I went to the 8-hour long class at Methodist the other week that supposedly taught me how to be a charge nurse. What is that, you wonder? Well, a charge nurse is basically like a supervisor. Except that we already HAVE a supervisor on our unit. Two, in fact: our director, and the nursing manager. The manager acts as the charge nurse Monday through Friday, and she doesn’t have a patient assignment. But on the weekends, we’re on our own. Someone has to charge, and that person has to have a patient assignment as well. For my weekend, that person is always my mentor Pat. But she’ll be retiring soon, so others will have to take over.
At first, being the charge nurse doesn’t seem THAT hard. Here is a basic list of duties:
- Assign patients to nurses at the beginning of the shift
- Check the crash cart/defibrillation machine
- Make sure there is the correct number of staff scheduled for the next shift
- Be aware of the situation of all the patients on the unit by taking report, visiting each room, and making rounds with the doctors if possible
- Help out the staff as needed and address any questions or concerns on the unit as they come up
Okay, well maybe it does sound like a lot, especially if you have to take care of your own patients at the same time. But I’m not nervous about my ability to use my time efficiently; I’m nervous about dealing with conflict or issues with the staff. I am not an assertive person by nature. I dislike conflict. In fact, during class we took a test to determine our style of dealing with conflict and mine was a tie between avoiding and accommodating. I think that in real life I surprise myself and act differently than my gut tells me to, but I answered the questions on the test with my first instinct and this is what I got.
The following weekend after the class I got the chance to put my newly acquired charge nurse skillz into practice. Pat was there for any questions I might have, but she let me charge. I had to deal with quite a lot of issues, but I came out alright. The part I liked about it was getting to meet all the patients on the unit and provide some care for them without the hassle of documentation. I liked feeling in the know about everything that was going on.
But what I didn’t like was staff issues. Apparently I made a couple of mistakes in staffing, which were pointed out to me by my director when she returned. Also, there seems to be constant conflicts on our unit between the nurses and PCA’s (patient care assistants, which are like nurse’s aides). They all have extremely strong personalities, and I would rather just stay out of it. But as the charge nurse I have to be in the thick of it.
Overall, I don’t like being the charge nurse and I don’t really want to do it. I didn’t get into nursing to be in charge of other nurses; I got into nursing to care for patients. I hate the politics of the workplace and I don’t understand why everyone can’t just do their job and get along. I’m going to have to be the charge nurse this weekend again, and I’m not looking forward to it. But this is what my unit needs from me, so I guess I’ll just do it and hopefully become a better person along the way!