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Barchester leads the way in dementia and gerontology training

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Barchester’s commitment to student and newly qualified nurses enables rapid career advancement


If a group of nurses were asked why they entered the profession a few terms would probably crop up repeatedly. “The opportunity to make a difference.” “The chance to change lives.” “To help make people’s lives better.”

The vast majority of nurses chose their profession for just these reasons. And nowhere is this more possible than in residential care homes.

People living in care homes depend on the staff for the quality of their health and wellbeing. A well-run home with caring, committed staff can make a positive difference to even its frailest residents, ensuring they are safe and given the highest quality of care so they can get the best out of life.

For many years care homes were seen as something of a professional backwater, where nurses would have little opportunity to practise their most advanced skills. But expert nursing care is crucial to manage many residents with challenging co-morbidities and ensure they maintain the best physical and cognitive health possible. This gives care home nurses the opportunity to use their skills, but also the privilege of seeing at first hand how valuable their work is. These nurses spend months or years working with their residents, getting to know them and seeing just what a difference high-quality, compassionate care can make.

As appreciation of both their challenges and their rewards grows, care homes are increasingly seen as a destination career, where nurses can develop advanced skills and gain opportunities for career progression.

Stacey Nicholson, now a Deputy Manager in one of Barchester’s care homes, recognised that she wanted to work in older people’s care right from the start.

“My auntie was a theatre nurse but I was only ever interested in elderly care,” she says. “All the way through university I never wanted to do anything else.

“My friends were all geared up to do the ‘sexy’ side of nursing, and in my final year I did a stint in A&E, but while the others were queuing for ‘resus’ I was in the corridors, holding the hands of the old ladies on the trolleys, and getting them cups of tea.”

Stacey already had experience of Barchester when she came to work for it, thanks to a student placement. She knew the company values its nurses and is committed to enabling them to develop in the direction that suits their skills and ambition. For Stacey the important factor was the desire to maintain contact with residents and use her nursing skills. Barchester has given her the opportunity not only to use her skills, but also to pass them on.

“I’ve qualified as Home Trainer and I’ve never been happier in my work,” she says. “Barchester did give me the opportunity to step up as General Manager but I need to be hands-on. Inspiring others to deliver correct care and seeing them achieve new skills is my passion, so Learning and Development is more where I’m aimed professionally.”

Stacey’s job involves working with both qualified nurses and students.

“I was encouraged to go back to university and did the mentorship course, so then I could support student nurses and allow them to enjoy the same positive experience I did.”

Barchester invests in its nurses because the company was founded on the principle of offering high-quality care when it was set up by Mike Parsons in 1992. From its first home in a 17th-century Cotswold farmhouse, the company has grown to over 200 homes across England, Scotland and Wales, caring for more than 10,000 people. It aims to stand out for the calibre of its staff.

In order to do that the company offers clear career pathways leading to nationally recognised qualifications. The innovative Barchester Business School encourages staff at all levels to take advantage of its wide range of learning and development opportunities. These can cater for nurses at any stage of their career. Newly qualified nurses are offered a comprehensive Preceptorship programme, which can be started at any time of year, while more experienced nurses can develop advanced clinical skills or gain management and leadership qualifications up to Master’s level.

With its combination of stimulating and rewarding careers, and enviable professional development, it is hardly surprising that Barchester is the only care provider to ever make the ‘Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For’ list – an award it has achieved six times.

But, as for most of the company’s nurses, her day-to-day work is the most rewarding aspect of Stacey’s job.

“I love the contact with residents, and helping vulnerable people. It’s a lovely feeling when you’ve made somebody happy and settled.”

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