How to make your ward a place nurses never want to leave

Don’t miss out on seeing this presentation. Kylie Stark, Nurse Manager, Emergency Department at Sydney Children’s Hospital, has a two-year waiting list for nurses wanting to work in her department and she hasn’t advertised a vacant position in four years. Kylie is engaging, inspiring, energetic and confident – the only thing she seems unsure about is how to fit the last five years and the lessons she has learnt into one speech.

What’s her secret? Kylie says she was initially a reluctant manger. She recognised that the department had problems and thought if she managed staff as individuals, not as a group, she would be able to improve the environment. ‘I manage from a nurse educator perspective, I put individual nurses on a professional development pathway – this is important because not everyone is the same,’ she said.

‘I believe that it’s important to manage staff from an emotional intelligence standpoint – you have to know each of your staff and their strengths and weaknesses.’

She describes emotional intelligence as ‘bits and pieces that happen to you through life that refine, develop and model you as a human. Things such as travel, death, marriage, study – it’s the way you experience all these that makes up your emotional intelligence.’

Kylie says that managing 58 nurses is intensive. ‘Across the five years I know where he and she is at a personal and professional level and from that I know when to push and when to pull back. It’s a more intensive way to manage and sometimes it’s exhausting but the rewards are amazing.’

She also maintains that she hasn’t done it alone and that creating a positive work environment requires commitment from all groups of management in the department, not just nurses. ‘I manage alongside an extraordinary physician. We are committed to the same management style and we never make decisions in isolation. Even in this unpredictable and chaotic environment, we always make time to communicate and consult with the other person before making a decision.

‘We have developed and introduced advanced practice into the department, which was previously unheard of in this paediatrics setting.

It has developed in other areas of nursing but usually out of necessity. We introduced it here for advancement and skill development purposes. The engagement of medical support is essential in the success of programs like this,’ she said.

‘I can’t take responsibility for the culture here, I can for driving it and supporting it but the nurses do the rest.’