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Care home nursing is a tough gig and not a poor relation

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Care home nursing has for too long been seen as nursing’s poor relation, low expectations, low morale, low status and low self esteem.

deborah sturdy

deborah sturdy

The last 30 years had seen the advent of nursing embracing advances in the profession.

New roles, extended skills and sub-specialties have dominated the practice landscape. We should celebrate the success of filling the skills gaps left by others, an all-graduate profession, and its new status and place in the world.

But these advances seem to have left care home nursing even further adrift from the professional family.

Have we forgotten something fundamental about the role of care home nursing in the emergent new high-tech world?

After all, care homes are some of the most established nurse-led services among our many sub-specialties.

The lack of narrative about this vital nurse-led service has meant it is left much maligned.

“Care home practitioners are nurses working at the cutting edge of nursing practice”

No machine to help navigate in assessment or MDT to consult, or doctor on hand to make in the moment clinical decisions, ponder and plan care. Care home practitioners are nurses working at the cutting edge of nursing practice.

Practising autonomously, managing clinical risk, assessing complex individuals with multiple comorbidities. RGNs lead teams of unregistered staff often as the only registered nurse on a shift and deliver multiple drug regimes, supervising care, assessing, planning and co ordinating – not for eight patients but 20 or more.

“The challenges of nurse recruitment besiege the NHS and litter the press”

This is nursing’s toughest role.

The challenges of nurse recruitment besiege the NHS and litter the press, but have you thought of how this affects care homes? Who would take that job when there is so much choice? Care home nursing is not for the faint hearted. It’s not an easy option, a place to wallow in a quiet life.

Care home nursing needs recognition.

Building its own evidence base creating learning opportunities and learning together with nurses in other settings. We need research in developing a sound future and confidence of the scarce and yet vital nursing workforce.

To that end, Care England has been awarded a grant to develop five teaching care home pilots. These pilots will create a learning environment that will meet the life-long learning needs of the team and provide undergraduate education placements that will inspire and encourage effective learning.

“We need research in developing a sound future and confidence of the scarce and yet vital nursing workforce”

Participants in the pilots will be supported through executive coaching and a practice development school in partnership with the Foundation of Nursing Studies. We will build strong relationships with university providers locally and create a framework for learning, building from this pilot to create excellence in learning.

We must stand tall and secure an equal place for care home nursing. A seat at all the professions tables, as partners and exemplars of excellence in nursing.

We need to be ambitious in striving for the first UK Chair in Care Home Nursing surrounded by a Centre for Care Home Practice.

It’s inevitable in a country with exponential growth in its ageing population that the profession needs to prepare for the realities of the care home nursing “specialist” and provide the rightful platform and position of the thousands of nurse led services which are known simply and often in disparaging tones as “the care home” at the profession’s core.

Deborah Sturdy RN Msc (Econ) is a nurse advisor for Care England and a visiting professor at Buckinghamshire New University

Nt care england logo

Nt care england logo

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