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Becoming a ward sister: accident or design?

Becoming a ward sister: accident or design?

McKenna, Jacqueline Ann (2016) Becoming a ward sister: accident or design? PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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It has long been acknowledged that the ward sister is a pivotal role in healthcare; they have great influence on the quality of patient care, the staff experience and the efficient use of resources. Despite many National Health Service policy documents supporting the need for preparation and support for ward sisters, the preparation and support available remains variable. This study set out to investigate the following questions:

- What methods of preparation and support for new ward sisters are used in NHS acute hospitals in England?
- What preparation and support helps nurses manage the transition to the ward sister role?

A mixed method research approach was used to answer the questions above. Focus groups with ward sisters were used to review the breadth and challenges of the role. Questionnaires were sent to all the Directors of Nursing in acute NHS Trusts in England and to a sample of ward sisters who managed acute adult wards in acute NHS Trusts in England.

The responses from the Directors of Nursing described the various ways in which nurses were prepared to become ward sisters and the different kinds of support offered once in post, there was an inconsistent approach to their development across the country. The responses from the ward sisters gave a unique insight into their development needs and they suggested how, in future, preparation and support should be delivered to be most effective.

This study is significant as it was the first multi-centre UK study that investigated the developmental needs of nurses in transition to the ward sister role from both the employer and employee perspective. The key findings were:

- An inconsistent national standard of experience and qualifications to become a ward sister
- A lack of consistency in preparation programmes to become ward sisters and the support they receive once in these posts
- Confirmation that the ward sisters in my own study concurred with the findings of the RCN (2009) study, in relation to agreeing that the ward sister is a leader, manager of the care environment and an educator, although the participants did not agree that the role included research
- Attending external courses and studying for formal qualifications before becoming a ward sister are interventions that were found to have a positive effect on the time period a nurse takes to reach the stabilisation phase of the Nicholson and West (1988) transition model in the ward sister role. Likewise studying for formal qualifications, attending conferences and shadowing a more experienced peer as a new ward sister was found to have a similar positive effect on the length of transition.
- The ward sisters’ development needs and their preferred ways of learning were established
- That ward sister development is a joint responsibility shared between the employer and the nurse

To conclude the following statements summarise the original contribution this study made to nursing knowledge by
- identifying the learning needs of nurses who aspire to be ward sisters
- establishing the development needs of ward sisters
- ascertaining the interventions before and after becoming a ward sister that reduce the time period taken to reach the stabilisation phase in the transition to ward sister role
- proposing a core curriculum for ward sister development and
- designing a framework for ward sister preparation and ongoing development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ward sisters ; nursing practice; nursing education and training; NHS
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Health Sciences (HEA)
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 21:03

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