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Exclusive: Providing admin support to charge nurses ‘improves patient care’

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Patient falls and pressure ulcers have been reduced since two hospital nurses successfully lobbied for an administrative assistant to be appointed to support them, they have told Nursing Times.

Staff absence rates have also reached an all-time low since the post was created, according to the two senior charge nurses at NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

“What was keeping me awake at night was a growing to-do list of admin jobs”

Christine Somerville

Christine Somerville and Victoria Morrison, who work in the stroke unit and on a general medical ward at University Hospital Crosshouse, say the extra support has “transformed” their own roles.

Writing in Nursing Times, they warned that three years ago they “felt overwhelmed” by admin tasks, which were impacting on their ability to be visible clinical leaders for both patients and staff.

Ms Somerville said: “Back in 2015, what was keeping me awake at night was a growing to-do list of admin jobs relating to staff roster, annual leave, training, risk assessments and absences.”

“I was spending more and more time away from patients, stuck at a desk and completing admin work,” she said, which meant her “stress levels were soaring” and there was a “risk of burnout”.

Ms Somerville also highlighted that the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation Trust had stated that senior charge nurses should have a supervisory role and not be office-based.

The problem sparked the pair to come up with an innovative solution and recruit a part-time administrative assistant, and as a result enable them to “reclaim” their roles as senior charge nurses

“We have moved from an office setting to the front line and from words to action”

Christine Somerville

The administrative support role was piloted for six months from December 2015 and subsequently made permanent. Each senior charge nurse now has 15 hours of administrative support per week.

The assistant took over tasks such as inputting audit data, arranging staff training, managing diaries, developing and maintaining databases and entering the staff roster into the electronic system.

Ms Somerville and Ms Morrison clinical quality indicators relating to food and fluid intake, falls, peripheral venous cannula sites and hand hygiene were now consistently above 95%.

Specifically, Ms Somerville said that since January 2015 there had been fewer falls, no falls with harm to patients and no avoidable pressure ulcers.

For example, for the period of January to May 2015, there were 38 falls in total, but only six during the same months in 2017.

Meanwhile, she said staff absence was at an all-time low, having fallen from 3.8% in January 2017 to 1.78% in May last year.

“Our roles have been transformed, with more emphasis on continuous quality improvement. We have moved from an office setting to the front line and from words to action,” she said.

“We both feel energised by the presence of an administrative assistant, and are delighted to contribute to better outcomes for patients, relatives and staff,” she added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This initiative is welcome but long overdue and could be expanded into other areas of work to free up all registered nurses from admin and ward management responsibilities as witnessed in the USA many years ago
    Well done but don't stop there

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