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Driving up quality through a culture of career development

Claire Fretwell, Head of Learning and Development, Exemplar

From activity coordinators through to nurses, carers and consultants, the career opportunities available at Exemplar Health Care are varied and rewarding. Claire Fretwell, Exemplar’s Head of Learning and Development, discusses some of the best ways to promote wellbeing and maintain staff retention

Exemplar has an innovative recruitment programme which includes Job Centre referrals from within the local community through to open days led by colleagues sharing their experiences in-post. This varied recruitment approach has meant that we have teams made up of people from all backgrounds – including ex-miners and police officers – and the broad skills they all bring, serve to enhance our care offering even further.

Once in-post, every single colleague – whether they are a director or carer – goes through the same induction programme during their first week. This across-the-board approach is reflected in Exemplar’s comprehensive HR offering, that combines innovative training with a commitment to supporting mental health. Combining these factors helps everyone feel equally valued and builds an understanding of how individuals contribute to the wider Exemplar team.

Offering ongoing support

We feel that in order to deliver the best service possible, it is important that colleagues are valued and cared for. This is why our holistic approach to staff support is as extensive as it is, with wellbeing placed at the heart of these programmes. As part of this, all Exemplar staff have access to immediate counselling services upon request 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge. Another way we provide consistent support is through the MyExemplar phone app, from which colleagues are prompted to engage with monthly wellbeing topics, with recent examples including ‘move more, sit less’ and ‘how to cope with challenging life events’.


Ensuring clarity over job progression is something integral to wellbeing, as well as staff retention, across a large network of connected yet diverse care homes.  Exemplar looks to combine these two factors in its mentoring programme, which asks all registered nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to take students under their wing. Training for mentorship is offered in conjunction with local universities and Health Education England to ensure participating staff come away from the experience with tangible added value, as well as a greater understanding of how best to oversee a happy and effective team.

Sharing knowledge

One of the key ways that colleagues can develop within their roles at Exemplar is through sharing knowledge. We proactively encourage teams to communicate regularly and openly to impart any insights or experiences that may be valuable in developing someone else’s day-to-day skills. We use a mixture of forums, leadership blogs and listening groups to allow colleagues to do this.

As well as sharing expertise throughout the network, Exemplar has utilised apprenticeship levy funding to finance several new roles, as well as providing fresh training for existing staff. With new training also comes new roles, and at Exemplar this has led to the creation of Nursing Associates – a position designed to help bridge the gap between health & care assistants and registered nurses. Training for the Nursing Associate role has generated excitement throughout Exemplar, and we are currently working with education bodies to consider further roll-outs across the UK.

Wellbeing in action

The positive effect of operating an expansive wellbeing programme across our network of care homes is already showing. We’ve seen long serving staff transition from care assistants to unit managers at various locations and available support used appropriately to great effect. Promoting methods of digital communication has improved connectivity between homes across the network and encouraged a positive sharing of expertise from a vast pool of resource. We believe pursuing this approach to wellbeing and training will contribute significantly to our drive for consistency and quality throughout Exemplar.


Edel Harris





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