Three months on from her appointment as chief operating officer at state-of-the-art care village operator Belong, Stacey McCann, NHS England’s former head of nursing strategy and commissioning, reflects on the vital and rewarding careers open to nurses in the sector, which are often overlooked in favour of front-line nursing.
Since my move to Belong, I have been reminded of just how highly skilled and responsible nurses in the care sector are required to be. That said, there is a perception that nursing in social care doesn’t offer similar career prospects, is somehow less rewarding than a career in ‘front-line’ nursing and that nurses outside the NHS are undervalued. This doubtless contributes to the difficulty of recruiting nurses to the sector; nearly 1 in 11 care sector nursing posts are currently vacant.
Of course, it simply isn’t true. Nurses in a social care setting are required to draw upon the full breadth of their knowledge and training every day and make just as much impact in people’s lives as a nurse working in a hospital. At Belong, for instance, nurses perform a similar role to district nurses, providing care not just for household residents, but people living independently on-site and people visiting the village to take part in activities and events as experience day customers too. There is also wide scope for nurses to specialise in particular disciplines and progress to managerial roles. Indeed, both I and Belong’s deputy chief executive, Tracy Paine, have enjoyed long careers in nursing too.
It’s incumbent upon senior managers of care providers to work towards changing these perceptions. It’s why at Belong we already offer bespoke learning and development programmes for all of our staff. It’s also why we are exploring creating advanced nurse practitioner roles at Belong villages.
One of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed in my first few months in the care sector has been the speed with which nurses can respond to feedback and implement changes to improve services. In just a few months, I’ve been able to apply the skills and knowledge acquired during my 36-year career in nursing and management at the NHS to make a significant difference at the organisation.
For example, Belong is about to finish rolling out person-centred care software (PCS) across all seven villages. I have been able to apply my knowledge of working with data on a large scale in the NHS to this project at Belong. By visiting villages and speaking with and listening to managers and staff, I have been able to see the opportunities of using the valuable data generated in PCS to make changes and better support high quality care for our residents. Changes are made almost overnight; this agility is afforded by the relatively small size of organisations like Belong and the closer working relationships between nursing staff and decision makers.
Leadership is also an important part of the role of nurses in the care sector. I’ve been able to apply the leadership skills that I developed at an executive level in the NHS. For example, undertaking the Nye Bevan NHS Leadership Award in Healthcare Leadership enabled me to better understand my leadership style and consider how it feels to be managed by me. I think that these leadership skills, together with the fact that I am a nurse, have been a factor in how receptive colleagues at Belong have been to suggestions I have put forward and in the willingness of Belong’s senior management team to look at a fresh perspective.
I would implore any nurse reading this (perhaps newly qualified or considering the next career move) to consider the opportunities and job satisfaction offered by a career in the care sector. It really is coming of age.