For those of us lucky enough not to need to be cared for yet, what do we imagine for ourselves when that time eventually comes? If we’re to be cared for in a care home what sort of factors will we take into account if we have the opportunity of choosing the care home where we’ll live? First impressions of the physical surroundings are clearly important. Is the home comfortable, welcoming, clean? But more importantly, what are the staff like? You can live in beautiful luxurious surroundings but if the people caring for you don’t demonstrate compassion, empathy and treat you with dignity and respect and they aren’t willing or able to spend time communicating with you and understanding and responding to your needs, your physical environment can count for very little.
So what can care home owners and managers do to make sure that they’re recruiting and retaining the best quality care staff? In our next few posts we’ll be looking at this topic in some detail and providing tips on how to recruit and retain excellent staff - the sort of staff we’d like to be looking after us when we need it.
Why is it difficult to recruit staff to work in care homes and what can be done about it?
One of the major factors is how people perceive being a worker in a care home. Their perception is often of poor pay, long unsociable hours, low status, little opportunity for career advancement etc. Many potential candidates might dismiss the idea of working in a care home because they don’t really understand what it involves and how rewarding it can be. So one strategy for care home employers is to offer people who might consider a career in the care sector a chance to find out more about the reality of working in a care home.
One way in which care home employers can try to address this is to provide opportunities for those thinking about a career in care to visit their home and experience for themselves what it’s like to work there. This could be done in the form of inviting them to shadow or work alongside existing staff on a shift or take part in a more formal work experience programme. Skills for Care provide a guide to offering work experience as part of their ‘Sector Route-Way’ support. You can find it here - Offering Work Experience Guide.
Sometimes prospective candidates may be interested in volunteering on a part time basis in a care home to get a feel for its ethos and values and to see what it’s really like to work there without having to take on the role and responsibilities of being a paid employee. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has a pilot project ‘Volunteering in Care Homes’ funded by the Department of Health which will result in a national standard of good practice in volunteering in care homes. There’s lots of information about the project here Volunteering in Care Homes.
Promoting a career in social care through information resources
Care home employers could provide information locally about the opportunities offered by a career in social care, directing potential candidates to resources such as ‘Think Social Care’, ‘A Question of Care: A Career for YOU?’ and ‘Think Care Careers’. At the same time they should promote their care home as an excellent place to start a career in care.
Next we will be looking at training and apprenticeships.