Ward managers should be incentivised to stay at the bedside rather than being forced to choose administrative roles if they want to progress their careers, according to the government’s former older people’s tsar.
In an interview to mark the end of his three-years in post, Professor David Oliver told Nursing Times that good sisters and charge nurses were “vital” to delivering patient care and, along with the consultant, set the “tone” on the ward.
“If you think about it a ward sister is managing 24 to 28 staff and a £2m budget. What preparation do they have for that role?” he said.
“Worst of all we then send them the message that if you want your career to progress – and you want to earn more money – the only way to do it is to stop being a ward sister and become an operations manager or [go into] an administrative role.”
Professor Oliver, who is now president-elect of the British Geriatric Society, decided to stand down as national clinical director for older people because the role is moving from the DH into the new NHS Commissioning Board, and changing substantially in nature.
He continued to work part-time as a consultant in geriatric medicine while holding his national role and suggested it would be good if more senior nurses continued to practice regularly.
“I do find it very interesting that very senior medical managers, divisional directors in hospitals, national clinical directors by and large, maintain their clinical practice [while most senior nurses do not],” he said.
“I know it’s easier for a doctor to do a four hour clinic than for a nurse to do a Saturday night shift, but it can be done.”
Professor Oliver said improved pay and incentives could help to encourage senior nurses to continue with frontline work.
“You can become a nurse specialist but by and large, if you want to progress your career, you have to stop being at the bedside. We should send a message out that being a ward sister is such an important job that we get the best people in there and reward them properly for it.”
Last month’s Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report recommended that ward managers “should ensure and develop a clinical aspect to their role, working alongside staff as a role model and mentor”.