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Head Nurse Salary & Role Expectations

Head Nurse Salary & Role Expectations

Head nurses supervise and coordinate nursing teams made up of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. They are in managerial positions and are expected to work closely with upper management and doctors. If you’re looking to transition into a head nurse role you typically need to have clinical experience working as a registered nurse for at least several years, and while not mandatory, having management certifications is always a plus.

You can find head nurse jobs in a variety of facilities but the most common places are hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes -  as these tend to be larger workplaces where the coordination of a nursing team is needed.

How much you can make as a head nurse boils down to experience and the facility that you're working in. In saying that, there are certain expectations and standards that most facilities are suggested to follow - in order to properly pay and compensate head nurses. Since the average head nursing salary varies across provinces and the amount of experience you have, the following salary figures are estimates based on salary survey data collected directly from employers and anonymous employees via nurse avenue, nurse unions, livingin-canada, and indeed. The salary expectations listed below don’t include working overtime or any other bonuses.

Head Nurse Role Expectations

As a head nurse, you’d be in charge of a group of nurses at the facility, hospital, or healthcare center where you work. This means you’d be responsible for a variety of different management roles that involve your team such as: 

  • Making sure to support your team and overseeing their performance and effectiveness 
  • Handing out assignments/delegating who is doing what 
  • Creating schedules 
  • Maintaining medical records 
  • Monitoring all the consent forms before and after each procedure
  • Training new nurses and educating your team


While your roles as a head nurse may vary slightly from workplace to workplace, no matter what your exact responsibilities are you can expect to be managing a team (typically consisting of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and PSWs). You may work closely with other management as well as the NP or doctor on duty. Overall in your role as a head nurse, you should expect to coordinate and supervise the delivery of care in your unit as well as provide clinical guidance and support to everyone on your team. 


Head nurses typically help in treatment planning, development, and implementation as well as evaluation and maintenance of treatment plans, programs, policies, and procedures. As a head nurse, you play an important role in making sure your patients receive quality care. Alternative titles include:

  • Nursing care coordinator
  • Nursing supervisor
  • Patient care coordinator
  • Psychiatric nursing supervisor
  • Public health nursing supervisor

To qualify as a head nurse in Canada you must have completed an accredited nursing education program, such as a Registered Nurse, and be an active registered member with the association of registered nurses in the province where you practice.

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Head Nurse Salary in Canada 

The average head nurse salary depends on your qualifications and the facility that you’re working at. The average starting salary is $77,841 annually or around $39.91 hourly (for a 37.5-hour workweek). The average head nurse salary for an experienced nurse is a lot higher at around $97,849 annually or $50.18/hour. Whereas the overall average salary for a head nurse across Canada is $87,845 or $43.92/hour

Here’s a breakdown of the average head nurse salary across the different Canadian provinces: 

Province 

Hourly Salary 

Annual Salary

B.C.

$49

$97,492

Alberta

$45

$87,750

Quebec

$36

$70,200

Ontario 

$40

$78,760

Manitoba 

$45

$87,750

Saskatewan 

$47

$91,650

Nova Scotia 

$40

$78,760

New Brunswick

$41

$79,950

P.E.I 

$44

$86,697

Newfoundland & Labrador 

$47

$92,517

Nunavut

$62

$121,686

Yukon

$50

$98,273

Northwest Territories

$58

$113,811

 


Nurse Contract Expectations across Canada 

The head nurse salary outlined in the Canadian Federation Nurses Union explains that while there’s not one salary agreement that all nursing facilities must follow - there is one agreement that makes up the majority of what nurses agree upon in a province. The agreement that represents the majority of nurses becomes the standard of what should be followed or a guide as to how much one should expect. In their salary overview below, numbers are based on a seven-and-three-quarter-hour shift (i.e. not a twelve-hour shift).

Province 

Hourly Salary
(Starting)  

Hourly Salary
(Experienced) 

Annual Salary
(Starting)  

Annual Salary
(Experienced) 

B.C.

$45

$54.24

$87,744.00

$105,768.00

Alberta

$40.34

$54.11

$77,483.06

$103,931.78

Ontario 

36.28

50.57

$70,746.00

$98,611.50

Manitoba 

40.42 

51.10 

$81,454.36

$102,966.50

Saskatewan 

42.76

52.38

$83,330.69

$102,078.14

Nova Scotia 

37.05

43.39

$72,246.00

$84,606.00

New Brunswick

37.57

45.72

$73,543.28

$89,496.90 

P.E.I 

39.07

48.89

$76,186.50

$95,335.50


There’s currently no standard for Quebec, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territories. For an idea of what to expect take a look at the overall head nurse salary averages above. 

 

Conclusion

There’s quite a difference in salary ranges when you’re first starting out as a head nurse compared to an experienced head nurse. This is a good thing as you’ll have plenty of room to grow in your career and have it reflected fairly in your pay. The overall average head nurse salary in Canada is $87,845 (or $43.92/hour).

If you are willing to move north you can earn well over $100,000 working in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories where salaries average around $117,748.50.

The highest provincial salaries around found in B.C., Saskatchewan, Newfoundland & Labrador, and the Yukon all averaging above $90,000. The lowest salary in Canada is in Quebec, averaging almost $8,000 - $10,000 less than other provinces at $70,200.

Keep in mind that the above salaries are all based on 7.5-hour shifts and don’t include working overtime or any bonuses. Once you factor in longer shifts and working on holidays you’re looking at $2,000-$15,000 more!

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