The matron’s role in acute National Health Service trusts



    1. Professor of Applied Health, City Community and Health Sciences incorporating St Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery, City University, London, UK
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Dinah Gould
Professor of Applied Health
City Community and Health Sciences incorporating St Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery
20 St Bartholomew Close
City University
London EC1A 7QN


Aim  The aim of this study was to describe how matrons in an acute National Health Service trust perceive and undertake their role since its reconfiguration in 2005 and to investigate their needs for continuing professional development.

Background  Matrons returned to acute National Health Service trusts in 2002 to provide a senior, authoritative nursing presence throughout clinical areas. Their function is to promote high standards of clinical care and leadership; ensure that administrative and support services are in place to deliver high standards of care; and provide a visible, accessible and authoritative presence in ward settings.

Methods  Data were obtained by interview. A qualitative approach using a semi-structured interview schedule was used to obtain data from 22 matrons and the data were subjected to thematic analysis.

Results  There were differences in the way that matrons performed their role. They promoted clinical leadership effectively and maintained a high clinical profile. Attempts to promote high standards of cleanliness and infection control were less effective because of the shortcomings of the domestic service.

Conclusion  Overall the matron role is proving effective. However, matrons’ ability to promote adequate levels of environmental cleanliness and control infection is a cause for concern.

Implications for nursing managers  The study findings suggest that where an existing service is performing poorly, expecting another occupational group to oversee it will not contribute to improvement unless resources can be improved.

What this paper adds to current knowledge  This study has provided an in-depth evaluation of the matron role at a local level. It is to date the most comprehensive study of its kind.