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  • 17 December 2018
  • 6 min read

Why switching your nursing career from the NHS to a nursing home is worth considering

  • Ruth Underdown
    Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer

Nursing home nursing is probably one of the most undervalued career paths in the nursing profession. NHS nurses are often unaware that nursing home work can yield job satisfaction and a good quality of life.

'It can be a very rewarding role as you have the time to care for the person and not only their medical problems.'

Care homes are the umbrella term for all residential communal living arrangements.

They can encompass everything from supported living where adults with learning difficulties live independently in the community with the assistance of support workers, through to nursing homes for adults with severe dementia or frailty due to medical conditions which have caused their health to deteriorate to the extent that they need advanced nursing care to keep them safe and well.

Nurses tend to only be employed in nursing home settings as clients admitted into nursing home environments tend to need complex nursing interventions that cannot be provided by care staff who are not trained and regulated in the way that nurses are.

Nursing in a care home is about looking after people who are well and who you will get to know

The essence of care home nursing is holistic care for the individual. Unlike working in the hospital setting, the majority of the time, your patients are well (most of the time) and you are working in their home.

You will get to know them as individuals and their families in a more in-depth way that you don’t have the opportunity to in an acute setting.

Ultimately, it can be a very rewarding role as you have the time to care for the person and not only their medical problems.

Acute nursing may have the appeal of the thrill and intensity, but I can assure you, as an ex nursing home nurse and ex A&E nurse, the one thing nursing home nursing isn’t, is dull.

'The opportunity to learn new skills from each other whilst working in a care home environment is immense.'

You'll develop and use an array of nursing skills - soft and hard

In a dementia unit you will use skilled communication techniques to de-escalate aggressive patients, manage the environment, manage a team of staff, administer medications using skilled communication, provide complex end of life care, write complex care plans, liaise with GP’s, therapists, hospitals, families and other community teams.

You may be the only nurse on the floor during your shift which will mean you oversee the care of anything from 10 patients to 30 with the support of care staff.

You will delegate work to each member of the team and be accountable for whatever happens on the shift whilst you are on duty.

You are unlikely to ever be bored!

How to become a nursing home nurse

Many nurses do move from the NHS to the private nursing home sector. But there are some that start off their career in a nursing home. (If you are not a qualified nurse and want to find out how to become one here's a quick guide on how to become a RGN.)

In order to become a nursing home nurse you first need to have obtained your nursing qualification.

Once you have your nursing qualification, and if you feel nursing home nursing is for you, then you can apply as soon as you are in your final 6 months of training.

Most nursing home nurses will either be adult or mental health trained but some homes that specialise in learning disabilities will recruit nurses with the learning disabilities registration.

Adult nurses and mental health nurses can work in both dementia units and frailty units as they will often have cross over skills for both.

Opportunities for career development

The opportunity to learn new skills from each other whilst working in a care home environment is immense. For a more in depth guide on this, here's how to progress your career as a care home nurse.

As your career progresses, working in a nursing home environment can open doors to becoming part of the management team, leading to becoming a care home manager in your own right or perhaps becoming a specialist practitioner, such as an Admiral nurse (dementia specialist).

Many care homes are privately funded but will also accept both social care residents and those who are funded by NHS money.

NHS patients are those identified as having complex care needs that require specific, specialist care that is much more complex than most residents.

They may have PEG feeds, tracheostomy’s, complex medication regimes or challenging behaviour that cannot be managed in other environments.

These patients receive Continuing Healthcare funding (CHC) and will have their cases regularly reviewed by CHC assessors to ensure that their care needs are met by the care home.

This where it is vital to have well qualified and experienced nursing staff on hand.

Take a look at why care work is a great job for older people, to see how else it can benefit you in the long term.

What are nursing homes like to work in?

Privately funded residents use their own finances such as savings or assets (such as their home) to pay for their care.

Nursing home fees vary from between £700 to around £1500 per week for a resident to pay in this situation.

As a result, you will find a huge variation in the facilities provided for residents in the care home setting.

Some can be very plush whilst others may seem more basic.

If you apply for a nursing home post, it is always advisable to have a look around the care home so that you can get a feel for the environment as well as reviewing the CQC report.

A beautiful interior does not guarantee that good care is being provided.

Residents also become unwell and you are often the person who is responsible for recognising and escalating their care according to their individual care plans.

It may be that they are for transfer to hospital or that they are not to be admitted and to be managed within the nursing home environment. This may mean that external community teams may come in to assess and give intravenous treatment.

Alternatively, it may be decided the resident will be palliated instead depending on their circumstances and wishes.

Want to know more about what the role of a care home nurse entails? Read about the day in the life of a care home nurse.

Next Steps

Nursing home nursing is challenging, and certainly not boring by any means. Unfortunately, it is often treated as the ‘Ugly Sister’ to the Cinderella of acute hospital care but it has its own challenges and moments of fulfilment.

If it’s a career that you hadn’t considered, then it is worth a second look.

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About the author

  • Ruth Underdown
    Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer

Since qualifying in Adult Nursing in 2002 I’ve worked as a specialist nurse with the NHS, and in the private sector as a general nurse and sessional nurse for a hospital at home team (I’ve been about a bit!). Also kept nice and busy by my young family!

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  • Ruth Underdown
    Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer

About the author

  • Ruth Underdown
    Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer

Since qualifying in Adult Nursing in 2002 I’ve worked as a specialist nurse with the NHS, and in the private sector as a general nurse and sessional nurse for a hospital at home team (I’ve been about a bit!). Also kept nice and busy by my young family!