By Fionna Cannon, Care & Wellbeing Director at Wallacea Living (www.wallacealiving.com)
One of the questions I am often asked in my role is, what makes a good carer? And the answer is really very simple – ultimately its somebody that you would want to look after your own family.
It’s a job that can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but for me, it has been an overwhelmingly fulfilling vocation throughout my working life. It’s a job that has people at its heart, and requires solid communication and listening skills, along with buckets of empathy and passion. Above all else, it requires someone with the right character and attitude, because the truth is, skills can be learnt and developed, but attitude is more inherent.
Tackling the shortage of care workers
Despite care being such a rewarding career path, the UK is today facing a severe shortage of carers. The industry body Skills for Care revealed that, in the year to March 2022, there were 1.79 million posts in adult social care, of which a staggering 165,000 were unfilled, an increase of 52 per cent on the previous year.
This deficit of carers is one of the reasons why we see hospitals overloaded with patients, ready to be discharged, but unable to leave due to insufficient support and care available to them. It’s a problem that continues to hinder the NHS, but that needs to be resolved if we’re ever to cut hospital wait times and improve the health care system. Integrated Retirement Communities offer a real solution to owners who need rehabilitation, with on-site care available to support residents in their homes, enabling them to leave hospital quicker and providing tailored support to suit their needs.
Encouraging more people into the care profession
In order to attract more workers into care, we must start with recruitment and encouraging potential carers in the right way by giving them something back. It’s not just about money (although this is undoubtedly a big consideration), but it’s also about the way in which carers are managed and supported in their role. This could be as simple as regular check ins with their manager and wider team to discuss their workload and any challenges that arise. But it’s also important to provide pathways for training and development to support their career progression, whether that’s skills in health and social care or to achieve a managerial position. This is about a concerted effort to keep people in the profession and prevent a high turnover of staff.
Fostering a supportive workplace culture
Building and nurturing the right workplace culture is a vital part of employee retention, and arguably none more so than within care. This is a job that often requires many hours spent on the road, visiting patients in their homes and ultimately working alone. Without a solid system of support, it can be a lonely job with carers often feeling under-valued and unsupported in the work they do.
Years ago, carers would be required to go to the office every week to collect their rota and talk with their colleagues, sharing experiences and advice and having the opportunity to discuss any problems they faced or issues that had arisen. However, as the world has moved online, the vast majority of carers now receive their rotas online and as a result no longer go to the office regularly, meaning they are missing out on invaluable face time with colleagues and managers. No longer feeling part of a team, their sense of belonging and camaraderie erodes, so that when they have a particularly difficult day at work, they feel isolated, anxious and experience low self-esteem. And the tragedy is, all this can ultimately result in them deciding to leave the profession. Far too many carers are now providing care, yet not receiving the care they need from their work.
Introducing a one-team approach
At Wallacea Living, we will be delivering care on site by our dedicated team of carers, all of whom are employed directly by us. This one team approach will enable seamless communication between our carers, so that they can best support the owners who require care, while also building a strong and supportive team culture. They will spend their working days visiting owners on site, meaning they will have ample opportunities to offer advice to one another when needed, being part of a network of colleagues to share experiences with. Sometimes it’s as simple as that morning hello, or afternoon coffee break, just to enhance team morale and camaraderie.
Throughout my career I have always felt a strong sense of fulfilment from the work I do. With such a great need for more carers to join the profession, it’s vital that we provide the right support, training and working environment from which to nurture the next generation of carers. Only then will we begin to resolve so many of the challenges facing the UK’s health and social care sectors.