A trust in west Yorkshire has developed a nursing leadership programme to help staff nurses take charge of critical care areas.
The ‘in charge’ programme, devised by a senior nurse at Leeds General Infirmary, offers band 5 nurses a structured programme to gain the skills and knowledge to take charge of the hospital’s high dependency unit (HDU).
The 12-week course was created by HDU senior sister, Sarah Freeman, in response to a shortage of band 5 nurses able to competently take charge of the unit, and the ad hoc way in which staff were learning to do so.
Staff felt ‘thrown in at the deep end’ if they had to take charge in an emergency, increasing stress, reducing job satisfaction and potentially compromising patient safety and quality of service, said Ms Freeman.
‘In many clinical areas, these staff would have been taking charge for a substantial period of time already,’ said Ms Freeman. ‘However, the HDU is a clinical area that can involve the care of every adult specialty within the hospital if that patient is in a critically ill state.
‘Decision-making is fast paced and complex, and it is quite a challenge to take charge of an HDU,’ she added.
The ‘in charge’ development programme consists of a mix of clinical experience, personal reflection, teaching sessions and scenario-based problem solving. Band 5 nurses start by shadowing the nurse in charge, and gradually work up to taking charge themselves but with support from senior staff.
Nurses also spend time with the critical care bed co-ordinator and complete competency-based workbooks. So far eight of the 17 band 5 staff nurses working in the HDU have completed the course since it was introduced last year, and a further four are in the process of completing it.
‘Completing the programme acts as a badge, acknowledging that you are competent to take charge,’ said Ms Freeman.
The ‘in charge’ programme – which was presented at the RCN critical care conference in London last week – is designed to be implemented in any critical care area. It has been shared across Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and critical care areas across West Yorkshire.