This is a common feeling and most specialist nurses are aware that their presence, if not managed properly, can have a deskilling effect on ward nurses.
In general terms, the role of the specialist nurse is to give a high level of specialist support to ward staff in a way that both
they and ward staff work together for the benefit of the patient. Although specialist nurses have enhanced skills in a specific area, the ward nurse has an especially important role to play as they are in 24-hour contact with the patient.
One of the first things you should consider is bringing up this issue at a team meeting for wider discussion. Do other nurses in your team share your views? Are there particular areas of specialism or patient care where this issue is more apparent?
Maybe you can arrange for the specialist nurses concerned to attend your team meeting so that there can be an open discussion on the issues and everyone can have an opportunity to air their views. It is quite probable that the specialist nurses will welcome more ward staff involvement in their particular specialty as this will make their job easier and more effective,
as well as improving patient care and the patient experience.
It might be possible for you and possibly a number of other ward nurses to work with some of the specialist nurses and become the ‘link’ between the ward team and a particular specialist nurse. This way you could develop your skills in a particular
area and, at the same time, support your colleagues. This is common practice in many ward areas. For example, you might consider developing your skills in tissue viability, a very important aspect of ward work. You could, by working closely with the tissue viability nurse, help ensure that the skills needed to prevent pressure ulcers are widely developed at ward level by making sure that skill development takes place at all levels within the team.
As well as enhancing the skills you have, this will be beneficial to patients and other staff.
It will ensure that patients are cared for by nurses with a higher level of skills 24 hours a day. It will also ensure that you and other ward staff will expand both your knowledge and skillset.
In addition, it may be the case that you need to examine your role in relation to how you interact and split the work with more junior staff and HCAs.
You say that you are left to carry out the most basic care. Are you sure you are delegating effectively within your team?
This is another issue that perhaps needs discussion with your colleagues. Consider which tasks you could pass on to less-qualified staff in order to take on more skilled activities.
Chris Pearce, a former director of nursing, is a life coach and freelance trainer with lifegoalspecialists.co.uk
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