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Having the authority 'to make decisions and get things done' is top of the wish list for today's ward sisters and charge nurses.
In our exclusive survey of ward managers, 37 per cent said having more clout was the single factor that would make their job more appealing. The online poll of more than 200 ward managers (224) found 70 per cent do not hold the budget for their ward or unit. If they need to request an extra nurse to care for patients most have to get permission from a line manager. Similarly, if they have to order new equipment, such as some new bed curtains to maintain a patient's dignity, up to 77 per cent would need to request it from a more senior member of staff. The survey found ward managers would value greater authority more highly than a salary boost.
One ward sister from Birmingham said: 'Give the ward sister the AUTHORITY back!'
The survey findings paint a picture of an average ward manager who is female, aged 45-54 with the job title of 'ward sister'. She works in an NHS hospital and typically has over 20 years' experience. She manages over 30 staff but is paid on an NHS pay band 6.
More than half do not believe they are properly rewarded for the job they do and the experience they have.
The main factors that hinder ward managers in their work are heavy workloads, excessive paperwork but, most prominently, insufficient staff. More than half face daily staffing pressures. Other notable obstacles are excessive data collection, lack of equipment or facilities and unsupportive managers.
Just 2 per cent named patients as being 'too demanding' as a factor.
Most ward managers are supported by a ward clerk to help with administration but 29 per cent are not. 56 per cent do not have the support of a house keeper to help with ordering supplies, managing meal times and general housekeeping duties. The vast majority roll up their sleeves and carry out direct patient care themselves.
Some 40 per cent have not received any management or leadership training at all. A fifth (21%) support the implementation of a compulsory training scheme before taking up post of ward leader.
Despite the pressures of the role, ward managers are a reasonably contented bunch. 90 per cent enjoy their job, consistently or most of the time; and 96 per cent are proud of the job they do.
The main factors that keep bringing them back to work each day are job variety, the people with whom they work and, most prominently, patients - some 80 per cent named patients as a reason to stay in their posts. Other factors include job security and the NHS pension. But despite these positive factors, 44 per cent said they were unlikely or would not recommend their job to a newly qualified nurse.
If the government is serious about its quality reforms, it is time to recognise the power of ward managers to care.
Do you remember a ward sister or charge nurse who inspired you in your career?
Please email: email@example.com
We may feature you in our future campaign coverage.
Power to Care Campaign
Power to Care Campaign Coverage as PDF downloads
Power to Care Campaign News
Power to Care Survey Results
Power to Care: Endorsements from the RCN
Power to Care: Endorsements from the UK Chief Nurses