They contact suppliers to report discrepancies and request reimbursements. (2)
  • There are shortages of beds. Head nurses in hospitals contact other hospitals and related community health services in the surrounding areas to find places where patients can be treated. If they cannot find suitable facilities, they may have to suggest patients be placed in hallways until beds become available. (2)
  • There are staff shortages. In unionized workplaces, contact nurses with the most seniority when replacement and additional staff members are needed. In non-unionized workplaces, contact nurses who have placed their names on call lists. (2)
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Finding Information
  • Seek current information about the medical conditions of patients by conducting physical examinations, taking measurements of vital signs and listening to patients' feedback. Read medical charts, seek the opinions of doctors and co-workers and look for information in patients' files as appropriate. (2)
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Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the work performance of nurses. Review completed medical forms to assess record keeping abilities and inspect work areas for organization and cleanliness. Observe nurses' interactions with co-workers and patients and talk directly with them to gather feedback about patient care. Use this information to complete performance reviews and to ensure patients receive quality health care services. (3)
  • Evaluate patients' health. Analyze vital signs and compare measurements over time to identify signs of improvement and deterioration. Seek physicians' opinions, consider patients' feedback and look for signs of improvement such as increased appetite, regular bowel movements and increased energy. (3)
  • Judge the merit of patients' complaints about nursing care and take appropriate action. Investigate the complaints by asking the individuals involved to describe the circumstances and actions of those involved, consider the information gathered and assess if a nursing violation can be substantiated. Facilitate discussions between the individuals involved to resolve the complaints. If complaints cannot be resolved follow procedures to file formal complaints as appropriate. (3)
  • Judge the suitability of various types of patient care. Consider the health of patients and benefits and risks of treatments before discussing choices with patients and their families. For example, recommend that the best care plan for a terminally ill patient in palliative care is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible as additional treatments may do more harm than good. (3)
  • Assess the suitability of nursing candidates for available positions. Review candidates' academic credentials, work experiences, responses to interview questions and references. Recommend candidates whose skills, experiences and attitudes match the needs of the workplace. (3)
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