How do I deal with an unhelpful charge nurse?

Image: Jupiterimages | Comstock | Getty Images

Few things are more frustrating than working with a charge nurse who just doesn’t get it. But before you blow up, take a deep breath. Then ask yourself: What exactly is the problem?

Are you frustrated because your charge nurse asks you to do one thing, then complains because you haven’t done something else? Do they refuse to help out on the floor? Decline to talk to staff about performance issues? Micromanage, or provide no direction whatsoever?

Once you’ve figured out why they’re bothering you, ask yourself what you’d like them to do. If you feel constricted by micromanaging, try to identify what forms of guidance would feel acceptable to you. Similarly, if you feel unsupported in physician interactions, what kind of support would be helpful to you?

Then schedule a time to talk with your charge nurse. This is not the time to tell all they’ve ever done wrong. Instead, begin by stating your desire to provide the very best care and turn it into a conversation about how they can help you do your best. For instance, you might say something like, “I find I do my best with specific instructions. If you have a good idea of what you’d like to me accomplish in a shift, could you provide me with a list of my top three priorities?” Ideally, you’ll be able to work together to create a pattern of interaction that benefits both of you.

Unfortunately, not every meeting will go so smoothly. If you don’t have success with your first meeting, try talking to your colleagues. If a number of you share the same concerns, you may have more luck approaching your charge nurse as a group. (Don’t ambush the charge nurse, though. Schedule a meeting and keep things professional.)

If that doesn’t help, you may want to consider working your way up the chain of command. Before doing so, though, take the time to document your concerns. Simply telling your nurse supervisor that your charge nurse is “unhelpful” is unlikely to change anything. Providing specific examples of your concerns—and demonstrating those concerns over a period of time—is much more likely to result in positive change.

Hang in there!

Like us on Facebook and join the Scrubs Family