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RCN NI Independent Sector Runner-Up Award

Linda Graham 17 Oct 2023

I am proud to say that my journey to achieving change in nursing homes has resulted in recognition of my hard work and dedication. I was honoured to receive the RCN NI Independent Sector Runner-Up Award. 

I have been a registered general nurse for 40 years, with 20 years of experience in the NHS and 20 years employed in nursing homes. I am the regional manager for seven care homes, leading a team of seven managers and 350 staff. 

Being an RCN Independent Sector Nurse Manager's network member has been invaluable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The network provided much-needed support to help us survive the pandemic. As a network member (now Deputy Lead), I volunteered to get involved in several projects, including co-chairing the Workforce Development Group of the Enhanced Clinical Care Framework. These opportunities helped me raise the sector's voice when the CNO developed a framework commissioned by the Health Minister, Robin Swann. The framework focused on residents receiving the right care at the right time and place by a skilled workforce. I advocated for training and education for staff and was involved in developing a learning needs analysis, which the Belfast Trust and the Northern Trust adapted. I also recommended support in care homes, such as in-reach staffing, care home support teams, and hospital-at-home teams. 

I tested two identified acuity tools under the Enhanced Clinical Care Framework. Per the framework's recommendations, I now represent care homes on a five-nation approach to explore a bespoke acuity tool for the sector. These opportunities afforded me immense professional development. 

As a result of the exposure from volunteering on behalf of the Independent Sector Nurse Manager Network, I was invited to join more independent sector working groups. I am also co-chair of the Delivering Care Phase 8 project (currently paused) with the Public Health Agency, which is reviewing a safe staffing model for care homes. Also, I was invited to represent the independent sector on the Nursing Midwifery Taskforce Group Workforce Stabilisation and am involved with Queen's University on undergraduate placements in care homes. 

I was honoured to be asked by the CNO to present at Stormont to MLAs and the broader healthcare sector at the Enhanced Clinical Care Framework launch on August 7, 2023. I described the views of the independent sector and identified how the framework could benefit them. 

It is paramount to me that nursing homes provide evidence-based practice. Through the work of the Enhanced Clinical Care Framework, two of my homes participated in a quality improvement falls project. Two homes reduced falls due to the education, training, and use of the falls bundle introduced in the pilot. Additionally, one of my homes was awarded for using the RITA (Reminiscence Interactive Therapeutic Activities) device, which showed reduced anti-psychotic medication for one resident portraying distressed reactions. I am also involved in developing a career pathway for the independent sector and presented at the NIPEC conference on October 4, 2023, on our vision for the pathway. I am still involved in this work with NIPEC as they develop it further. 

The professional development of the team is critical to me. I inspired two home managers to complete the Queen's course 'The Care of Older Persons' and facilitated their study leave. This has resulted in another staff member commencing this course on September 23. I was also instrumental in the secondment of one of my managers for three months to assist the Department of Health with the Enhanced Clinical Care Framework. Four of the management team are supported to attend the My Home Life course from September 2023.

Due to this exposure, I have built collaborative relationships with HSC staff to support complex discharges from the hospital. The team are upskilled and trained in complexities such as tracheostomy care, NIPPY machines, and RIGs. I have developed a policy and competency assessment for tracheostomy care, enabling four nursing homes to cater to these complex needs. I am now collaborating with the Care Home Liaison Nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital to facilitate delayed discharges into nursing homes. These relationships have allowed me to enable complex discharges across trust boundaries when placements within a trust area cannot be sourced. 

My confidence has soared, leading me to develop initiatives prioritising patient care. I have developed new roles, such as a nutritional assistant, an associate manager, and a peripatetic team to support all our homes. I am always seeking new ways to improve the service, and my new initiative is to develop young rising stars and invest in further training needs for staff.
After all these initiatives and dedication to the independent sector, I was delighted when a colleague nominated me for the RCN Independent Sector Nurse of the Year Award this year. Although it was nerve-wracking having to complete a 10-minute presentation to display the work I was involved in, I was determined to push myself. The presentation was challenging as my daughter was admitted to medical RESUS the night before my presentation. I was delighted to be informed that I had been shortlisted for the final. Being runner-up for the Independent Sector Nurse of the Year Award is an outstanding achievement and one I will never forget. 

I am very dedicated to caring for older people in nursing homes. I would encourage other nurses to volunteer to represent the sector as they will benefit professionally, as will your team and the sector. Please consider joining the Independent Sector Nurse Managers Network, get involved, and you won’t regret it. 

Linda Graham

Linda Graham

Regional Home Manager

Page last updated - 09/01/2024