My career didn’t start off in care – I wasn’t the best in school and when I left I did a lot of temping jobs.
I came into the care sector eight years ago working for a domiciliary service for elderly people. I fell in love with the job and the feeling that you can make a positive difference to people’s lives.
I moved to Optalis and joined their team for domiciliary dementia support. I’m a huge people person and I’m ambitious and I felt that the higher you climb in an organisation, the more change you can make. I spent two years in that role before becoming a senior support worker, then operational lead.
A year after that, I decided I wanted something different, and I saw an opportunity come up at Suffolk Lodge as deputy manager. This was my first experience of working in residential care – I learnt so much there from the manager and the people I worked with and supported. I really loved it.
A year into my role at Suffolk Lodge, I became Registered Manager for two care homes Optalis runs, Homeside Close and Winston Court.
I manage two residential care homes for people with learning disabilities. They’re small homes with eight people in each. They’re quite close to each other so I’m often going from one to the other, splitting my time between the two. I have a deputy manager in each home and two teams of brilliant staff.
The people we look after have varying levels of needs. Some are mobile while others need hoisting, some communicate verbally, some through Makaton (which I’m learning and think is great) and some can’t communicate at all.
One of our homes is rated Good by the Care Quality Commission but the other doesn’t have a Good rating and that’s something we need to work on. I knew when I took the role that I would need to make changes, but I find this really motivating.
We have our next inspection in October and I’m looking forward to making sure we’ve got everything in place ready for it. I know the team is amazing – they’ve built great relationships with the residents and the quality of care leaves nothing wanting, but we need to firm up processes and procedures so I’m working on getting that side of things done.
I’ve been in my role a month, so it’s not been very long! I knew to expect the challenges of being a registered manager, especially taking on a lower-rated service. But I would hate to be bored so am glad that there are challenges for me to tackle.
In my previous roles I had responsibility for paperwork so I knew that was an important part of the job, but knowing that if something goes wrong you’re held responsible is a little scary. I’m confident that we have fantastic staff who go out of their way to care for the residents – they see them more than they see their families and are so committed to them.
So far, the best part of my role is the residents. They have such big characters and it’s lovely to be around them and spend time with them. The previous registered manager had been in post for a long time and was very much loved, so I did have big shoes to fill, but the residents and staff have all welcomed me and I’m starting to build those relationships. I will always see it first and foremost as the residents’ home and make sure I ask for their opinions on any changes we are thinking of making.
The most difficult part at the moment is looking at how much needs to be done before our next CQC inspection, compared to how little time we have. I find that looking at it in bitesize chunks makes this easier and it feels like a more manageable task that way.
NCF Rising Stars
I didn’t know what the NCF Rising Stars programme was before Jeanette Crisp, our Director of HR and Corporate Services, said they wanted to nominate me. I went away and did some research to find out more about it and it looked amazing.
I didn’t comprehend how big it was until we were at the NCF annual conference and saw the quality of the speakers and the vastness of it and the fact they mentioned the programme there. We had a special lunch to meet our mentors and hear from experts in the sector about their journeys and how important the Rising Stars programme would be in helping us to develop.
I feel really honoured to be nominated and recognised in this way. Sometimes when you work in a management role you can feel a bit unnoticed and unappreciated, but things like this give you that confidence boost and show you that your work is being seen.
I’d like to get as much as I can out of the programme. I am excited about the networking opportunities and hearing about innovations – being able to bring that back to my service to make a difference. It’s great to have that peer support, too; the Rising Stars have a What’sApp group which we use to check in with each other if we want advice or support.
I also think that having a mentor will be good for me. I am ambitious and I want to make sure I get the most out of my career. I’m just intending to soak up as much as I can and bring it all back to my services.
So far, meeting Caroline Dinenage and discussing social care with her has been a highlight. We were given a special tour of the Houses of Parliament and told the history behind it, which was very interesting. After the tour, we were taken to meet Caroline. She was so easy to talk to and it was clear she was passionate about what she did. We all had a chance to talk about our services, what we do and ask any questions.
After that, some of us continued to explore and went into the House of Commons and the House of Lords which I have never done before. It was an amazing day from start to finish; I did get home with rather large blisters on my feet, but it was worth it! I can’t thank NCF and Caroline enough for arranging the day.
In terms of my career goals, I am really passionate about end of life care. It’s such an important part of care to get right, but it just doesn’t always go as planned.
People who want to die at home end up doing so in hospices or hospitals and I want to fix this. It’s also about supporting families so that they know their loved one has had the death they wanted. I’d love one day to help shape how end of life care is delivered nationally.
My advice to aspiring registered managers is that it can be lonely at times. Remember to reach out to other people – including peers outside of the service. There are always people who will talk to you. Also don’t be afraid to change things up. I hate when people say ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ – just because it’s always been a certain way, doesn’t mean you can’t try something new.
For senior management, I would say it’s important to share your knowledge and experiences. Let registered managers know you’ve been there. We will make our own mistakes but allow us learn from yours too.
Now in its third year, the NCF Rising Stars Programme addresses the need to invest in and develop the skills of the next generation of leaders in social care, with registered managers from the NCF membership selected to take part each year.