How to become a care home nurse with no experience at all
Care home nursing is available to all qualified nurses, but as someone with no experience in care here’s how to begin your career and become a qualified care home nurse.
9th June 2012
For many people considering a career as a care home nurse, the prospect of gaining experience, studying for a qualification and getting a care home nurse job can seem like a lengthy and uncertain process. In this article we are going to look at the different stages on the road to becoming a qualified care home nurse, and how you can tackle it in different parts.
A care home nurse can be qualified in any one of the four branches of nursing - adult, mental health, learning disabilities and child. Every care home nurse employed in the UK is required to have a current NMC registration, and this can only be achieved by studying and passing a recognised nursing course. Whether you study to become an RGN Nurse, RMN Nurse or RNLD Nurse or RSCN Nurse, you can make a very successful career of care home nursing.
There are care homes throughout the UK run by a variety of different organisations. Most are run by private sector companies that have a number of care homes under their company banner. The number can range from under 10 to over 100 depending on the size of the organisation, but all of them will employ care home nurses. There are also care homes run by charities and local authorities, and these cater for all people who need care of some description.
Care home nursing jobs can be similar in some respects to clinical nursing, but also very different in other ways. There are still routines that need to be followed such as shift handovers and coordination with other health professionals including GPs and allied health professionals, but it can be different from acute nursing because you will often have continuity with the people you are nursing. Relationships are a key part of being a care home nurse because you will be caring for some people on a daily basis for several years. As well as being an advocate for their care as any nurse would with a patient they are treating, you are also likely to be one of their key sources of human interaction during the day.
The different types of care home a care home nurse can work in
Care home is a term that describes many different types of organisation providing residential, nursing, respite or dementia care for individuals who cannot live on their own for whatever reason. Age, mental health problems, physical disabilities or learning difficulties can all be reasons why it may be in a person’s best interest for them to live in a care home. The wellbeing of the individual can be managed in a holistic way by qualified nursing and care staff, on call 24 hours a day if required.
Each type of care home has a different focus. For example, an EMI care home caters for the elderly and mentally infirm, and can often provide a range of service levels from residential care to full nursing care. In so many cases dementia can accompany old age, and EMI care homes are dedicated to treated the elderly who go on to develop dementia. There are usually both RGN nurses and RMN nurses employed by EMI care homes, and often the RMN nurses will have specific experience of managing patients in all stages of dementia.
A nursing home may also come under the umbrella term of care home, but it provides a greater level of clinical care than an EMI care home. They often cater for patients who also require ongoing medical or psychological treatments and the individual as a whole can be cared for in this type of care home, not just from a clinical point of view but their whole wellbeing can be managed through activities and ongoing therapies.
A residential home is also a type of care home and it can cater for any individual not capable of living on their own because of a physical disability, a learning difficulty or old age. This type of arrangement may also be called ‘Supported Living’. The residents usually have access to health professionals as they require it, but don’t need daily nursing care performed in order to maintain their quality of life. Activities are usually part of the daily lives of the residents and are arranged to stimulate learning, interest and to promote well being and happiness.
How to start on the career path to become a care home nurse
Whether you are a school leaver or someone looking for a career change, if you’ve never worked in a care environment before then this is the place to begin. As someone with no formal care qualifications you will need to get some experience as either a support worker or care assistant. You can usually find these kind of vacancies either or a temporary or permanent basis is a care home local to you.
A care assistant job and a support worker job are very similar, but what exactly the job consists of will depend on the type of care home you are working in. You will usually be involved in simple care tasks such as assisting with dressing, toileting, washing, eating and leisure activities. Any nursing care or drug administration will be carried out by the appointed care home nurse, but you may be invited to observe if you make it clear you want to train to become a care home nurse. If are involved in providing nursing care to a patient, it will be under the direct supervision of a qualified care home nurse.
Once you have at least 6 months frontline care experience, you can consider applying for a nursing course. You should decide which branch of nursing you feel interests you the most and apply for just that one branch on your UCAS application form. If you spread your applications across different branches of nursing the admissions officers may feel you aren’t committed to one particular area of nursing and reject your application. Places on all nursing courses are hugely competitive, so it’s in your best interest to make your application as good as it can be. The majority of care home nurses are either RGN Nurses or RMN Nurses, but it’s up to you which specialism you choose from the four branches of nursing available. Read more about how to write a personal statement for a nursing course application here.
Nursing courses are usually 3 years long and lead to either a degree or diploma along with your professional NMC registration (subject to completion of all requirements). You can’t start work as a fully qualified care home nurse until your NMC registration is confirmed, but that doesn’t stop you apply for jobs. You can apply for care home nurse jobs as early as the start of your third year of study. It can take up to 12 months in this market for a newly qualified nurse to find a suitable position, and employers fully understand you cannot start work until your NMC registration is confirmed. You may be invited to start work as a care assistant until your registration comes through, but that is entirely at the discretion of the employer.
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