My Experience of the Role of the Charge Nurse After working for many years in acute medicine I had my first experience as an acting charge in a very busy, 32 bedded acute medical ward. Keen to make a good impression I felt compelled to demonstrate my clinical skills to my team. This meant having a case load of patients every day in addition to carrying the overall responsibility for ward management. Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I know that stress of trying to do two jobs, (staff nurse and charge nurse….nobody told me I couldn’t do it) meant I couldn’t be as effective a charge nurse as I could have been.
However I learned eventually that to be effective, I had to change my attitude and step fully into the charge nurse role. This involved changing my working hours to Monday to Friday when everybody seemed to be looking for me, not holding a case load yet still being available to patients and relatives and empowering staff to make them less reliant on the charge nurse.
Most important to me was allowing myself space and time to step back in order to see the big picture. This meant monitoring and ensuring the highest quality care was delivered to our patients. It also meant that I could support and develop my team more effectively. The result was that I had a greater sense of achievement and satisfaction in my role because I knew I was really making a difference. The end result seems a bit obvious now (I’ve been in this role for 15 years), but early in my charge nurse career I learned the hard way like many others.
The publication of Leading Better Care outlines the charge nurse role for us and I hope that all NHS boards pay attention to it in the way that mine does. For me, it is essential that I do not carry a daily case load and I like the fact that the clinical quality indicators allow us to evidence our care clearly. It is a document that we should be working to. It was published for a reason.
We charge nurses are key to influencing care and ensuring the provision of high quality care to our patients. They rely on us.
And, just in case you’re still wondering….You can’t be a staff nurse and a charge nurse at the same time!