By Professor Martin Green OBE | August 29, 2019
Being a registered manager is one of the most complex and challenging jobs in the care sector.
But it can also be incredibly rewarding, and it comes with real opportunities to see the impact that you can make on people’s lives.
Over the years, the role has become more and more complicated. Not only does the registered manager have responsibility for the people in their care, but they also have a leadership role for staff, a support role for relatives and the accountability for the plethora of compliance processes that they must ensure are delivered.
Supporting registered managers
As the role of the manager has become more challenging, there has been little thought from Government or the Care Quality Commission as to how registered managers are supported and enabled to live well with high levels of stress.
Being a registered manager is not only the most responsible role in care, but it also can be one of the most isolated. Care services, unlike the NHS, are not surrounded by a range of organisations and resources that can support staff to maintain their wellbeing.
The emotional challenges of care are rarely recognised and, in an era when we are trying to deliver person-centred, relationship-based care, there is no acknowledgement of the emotional toll on staff of losing a client that they have built a relationship with over many months and years.
A more caring environment
I am often amused when watching soap operas on television, which nearly always conclude with a voice-over saying, ‘If you have been affected by any of the issues in this programme, here are some advice and support lines that will be able to help you.’
Every day, care staff are confronted with emotional distress and yet are expected to absorb it with little or no support.
If we are going to care for people, we must care for our colleagues and ensure that they have the right support that enables them to manage stress and live well with the emotionally-charged situations they have to confront.
What I think we need to see is far more opportunities for reflection, counselling, mentorship and support, because the mental health and wellbeing of staff is an essential pillar for delivering high-quality care.
The importance of registered managers having time off
Caring roles are not 9 to 5 and, even when care managers are off duty, their accountability remains.
This builds a level of stress which is not sustainable in the long term. Despite the fact that we might not be a 9 to 5 occupation, we should certainly be conscious of the need for a work-life balance, which ensures that registered managers have time away from their responsibilities and are able to relax.
Time away from services is not only good for the manager, but opportunities for reflection and the space to support one another are essential parts of delivering high-quality care.
Change is needed
One of the many things that is extremely stressful for care managers is the amount of time they have to spend on bureaucracy and compliance issues.
Whilst I absolutely support the need for proper regulation, there is also a need to streamline the systems and to get all the various agencies who have responsibility for social care to align their objectives and to make sure that the administration is as streamlined as possible.
One of the major challenges for any registered manager is the feeling of isolation and there is a need to improve the support offered to managers, either in terms of mentoring or indeed opportunities for registered managers to come together to offer peer-to-peer support.
One of the many things that can affect mental health and wellbeing is the stress of the job and the feeling that there is nobody there to share the burden.
Managers are often so good at coping that they see it as a weakness if they look for support.
We have to change this attitude and registered managers should see getting support as a strength and an essential part of delivering all the things required of them. There are some very good structures for supporting staff in the NHS and in a truly integrated system these will be available to social care colleagues.
Leadership for registered managers
Being a registered manager is also about being the leader within your organisation, and the UK is very bad at understanding the difference between leadership and management.
There is a need for greater clarity on this issue and we must develop ways of ensuring that those who hold leadership and management positions understand the difference between the two roles.
The management bit is complex, but relatively easy, in that it requires you to complete a range of tasks in effective and efficient ways.
The leadership challenge is more complex, it is about how you instil a vision for your organisation in the minds of everyone and how you connect to the core values of social care and ensure these are the values that all your colleagues use as a reference point for their decision-making.
Being a registered manager is a tough role, but if we give people the support they need, it is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable roles in our sector.
Registered managers can really see the impact they have on the lives of everyone within their service, whether they are clients, relatives or staff.
The best way to be a good leader and manager is to understand your own needs and to ensure that you have support you need so that you can offer it to others.
I hope that care managers and all those who work in care will wear their Care Badges with pride. The Care Badge is a unifying symbol of pride in our social care champions; those providing, receiving and supporting care. It is a clear demonstration of your pride in the quality work you do and our appreciation for the care and support we receive. It is long overdue recognition for the 2m people employed in care outside the NHS, as well as the 7m more unpaid carers across the UK.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England