Whilst training for my learning disability nursing degree I am also a support worker for a fantastic charity.
I assist seven individuals in supported living, all of whom are fantastic individuals, each with their own unique qualities that make me smile.
Recently, a much-loved member of staff departed our team which left a big hole. All of the individuals within the home appreciated this member of staff and many had meaningful relationships with her. When she left a few individuals became upset and distressed which got me thinking - how does staff turnover really affect those that we support?
For us, while we may be upset about it for a short time, we ultimately have the skills to accept it and carry on, the individuals we support have a much harder time than I had previously anticipated.
“Whilst I appreciate staff turnover is a part of the working environment, we need to be better equipped to provide specialist support to those that it distresses”
The individuals need time to adjust as the dynamics in their home change. They must create meaningful relationships with other - perhaps new - care staff but they do need time to grieve. I know, the staff member hasn’t passed away, but that person will no longer be in their life - they have disappeared.
Whilst I appreciate staff turnover is a part of the working environment we need to be better equipped to provide specialist support to those for whom it causes distress, but there are few resources that we have at our disposal to assist us in such a delivery.
My first port of call when looking for an effective resource was Books Beyond Words, a great series of books for sure, but amongst them I was unable to find anything titled ’What happens when my support staff leave’ or similar. If anyone fancies developing a new resource but doesn’t know quite what to focus on, there’s a suggestion.
“We need to be better equipped to provide specialist support to those for whom it causes distress, but there are few resources that we have at our disposal to assist us in such a delivery”
The different conditions that those we support live with may play a core part in how the individual reacts to staff leaving. For example, individuals with autism may have got into a routine of knowing that a particular member of staff will be in on a set day to support them with an activity. When this staff member leaves that routine is disrupted and has to be changed. The transition into a new routine in my experience is almost immediate as the proper support will not have been implemented prior to the member of staff’s departure.
As a result, the routine of the individual with autism is disrupted through no fault of their own. Distress may be caused and this could be communicated through undesirable behaviour.
Ideally, to prevent upset and minimise disruption to a routine a new staff member will have been introduced beforehand, but an insight for forward planning just isn’t present from what I have seen.
“If every staff member in a team is working on the same baseline, providing a well-balanced care package for the individuals in their care then surely we can minimise the upset caused when a staff member leaves.”
Continuity of care comes forcefully to the front of my mind when I consider staff turnover. If every staff member in a team is working on the same baseline, providing a well-balanced care package for the individuals in their care then surely we can minimise the upset caused when a staff member leaves. Managers need to ensure their teams are active in putting interventions in place to minimise disruption to routines.
There is clearly a gap in the market where staff turnover is concerned and an identified need for better support interventions to be put in place and new resources to be developed. There needs to be an active shift to implement specific plans and interventions ready for when staff leave.
Rebecca Wallett is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for learning disabilities branch