Published: 21/03/2002, Volume II2, No. 5797 Page 89

As a manager of a medium-sized general hospital, I find it very difficult making relationships with nurses. I've tried holding open forums and communications meetings but nothing seems to work.

What should I do ?

Sniffer, Wimbledon Well, first of all find out what their hobbies are. Nurses usually like things like acid and house, which I think are debating societies. They also like swimming, until you arrange a special membership rate for them at the local sports club at which point they all switch to paramedical gliding - at least I think That is what It is called. Anyway once You have done that, you'll have a topic of conversation which you can use to strike up interesting little chats during budget discussions and so on. My, will they be impressed with you. You see nurses are like the rest of us - they like you to take an interest in them. Indeed, they're not very keen on you having an interest in anyone else. Oh yes, try to look like a manager - you know the sort of thing: suits, ties, cufflinks and so on. do not try to be a bit trendy or you might frighten them. Second, you could try writing them a memo or two. They like this and read them avidly.

What is a 'dress down Friday' and how will it affect the NHS ?

Yves, Doncaster Well, It is all to do with Mr Milburn's diary system.

You see as CHI goes round the country doing its stuff, there is an increasing need for some managers to get a slap on the wrist for forgetting to do a few things.

Like sending out ultrasound scanning appointments, getting patients to attend operations and things like that. Well, Mr M is a busy man. He has lots and lots of things to see, places to go and people to do. He can't hang around the office playing Solitaire or Freecell all week, just on the offchance that someone might need telling off. So his private office has arranged that the dressings down will always happen on Fridays, before he jets off to Darlington for a quiet weekend. If this happens to you, do not be too worried.

Dress casually for the meeting because you will not be needing your suits any more.

Why not let Mel help solve your problem?

E-mail her, in the strictest confidence, at: Mdestrange@ emap. com