Report From the Night Shift: How Administrative Supervisors Achieve Nurse and Patient Safety

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Abstract

The administrative supervisor role (the nurse leader on the evening or night shift) has been present in hospitals for more than 100 years, but research is just commencing regarding how this leader achieves nurse and patient safety. This focused ethnographic study was conducted in 2 parts. The first part consisted of focus groups with night-shift staff nurses, held at 7 hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, with the objective of obtaining the staff nurses' perception of the supervisors' role. The second part consisted of interviews with 30 administrative supervisors, recruited nationally from 20 different states, to explore the supervisors' perspective on practices used to enhance safety. The focus group and interview transcripts were thematically analyzed, using an iterative, comparative method to identify codes and sort for patterns. The findings reveal that administrative supervisors “make it (whatever needs to be done) work” and achieve nurse and patient safety by building trust with the staff, doing rounds, educating, and providing support to the front line team. These shift leaders foster a culture of safety with their relationship-oriented leadership style. By gaining further understanding about the administrative supervisor role, new workflow processes can be explored; specific continuing education programs can be developed; and additional research can be conducted.

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