The matron’s key roles

The matron’s role has evolved since publication of the matron’s 10 key responsibilities in 2003 and the matron’s charter in 2004. Some aspects remain the same: for example, providing compassionate inclusive leadership and management to promote high standards of clinical care, patient safety and experience; prevention and control of infections; monitoring cleaning of the environment. Nevertheless, the role has grown to include workforce management, finance and budgeting, education and development, patient flow, performance management, digital technology and research.

We consulted over 300 matrons at three national conferences, a 1,600-strong matron’s network and over 40 subject experts who included national and local professionals from the CNO’s team; Health Education England; the NHS Leadership Academy; King’s Fund; Queen’s Nursing Institute; Royal College of Nursing; healthcare trusts’ chief nurses and directors of nursing. From this, the following key roles emerged:

  1. Inclusive leadership, professional standards and accountability
  2. Governance, patient safety and quality
  3. Workforce planning and resource management
  4. Patient experience and reducing health inequalities
  5. Performance and operational oversight
  6. Digital and information technology
  7. Education, training and development
  8. Research and development
  9. Collaborative working and clinical effectiveness
  10. Service improvement and transformation.

These build on and modernise the 10 original roles identified in 2003. Furthermore, it has become evident that matrons do not take on full caseloads alone – they work in a matrix style, delegating across wards, departments and services. They translate their trust’s vision, mission and values into operational practice. They also support staff, especially new ward leaders, department and service managers.

The NHS Long Term Plan and the Interim NHS People Plan stress the need for inclusive leadership and talent management. Matrons are crucial to achieving this.

Message to matrons

From Dr April Brown, Senior Clinical Lead, NHS England and NHS Improvement, who carried out doctoral research on the matron’s role.

As you progress into and through your role as a matron:

  • be bold and continually seek your academic limits
  • work to the limit of your licence and be innovative
  • seek forgiveness rather than permission for bold decisions
  • always address it, don’t walk past it and lead by example • look and go outside and learn from others
  • listen, hear and listen again to patients, their families and your staff
  • acknowledge and identify barriers and work together to eliminate them.

Matron’s Handbook – next sections