Patients who are well enough for discharge are sometimes spending hours or days longer
than they needed to in hospital waiting for the next doctor’s ward round. At the same time,
patients in the emergency department are waiting for a bed to become available so they could be
admitted to a ward. This led to frustrations for both patients and staff. A nurse-led discharge
could be the answer to these problems.
Nurse led discharge is a process that involves nurses assessing the patient, liaising with
the multi-disciplinary team and planning timely discharge based on an agreed clinical
management plan. It may also involve the writing of discharge letters, making follow up calls
and giving advice to patients and carer and other health and social care professionals involved in
the person’s care (Lees, 2004). Also the term ‘nurse-led discharge may imply that discharging
patients is an interdisciplinary activity. Therefore, it is important that the constructs of nurse-led
discharge should be understood from professional to organisational perspectives.
The achievement of nurse-led discharge is one of the key roles shaping the future of
nursing. Although there have seen development in nursing roles, discharge planning has rarely
been seen as an area ripe for new roles. However, there are clear benefits for the patients, nurses
and trusts in developing a nurse-led discharge and a discharge nurse specialist.
Nurse led discharge is about nurses taking responsibility for initiating, driving and
following through on the decision to discharge which may be carried out in partnership with
medical colleagues and within clear protocols. This culture change of nurses taking ownership of
driving patient discharge has real potential to make far reaching changes in future reform and
modernisation of service delivery.