Profile of first-line nurse managers in New South Wales, Australia, in the 1990s

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Journal Article
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2001, 36 (6), pp. 785 - 793
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Aims. To determine a demographic profile, employment history and career plans of a sample of nursing unit managers (first-line managers) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia in 1999. To compare the profile of first-line nurse managers in 1999 with those in 1989. Background. This study replicates another undertaken a decade earlier (see Duffield 1992). Tracking the changes to nurse manager positions is important, given changes to the educational preparation of nurses and restructuring within hospitals which have occurred in the past decade. Method. The same questionnaire was used in both studies, with minor amendments and the addition of two items to reflect changes to organizational structures, whereby nurse managers are now responsible for non-nursing staff. In 1999 all first-line nurse managers in the largest health service in NSW were invited to participate in the study. Results. A response rate of 77% was achieved. There were few differences of note in the demographic profile from 1989 to 1999. However educationally, first-line nurse managers in 1999 were more highly qualified. A greater proportion had higher degrees and increasingly, in the management discipline. Conclusion. Perhaps reflecting these qualifications, more managers in 1999 indicated their intention to move to more senior management positions in the next decade. The mode for experience in this role of 1 year in both 1989 and 1999 reflects a worrying trend of high turnover and inexperience amongst this group of managers. While maternity relief might account for this result, further research needs to determine more precise reasons. The ad hoc bases on which expert clinicians (clinical nurse specialists) act as the manager in his/her absence need to be critically examined. Alternative strategies such as introducing a formal second-in-charge position may ensure more successful recruitment and retention of staff to these critical management positions.
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