Nurses' perceptions of the British hospital nursing officer

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SUMMARY

A major objective of the Report of die committee on senior nursing staff structure (Salmon Report) was to clarify the role of middle-management nurses. This paper analyses the views of 170 nurses in two general, one psychiatric, and one mental subnormality hospital, about nursing officers. A nursing officer was mentioned as the person with most say or influence over them by more nurses of all grades in the two non-general than in the two general hospitals, a difference explained in terms of the greater role of the medical model, and hence the sister consultant relationship in the latter. There were, however, also marked differences between the responses received from staff in the two general and between the two non-general hospitals in the perceived influence of the nursing officer which could not be explained in this way. Analysis of repertory grids suggested more problems in relations with senior nurses overall in the general hospitals. Nurses' descriptions of relationships with superiors suggested that nursing officer superiors were seen more as ‘socio-emotional’ whilst sisters and charge nurses were seen as ‘instrumental’ leaders. Asked to choose a person who had annoyed them at work, nurses chose a nursing officer more frequently than other grades of nurse, particularly in the non-general hospitals. Reasons for annoyance with a nursing officer included unwarranted interference, destructive criticism, and lack of specialized knowledge.

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