Meet Becky, Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice’s new ‘Care Homes Support Sister’. Becky worked as a nurse on the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit for four years before taking up this new position where she supports staff in care homes to deliver end of life care. We caught up with Becky to get some first-hand insight into her new role …

Hi Becky, could you tell me a little bit more about your role as a Care Home Support Sister? 

In my role, I help deliver the ‘Six Steps to Care Homes Programme’ – a programme which aims to support staff in care homes so they can provide end of life care to their residents.  With the programme, we offer monthly all-day training sessions, tailored workshops and general support to give staff the confidence and skills to provide end of life care to people when they need it. Our aim is to empower care home staff in providing this kind of care so that residents can receive treatment in familiar and comfortable surroundings. 

A big part of the programme is listening to feedback from care homes, to ensure we’re providing the skills and knowledge that they need. It’s an incredible thing to be involved in because as much as we are teaching the care home staff, they are also helping us to learn and grow as nurses and mentors. 

Why did you want to get involved in the project? 

It was something new and exciting that I was already quite passionate about. Before starting this role, I worked for four years as a nurse on the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit so I’ve treated many patients who have been referred to us by their care homes. While caring for these patients, I often found that we were providing very similar care to that which referred residents were receiving back at their homes. At the time, it always puzzled me why these care homes would send their residents away from their homes when they were already providing competent end of life care to their residents.

It is only since starting this role and visiting the care homes myself that I’ve realised how frightened some staff are when it comes to supporting somebody at the end of life because they haven’t been taught what to do or how to handle it. So that’s what our programme aims to do – to give staff the right skills and the confidence to deliver care themselves. It’s a wonderful feeling to see staff we’ve supported develop into confident carers.

What do you enjoy the most about your role? 

The best part of this job is being able to empower the care home staff to enable more people across Birmingham and Sandwell to receive expert hospice care when they need it most. 

What kind of reaction do you get from care homes? 

We have noticed that a lot of staff at care homes are eager to learn and develop their skills. Prior to our training, staff would send residents with end of life needs to A&E, simply because they were unsure or unconfident in how to support them. Sending someone to A&E is often unpleasant for the care home, for the resident and for their family and so it’s something that many members of staff will want to avoid if possible. To do this, we are currently implementing the Supportive Care Register in the homes we are working with. This allows staff to identify those individuals who are dying earlier so that they can have conversations to put things in place to prevent patients from being rushed to A&E. A good few homes have put this into place which, for me, just demonstrates how much they are open to learning.  

Why do you think that it’s important to train care home staff?

At Birmingham St Mary’s, our ultimate goal is to provide support to all those in need of our care but as people live longer and with more complex illnesses, the reality is that we cannot achieve this alone. That’s why we are collaborating with other health and social care providers across the city, to help upskill professionals to ensure we can all meet the growing demands of the population.    

Where do you see this project going in the future?                                           

The programme was launched in January this year so it’s still quite new. However, if this project takes off (as we hope it will do), I believe that it will make a huge impact on the way that end of life care is delivered. I can already see that the programme is helping care homes to work alongside hospices as their equal, to ensure that nobody has to go through end of life care alone. It will be a very proud moment for me, knowing that I was there from the beginning to help bring about these changes. 

Thank you Becky for sharing your story with us. If you are a care home interested in taking part in the Six Steps to Care Homes Programme, please email Becky at [email protected] or call the team on 0121 752 8798.