As nurses, we are taught that as soon as our patients are admitted, we have to plan for their discharge. The continuity of care extends beyond the hospital even after a patient's hospital stay especially for patients who need care packages.
We met Jhermy, a highly experienced nurse working in the NHS. After working in the clinical sector, he has decided to pursue a role as a Nurse Discharge Coordinator. In this article, he shares his typical day, his challenges and some tips on how to be considered in this role.
My name is Jhermy, a proud nurse working for the NHS since 1999. I am currently a Band 6 Discharge Coordinator in a cardiology unit for one of the NHS Trusts in London.
Prior to my current role, I had 15 years of experience working in ICU ( Cardio-thoracic, Neuro-surgery, General ) doing long days and nights and 3 years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for the stroke unit where I was always in A&E for emergency thrombolysis calls. After working in these highly specialised clinical areas, I felt the need for change and explore opportunities in the non-clinical area. I saw this opportunity and was accepted for this role.
As a Discharge Coordinator, we act as the bridge when the patient transitions from being in hospital then back to the community.
My role is to ensure safe, timely and efficient transfer of patients.
I am responsible for sorting out discharges especially the ones who have social care requirements such as package of care and district nurse referrals. Some of our patients would need additional care and need to be transferred to other external agencies or social care groups. As a Discharge Coordinator, I have to know the patient group who requires social care upon discharge, know where to refer the patients and make sure that they will have a safe discharge. This also includes ensuring that they have the necessary support system and the correct numbers to call in the community.
Related Article: Do you know that there are nurses who are also involved in managing packages of care? Read the story of Cheryl, a Complex Care Regional Nurse.
My role as a Discharge Coordinator gave me a different perspective towards care. Some of us may think that our job ends once our patients leave the hospital. Some patients would need longer treatment or rehabilitation. Our role is to ensure that they still receive the right level of care even after discharge.
My role also gave me an insight towards site management. With the limited number of beds we have and the increasing number of patients needing hospital care, it is vital that I do my job as efficient and as timely as possible.
Typical day of a Discharge Coordinator
My day starts with validation of our external delays list and a ward meeting with the multi- disciplinary team (MDT). After which, I will coordinate with the therapists and report to the site management team. I would also be involved in making follow ups & liaising with various teams and external agencies in obtaining social histories and execution of plans for discharges.
On some weekends, I help the site management department in validating the hospital’s external delays and do escalation calls with local authorities.
Challenges of a Discharge Coordinator
My role as a discharge coordinator can be stressful at times. Due to bed constraints, I need to make sure that I properly execute the discharge requests on a timely manner. Any delays I have to face the challenging questions of my Matron and Head of Nursing. If it is something complicated and I really need assistance, I have to escalate it to the Matron for Patient Flow and Complex discharge.
Lack of proper documentation can also add to the challenge. Generally, before its handed over to us, we would have all the pertinent details needed to ensure proper transfer. However there are instances where there are no details given or the information is out of date. I then have to investigate and search for the contact details of the social worker, care agency and next of kin details. The ultimate aim is to ensure patient safety even upon discharge.
Benefits of a Discharge Coordinator
Personally, what i like about this role is that there are no nights and no weekends shift. Also, weekend bank shifts are available on a Band 6 pay rate.
Aside from these, the learning opportunity of knowing more about social care adds to my arsenal of Nursing experience. This role also gave me a glimpse of site management. I had the chance to work on a daily basis with Heads of Nursing and the Matron for Patient Flow and Complex Discharges, through their guidance and help I learned a lot and gained more confidence in my role.
How to be a Discharge Coordinator
There are no special courses needed to execute this role. However, you need to have strong communication & interpersonal skills. Dealing with different people from the patients, doctors, therapists, social care agencies, patient flow team and even the Heads of Nursing is part of the day to day tasks.
You also need to be very organised and inquisitive. Knowing how to be calm under pressure is important too in our role.
Advice to Fellow nurses
Change is not something you need to be afraid of. It is part of our growth.
I had no knowledge on this role and had to learn everything. Coordinating the discharge for patients was all new to me. I am grateful because people around me have supported & guided me in this journey.
Nothing cannot be learned. All it takes is the willingness to learn and willingness to accept change. Learning does not stop.