Ask the nursing expert: How can I minimize phone calls?

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Ask the nursing expert
Ask the nursing expert

Q: As the director of nursing, I have accepted full accountability for the nursing department 24/7, but I rarely have an evening, night or weekend without calls. How can I minimize this so I can have some time for sleep and other personal adventures?

A: I suggest that you develop a list of reasons for calling the DON off shift … a guideline, per se. Sit down with your shift supervisors and managers and review the guidelines you have established, and answer any questions they might have.

It is all too easy to say to staff, “Oh, you can call me anytime you have a question.” A key part of a supervisor's professional growth process is developing the ability to make sound clinical and supervisory decisions. If they are calling you to make many decisions from home, then you don't need supervisors.

Be very clear about expectations and meet with the nursing leadership group at least monthly. Mentor them and you should be able to minimize questions that could be addressed at the facility. Now, if you work in a small facility and do not have supervisors, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

I once worked as DON in a small, and very busy, short-stay unit without supervisors or managers! I was the only one in a leadership position. I ensured there was an RN on each shift and I spent time teaching and mentoring them into strong decision-makers with sound clinical judgment.

The list of reasons to call the DON became shorter and the calls less frequent. I also encouraged the 11-7 shift to condense their calls to closer to either midnight or 6:00 am, reminding them that I needed some sleep to refresh each day, just as they did.

Please send your nursing-related questions to Anne Marie Barnett at