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Day in the Life: ‘House’ Supervisor Plays Key Role

Published on Apr. 09, 2021

Josh Wallace, RN, GRN, arrives at the hospital before his 7 am shift on a Monday to receive important handoff information from Emi Burns, BSN, RN, who covered the last 12 hours of the weekend.

Their nursing administrative supervisor office reflects their role. Three screens and a computer are on the desk, with a camera mounted on the middle screen. In the corner is a walkie-talkie sitting on a charger and periodically broadcasting information from security officers as they make their rounds. A bulletin board behind the desk contains lists of numbers, reminder sheets, and more.

On the desk in Emi’s hand is a three-ring binder with pages folded-up at a 45-degree angle at the bottom right corner of each page. Each page represents a hospital floor and real-time patient information for the supervisor coming on board to know and reference. A laptop computer is plugged into the charger ready to take their office information out on the floors when the time comes.

“Any time you are gone a few days it is catchup time, trying to predict the hot spots,” Josh explains.

Taking the Helm of House Supervisor

Emi shares information related to the floors and the nurse staffing situation in the next four-hour block as well as important surgical cases that will need critical care beds through the middle of the day. Emi leaves and Josh takes the helm.

Welcome to the hub of the hospital. The nursing administrative or “house” supervisor plays quarterback, performs air traffic control, and whatever other metaphor one might use to describe the person in the center ring responsible for helping keep a 391-bed medical center and 22 clinical areas ready to care for northern Michigan residents’ health needs.

“The house supervisor is essential to ensuring the smooth operation of the organization, even in the middle of the night.  They do act as the quarterback for our patients and nurses -- they call the play and make it happen,” said Jennifer Lechota, MSN, RN, CEN, director of Nursing Operations, Throughput, and Emergency Services at the hospital. “They oversee from a high level every aspect of patient care delivery, including staffing, patient throughput, and employee relations such as work injuries after hours.”

What a House Supervisor Needs

Jennifer, who directs the nursing supervisor office, lists organizational thinking, critical thinking, good people skills and the ability to juggle a multitude of tasks/scenarios as important to success in the role. A nursing supervisor also needs to be someone who enjoys supporting teams and mentoring others. 

On this Monday for Josh, there are phone calls lighting up the lines on his desk. Some calls are for Josh; others are for the transfer coordinator in the office next door. There are also phone calls for him to make as he prepares for reports and meetings that begin the day and another busy work week at Munson Medical Center. Sticky notes are starting to populate his work space. 

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NMC Grad has Resume in Healthcare

The former Emergency Department volunteer, EMT, phlebotomist, Northwestern Michigan College nursing graduate, and veteran heart floor nurse is now two years into his role helping hospital operations run smoothly, coordinating nurse staffing for the day, and problem solving. Yeah, he does a lot of problem solving.

 “I like that the nursing supervisor role allows me to work with every unit in the hospital, and I enjoy the challenge of brainstorming through difficult situations,” says the former philosophy student.

Early in the day at 8:15 am is a bed meeting. Josh pulls out a sheet with grids that will be used to track the status of nursing floors and departments. He turns on the camera for a Microsoft Teams meeting with charge nurses and patient care coordinators from across the hospital. After welcoming everyone, Josh starts calling out names and floors as they talk through nurse staffing and bed needs. Immediate issues are discussed and resolutions come through the collaboration. Other needs are noted in the grids – all part of his process to solve the staffing puzzle.

After the call, he relates how he enjoys building the relationships that are an important part of his job.

“The biggest reward has been the relationships I’ve formed with people in this office and with patient care coordinators and charge nurses on the units,” he says. “The challenges we face forges a special kind of trust and camaraderie.  I’ve made a number of life-long friendships here.”

Supervisors Are Part of Front-line Pandemic Response

Josh spent a year in his supervisory role before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He and the other supervisors have been at the heart of Munson Medical Center’s front-line response to the disease. He recalls a particular day at the peak of the pandemic that made him glad to be part of the Munson Healthcare team.

“Our COVID census was the highest it has ever been, and numerous COVID patients were waiting to be admitted from the ED.  To add to this, our critical care units were full and we were short staffed on many units,” he said.  “I called an urgent huddle, and I was heartened by the response.  Our chief nursing officer, directors, and managers, and patient care coordinators all helped out.  Together we tightened up staffing ratios and found additional staff.  One of our satellite hospitals was able to accept transfer of a COVID patient that lived close to them.  Everyone had a hand in the solution.  It was still tight, but together we were confident we had done everything we could to remain safe and efficient.  It’s that teamwork that engages me with my job.  We always figure it out.  No person is expected to have all the answers.”

Meeting The Needs of Many in Healthcare

At exactly 9 am, Josh turns the camera on and goes into another Microsoft Teams meeting that involves clinical and support staff managers and leadership from across the hospital. He gives a bed report, lists staffing issues, the number of COVID-19 patients, and other measures to help ensure safe delivery of care for the day.

Josh will move through the rest of his 12-hour shift focusing on several needs, responding to any hospital codes or emergencies, attending more meetings, rounding to units on the hospital, answering phones, helping solve patient bed placement issues as they arise, and ensuring the pulse of the hospital stays strong.

“Everyone here contributes something,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work we’re doing together.”

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