Rising Stars

Paula Southgate is General Manager of The Old Parsonage in Hampshire run by Brendoncare.

Career history

I qualified as a nurse in 1997 and started my career on a surgical unit. Following relocation, I moved to a rehabilitation unit as a senior staff nurse, before moving on to become a ward manager. I loved this setting and I found it very rewarding to assist people to return to their own home. If individuals were unable to return home it was an essential part of my role to help them to adjust and choose where to move on to.

Following my time there, I undertook a brief stint in the private sector working with people with dementia and enhancing the dementia care they received. During this time I assessed individual residents and developed their care plans alongside their relatives to ensure their care was tailored to their individual needs and wishes.

It was from there that I joined Brendoncare, in 2016. I’ve been here ever since. I came straight into The Old Parsonage as Deputy Manager, shadowing the existing manager for three months before he retired, and I stepped up to General Manager.

Your organisation

The Old Parsonage is a lovely home, the first time I walked through the door I felt at home and knew that was where I wanted to be. There’s a real family atmosphere. I call it my first family because I spend more time here than I do at home.

At The Old Parsonage, we have 27 nursing care beds which are funded privately and by local authority. We also have 16 flats and six bungalows within Old Parsonage Court which are privately-owned, and the owners live independently with support from The Old Parsonage if required. They come over to the home to join in activities.

We have a fantastic team at The Old Parsonage and we all help and support each other. I have a philosophy that I won’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. The residents are just wonderful too. I always say that I want the home to be somewhere I would want my own relatives to live and The Old Parsonage most definitely is that home.

Relatives are so important to us as well. We do not want them to worry that their loved one isn’t happy or safe and we do everything we can to reassure them and ensure they are involved in their loved one’s care as much as possible.

Brendoncare is a wonderful organisation to work for. They have a great philosophy of improving the quality of life of older people.

They’re really committed to their staff, too. They offer great staff development with person-centred care across all their homes. Anyone can undertake training and develop their skills and career.

I have two team members who started working for us in the kitchens in the evening. Seeing how they were with the residents and how caring they were, we supported them to undertake their training to become care staff.

It’s great for the company that we can nurture our valued staff and help them progress.

Current role

I made the move from nursing to management as I was getting older and as the saying goes, ‘A nurse’s back doesn’t last very long.’

I’ve been in management for a while now and it felt like a logical step on from being a nurse. Giving good care is what I’ve always wanted to do. In management, you can make a bigger difference by supporting staff to care well and subsequently helping more people.

I really enjoy developing my staff, recognising their potential and helping them achieve that. They undertake wonderful work and it deserves to be recognised. I support staff to ensure people’s wishes are maintained when they live with us, it involves a lot of planning and working with others.

When I came into the role, I was excited for the challenge and to put my mark on it. I wanted to get on and build the team because a happy team means a happy home.

I work very closely with my staff and help them to grow in order to build a solid team who trust each other and work together. I enjoy coming to work and I want my staff to feel the same way. Of course, it’s emotionally and physically draining at times and can be hard, but the good moments always outweigh the bad.

I’m really passionate about good care and treat people like family. I love spending time with people; residents, staff and especially relatives. It’s important to make them feel comfortable and confident in the work we do here. We have a great atmosphere in the home, which is fantastic.

I always think that the day I don’t have my heart in the job is the day I make a change. In care you have to care.

Rising Stars

I was touched to be nominated and chosen to be a Rising Star. I had heard about the initiative at the National Care Forum’s Managers Conference and thought it sounded like a great opportunity.

I’ve loved networking with the group, sharing experiences, learning and getting to know each other. It’s been a fantastic year and I think we’ll all keep in contact for years to come. The conferences and networking have been incredible, I’ve learned a lot about my strengths, and weaknesses.

My mentor has been phenomenal. She’s really supported me. We’ve discussed so much, she came to visit me at The Old Parsonage and I went to stay with her and visit her homes. It was brilliant to be able to see the inner workings of another care home and how we all face similar issues. I realised that things are not unique to my home, others are dealing with the same pressures and I could see how they go about addressing them. We’ll definitely keep in touch.

The future

From July this year, I will be changing roles from General Manager of The Old Parsonage to Project Manager for The Brendoncare Foundation. I will be delivering training on electronic care planning to all staff across our 10 homes.

I previously delivered training on nurse revalidation whilst working in the Chief Nursing Team in the NHS which I really enjoyed. I’m excited to get going and take on new challenges. Ultimately, I want to be part of the bigger picture and make an impact on a wider group of people.

Spending time doing planning work with the other Rising Stars in London really helped me to step back and think about where I am, what I’ve achieved, how far I’ve come. That has given me the confidence to go further. I think that opportunity for self-reflection has helped me to move forward.

I also completed my Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care through Brendoncare. That achievement just highlighted how much I love learning and looking at different ways of working.

I’m also fascinated by people, their behaviours and how to support them best.


My advice is to reach for the stars and follow your dreams, because you can achieve anything.

As I said earlier, I think the self-reflection has really helped me. Even in negative situations, reflecting on what happened, what can be learnt from this, what you could have done differently and what went well too can help you to move forward. There’s always a way to turn a negative into a positive.

Also, appreciate yourself, especially as the role of manager can be lonely at times. You need to look after yourself to be able to support your team.

My advice to other senior managers would be to recognise potential in your team. Have regular contact with people so that you can identify their aspirations and dreams. This will benefit the company and residents and will help you to retain people too. Doing this builds loyalty amongst your staff team and makes sure that you don’t lose motivated staff. Instead, you support them to grow.

Paula 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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