Care home manager: News from the frontline

Featured article - 04 May 2020
By Sarah Mitchell, Manager, Bridge House care home, West Yorkshire

Sarah Mitchell, Manager, Bridge House care home, West Yorkshire

“We get on with it and manage what’s put in front of us”. Listening back to the recording of a webinar I took part in earlier in the week, this is one thing I said that I’m particularly proud of. I’ve been a manager of care homes for 17 years and although these are unprecedented times, I am adamant that people who work in care homes are hugely flexible in our approach in normal times; and that’s standing us in good stead now.

Guidance and gut feeling

The decisions we make at the moment are based on the latest guidance; but, because we’re also used to being resilient and using problem-solving techniques every day anyway, a lot of our responses are based on gut feelings. So, guidance and gut feeling go hand-in-hand. Without COVID-19 we want to provide a safe and high-quality service so in many ways the current situation is an extension of that principle.

It’s true that when the pandemic hit and the lockdown started, care homes weren’t seen as a high priority; but the work of lots of organisations has seen a massive raising of awareness. Social care has been put on the map now and that’s been a turning point for us as social care providers.

Testing

But the biggest impact here has been with the testing for staff. Anyone showing symptoms gets tested within 24 hours and we get the results about a day later. Recently this process has slowed but we hope it’s just a dip. Perhaps a bigger challenge is staff who show now signs of illness but who might be positive. One member of the team felt fine but we found out they had a high temperature and the COVID-19 test was positive. This can only add to the feeling of anxiety.

Technology

We understand there’s been anxiety. We’re being as supportive as possible and we’re using social media, video calls and email updates to relatives. We also have a lively Facebook page and Whatsapp group. But it’s not just about keeping social activities going. Staff are downloading guidance and we’ve also got them on eLearning training to help tackle the task in hand. This has helped over protective equipment. It’s OK getting it in the first place but it’s important to know how to use it most effectively.

And we have support from elsewhere: We have a great HR service to support staff over shielding; the local Calderdale and Infection Control team have been fantastic; and the local community have been amazing, with a local restaurant sending around meals for staff last week and local people making face masks and sending them in.

The future

But it’s not just the present. Where will we be in six months’ time? We have to start planning ahead. We’ll become smarter, especially over the use of IT. We’re starting to get online support from GPs – so in many ways, working practices are bound to change.

Clearly, COVID-19 will dictate a lot of what we’ll be doing. But, as usual, it’s important that staff both understand why we’re doing the things that we’re doing but that, in return, we’re listening to the staff and acting on their comments and ideas. That way, we can work as effectively and efficiently as possible in the future, whereas we’re in crisis mode or not.

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