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Keywords:

  • change;
  • leadership;
  • skill mix;
  • task shifting;
  • workforce

Background  Registered nurses are difficult to recruit and retain. Task shifting, which involves reallocation of delegation, can reduce demand for registered nurses. Effective leadership is needed for successful task shifting.

Objective  This study explored leadership styles of three surgical nurse unit managers. Staff completed surveys before and after the implementation of task shifting. Task shifting involved the introduction of endorsed enrolled nurses (licensed nurses who must practise under registered nurse supervision) to better utilize registered nurses.

Methods  Implementation of task shifting occurred over 4 months in a 700-bed tertiary hospital, in southeast Queensland, Australia. A facilitator assisted nurse unit managers during implementation. The impact was assessed by comparison of data before (n = 49) and after (n = 72) task shifting from registered nurses and endorsed enrolled nurses (n = 121) who completed the Ward Organization Features Survey.

Results  Significant differences in leadership and staff organization subscales across the settings suggest that how change involving task shifting is implemented influences nurses’ opinions of leadership.

Conclusion  Leadership behaviours of nurse unit managers is a key consideration in managing change such as task shifting.

Implications for nursing management  Consistent and clear messages from leaders about practice change are viewed positively by nursing staff. In the short term, incremental change possibly results in staff maintaining confidence in leadership.