Care home nursing: what is it like and how do I get started?

Around 33,000 people in Scotland and 25,000 in Ireland live in care homes. It’s likely this number will grow.

Many care home nurses are needed to deliver person-centred holistic care to these people. So, what’s it like to work as a care home nurse? Within this blog, we’ll cover the role, responsibilities, and how to get started as a care home nurse with the Nursing Guild.

What are the daily duties of care home nurses?

In many cases, care home residents have a range of health issues, including frailty, dementia, and a complex prescription regimen. Your daily duties are likely to be demanding, and you’ll need a broad knowledge base with good interpersonal skills. Challenging as it is, the wonderful thing about working as a care home nurse is that you’ll be making a difference to the health and wellbeing of your residents – and ensuring families feel confident about leaving their loved ones in your care.

As a care home nurse, your daily duties might include:

  • Artificial feeding
  • Caring for residents with catheters, tracheotomies, PEG feeds, and syringe pumps
  • Carrying out risk assessments
  • Documentation and supplies administration
  • Evaluating and updating care plans
  • Injecting medicines
  • Leading and helping to train the care team
  • Liaising with other health and social care providers as well as family members – often as the main point of contact
  • Making sure each resident gets the right care at the right time; being alert to any deterioration in a resident’s condition, no matter how imperceptible
  • Palliative and end of life care
  • Staff resourcing/rostering
  • Supervising care delivery by other staff
  • Taking blood
  • Wound dressing

Who will I work with in a care home?

Working as a care home nurse brings you into daily contact with many other health and social care professionals, including agency nurses and carers, doctors, dentists, community pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, podiatrists, speech and language specialists, and physiotherapists. You’ll also work closely with residents’ families.

Developing good relationships across these groups will be vital to your work. Many people find meeting and working with such a variety of people to be one of the main attractions of care home nursing.

What skills will I need as a care home nurse?

There’s a long list of soft and clinical skills needed in care home nursing, with many homes being nurse-led organisations. The skills and qualities required include:

  • Ability to manage stress and deal with anxiety and uncertainties
  • Advocacy skills
  • An in-depth understanding of the long-term conditions associated with ageing
  • Being able to assess, plan, and get things done; set standards and ensure they’re maintained
  • Staying alert, proactive, and responsive to ever-shifting daily demands
  • Being compassionate and supportive
  • Communication and relationship-building skills
  • Extensive knowledge of the whole healthcare system so you can make things happen for residents
  • Knowing how to support people living with learning difficulties, complex multiple morbidities, frailty, dementia, and other lifelong conditions
  • Leadership and motivational skills
  • Patience and tolerance
  • Resilience

And, if you’re a Nursing Guild nurse working in a care home, you’ll also need the following skills:

  • The ability to work independently
  • Willingness to handle last-minute shifts with as little as an hour’s notice
  • The ability to easily integrate into new teams and contribute value during each shift
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to travel long distances to support multiple clients when work is available
  • Reliability and punctuality, committing to accepted bookings

How do I get started in care home nursing?

A registered nurse working in a care home will likely have a background in general nursing, mental health nursing, or learning disabilities. Care homes can be supportive environments that offer further training opportunities too. Before applying for any care home nursing jobs, ask yourself some questions:

  • What size of home do I want to work in? Large or small?
  • Do I want to specialise in one type of care? For example, palliative care or EMI (Elderly Mentally Infirm) care
  • What level of role will I be looking for?

Next, it’s worth doing some background research into organisations that are advertising care home nursing roles. Ask yourself:

  • What is their vision?
  • What, if any, are their future plans?
  • What type of person are they looking for? Look carefully at the job description and ask yourself if you have the essential and desirable skills they’re looking for

What progression opportunities are available in care home nursing

There are career opportunities in care homes, whether council-funded or privately run. For example, progression is possible from nurse to senior nurse and onwards to charge nurse, clinical lead, and care home manager.

To progress your care home nursing career, you’ll need to keep your portfolio up-to-date and regularly reflect on your learning. Attending study days, conferences, and other events will all help develop your skills, confidence, network, and knowledge. A personal development plan that recognises your own strengths and development needs will also be a crucial tool to help you achieve your career goals.

Care home nursing opportunities with the Nursing Guild

The Nursing Guild enjoys excellent relationships with care homes in Scotland and Ireland and our care home nurses are regularly asked to cover shifts at the last minute or in an emergency.

We’re proud to be able to offer industry-leading pay rates to our care home nurses so if you’re not already registered with us, the first thing to do is check your eligibility. You can also find out more about our recruitment process and learn more about what to expect as a nurse at the Nursing Guild.

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