A new model of nurse recruitment in social care
In the face of rising demand, it’s no secret that nurse recruitment is vital for the health of our social care services. While nursing vacancies are high across the system, the problem is particularly acute in social care, with the number of nurses declining from 51,400 to 41,000 between 2012 and 2019. On a mission to buck this trend, providers are beginning to explore creative ways to attract and retain recruits, ranging from student placements to in-house training. One such organisation is care operator, Belong, who has embraced this alternative model of recruitment to build nursing teams across its seven state-of-the-art villages.
Key to Belong’s success in this area is its links with educational establishments. Working alongside local colleges and universities, students are given the opportunity to complete work placements and apprenticeships at the villages, with some choosing to pursue a full-time career with Belong upon completion of their studies. Similarly, those in care roles at Belong who wish to transition to the nursing team are supported to return to education.
These initiatives are highly effective and help establish care organisations as top employers offering long and rewarding careers. Most recently, the Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG) awarded Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme the ‘Best Large Employer’ accolade for providing excellent opportunities for new staff and students to develop their skills, through a range of health and social care apprenticeship programmes.
Work placements & apprenticeships
University and college work placements and apprenticeships offer the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience, ranging from managing peg feeds and
medication to participating in multidisciplinary team working. Village nursing in particular requires a 24-hour, whole-team approach to care, and students are encouraged to draw on the full experience of the Belong team to deepen their understanding of customer-focused care around the clock.
Demonstrating the value of this route to nurse recruitment is the story of Lisa Wynn. Lisa, an adult nursing graduate, undertook an eight-week work placement at Belong Wigan, during the first year of her BSc honours degree at University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in 2017. Under the guidance of her mentor and Belong support manager, Lana Welsh, she gained first-hand knowledge of working in adult social care and a thorough understanding of nursing best practice. Lisa also developed a strong bond with the rest of the team, which provided her with an insight into the teamwork required to work effectively in a social care setting.
Following the completion of her placement, Belong maintained a relationship with Lisa, and upon graduating with an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1), she was invited to return to the village to take on a permanent, full-time nursing position. Commenting on her appointment, Lisa said: “Social care has long been my passion and I’m thrilled to be living this out at Belong Wigan. My work placement was invaluable, providing me with the skills and experience required to start my career.
“I was also able to build meaningful relationships with both my team and customers throughout the programme, which stood me in good stead when returning to a permanent position. I look forward to sharing my experience with the next cohort of students".
It is also crucial to develop existing teams of care workers, who may wish to progress into nursing. This year, Belong has partnered with the University of Salford to introduce the ‘Trainee Nurse Associate’ role, which is designed to bridge the gap between support workers and registered nurses. Similar to the role of an advanced nurse practitioner, it enables lead senior support workers to progress towards a nursing career by completing a foundation degree apprenticeship. Taking place alongside their existing role, the course comprises one day of placement and a university study day each week.
Creative recruitment in care
Innovation is key to attracting more people to consider careers in social care and particularly nursing in a care setting. This new model of recruitment places great emphasis on the value derived from partnerships with educational establishments, with work placements, apprenticeships and qualifications found to have particularly effective outcomes. Placing students in social care settings provides them with a unique insight into the meaningful and rewarding nature of a nursing career, and as Lisa’s story at Belong demonstrates, it is often the first step on that journey.
Article to be bylined to Stacey McCann, chief operating officer at Belong and NHS England’s former head of nursing strategy and commissioning.