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Making Time


It’s lonely being a Director of Nursing – doubly so when the agency Administrator is not a nurse.

There are subtle differences between states on the responsibilities of the Director of Nursing but together with the Clinical Supervisor’s role outlined in the Conditions of Participation, it is clear that a DON is responsible for almost everything that happens in a 200-mile radius.  These responsibilities include but are NOT limited to:

  • Oversight of all clinical personnel and all clinical services
  • Making sure that all patients have care plans
  • Patient Assignments
  • Developing and overseeing clinical policies and procedures
  • Infection Control
  • Quality Assurance
  • Staff education
  • Compliance
  • Hiring staff
  • Ensuring that all admission procedures are followed

That’s a pretty daunting list so I hesitate to say it is incomplete but… it is.  Although the tasks can be delegated the responsibility belongs to the DON alone.  Going to a non-clinical administrator about infection control or required education for staff may be a fun way to spend an afternoon but the surveyors will look to the DON for answers.

Before you quit your job and punch yourself in the face for accepting the responsibilities of the DON position, relax.  It can be handled and is handled every day by nurses who are no more skilled than you.

Like most overwhelming jobs, the position of DON is easier when broken down into smaller pieces.  It is also easier if you identify all the impediments to doing your job well before you try to do it better.

Time Management

  • Open Door Policy – this sounds really good in company sound bites and recruiting campaigns but an open door policy can wreak havoc on your day. Instead, hold office hours like college professors do.  This doesn’t mean that nurses cannot interrupt your day for urgent matters but all non-urgent matters should be conducted during office hours.  During office hours, your visitors should have your full undivided attention.  If you want to make notes, wait until after they leave and write down your thoughts while still fresh in your head.
  • Meetings – Meetings are important but after a point, they become time-wasters. Eliminate all meetings that are not necessary and be prepared for necessary meetings.  Meetings should start on time.  Invite participants to arrive a few minutes early if they want to visit with coworkers.  Clinicians who are unprepared at case conference will be obvious.  Don’t rescue them.  After they flounder in front of their peers once or twice, they will be able to fully participate.  Or not.  If an adult cannot be responsible and prepared for meetings, maybe you should rethink their position in your company.
  • Delegation – most tasks of the DON can be delegated. Delegation consists of two parts – one is assigning the task and the other is the oft forgotten follow up.  Survey is a very bad time to find out that a nurse performing utilization review did not understand the process.   Send yourself an email to follow-up on an assignment you delegated.  Was a nurse tasked with collecting data for infection control?  Write it on your calendar to check in with the nurse in a month.  Look at the work done.  This takes a lot less time than trying to recreate data during a survey.   Taking the time to schedule QA, OASIS transmission, annual advisory board meetings and other infrequent but mandated events will reap an enormous return on investment.
  • Set aside some time each day when the phone does not ring in your office. Have the receptionist screen the calls and take messages.  Only take calls from patients who cannot be helped by their nurse, and referral sources.  When this policy was implemented at one agency, about half of all phone calls were handled before they got to the DON.

Hiring Process

 Learn how to interview potential candidates for a job. Listen to what they have to say.  Monster. com has a list of the 100 Most Asked Job Interview Questions. Consider asking candidates to teach you about falls precautions or injecting insulin as if you were a patient.  (Note:  do not ask about what kind of care they drive as suggested on Monster.  Ask what kind of car they dream about owning.  Avoid candidates who name a grey sedan.)

  • Schedule all interviews on the same day and set a mental timer to reduce the amount of time you spend on each interview.
  • In larger agencies, consider deferring the initial interview to a case manager who will be the direct supervisor of the new employee.
  • In all agencies, schedule a second interview that includes various people the candidate will work with on a daily basis. Your current staff is more likely to support a new employee if they endorsed the initial hire.

Staff Education

  • Get someone else to provide education to your staff. Call on drug reps to teach your staff about new and trendy drugs.    Get the wound care folks to teach about wounds.
  • Involve staff by assigning a five to ten-minute presentation on compliant documentation, a new drug or a condition not seen very often in your area to begin each case conference. (Note:  You can start to identify the next case managers or even your replacement by observing how well prepared they are and how comfortable they are talking to their peers.)

Perks of Managers

Setting up your work environment to allow for focus and completion of the tasks and follow-up on coworker’s projects will leave you feeling accomplished. Your stress level will automatically decrease as deadlines are no longer looming over you.  Your ability to trust your staff will improve when you follow-up up on their projects allowing you to appreciate the support you have.   Most importantly, you’ll get home in time for dinner with the fam.

Got any other ideas?  Post in comments!

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gail Batson #

    I am interested to know about the candidate with the “grey sedan.”

    Like

    February 2, 2016
    • If I am sick and need a nurse, I want one with passion and drive only found in those who deep down inside want to drive something that cruises comfortably at 100 mph.

      Like

      February 2, 2016
      • Gai #

        How about a nurse who drives a Hummer?

        Like

        February 2, 2016
      • Gail #

        Oh. P.S. I always obey the Speed Limit signs.

        Like

        February 2, 2016
        • Really? Always? Have you considered how you might improve productivity if you didn’t let an arbitrary number determined by someone who has never met you dictate your speed? Just a thought…..

          Like

          February 2, 2016
          • Gail #

            Well, “always” may be an overstatement, but I try. The Hummer does cruise quite well and it’s hard to tell how fast I’m going until I look down at the speedometer and hear myself exclaim, “OMG! Slow down, you’re gonna get a ticket.” We have some very zealous small-town law enforcement officers here abouts.

            Like

            February 2, 2016
            • I know that breed of small time officers – sadly.

              Like

              February 2, 2016
  2. Jon #

    BRAVO. BRAVO

    Like

    February 2, 2016
  3. Sharrlee #

    Printed for Melinda 🙂

    Like

    February 3, 2016
    • I heard from her today.

      Like

      February 3, 2016

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