I always knew I wanted to be a nurse. I started my training in December 1990, had my son in 1992, qualified in 1993 and got married in 1995 – it was a busy time! I was part of the last intake before Project 2000 and nurses were over-recruited. I did my nurse management training on a children’s ward which was the area I’d wanted to specialise in, but there was no position available when I finished this training, so I took a job in a local care home with nursing instead. I thought it would be a dead end, but it was so exciting and it worked around my children. I was even offered a position on the children’s ward when one came up, but I turned it down to stay in social care. I saw that I could make a difference to older people and loved my work.
I moved around between homes to gain experience – mostly small, private organisations – and was often offered more senior positions but always turned them down to prioritise my family.
Eventually, I was working at Abbey Park in Coventry, a care home with a fast response and end of life unit. I thought I’d only be there for about a year, but I was promoted and started to manage the fast response unit, going on to become the deputy manager. I then moved to Cedar Lodge, where I’ve worked for two years.
MHA is the best organisation I’ve ever worked for – the senior management team listen to and care about both the staff and the residents. Here, I’ve been able to grow and learn and I can lead rather than ‘manage’ my team so that they can grow and learn with me.
It’s the complete opposite of what I always thought I’d wanted to do, but I can’t imagine not working with older people now.
I am Home Manager but I prefer to think of myself as a home leader. Cedar Lodge is a 47-bed home providing residential, dementia and nursing care.
We have a variety of residents who all have different levels of needs, from those who just need daily support to people who have quite advanced dementia and physical health needs. It means that residents can stay here and don’t need to move as their health declines; it also means we can accommodate couples with differing levels of need, and we actually have three married couples living with us at the moment.
Everyone mixes together and we try to have a really inclusive environment. We bring anyone who wants to come on our outings, and the activities are put on so everyone can join in, however able they are. We also have a dog who everyone loves.
We are always looking for new ways to improve our service and make the residents’ lives more fulfilled. We have music therapy sessions, an in-house hairdresser who comes twice a week and a regular GP.
We hold relatives meetings and take their feedback and implement it. Even if it sounds strange, we love getting negative feedback and we really encourage it – it’s the best way for us to improve where it matters most to our residents and their families.
I’ve been in this post for almost two years. I was Interim Home Manager when I first came to the service and was promoted to Home Manager in September 2017.
I used to think people were crazy when they wanted me to move up in a company. I often thought I couldn’t do it, but once I became a deputy, I realised I could be a manager if I wanted. I was ready for the challenge, so I was glad when I was offered the home manager position, but I did doubt myself at first; it’s such a huge thing to be responsible for all the staff, the residents and their relatives too.
I sort of knew what to expect when I took on the role, having been deputy for a while. I was aware of the challenges and the new tasks, like audits, chairing meetings and the general business side of things. Being familiar with the home also meant I understood the specific challenges it faced.
We used a lot of agency staff when I first took over, and I knew I needed to tackle this. I implemented the use of MHA’s employee referral scheme and I am proud to say that we now use no agency staff except in very extreme circumstances.
I also took over at a time when the admin manager was on long-term sick and my deputy manager was on annual leave for five weeks, so that was hard. But I have a really good team and they share responsibility. I couldn’t do this job without them.
The role is more rewarding than I’d expected. I feel like I’m part of a big family and Cedar Lodge is my second home. I can honestly say that I love my work.
Talking to residents and seeing a smile on their faces is such a great feeling. It’s so nice to know that you are making a difference to people’s lives, especially when someone compliments you on something you’ve done well or that they’re grateful for – it proves that you’ve done something right.
Switching off is truly a hard part of the job, but MHA has recently sent all of their managers on a leadership and development course, Engaging Leaders, which has been so useful for me in this role. Just having techniques to switch off before I go to sleep makes such a difference.
The other difficult part of the job is losing residents. They’re people you’ve developed relationships with, and often with their families too. It does change a home a bit, when someone who was there is suddenly gone.
I didn’t know about the Rising Stars programme until I found out I was nominated. My line manager nominated me and didn’t tell me. I got a call saying that I had been selected for the programme and I actually thought it was a prank until I realised it was the head office number. I couldn’t believe it. As far as I’m concerned, I just come to work and do my job; I didn’t think I was doing anything special or worth such a lovely accolade.
The programme has given me the opportunity to experience things I would never have had the chance to otherwise. We’ve been to the House of Lords and had media training with Altura where we were taught to read from a screen, how to sit and how to present yourself.
The year has flown past and I would absolutely recommend that others apply for the programme. I’ve been to my mentor’s own care home, and have really had my eyes opened to other areas of the sector. I always come away from our meet-ups with new ideas to take back to my home.
In the future, I’d love to see Cedar Lodge achieve an Outstanding rating and I want to continue to nurture my team and watch them grow. At first, I was worried when I wasn’t at the home and I’d often call to make sure things were OK, but now I know I can trust them to get on with it and do a great job. Eventually, I might want to move somewhere bigger, but I know I want to stay with MHA. I am trusted and respected here and that’s hugely important to me.
My advice is to sometimes have a little word with yourself. If you think you can’t do something, take a moment to realise that you can. Remind yourself why you’re doing this job and remain open and honest.
Don’t ask anyone to do things that you wouldn’t want to do and never sweep issues under the carpet – deal with them proactively.
For managers at every level, it’s important to recognise the capabilities of your staff. Develop them and encourage them to believe in themselves so they can grow.
Nadine is part of the second cohort of Rising Stars. This innovative programme, developed by National Care Forum and supported by Carterwood and apetito, 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