For years I've had what I thought was a kind of unique idea that would probably fit this discussion. I think that staff nurses should have the opportunity to experience some of the duties of the supervisor or manager and that a program could be set up and designed to rotate RNs through these jobs. I think that this idea could be expanded and adapted to fit into a recruitment/retention program. I worked on a stepdown unit for 5 years. Anyone who's worked one knows how stressful and chaotic they are. In fact, most units have pretty high stress levels. I could count on my fingers that times we were overstaffed by one RN. A couple of times when that happened we made the extra RN the IV nurse for our shift, our unit. We all wanted it. Why? You weren't responsible for the 8 hour management of a group of patients. All you had to do was make sure the IV antibiotics got hung, new IV bags put up, and restart IV's that needed it. It was kind of a breather from doing primary care. And, of course, you could pitch in and help the others when your IV duties were done. I think that one of the best rewards you can give a staff nurse is a day (or shift) not having to do patient care. So, what kind of jobs outside of staff nursing can an RN (or even and LPN) do? I think there are a couple of supervisory functions that can be broken down and given over to staff nurses. Staffing is one of them. Trying to round up a couple of nurses to fill holes in a schedule isn't particularly hard, but you're sitting down making phone calls instead of being on your feet. Bed control within the critical care group of units is another. IV team nurse (if there is an IV team) is another one. I think that the clinical round function of the supervisor could also be handed over to an RN. If these tasks could be designed for staff nurses to spend a couple of shifts doing, I think there would be a lot more satisfaction among the staff. They would look forward to not having to take a patient assignment and they would be going to several nursing units. Seeing the other nursing units outside the one you work on day after day is an exciting experience. You see things done a little differently and you get some ideas to help work out problems on your own unit. You also get to meet and talk with nurses outside your own unit. When I became a supervisor I realized that I was engaging in nursing activities that rounded out my view of how the hospital works. I've always felt that every RN should have the opportunity to walk in the supervisor's shoes--it's one of the most interesting jobs I had and it's partly because there are so many different things a supervisor has to do. So, for retention purposes, a day as a supervisor, as a staff coordinator, or an IV team nurse should be considered.
Another job for an RN would be what I called the Ultimate Preceptor. This is a nurse who would make rounds on new orientees, new grads or just about anybody who needed help with new procedures, questions of prioritizing, or just to collaborate on a problem. Got an NG tube you're having trouble getting in, call this person. This is actually also a supervision function, but an experienced staff nurse could fulfill it very easily.
I hope those ideas came across clearly. I can visualize them in my mind so easily, but writing them down is harder.