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Being moved from your normal work environment

This guide for RCN members provides information on what to do if you are asked to move from your normal working environment. It also provides advice for Specialist Nurses who are asked to work on a ward.

If you are asked to move from your normal working environment

Your employer can usually request that you work somewhere other than your normal environment as a temporary measure, but they must be sure about your competence level.

If you are asked to move you should consider the following:

  • Your environment - Do you know where to find important equipment, the location of fire exits, etc.?
  • Your patients - What level of care will you be expected to give? Do you have any experience with this type of patient? If not, you should only be required to deliver the basic fundamentals of care.
  • Work – What will you be doing? Who will be your point of contact for any queries? Who else will you be working with?

If you do not feel competent to work in this area you should speak to your manager. If this does not resolve the situation, please document your concerns and call us.

It may be unreasonable to refuse the move if your employer has provided sufficient training and support, and the contract of employment permits the move. However, it would be reasonable to refuse if you are being asked to work in areas where you could be putting patients and your registration at risk.

If you are a registered nurse you must ensure you follow the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code at all times which states that you must recognise and work within the limits of your competence. You must speak out if the move may undermine your ability to follow The Code.

Bank workers

There is no mutuality of obligation in a Bank arrangement – each placement is individual and you can choose whether to accept or not.

If you have accepted a bank shift and you are asked to move then there needs to be a discussion about whether or not you are willing to change the agreement that was originally made. You need to be happy that you are competent to work in the other area. The same considerations apply regarding your environment, your patients and your work (see above).
 
Your bank contract may contain a clause stating that you could be disciplined if you refuse to move however you can refuse to move if you have reasonable grounds. You should discuss these concerns immediately and document them to prevent any future action being taken against you.

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Responsibility for knowledge and skill levels

Your employer is responsible for the skills and knowledge levels of its staff. If you, as a nurse or midwife, accept responsibility for practice which is beyond your capability and which has resulted in errors in practice, both you and your employer are accountable: you for failing to acknowledge your limitations, and your employer for failing to ensure that you have the appropriate skills and knowledge.

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Specialist nurses working on the ward

Employers can usually ask specialist nurses to work on wards, however if the specialist nurse has any doubt about their competence they must decline and give reasons why. For example, they may state that they have not worked on a ward for over 10 years so are not up to date, or that they would be working outside their professional Code.

If you are a specialist nurse who does not feel competent to work in a new area, you should discuss your concerns with your employer, document what you have discussed and call us if the matter is not resolved. 

If you agree to the move, you should start to collate evidence of how the move will impact on your own area of work. You may need this evidence to show that this way of managing staffing problems will only have a knock on effect in other areas.

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Call the RCN on: 03457726100