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Bespoke training to support retired seafarers

Sharon Hicks, Home Trainer, Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society

Sharon Hicks, Home Trainer at the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society which runs specialist maritime care home Belvedere House, discusses the importance of training for care staff.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), England’s independent regulator of health and adult social care, notes that ‘there is no regulatory requirements dictating specific qualifications must be held by care workers’. The advice from CQC is each care home must decide what training and qualifications will enable them to deliver a safe and effective caring service.

Having a strong development programme in place is important to ensure all staff are working to the same standard; improving employee skills and addressing any gaps in knowledge. A good training programme is also key in demonstrating to employees that they are part of a supportive workplace; training is important not only for the success of the team, but for personal development.

As the CQC gives no clear guidelines on what training is required for care staff, it is important each home assesses what training they need in order for their staff to provide the best care for residents. The ‘one size fits all’ approach simply does not work when it comes to care.

The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society has been providing care to former seafarers, their widows and dependants for more than 150 years. We have always worked to provide the highest quality care at our flagship nursing care home, Belvedere House, which together with our sheltered accommodation is located on our Weston Acres estate in Banstead, Surrey. Weston Acres aims to be an excellent place to work and to attract the best staff in order to deliver the very best care. Staff are expected to be supportive, respectful, professional and responsible. It is this commitment to delivering excellent care which led Royal Alfred to hiring me as a full-time trainer in 2015 for our team of more than 100 staff.

As well as mandatory care sessions, we run courses on moving and handling and safeguarding vulnerable adults, amongst others. In 2016 we identified that some of our staff didn’t understand the experiences our residents faced during a lifetime at sea which, on occasion, resulted in a cultural gap between the team and those they were caring for.

To help all staff understand the particular needs of our residents, who are mostly former seafarers, widows or dependants, we developed an innovative training programme aimed at improving staff understanding of life at sea and the needs of those who choose to spend their later years with us.

Some of the difficulties experienced during a career at sea such as cramped and sparse accommodation, extensive separation from families and harsh working conditions are known to potentially lead to both physical and psychological problems in retirement. Through this targeted training, staff have experienced first-hand the living conditions aboard ships, gaining an understanding of residents’ reactions and behaviour that may have been affected by their careers.

We have received very positive feedback from members of staff who have remarked that the training has really helped them understand the needs of residents. Many feel that they now have a stronger connection to those they care for and can tailor and predict the support they will require. We plan to run the training programme until every member of staff has had the opportunity to attend at least one of the days.

As the CQC does not prescribe what training care staff must undertake, this means that homes are able to assess the needs of their residents and take individual responsibility to ensure that they equip staff with the training and tools to allow them to deliver the best care. This is something we take very seriously at Royal Alfred.

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