Around half a million older people live in some 12,000 care homes in the UK, and as the population ages, the role of the care home nurse is set to become even more significant. Whether you’re a nurse starting out in your job search or wanting to advance your career, here’s how to succeed in care home nursing.
A multi-faceted role
Older people have increasingly complex healthcare needs, thanks to the ageing population, and nurses working in care homes require a wide set of skills to succeed in such a multi-faceted role.
‘Every day really is very different for care home nurses,’ says Richard Adams, Chief Nurse, Bupa UK. ‘They support people with a whole range of different care needs including dementia care, intermediate care and rehabilitation, end of life care, stroke rehabilitation, learning disabilities, complex physical health and re-ablement.’
RCN careers advisor Cathy Taylor says: ‘Expertise in the particular needs and disease patterns of older people is essential for this very specialist area. For experienced RNs wanting to advance their career, my advice is to gain experience and qualifications in areas such as tissue viability and long term condition management.
‘A passion and commitment to providing the very highest standards of care, along with the knowledge of how to make this happen, will always be sought after by employers.’
Show you can work independently
If you’re used to nursing on a hospital ward, working in a care home can be a very different experience. Instead of working alongside other nurses, you will often be the only RN on duty, and will have overall responsibility for the care of residents, as well as needing to oversee a team of care assistants.
‘Employers will want to feel that you will be comfortable working in isolation and are able to lead a team of healthcare assistants,’ says Cathy Taylor. ‘It’s a good idea to prepare some instances of when you have taken decisions alone and lead a team before you go into the interview.’
Care home managers will also want to know that you can relate to clients’ families with sensitivity. Richard says ‘care home nurses spent a great deal of time building strong relationships with residents and their families, in addition to managing a range of care needs on a daily basis.’
Training and development
According to the RCN Foundation report, Supporting Nursing in Care Homes, some 70% of respondents (care home nurses, managers and community registrants) believe that pre-registration nurse education does not adequately prepare nurses to work in care homes. The RCN Foundation is now calling for the introduction of a post-registration specialist qualification for care home nurses.
In the absence of a specialist qualification, keeping up to date with continuing professional development (CPD) helps ensure best practice, and will make you more attractive to employers. If you’re applying for a nursing role in a care home, find out what CPD opportunities, training and support is available.
Richard says: ‘Bupa provides ongoing professional development and training for nurses from the start of their induction, right throughout their career. For example, we have clinical simulation hubs where nurses can develop their clinical skills in areas like catheterisation, venepuncture, wound care, tracheostomy care and other general nursing care.’
In addition to theory and practical based study days and clinical research opportunities, Bupa offers academic scholarships, such as their dementia scholarship programme with the University of Bradford.
‘All care home employees complete an e-learning dementia awareness module in their induction,’ says Richard. ‘We also support our staff to undertake a variety of training courses, some provided in-house; others by external providers. We have also supported a number of nurses through one, two or three year certificates, as well as Bachelors and Masters degrees.’
Chronic staff shortages
Chronic staff shortages are leading some care homes to re-think the way they fill positions, particularly in response to rising agency staff costs.
A recent survey of 12 of the largest nursing home providers, which represent 30% of the UK sector, found that the use of agency nursing staff has increased by 55% over the past few years – and agency staff typically cost 100% more per hour than the cost of regular staff.
Chai Patel, chief executive of care home company HC One, said: ‘Up-skilling nurses to take on a more specialist clinician role and up-skilling care assistants to take over some of the current operational duties of nurses would reduce pressures on the number of nurses permanently required in our care homes.’
For many experienced nurses, the opportunity to take on specialist clinician roles is an exciting one. And those who have a breadth of experience and training, and show real passion and commitment to providing the best care to clients and their families, will find themselves in high demand with employers.
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