Rising Stars

Michelle Bladen is Manager of Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court in Essex which is run by the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI).

Career history

I left school with the intention to train as a nurse. I had a degree place confirmed but then changed my mind. I had just started working in a care home and it was then I felt that it was the career for me.

From that care home for older people, I moved to a service supporting people with learning disabilities. It was a large organisation supporting over 100 people.

I started as a care support worker and during my time there I moved through the organisation to become deputy manager and then manager. Whilst working, I studied for my NVQs and got my Registered Managers Award.

I then moved to Crossroads in North London. It was a role supporting children and adults, but it was office based. I got bored of spending all my time in the office, not with the people we supported, so I decided it was time to move back to residential care. I worked in that next care home for a couple of years before I moved to RMBI.

I think my time working in learning disability services really helped shape me as a manger and build up my knowledge. At that time, learning disability services were leading the way in person-centred care. I learnt a lot and I think it’s that background which made a difference to how I approach support for older people.

Your organisation

I’ve been with RMBI for about two and a half years. I’m very content here, the role, the organisation, the hours, the home, it all makes me happy. RMBI, in particular, is a lovely organisation to work for. I’ve just returned from leave and I’m happy to be back.

Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court supports 50 people, 30 in residential care and 20 in our dementia service.

It’s a lovely Grade II* Listed stately home, with beautiful grounds which we share with a golf course. It’s a wonderful setting for a care home.

Our clients are a mixture of local authority and privately funded. As we’re a RMBI home, we predominantly support freemasons and their dependents.

Current role

I feel very settled here. When I was deciding my career path, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I chose to go into nursing as I knew I could do that, which is why I applied for my degree place.

However, that first care home role I took changed my mind; I fell in love with the job, although the home wasn’t the best fit for me. I didn’t agree with the approach of the home manager, and it didn’t fit my values and ethos, so it spurred me on to become a manager and do what I felt was a better job. Also, I was determined to achieve something if I didn’t do my degree.

Before joining RMBI, I had been a registered manager for two years. I’ve found that all the organisations I’ve worked in have been very different. But saying that, I’ve worked mainly in the charity sector for most of my career.

One thing I realised early on in my career was that I wanted not only to support clients, but to support staff too and build them up to deliver the best possible care. I’ve spent a lot of time developing staff to do that.

I also love being able to spend my time with the people I’m responsible for. I like being in the home, seeing everyone, being available to residents and staff and engaging in the daily life of the home. That sense of attachment is great.

Of course, there are challenges with the role and aspects that aren’t as enjoyable, but, of course, I still do them. They come with the job. However, I do find it particularly hard if we can no longer support someone and they have to move on, for whatever reason. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s very hard.

Rising Stars

I was nominated for Rising Stars by our managing director. I’ve really enjoyed meeting different people and sharing ideas with them. It’s really positive, I’ve got a lot of good ideas from the networking and my mentor, who I’ve met a few times. I’m keen to reflect on my own service and practices and the initiative has helped me to do that.

I think the initiative is important as it enables us to step away from the service and spend time together networking, sharing what works and what doesn’t and how other people do things. It also helps to discuss ways to push the service forward, our service is rated Good and the day-to-day running is great, but you’ve always got to be looking for that next level and how to get there. Having someone impartial to talk to helps in that process.

I have a good support network at RMBI, but it’s always great to have someone different to bounce ideas off.

The future

I’m very happy in my role, but I’m aware that I won’t want to do it forever. I want to develop and grow, but I don’t know what or where yet. I’m not one to change things for the sake of it, so I’ll know what I want to do when I see it. I’m content waiting, working and seeing what happens.

Rising Stars has given me the time to reflect and think about myself, I don’t usually get the opportunity to reflect on myself or my service. I’m motivated to push forward and develop not only me, but the home too. I have real momentum.

My advice to others would be to get involved in networks, locally and nationally, especially if you don’t have it internally. Also, network and mix with other providers – it can be incredibly useful.

Try to get on courses or training and get away when you can to reflect, although this can be difficult as a registered manager. It’s helps to have an open and safe place to share concerns and work through them, that’s another useful aspect of the Rising Stars initiative.

Finally, having a senior management team that’s available to talk has really helped me develop my career, as have peer networks.

Michelle is part of the first ever cohort of Rising Stars. This innovative programme, developed by National Care Forum and supported by Carterwood, is designed to identify leading lights within organisations who will shape and form the care sector in the future.

More information about the programme, the candidates and future opportunities can be found at www.nationalcareforum.org.uk

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