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The Changing Nature of ICU Charge Nurses' Decision Making: From Supervision of Care Delivery to Unit Resource Management

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Abstract:

Background: Recent findings that variations in nursing workload may affect inpatient outcomes now highlight nurse workload management and the need for an updated analysis of the role of the charge nurse (CN).

Methods: Observational data for eight CNs, each at one of eight ICUs in a not-for-profit Level 1 Trauma Center, coded to capture interprofessional interactions, decision making, team coordination phases, and support tools. A researcher shadowed each participant for 12 hours. Each shift began and ended with a face-to-face handoff that included summaries of each patient's condition; the current bed census; anticipated admissions, discharges, and transfers; and the number of nurses available to work the current and coming two shifts. The researcher, using a notebook, recorded the substantive content of all work conversations initiated by or directed to the CN from physicians, staff nurses, allied health workers, other employees, and patients/families. The tools used to support conversations were collected as blank forms or computer screen prints and annotated to describe how they were used, when, and for what purpose.

Findings: Statistically significant three-way interactions suggest that CNs' conversations with colleagues depend on the team coordination phase and the decision-making level, and that the support tools that CNs use when talking to colleagues depend on the decision-making level and the team coordination phase.

Conclusions: The role of ICU CNs appears to be continuing to evolve, now encompassing unit resource management in addition to supervising care delivery. Effective support tools, together with education that would enhance communication and resource management skills, will be essential to CNs' ability to support unit resilience and adaptability in an increasingly complex environment.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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