Career path: charge nurse manager

August 2016 Vol. 16 (4)

Graduating in a tight job market saw JO PRIOR cross the Tasman for her first job. That job sparked an interest in emergency nursing into a passion that has seen her working within or near an ED for most of her career.

NAME: Jo Prior

JOB TITLE: Charge nurse manager, Assessment and Diagnostic Unit, North Shore Hospital, Waitemata DHB

Nursing qualifications:

  • Diploma of Nursing 1991 (Auckland Institute of Technology – now AUT)
  • Health Assessment papers 2001 (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology – now Ara Institute of Canterbury)
  • Master of Health Science still in progress (Auckland University of Technology)

Briefly describe your initial five years as an RN.

New graduate nurse positions in New Zealand were limited when I gained my nursing registration in 1991. Due to this I applied across the Tasman and gained a new graduate post at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in South Brisbane. New graduates at Princess Alexander rotated between three types of specialties to gain experience, including four months on a general medical ward and four months on a general surgical ward. This opportunity allowed me to gain valuable experience, skills and knowledge.

For the last four months I chose to move to the emergency department (ED) and that was the commencement of my 20-year journey in ED throughout Australia and New Zealand.

After completing my new graduate year I was fortunate enough to be offered a permanent position and spent a further four years consolidating my knowledge and skills in trauma with emergency nursing. After spending five years at the Princess Alexandra I wanted to develop my skills and moved to Darwin, Northern Territory, to work at the Royal Darwin Hospital in the ED for a further five years.

Did you have a career plan (vague or definite) on becoming an RN? And how did those first five years influence your subsequent career?

My initial career plan was focused on getting a job after I qualified. The lucky opportunity to move to Australia and gain the post at Princess Alexandra gave me the opportunity to experience different nursing specialties. I always had an underlying dream to do emergency nursing. The chance to experience the adrenaline and environment of a normal day of an emergency nurse during my new graduate year sparked my interest in emergency nursing into a passion and gave me the drive to follow my dream.

What led you into your current field or specialty?

After a further five years in Royal Darwin Hospital I moved back to New Zealand to be closer to family and worked at the ED at the North Shore Hospital for 10 years. During this time I was lucky enough to progress through the senior ranks and worked as a clinical charge nurse for five of those years.

This experience gave me my first taste of leadership and management and started my current journey of management and has led me to where I am today.

I progressed to team leader at a large rural GP service north of Auckland and then as clinical learning leader at AUT for the undergraduate nursing degree before settling in my current role.

Throughout my career three mentors assisted with my career path and without their inspiration, direction and guidance I would not be where I am today.

What qualifications, skills or stepping stone jobs do you think were particularly helpful and/or necessary in reaching your current role?

My personal stepping stones for progression were the ability to lead a team in the emergency department. This progressed with relevant courses, e.g. preceptorship, leadership and management courses, and the ability to develop leadership experience by hands-on experience, mentoring, clinical supervision and reflection.

What personal characteristics do you believe are particularly important for nurses working in your role?

The ability to lead a team must coincide with individual ownership and partnership for all team members. Communication, meeting team expectations and being a visible leader who both listens to staff and is approachable is imperative. Keeping staff fully informed and included with the change process allows a joint ownership and partnership for moving forward to achieve best optimum results.

What career advice would you give to nurses seeking a similar role to yours?

Set your goals, get a mentor and start to be the leader you want to be.

Describe your current role and responsibilities.

My current role is charge nurse manager in the Assessment and Diagnostic Unit at North Shore Hospital. This unit is a 50-bed unit, which works alongside the emergency department and is an acute, fast-paced environment with a high turnover of patients. My responsibilities include managing:

  • the quality of nursing care to meet patient needs
  • the culture to deliver excellent customer service for positive team relationships
  • the environment, equipment and systems that delivery cost effective service of the highest standard
  • professional development, applying learning to enhance clinical leadership and patient outcomes.

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