1. Haggard, Ann PhD, RN,BC

Article Content

Exploring Different Roles in Staff Development

Recently, a friend of mine who is a clinical specialist quit her job in an education department. I asked her why she left, and she replied, "They wouldn't let me do what I wanted to do." She said that her department manager assigned her to teach classes and do in-service sessions, which was not how she saw her role. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how staff development managers juggle the multitude of roles that are encountered in hospital education.


As we move from a classroom focus to a hospital-wide expansion of roles, staff development managers find themselves trying to accomplish many needed tasks with staff members who may not fit neatly into the required roles. Few staff development departments have only the traditional educators-now, one department may contain instructors specializing in orientation and competency validation, clinical specialists, clinical educators, audiovisual technicians, biomedical artists, room schedulers, and others. Some of these roles are clearly defined-one would not assign the artist to teach an Advanced Life Support (ALS) class-but others, especially those involving nursing, are a lot more ambiguous. If I have always taught in the classroom, I may not appreciate suddenly being told that I have to go to the nursing units and serve as a bedside educator (and I may not be qualified to do it either). The clinical specialist who is assigned to the classroom may be equally uncomfortable and underqualified.


As staff development leaders, we are used to conducting learner needs assessments. But what about the people who work for us? What do they need to perform their roles with excellence? What roles do they want to perform? How are those roles being defined? Before assigning people to new and different roles, you need to carefully plan the approach to and implementation of those assignments.


For example, I asked my friend the clinical specialist what she wanted and expected from her job. She replied that she wanted to do bedside teaching and rounds and to have a lot of patient contact and collaboration with all members of the healthcare team, especially physicians. Someone with those expectations will not be happy or effective in a role that denies fulfillment. This particular clinical specialist now works as an advanced practice nurse for a group of cardiologists and finds the job a perfect fit.


Although you probably assume that you have a good feel for the people in your department and what they like to do, they can surprise you. If you develop an assessment using a rating scale from "Love to do this" to "Hate it-please don't ask me to" and list all functions the department manages, you may encounter some unexpected findings. The nurse who teaches orientation classes turns out to have a burning desire to be on the medical-surgical units conducting clinical updates and helping with problematic patients. An instructor who handles Basic Life Support (BLS), ALS, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and other "initial" classes may be bored out of his or her mind and harbor a secret yearning to develop continuing education workshops or to coordinate and teach orientation.


Once you have solid information on what people are interested in doing, look at how the required activities line up with those interests. This being the real world, there will probably never be a perfect match for everything and everyone. But you can come a lot closer to making that match if you know what people are really seeking. Perhaps, some cross-training can take place to make instructors more versatile and enrich their roles. A "buddy system" can pair employees with differing roles so that each learns what the other does and tries some of the tasks on for size. One staff development manager held a retreat at an inexpensive hotel near the hospital where the staff brainstormed the organization's needs and educator skills and interests, then looked at how to most effectively match them. Everyone was told to "throw the book away" and shake things up. From this retreat came some very different approaches to education and some dramatic role changes for most of the educators. They still talk about that meeting as being the most valuable exercise that any of them has ever done.


Sometimes, we only take a look at how we are doing things when circumstances require it (such as going from exclusively nursing education to hospital-wide education-which is a whole different column), but throwing things up in the air and discovering new patterns and approaches can be valuable any time. If staff assignments and "the way we do things" have been stable for a couple of years, it may be time to take a fresh look. Offering instructors new challenges and things to learn should be as much a part of your job as doing the budget or completing performance appraisals. And matching what staff would like to do to what needs to be done is the way to keep the best people (like my friend the clinical specialist) and to effectively meet the needs of the organization for excellent staff education.


STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, AND CIRCULATION (Act of August 12, 1970; Section 3685; Title 39 United States Code) Date of Filing-October 1, 2006. Title of Publication-Journal for Nurses in Staff Development; Frequency of Issue-Bimonthly; Annual Subscription Price-$89.00; Location of Known Office of Publication-Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., 16522 Hunters Green Parkway, Hagerstown, MD 21740-2116; Location of the Headquarters or General Business Offices of the Publisher-Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., 530 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; Publisher-Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., 530 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; Editor-Belinda E. Peutz, PhD, RN, 7794 Grow Drive, Pensacola, FL 32514-7072. Managing Editor-Randi Davis, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 530 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; Owner-Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., 530 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, 351 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD 21201; Wolters Kluwer, US, 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001; Wolters Kluwer nv (owns 100% of stock), Stadouderskade 1, 1054 FS Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Known Bond Holders, Mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding 1 percent or more of the total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities-None. A. Total no. of copies printed (net press run), average 5,033, actual 5,000. B. Paid and/or requested circulation 1. Paid/requested outside-county mail subscriptions stated on form 3541, average 4,006, actual 4,072; 2. Paid in-county subscriptions, none; 3. Sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, counter sales, and other non-USPS paid distribution, average 166, actual 173; 4. Other classes mailed through the USPS, none. C. Total paid and/or requested circulation [sum of B (1), (2), (3), and (4)], average 4,172, actual 4,245. D. Free distribution by mail (samples, complimentary, and other free). Outside-county as stated on form 3541, average 90, actual 260; 2. In-county as stated on form 3541, none; 3. Other classes mailed through the USPS, none. E. Free distribution outside the mail (carriers or other means), average 4, actual 15. F. Total free distribution (sum of D and E), average 94, actual 275. G. Total distribution (sum of C and F), average 4,266, actual 4,520. H. Copies not distributed, average 767, actual 480. I. Total (sum of G and H), average 5,033, actual 5,000. Percent paid and/or requested circulation, average 97.80%, actual 93.92%. I certify that the statements made by me above are correct and complete. Jeffrey Brown, Manager, Periodicals Operations.