Want a career in nursing? Care home or the NHS?

To celebrate national #NursesDay we spoke to our Group Clinical Lead, Julia Chapman-Wright to find out what the benefits are of working in a care home over the NHS.

How did your nursing career begin?

I started out in August 1983 as a student nurse at what is now known as The Royal London Hospital, where I undertook all my nurse training which set me up for what I do today. I have always enjoyed caring for older people and over the years I have gained specialist knowledge within rehabilitation, stroke medicine and as a continence advisor.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of working as a nurse in a care home setting compared to the NHS?

The NHS is a huge machine and nurses are just a tiny part of it.  As a result, you tend not to feel valued in any way – friends who have remained in the NHS tell me nothing has changed.

Feeling a sense of belonging was key for me. Carebase took a chance employing me as I had only ever worked for the NHS and I didn’t know too much about the care sector, but I felt I belonged from the day I arrived. Working in a care home allows me the opportunity to actually ‘nurse’ – that is very different to the NHS. Care home nursing is the very purest form of nursing there is.  I am privileged to be able to nurse residents in our homes each and every day.

What is the difference in the level of support you are provided in a care home?

Unlike working in the NHS our nurses have a ‘voice’ and innovation is encouraged and recognised.  Being a smaller organisation, there are opportunities to influence the care we deliver and how our teams develop. The support that is available in our care homes is second to none – whether from the central office team, specialist group resources or from teams at other Carebase homes.  I know at any time that I can call our MD, any Director or member of the senior team and they would be there for me.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to come into the care sector who would require training? 

There is a perception that training and career opportunities are not always available in a care home setting. However, there is so much quality training organised within the Carebase homes and a degree of freedom to arrange additional training or attend conferences appropriate to our needs. In my role as Group Clinical Lead, I am encouraged to go out and gain knowledge to bring back for the benefit of our teams. I can’t think of many organisations who would offer that. There is always enough equipment to do our jobs to the highest standards and if we find we need something else to further improve the quality of our care we provide it is always made available to us. This is in addition to regular supervision and appraisals, an Employee Assistance programme, a Nurse Competency Training Programme and a Management Academy – the list goes on. When recruiting, our main focus is to find the right person who can evidence the care and compassion that is at the forefront of all we do, rather than someone with armfuls of qualifications. We know that if we have a good team member with the right values, we can give them all the tools and support they need to do a great job.

What about nurses who are already trained but not specifically for the care home sector?

For those people we offer a Nurse Competency Training Programme. These are a series of individual days held throughout the year that cover practical skills, assessments of competencies and challenges that nurses may experience and have been identified as needing further support in. It’s also just a great opportunity for our nurses to meet each other, share good practice and to pick my brains!

What is career progression like in a care home?

Well, my own story is a great example.  I arrived at Brooklands Care Home in Drayton, Norwich in January 2008 as Deputy Manager. The transition wasn’t easy, as the nursing I was expected to deliver was very different to my last role in the NHS (my last post was Sister on an Acute Stroke Unit).  However, with the training, support and coaching I was offered after 18 months I was promoted to Home Manager. A few years later I was promoted again to Business Manager for several homes in the Carebase portfolio.  In 2017 I took on the role as Group Clinical Lead, responsible for delivering and embedding best clinical practice across the group.

Time and time again I see similar progression with colleagues across the Carebase group – they have a strategy to grow from within.  At Brooklands Care Home for example, they have a carer who was promoted to team leader which then evolved into a new Team Support role mentoring new starters. We had a nurse with an interest in teaching, so we seconded her to undertake a teaching qualification and she now delivers in-house training.  There have been carers who have became Unit Leads, nurses who have become Clinical Leads.  Carebase sees something in people and support and encourages them, enabling them to grow, which I think is quite unique to the care home sector.

Why did you move from the NHS to a care home? 

Ultimately, I felt demotivated, unsupported and exhausted. Looking back, I think I was burnt out. It was a huge risk leaving everything I knew in the NHS, but it was definitely the right thing to do.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job now? 

I have thebest job! I am so proud to be a nurse and privileged to be able to nurse every day. Clinical credibility is also really important to me and any of my team will tell you that I am very ‘hands on’.  In my role Group Clinical Lead, I get satisfaction and fulfilment in knowing our nursing teams are supported and can be the best they can be.  I also run and support the Nursing Apprenticeship Programme we run. Here I get to influence the progression of the course and spend time with the new nurses, developing our teams for the future.

What other benefits are there?

As registered nurses, you are required to pay £120 a year to renew our nursing qualification and revalidate every three years to be able to practice. This is a considerable amount of money for our nurses to find every year.  However, Carebase pays for all of that, making it is one less thing for them to worry about. I feel this really demonstrates our commitment to our nurses and shows we value the contribution they make to our residents.In addition, not only is our on-going training fully funded but we pay travel expenses and a wage for the hours our nurses spend in training or attending conferences- disappointingly this is not common place across the care sector or the NHS.

If you would like to speak with a member of our team for more advice about a career in nursing at Heathfield Court care home, then please email: joinourteam@carebase.org.uk or call our dedicated recruitment enquiry line on: 0800 612 9730

Alternatively visit our jobs page to see what vacancies we currently have available.