A new programme has been launched to help identify future clinical nurse leaders within the care home sector, while strengthening the quality of nursing care across homes in the UK.
The Berkley Care Group, which runs eight care homes, has unveiled details of a new 12-month mandatory development programme for all of its nurses.
It is aligned with the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s standards for practice and education for care home nurses introduced last year, and has been developed in partnership with Somerset-based care training and support provider Caring Footsteps.
During the course of the new Berkley Nurse Programme, nurses will be taken through four key areas of their work: accountability and professionalism, clinical care skills, leadership and management, and ability to take research and apply it to practice.
There will be a blend of internal and external training exercises and clinical skills days offered and participants will be supported by a workplace mentor with monthly meetings.
The QNI’s expert nursing lead and founder of Caring Footsteps, Charlotte Fry, will also be facilitating a set of clinical supervision days.
To complete the programme, nurses will need to give evidence of competency across the four focus areas.
Louise Atherton, clinical governance and training manager at Berkley and a nurse by background, has been among the driving forces for the initiative.
In an interview with Nursing Times, she said the programme was “something that I have wanted to bring to the profession for many years”.
She wanted to try and overcome the stigma that care home nursing was a role for professionals at the end of the career and the myth that those who work in care homes do not have updated skills and competencies.
The programme will therefore provide nurses with opportunities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge, while being given the chance to develop further in their careers.
All nurses across the group’s care homes will be expected to complete the programme, including those in management and leadership roles such as Ms Atherton.
“What I was really keen on is that this programme is accessible to all,” explained Ms Atherton, who said there had been a focus on ensuring it was written in a way that would engage those who had not studied for some time.
She added: “The nurses who are probably more excited about it were the ones that have been qualified the longest.
“They have a most amazing skill set, but to actually take them on a clinical skills training day and try something new, for them to take down those barriers of being able to make a mistake and have fun was really important to us.”
One of Ms Atherton’s key aims was to ensure that nurses in the care home sector have a clear career pathway.
Upon completion of the programme, nurses will have the ability to explore additional career opportunities within the group, with the potential to develop advanced practitioner skills or move into leadership roles.
According to the group, this could also support nurses in becoming future general managers or part of the team auditing the quality of care across its homes.
“We will be using the Berkley Nurse Programme to identify our future clinical leaders and people that potentially want to go onto advanced care practitioner status, or those maybe want to go into more leadership and general management,” noted Ms Atherton.
Sherrie Hume, general manager of Berkley’s Cumnor Hill House care home in Oxford, echoed that this type of programme was something she had also wanted to see for many years.
Also a nurse by background, Ms Hume told Nursing Times that when she first became a care home nurse she felt like she was “almost treated as [a] second-class nurse” and that she would be questioned on why she had chosen a career in the sector.
“I’ve spent my career in my small way trying to promote nursing within the care sector,” said Ms Hume, who joined the group in recent months.
This programme “opens that whole dream for me” around career progression and opportunities for care home nurses, she said.
Care home nurses “will be recognised as strong individuals, managing multiple complex needs of residents”, she added.
The programme launch follows a successful six-month pilot carried out in 2021.