I originally came from a background in sales, before I decided to become a history teacher, and it was while I was studying that I took on my first role in the independent nursing sector, working as a night support worker in a learning disabilities home.
I spent a number of years in this sector, developing models for respite services in the Essex area, through from learning disabilities to physical disabilities, and then outreach for those with learning disabilities and autism. I’ve been at Grace Manor for 16 months – it’s a beautiful Grade 2 listed manor house, with 57 bedrooms, split into two units.
I made significant changes to the dementia unit when I came in, making a complete separate unit, with secured gardens and stimulating decoration, including fiddle boards and three separate zones (beach, forest, underwater). The dementia support team are piloting the docobo tablet, which is like an iPad where you input all the information about the resident – food, sleep, mood etc. This builds up graphs over time and the information can be sent off to community psychiatric nurses or GPs to provide much more joined up and immediate care. We now have a waiting list for dementia residents.
When I joined the home was a bit disjointed, and it’s a ‘one home’ approach now, with staff working across units, so everyone in the home can give all round care. There is a communal handover with staff and nurses, so everyone knows what’s going on in the whole home and not just a little bubble.
We have a daily round robin with heads from every department (or a representative), and nurses and team leaders, which is followed by a clinical flash meeting. We discuss what’s happening, any issues that have cropped up, and it’s a great time to catch up. It really works – for example the kitchen gets to know about any dietary changes there and then, or if someone’s mobility’s changed, then maintenance know to put in more grab rails or an infrared system. These things can be put into action a lot more quickly. We can also brainstorm ideas – I can put ideas to the team, and they can input their ideas. Recently one team member came up with the idea to hang a notice on the door handle (as they do in hotels) when a resident is having personal care, to ensure everyone takes extra care if they need to enter the room, for dignity and privacy.
We have very dedicated staff at Grace Manor, they love their residents and are here for them. Some of our staff are coming up for their 20th anniversary, and some were originally agency staff who requested to become permanent full-time. Staff have only really left to start a family or to progress with their career, such as going to nursing. I have supported staff to do NVQs, it’s important to help people progress.
All staff are accountable for their care, and I don’t micro manage, so I think this means staff are able to grow and learn more, and have more pride in their work. We have some great initiatives such as ‘People like me, like’ where we marry up staff and residents with similar interests. One of our maintenance team is interested in world war two aircraft, and he is able to share this interest with a resident, showing footage from air shows he’s attended.
I’ve been an RCN member for quite some years and we’ve had a very positive experience with the RCN at Grace Manor. We are pleased that the RCN is currently organising training on accountability and communication for us. The sessions will start with the nurses and team leaders and then develop across all staff.