Supporting Nursing in Care Homes

Today we are delighted to introduce our guest blogger Eileen Dunlop, Head of Human Resources and Training for Four Seasons Health Care in Northern Ireland. In today’s blog Eileen will discuss some of the challenges the independent sector is currently facing and the innovative approaches that she is driving forward in practice to address these.


Supporting the development of nursing in the independent sector

In May 2014, I was delighted to learn that the RCN Foundation awarded the University of York with a grant of £20,000 to carry out research into care home settings. This was a refreshing piece of news because it would lay the foundations for future grant programmes which will help to achieve the best possible outcomes for residents within care home settings across the United Kingdom. It is my personal experience, and that of many of colleagues in fact, that the nursing workforce has not always recognised a career in the independent sector as a viable career option compared to work within hospitals or community settings.

Earlier this year, Karen Spilsbury and her team submitted their report entitled: Supporting Nursing in Care Homes. As the Head of Human Resources and Training for the UK’s largest care home provider, and as an experienced nurse within the independent sector, I personally and professionally welcomed the report. I would recommend reading the full report here.

It is beyond the scope of this short blog to summarise the entire contents of the report but I would like to illuminate some pertinent findings:

  1. Poor staff knowledge and competence lead to suboptimal outcomes
  2. There are many barriers to staff training which include: staff shortages, staff having to complete training in their own time and staff not being able to access NHS training.
  3. Creative approaches to learning and development are advocated
  4. Link nurses are an important resource for ensuring quality
  5. Organisational culture impacts on quality of care and staff wellbeing
  6. Care home managers have an important leadership role
  7. Pre-registration education does not adequately cover care home nursing.
  8. Retaining staff is a key challenge
  9. Recruitment of overseas nursing staff is absolutely essential but may bring unique challenges in relation to communication/language barriers.
  10. Often unclear career pathway for nurses within care home settings.

Unfortunately, we as an organisation echo the challenges highlighted in this report and FSHC supports any initiative that can facilitate us, within the entire independent sector, in delivering optimum levels of care to all residents within care home settings. Perhaps as a starting point, we desire acceptance and equality when being considered alongside hospital and community settings.

While these challenges are perhaps no surprise to you, it may be a surprise to you to learn that as an organisation we are meeting these challenges head-on and trying to inspire nurses to practice within the independent sector. I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to blog for EBN so as to raise the profile of care home nurses but I have a number of colleagues within Northern Ireland who have already blogged about their successes for EBN. Before I conclude this piece I want to direct you to their work –

  1. Melanie Bowden – developed an initiative to reduce the number of falls in care homes – Click here to read.
  2. Gary Cousins – developed an award winning link nursing programme to reduce infections in care homes – Click here to read.
  3. Joanne Agnelli – developed initiative to promote positive use of language in dementia care – Click here to read.
  4. Daniel Oliveira – co-led an initiative to transform mental health services from hospital to the community – Click here to read.

The following are just 4 role models within our sector who are pushing the envelope and demonstrating that nursing in the independent sector is one which is extremely rewarding and definitely worthwhile.  I would encourage all nurses with an interest in care of the older person, dementia, palliative care, mental health or learning disability (to name but a few of our specialities) to consider a career within a care home setting.

Eileen Dunlop

Eileen is currently head of Human Resources and Training with Four Seasons Health Care in Northern Ireland and Wales. Eileen has worked in various nursing and professional roles since qualifying as a registered nurse in 1990, and has held nursing and leadership roles within the independent sector for 25 years.

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