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How can I make sure I’m providing feedback to all my staff nurses?

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Sharing feedback with your staff is a good idea, but how do you determine which behaviors to give feedback on? A good place to start is a list of goals, objectives, clinical standards, and expectations. This list should include most of the behaviors that are necessary for excellence: both "what" and "how." Look at what your staff does and the results they realize and how they do it.

Here's how to collect data on your staff. Data collection methods include direct observation, patient records, reviewing care plans, talking with patients, talking with coworkers, talking directly with the nurse, and doing a survey where you get anonymous input from coworkers and colleagues.

This may sound like a daunting task and you may feel that you don't have time for all this. Let's break it down into a manageable piece of work. If you have a very large staff, you will need assistance from your nurse leaders; they will need to be trained on this process.

There are many ways you can go about this, but since you can't be with every staff nurse every day, all day, here is one idea with possible timeframes listed for each activity.

  1. Select one nurse per week on whom you will collect data.
  2. Spend some time working with him or her. Let him or her know what you are doing. Observe him or her with patients, other staff, physicians, etc. You will be able to observe clinical skills and determine whether he or she is meeting your expectations on how the job gets done. Even though people's behavior changes when they are being observed, you'll be surprised how much data you will be able to gather-both positive and developmental. Time: 2 hours
  3. Talk to patients and read patient record information. Time: 15 minutes
  4. Interview a few colleagues, in private, who regularly work with the nurse. Find out what they think are the person's strengths and what should be developed. Get examples. Remind them this all to help the nurse. Promise to keep their comments anonymous unless they don't mind being identified. Time: 30 minutes
  5. Talk to a few physicians and other colleagues on the service with whom the nurse interacts. Get examples of strengths and developmental areas. Time: 30 minutes
  6. Talk to your admin, technicians, and patient care associates (PCAs). Ask them the same questions and get examples of the nurse's strengths and developmental areas. Time: 15 minutes
  7. Write up your report. Time: 1 hour
  8. Have a feedback conversation with the staff nurse. Time: 1 hour

Total approximate time in data collection phase per nurse: five hours. You should schedule this activity for each staff nurse at least twice per year, which would take 10 hours per staff nurse. This is not a lot of time to devote to each nurse who touches your patients.

Patty Kubus, RN, MBA, PhD

(July 2011)