An interim nurse leader can be a critical asset to an organization facing the challenging task of hiring the right permanent nurse leader for their healthcare facility. When the reality sinks in –that finding a suitable replacement can easily take three to six months, it becomes apparent that leaving the position vacant for that long could have far-reaching, long-lasting adverse effects.
The wisdom behind utilizing an interim nurse leader becomes abundantly clear when you consider the benefits, including that it:
Allows time to find the perfect permanent candidate
Imagine trying to fill such a critical position as a Director of Nursing, Assistant Director of Nursing or RN Supervisor, with a short amount of time. In the rush to get someone in place, crucial questions may not be asked. Judgment and discernment can easily be hampered. The appropriate vetting may not take place.
And if by some improbable chance the best fit candidate is quickly chosen, consider the disadvantage to the newly appointed nurse leader when he/she is dropped into a position that’s been unfilled for even a short time. Rather than benefiting from a transitional handover period that introduces the new director to the department, he/she is plunged headlong into what can often be a chaotic situation. A thorough onboarding process is essential to help new team members understand the culture, organization's policies, and job responsibilities. If the new hire experience is poor, studies show employees are twice as likely to look for a new opportunity. Keeping an interim nurse leader in place as the new hire orientates to his/her new role will result in a better experience for everyone.
Avoids the issue of burnout for those called upon to assume an increased workload
If the nurse leader position is left unfilled during the search for a replacement, someone will have to step in to fill the gap. Most likely, multiple persons will be called upon to tend to at least a portion of the responsibilities usually covered by the nurse leader. Of course, these added tasks will be in addition to the duties these folks typically accomplish. With burnout among healthcare workers already a serious concern, any scenario that calls for employees to assume additional responsibilities should be considered a last resort.
Adds the array of experiences, skill sets, and knowledge the interim nurse brings to the position
An experienced, strong nurse leader comes equipped with a wealth of ideas borne from an array of experiences at other facilities. In their work as an interim nurse leader, they have undoubtedly faced many situations and gleaned valuable insights from multiple transitional experiences. What they learned from previous interim placements can be a great asset in future assignments, a virtual treasure trove of tried and tested ideas. Why wouldn’t an organization be keen to take advantage of this wealth of knowledge and experience?
Offers a new perspective on systems and processes
Due to the transitional nature of their position, an experienced interim leader, has a different approach than a traditional leader. They are accustomed to adapting to new environments quickly, assessing strengths and weaknesses, and making data-driven decisions. Their ability to immediately focus on the organization’s core mission means this time of transition will be a time of growth and strengthened stability rather than a period of floundering or merely treading water.
What nursing center or senior living community when faced with a resigning nurse leader, wouldn’t benefit from a fresh perspective, a neutral, unbiased assessment, as well as critical clinical support during a crucial time? Interim nurse leaders would be extremely valuable if they merely “held down the fort,” but the reality is that the many benefits of utilizing an interim nurse leader leave a positive impact that will outlast the interim’s time with the company.