Frustrated charge nurse

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On a recent shift,  a physician pulled me aside to tell me she did not have confidence in one of my coworkers. Now, what am I supposed to do with that information? Oh yeah, and I was the charge nurse that night. Frankly, I was helpless to do much of anything except handhold and babysit–which doubled my work load and really frustrated me.

Recently we have been short staffed, and there are some deficiencies in some of the newly acquired nurses. And I’m not the only person frustrated by what is happening around me on the night shift: I’ve heard that one of my coworkers keeps 3×5 cards on nurses they don’t trust and records when they screw up. I guess they are hoping to glean enough ammo to get someone fired and they must feel powerless to do anything but record instances. And my other coworkers have been talking a lot about how bad things are with the staff. The complaining is constant.

So what do I do as a charge nurse when coworkers are not cutting it? When I know someone on the team is not a team player and is frankly not up to snuff? Frankly, I don’t think there is much I CAN do. I’ve stated my case up the chain of command and nada. people have been confronted and nada.

The reality I’ve witnessed, over and over in my nursing career, is that we nurses work with people (other docs and nurses alike) who don’t always know what they are doing, who don’t always help their coworkers, who make LOTS of mistakes, and who frankly aren’t very good at what they do. It happens.

And from my experience, these people don’t lose their jobs very easily. So what can we do to help aleviate some of the problem for the unit? Like I said, aside from hand-holding, reporting, and babysitting, not much.

It is alarming to see a unit staffed with sub-par people–especially a unit I am responsible for at night–but as a charge nurse the only thing I can do is state the expectation, report when things go wrong, and hold my breath and pray the rest of the time. Oh, and work my butt off.

Plus I can always note the positive: there IS lots of room for improvement!

Although I hate to say it, leaving the shift with a sigh of a relief that “no one died” is becoming a more common occurrence. And really, that just isn’t good enough for me. What has happened to excellence and good work ethics in health care?

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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2 Responses to Frustrated charge nurse

  1. MrDog RN

    I work as a full time Charge Nurse, and this song is all too familiar (though the 3×5 cards are a new twist. After talking to quite a few nurses, here’s what I’v found: Staffing is short in more places than not., Administrations are out to make a buck and push more admissions at us than we can safely handle., There is so much paperwork, with more added every month, that even with appropriate staffing the job is getting harder. Charge Nursing is a Straw Boss position – we have a title and position above staff nurse, more responsibility, and the stress that goes with it, but no ability to actually enforce any rule.

    When I first started in Charge, I felt part of administration. Now, I identify with the staff, as we are all on the floor, and we all feel the same pain and sense of being overwhelmed. The best I can do is point out when procedure is not followed (or sometimes bent responsibly) and try to maintain a sense of calm on the floor. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

  2. Granny RN RN

    We had a series of incidents which happened to involve ONE particular RN who seemed to have a ‘jinx’ where one surgeons’ patients were concerned. It was never anything that this RN did or did not do that contributed to or caused any of the patients’ declines but the surgeon decided that he did not want her anywhere near HIS patients. The only way in which we could handle this was to assign her to OTHER patients, none of whose MDs had any kind of complaint about her abilities, which were excellent.
    On one morning, when I happened to be the Registered Nut in Charge, we had TWO patients ‘go bad’ and suddenly herniate their brainstems within minutes of each other and in adjacent rooms. Of course BOTH patients belonged to the surgeon in question. It was determined that even though the RN with the ‘jinx’ was working that day, she was nowhere NEAR the 2 patients at any time. In fact it was determined that both patients had suffered sudden and unpreventable hemorrhages which would not have had any different outcome even if the doc had been there with his knife in his hand!
    The point is that it is almost impossible to get rid of a bias in someones’ mind. The only thing that you can do is to try to keep the individual parties away from each other. And be diligent in ‘keeping watch’ over the house in case you need to ‘bear witness’ later.