It’s the sister who dictates care standards, says Katherine Fenton. So ensure patients get better care on your watch
The day sisters put on their navy blue uniform is the day their lives change. The charge nurse has more impact on patient experience than anyone else. Where there is a good sister, there will be good care.
My dad had almost perfect care from his cancer diagnosis to death. Care should be like that for everyone
Many nurses aspire to become that ward sister - the person who everyone looks to for guidance and leadership.
Yet sisters may not realise the huge impact they will have. Every word they utter, every action they take and every measure of behaviour will be noted, commented upon, copied and archived.
So it’s important that sisters know it and have strategies to manage all those impressions and expectations.
Patients need to feel safe, cared for and in good hands; staff need to know what the sister expects and where they are being taken; teams need to know who is in control.
To enable this, sisters should start with remembering why they came into the profession; they should think about what motivates them, and their vision for patients and staff. If staff are happy and well led, the evidence tells us, patients will get better care.
My dad had almost perfect care from his cancer diagnosis to death. Care should be like that for everyone.
They must focus on keeping care personal and this should be checked daily. “Intentional rounding” should be introduced, which means talking to patients regularly and making sure they are OK.
The nurse’s role can got lost in the demands of busy environments. Much more is now done technically - but we joined the profession to care for patients, and make sure they get a good deal from us. Sisters are central to that.
Keep care personal with “intentional rounding”
Businesses such as John Lewis can guarantee customers they will get the same service in whichever store they go in. It is not the same in the NHS. The only way you can ensure consistency is by carrying out intentional rounding and asking patients what they think of their care. Here are my top five tips for implementing this service:
- Make sure you attract senior endorsement of this process.
- Offer a consistent approach - same message, delivered same way by all involved; both in relation to the initiative and actual rounding practice.
- Engage the whole team - make sure frontline staff are involved.
- Demonstrate the benefits for patients and staff by measuring relevant metrics and displaying results.
- Get staff training right with simple and speedy delivery, perhaps using slides/video, scripts and easy role-play.