The key role of a social care nurse is to balance health care with social care, meaning that the 42,000 registered nurses currently working in the field are required to apply their nursing knowledge within a social model of care. To do so they must build relationships with patients, their families and various healthcare practitioners. The care takes on a more holistic approach and nurses in this field must be adaptable, flexible and committed to providing excellence.
Many people, including nurses in other fields, have preconceptions about what it means to be a social care nurse, one being that you become de-skilled over time. This is most definitely not the case; the role covers a breadth of nursing fields and this ensures that every day is different. Let’s look at the broader role of a social care nurse and what they do for patients who are living in care homes.
Responsibilities and contributions
The demand for skilled workers in the adult social care sector is on the rise - the total size of the workforce has reached 1.4 million – and yet the sector is still facing a shortage of nurses and support workers. A major reason for this is the ageing population that we’re facing in the UK. Consequently, patients are presenting more complex needs and the role of a social care nurse is evolving.
Their job is to prevent patients from being admitted to hospital and in cases where they are admitted they will support the patient through the discharge procedure to get them back into their homes as soon as possible. From here they will support patients in managing long-term health conditions and this is where the level of care can differ dramatically. The scope of their job will also differ depending on which setting they choose to work in, which include care homes and nursing homes, learning disabilities, mental health, addiction and recovery, and eating disorders.
Social care in nursing homes
This form of care is distinctly different from clinical nursing because the nurses’ workplace is the patient’s home. Of the 42,000 registered nurses working in the social care sector, 39,000 are employed by care homes or work for independent care providers. These care homes are rated by the Care Quality Commission on a four-point scale from inadequate to outstanding, giving recognition to the incredible work that social care nurses do. Social care nurses could work in a home that is privately owned, managed by a charity, or overseen by the local council.
In some homes, the registered nurse will be the only nurse working at the facility and will be required to take on management duties. In others, where nursing care is provided, a registered nurse will be on hand to help provide round-the-clock care and supervise the care given by other members of staff.
A multi-faceted role
Regardless of the setting of work, social care nursing is a ‘multi-faceted role’ – a term used by Skills for Care. The UK charity, whose main purpose is to help the workforce provide a high level of care, recognise that the diverse work of a social care nurse means they develop many transferrable skills such as adaptability. But it also requires our nurses to navigate a ‘complex regulatory and organisational landscape’ which means being compliant with procedures and training, and demonstrating the ability to respond to any changes.
This is another term used by Skills for Care, and many other academic institutes, to help define what a social care nurse does. It communicates the important work that these nurses do to establish and nurture relationships with the people they care for and their community. They implement this approach on a case-by-case basis so that the support given to each patient is right for them.
In terms of the support they provide it’s not just a matter of what a social care nurse does for their patient but how they do it; to administer the care in the best way for each person they must communicate successfully. They will apply their communication skills to help patients through everyday activities and in doing so start to build a relationship with them, their families, GPs, physiotherapists, social workers and housing providers. This approach – also referred to as person-centred – becomes more effective over time as nurses deliver continued care.
Debunking the myths
Skills for Care interviewed several social care nurses to talk about the misconceptions that people have about their job. They discussed the most common ones and why they are myths:
You become deskilled
A common impression people have is that over time nurses in social care become less practised in general nursing. In fact, they must wear many hats to support their patients. Each day they must manage complex health needs, carry out assessments and perform leadership duties. In this field of nursing, it is not uncommon to work on your own, so a wider range of skills is required, and it means that every day is an opportunity to learn something new.
It’s the road to retirement
Within the social care sector, there are many opportunities to develop your career, skills and knowledge base and the diversity in the role means that everyone stands to gain something from a nursing job in social care. Further to this, social care nurses working in the private sector are likely to progress and develop into senior and management roles a lot faster than those in public services.
It’s a less academic route
Within social care nursing, there are many career paths you can take that involve further study, such as gaining a teaching qualification so that you can deliver training to employees in social care. Other progressions routes including taking a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management or enrolling on a Non-Medical Prescribing course.
Discover social care nursing roles with Charles Hunter
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