A new community nurse role that works exclusively to support care home staff has been pioneered in Devon, with plans to roll it out to the wider region following its success.
Newton Abbot Community Nursing Team introduced the position – called the residential home lead nurse – almost two years ago, after noting the increasingly complex level of care required for older residents.
“I was shocked by the care that was expected of my colleagues in the care home”
Missed opportunities for providing preventative care was leading to an over-reliance on community nurses and GPs to step in and help care staff.
The new role was created to identify residential homes that need assistance and provide a six-week period of support. This includes taking over care normally provided by district and community nurses, and acting as a role model to care assistants in the home.
The nurse reviews care plans, sets up and signposts to relevant training opportunities – such as those on dementia, nutrition and continence – and from then on makes regular visits to the 26 care homes that the team covers.
Following the role’s introduction, the community nursing team has seen improved outcomes for care home residents, including reduced pressure ulcers.
The team now receives fewer calls about minor health issues and, instead, is contacted on a more regular basis for help with significant, preventative interventions.
“We were expecting carers to be our eyes and ears as nurses and pick up clinical things that we were quick to blame them for if they didn’t let us know”
Alison Davey, manager of Newton Abbot Community Nursing Team, introduced the role having developed it alongside a colleague in her previous job.
During her previous post she was alerted to the complexity of conditions now found in care homes, which she compared to those she had seen in the past on hospital wards.
“I was shocked by the care that was expected of my colleagues in the care home,” she said.
“I realised the [high number of phonecalls to my team] was a cry for help. And that it wasn’t that [the staff] were incompetent, it was that the clients were becoming so ill they didn’t know what to do,” added Ms Davey.
Ms Davey appointed community nurse Jan Hughes to develop the residential home lead nurse position, and has since employed her in the role at Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust.
“I recognised… we were expecting carers to be our eyes and ears as nurses, and pick up clinical things that we were quick to blame them for if they didn’t let us know,” said Ms Hughes.
Ms Davey paid tribute to Ms Hughes’ work in bridging the gaps between community nursing teams and care homes, and also between different providers through a forum she set up.
She said she hoped the role could be implemented across the county.
The new role has been approved to sit within the NHS’s Agenda for Change framework and Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust is now looking at introducing the position in its other community nursing teams.