I started my career in social care when I left school. I worked in a care home in Nottingham and loved it from the start. I progressed quickly to a senior care worker role but left the sector a couple of years later to set up a family business with my husband. I worked in the business for about 12 years and I’m so glad I did, because it taught me so many skills that have been useful to me in my current role as a Home Manager.
After I had my second child, I decided to go back to social care, wanting to fulfil my own ambitions to become a mental health nurse. I registered with a care agency as a care worker before committing to a degree to ensure that this was the path that I wanted to take. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in numerous different settings such as hospitals, brain injury units, respite centres for people with multiple sclerosis, nursing homes and residential care homes.
I realised very quickly how much I enjoyed working in the care home setting and applied for a care post at a new home near me. I decided not to pursue the nursing degree; instead, I choose to be involved in building up a new dementia unit at the home I was at.
My first management role where I lead a team was at a 106-bed home in Coventry; I was the Unit Manager on a dementia suite which had 34 beds. The part I loved the most was developing care workers to seniors and then unit managers. After two years at the home, my role expanded to a Care Manager role and I was overseeing two dementia units at the home.
After having been there for three years I decided it was time to see if I had what it took to become a registered manager.
I now work as a Registered Manager in a care home with 28 beds for older people; we achieved a Good Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating in all areas within the first six months of my post. We are a not-for-profit organisation and our key values are Care, Respect, Honesty and Openness. It’s important to me that residents feel we uphold these values. We try to create a home-from-home and keep residents involved in day-to-day decision making. I’ve been known to bring wallpaper samples in for them to vote on their favourite – it’s about building an environment where they have a say.
Our activities are focused on not just doing things for leisure, but on making sure that everyone gets to utilise their skills. Our residents know that if they want to do something, even if it needs a bit of planning, we will try to make it happen. There’s also a structure to our activities, so that people can plan their weeks without worrying that they are going to miss out on something.
I’ve been in my current role for about 18 months. In my previous job, I found that, while I was making decisions, ultimately, the overall responsibility was with the registered manager, and I was ready for the step up. I’m so glad I did it – it has stretched me in so many ways.
It’s all worth it, when you get to see the changes you’re making. What I love most is that every day there’s what I call a ‘golden nugget moment’ – a moment when you receive a positive comment or see someone happy. When I do the pre-assessments, I meet individuals who are afraid of moving into a care home because they think it’s an ending. I try to support our residents to understand it’s a new chapter in their lives, and they can carry on making memories and getting involved in things. When I see our residents enjoying their lives, these are the moments that make me love what I do.
I also love to mentor and develop my staff. With three quarters of them having been at the service for 15 years or more, I wanted to know what it was about this team that has made them all stay for so long. I’m not sure I’m at the end of answering my question, but one thing that’s obvious is that they are very valued by the organisation.
The time management part of the job is hard, it’s a bit of a juggling act. And I find while questioning yourself about whether you have made the right decisions on a daily basis is natural, you also have to trust in yourself and believe that you’ve done everything that needs to be done.
NCF Rising Stars
I didn’t know about the NCF Rising Stars programme until I was nominated. I hadn’t been with the organisation long, so in my mind, I had ‘won’ when my Director and Regional Manager told me they wanted to put me forward. I didn’t think I was going to be selected – you hear of so many things that people are doing and I just felt honoured to be nominated. When I heard that I had been selected it caught me completely off-guard.
I’m so glad I was, because it’s been amazing to be able to learn from others, sharing practices and ideas. Lots of this year’s group have achieved Outstanding ratings and it’s brilliant to be able to share reports and ask what they’re doing. We also visit each other to see how everyone prepares for inspections.
When you first come into the registered manager role, you can feel a bit alone – there isn’t another registered manager beside you on a daily basis. The NCF Rising Stars programme has given me a group of people to talk to who are on the same journey as me. Just knowing you have people going through the same moments as you is a huge support.
The aim is to try to achieve an Outstanding in our next inspection, at least in one or two areas. I am looking forward to the journey with our residents in trying to achieve this.
Right now, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than managing a home, but in terms of my career I’ll just see what’s in store. At the moment, my main objectives are for us as a team to do bigger and better.
I would say to aspiring registered managers, just to go for it, trust your judgement and use the support around you. For me, it’s a privilege and an honour to be responsible for other people’s lives – the people we care for have such rich histories and have achieved so many things. At times we are the only voice for them.
Be prepared that it is not always a nine to five job and lead your teams to share the same vision as the organisation and yourself.
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.