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OPINION

'We must put right the wrong impression of care home nursing'

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The role of nurses in care homes is becoming increasingly important.

Residents are moving to care homes much later in life and so are more frail. Their needs are greater and more likely to relate to conditions such as dementia as well as physical disabilities. Care teams must be able to meet these needs - for that, trained nurses are vital.

Attracting nurses to the care home setting is not easy however. Despite attempts to encourage students to take placements in care homes, the acute setting of a hospital still seems to have a greater appeal for those pursuing a nursing career.

There is also a perception in the profession that care home nurses get neither the training and professional development opportunities they need for career progression, nor the same recognition as nurses in other care sectors. The problem here is these are blanket statements that do not look at individual providers and what is being done in terms of training, support and recognition for care home nurses.

In The Orders of St John Care Trust, our care colleagues are highly valued for their dedication and commitment to residents’ wellbeing. We invest significantly in their training so they have the skills and confidence to provide the best care and support to meet our residents’ needs.

As well as covering all mandatory training areas, we also offer a wider ranging programme to provide more opportunities for professional development. We recruit the highest-calibre individuals and want them to stay with us to build their career, so investing in training is very important.

One of the specialist areas on which we particularly focus is dementia care. As we know, the incidence of people living with dementia is increasing - a trend that will continue as we live longer. At OSJCT, everyone working in our care homes, no matter what their role, undergoes training approved by Alzheimer’s Society to prepare them for working and interacting with residents who have dementia. For those in more senior roles, including our nurses, there are also opportunities to access more advanced leadership and development programmes. Several employees have gained degree-level qualifications.

We also employ our own specialist dementia care nurses. These St John Admiral Nurses are trained by Dementia UK and work with residents, their relatives and our care teams to offer advice and support about caring for people living with dementia. Additionally, many of our homes offer Dementia Cafes, or similar, to extend this service to the wider community.

Recognising the requirement for leadership skills and ongoing continuous professional development, the trust also ensures colleagues have specific additional learning and development opportunities tailored to their needs. Although the number of senior employees with nursing qualifications has risen, we plan to continue developing relationships with nursing organisations and believe we can continue showing there are great benefits, positive training opportunities and satisfying careers to be had in the sector.

Our nurses say they find great satisfaction from their roles due to having the opportunity to build lasting relationships with residents and watching the difference their care makes to them first hand. We must get this message across.

As the need for high-quality care and support for older people grows in importance across the UK, so too does the need to eradicate misconceptions about nursing in this sector. The industry as a whole must work hard to share staff stories and the fantastic aspects of a career in care home nursing. Only then can we consistently attract the best of the best.

Richard Hawes is care director for The Orders of St John Care Trust

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