How to progress your career as a care home nurse
We look at the career potential for qualified and experienced care home nurses to develop their skills even further and move into care home management jobs.
19th May 2011
Being a care home nurse is a rewarding nursing career, it gives you the chance to provide continuous nursing care to people with whom you have established a relationship. There are care home nurse jobs in both the public and private sector and in a variety of different settings that cater for different people. There are care homes that specialise in the management of dementia, increasing the quality of life of people with learning disabilities or caring for the elderly. As a qualified nurse you can work in any one of the specialisms and in this article we will look at the various routes you can take in order to progress your career.
The care home nursing sector is vast, there are over 20,000 care homes in the UK and the majority of which employ care home nurses. Care homes come in all sizes, some cater for as few of 5 people and some up to 200 people. You can get experience as a care home nurse in any type of care home, and varied experience can be particularly useful if you want to work in a larger care home environment.
As a care home nurse your routine will be slightly different to that of a ward staff nurse, but there are some similarities. There will still be a handover procedure of some sort when you begin your shift, as well as care plans to manage and update, and communication with GPs and probably a District Nurse or Health Visitor to maintain. The main difference is that you will be treating the same patients as you did on your last shift, and the shift before that. You will form a relationship with the people in your care and you can continuously monitor their health and wellbeing. As a care home nurse you will also be vital point of contact for families and relatives who are interested to hear how their loved one is getting on, so it’s essential you can communicate effectively with all kinds of people.
Once you been a care home nurse for over a year, you may find that you want to expand your role or move forward in your career. There are several different career paths you can take, but each one is a natural progression from another.
Senior Care Home Nurse
The first progression in your career is to become a senior care home nurse. There are no specific qualifications required to progress to this role, but you may find that certain competencies are required according to your job and the type of care home you work in. For example, if you work in a nursing home that caters for end of life care you may need to have a competency in administering drugs by IV.
As a senior care home nurse you could be responsible for overseeing a team of nurses who work with you, as well as overseeing the implementation of care plans and liaising with other healthcare professionals such as GPs and District Nurses. You will be reporting to the deputy care home manager and / or care home manager on a daily basis about the wellbeing of the residents and whether any adjustments should be recommended to care plans currently in place.
Many people come to a care home nurse job having started out their career as a support worker or care assistant and then decided to train as a qualified nurse. While this experience is not essential when applying for a care home nurse job, it does help if you have worked as a support worker because you will have an understanding of the needs of a person living in a care home, how different the environment can be from a clinical primary care environment and how care is delivered through all members of the team. As the senior care home nurse could also be responsible for scheduling staff and ensuring each shift has the correct number of staff with the appropriate competencies, and an understanding of working at all levels could be very useful.
Deputy Nursing Home Manager / Deputy Care Home Manager
You can progress to becoming a deputy manager either with nursing experience or support worker experience. The role is not exclusively available to qualified nurses with care home nursing experience, but you will need at least an NVQ3 in health and social care to be eligible to be a deputy manager. It’s unlikely that experience alone will be enough to get you a deputy manager job, but many employers will support you to train while you work so you can gain this qualification without giving up your job before you apply to be a deputy manager. Many people choose to do this while they are at support worker or care assistant level because it gives a firm grounding in care principles and safe practice.
A deputy manager will support the care home manager in the running of the care home and all associated logistics. You will ensure that each shift is properly staffed and that standards of care are always maintained. You will help to implement care procedures and ensure that all staff are aware of quality standards and current legislation. In some care homes you also still be a key member of the nursing team providing frontline care to residents.
Nursing Home Manager / Care Home Manager
Care manager is the most senior management role within a care home environment. You may or may not need to be a qualified nurse for this job depending on the type of care home you want to manage. The care home manager is responsible for overseeing everything that happens within the home and for ensuring standards of care are fully maintained. You will manage your team of care home nurses, support workers and your deputy manager to ensure that key principles and quality of care are upheld. You will be responsible for developing procedures, managing training of employees and ensuring all patient care is delivered according to those procedures.
Although you may not necessarily need to be a qualified nurse in order to be a care home manager, you will definitely need experience in a care home environment and in most cases, the Registered Manager’s Award. Until recently the RMA was the industry standard qualification for all care home managers, but it has recently been upgraded to the NVQ4 in leadership and management for care. The RMA is still valid when applying for care home manager jobs, but the NVQ4 is the most recent form of this qualification.
As the care home manager it will also be your responsibility to ensure the business is run profitably and continues to grow. In particular, private sector care home managers must also be strong business people with an eye for minimising loss and maximising profit while maintaining high standards of care.
Service Manager / Unit Manager
The role of a service manager or unit manager is very similar to that of a care home manager, except that this particular job title usually applies to a care home that caters for those with mental health problems and / or learning difficulties. In this type of care home, the service manager will oversee all care, rehabilitation and activities provided for the residents. A sense of personal expression is key to a positive care routine for an individual, and as a service manager your primary concern is for the wellbeing of the residents. Some will have very complex needs and may require constant support, others may be able to live independently to a certain degree.
View all current care home nurse jobs here
View all current care manager jobs here