- 27 October 2017
- 16 min read
How to become a Care Home Manager
Mark Redmond explains the skills, experience, and qualifications necessary to help you with your career as a Care Home Manager.
We’ve all been there; sat thinking, ‘I could do that job better than you’.So how do you actually get a Care Home Manager Job?
Do I Need Experience?
The simple answer is ‘yes’. The difficulty is what type of experience?
A care home manager needs to be experienced in a range of different skills and abilities:
• Staff management,
• Working with residents/patients and their families,
• Financial management,
• Liaising with different professionals and organisations,
• Working with regulatory and inspection bodies.
The list can seem endless, and everyone has a checklist of experience where there are things they can tick off, and things that they can’t.
However, if you have some of the experience, don’t let the deficits put you off. You don’t necessarily have to have worked in a care home setting before.
I’ve known people from a range of other care settings move over into residential or nursing care (and visa versa), and make a success of it; people from day centres, domiciliary care and live-in care.
In fact, depending upon what the employer is looking for, not having worked in that area of care can be asset, because you are going to have new ideas and thoughts, and not be borne down with ‘old’ or out dated ways of doing things.
Remember, if they challenge you about a lack of experience in residential or nursing care, having a new pair of eyes and fresh ideas can be a perfect response.
Experience comes in many different forms, and real life practice working with people from different backgrounds and different illnesses is a bonus.
Working with people with dementia, to those with chronic and long term conditions, those needing peg feeding and end of life care, gives you a rich experience in care, encompassing working with others, planning care, dealing with difficult residents, and learning new skills etc. It might also have required training.
As a tip, keep a portfolio of your work. Training certificates, supervision and any letters thanking you for the care you have given.
These make great reading at an interview, and nothing says you are great carer/ manager/ leader than a letter from family members telling your interviewer this!
Next, ask yourself if you’ve had a leadership role in your current or previous jobs?
You probably have, but might not think of it as such. Here are some ideas about what leadership roles might look like:
• Co-ordinating – from activities to rotas, being responsible for co-ordinating things is a leadership role,
• Reviewing – care plans, risk assessments etc involve stepping up and leading staff,
• Liaising with others – including family, other professionals such as social workers, nurses and GPs, writing letters, and attending meetings are all expected of a manager. If you have some experience here, then you’re on your way to a manager post too,
• Staff management - if you lead a team, supervise, shadow new staff, appraise, train or otherwise support people in your team, these are roles that are expected of a manager. If you have training in them and certificates to support this, this is good evidence to build on,
• Financial management – from managing cash for your organisation, to dealing with service user monies, this type of accountability is also good experience.
Typical experience such as the examples given above, come through different roles that you might occupy in an organisation.
The more senior you are, the chances are that you will be trusted to do more of this work. So if you thinking of applying for a managerial role, be prepared to think out what you have done, or do, and can demonstrate, with examples, in an application form or at an interview.
What If You Don’t Have Experience?
A simple answer to this is to get some.
Ask yourself whether you can get it in your current role, if you can look for those opportunities, and have an opportunity to demonstrate it in an interview.
If you can’t gain experience in your current role, ask your employer. Social care has a large turnover in staffing, and some organisations will place a value on growing their staff into more senior roles.
Asking for opportunities and experience may be just what your employer wants you to do. If your employer won’t give you the responsibilities, then maybe it is time to move on.
Most of us have to build our experience and range of skills by moving from post to post, and slowly ascend the management ladder. Look at your skills and experiences, and identify where you are lacking.
Then it is a case of applying for roles that will give you an opportunity to gain these skills and add them to your growing portfolio. Think strategic but broad.
There are a wide variety of roles that can give you that experience, so don’t necessarily narrow it down to something you’re familiar with.
Gaining experience in social care doesn’t mean you have to be in the same job for a long time. 12 – 24 months could be enough to fill a gap in your CV.
Sit down with a friendly colleague and ask them for their assessment of the things you are good at, and the things you are not.
Taking time to listen to them and to think about those things that need improving may be difficult, but if you can work on them and improve them, they will only do you good in the future.
Ask them about your skills. Are you good with people, do you work under stress, are you a morning person, are you a team player or do you sit back?
In a good organisation you will get an annual appraisal, and many appraisals will include that type of feedback.
Do I Need Qualifications?
Simple answer; yes, no and maybe.
The need for qualifications as a care home manager is, in some senses essential, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have them prior to going for the job.
The reason is that some qualifications require you to reflect on the role of a manager, and provide evidence. If an employer wants you, and is prepared to support/fund you in doing a qualification then don’t worry.
You won’t know until you apply for the job.
Over the past few years the qualifications frameworks for social care have really improved, and there are now some excellent resources available to support you to both become manager, and develop your managerial skills.
In the past I have been quite sceptical of the awards and support systems that have been available to managers and aspiring managers, but I can’t say that now.
Skills for Care, the sector’s workforce development agency, have really improved in recent years.
The information that Skills for Care has is quite wide ranging. It encompasses suggestions as to what a manager should know and focus on when they are first in post.
It also has advice on qualifications you may pursue.
At the moment, the main qualification that the sector recommends to those looking to become a manager is the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services.
You can choose one of the following pathways:
• Management of adult services
• Management of adult residential services
These qualifications will give a boost to your application to be the registered manager of the home, which will most likely follow any appointment.
Whilst having the award is a big plus, doing it is also something that CQC will look favourably on.
It is likely your employer is paying the training levy that supports the costs of undertaking an apprenticeship, and this is one route you may want to follow to build your skills and qualifications to become a manager.
The two qualifications noted above, can be gained through undertaking the Higher Apprenticeship in Care Leadership and Management. Your employer should have information about this qualification.
The Skills for Care’s workforce development fund could contribute towards the cost of the training to your employer. One of the big issues you need to consider is whether you have any level 2 or 3 awards.
Not only do these awards show skills and underwrite experience, they also demonstrate commitment. I would strongly advise that you look for an opportunity to gain them in your workplace.
Over the past decade, social care has become something that is studied at college and university, and usually includes placement opportunities to give students experience.
Typically, these awards (whether diplomas or degrees) are mapped against the different frameworks, and that means they will often go some way towards the leadership and management awards listed above.
Increasingly, some social care degrees are ambitious and offer modules in entrepreneurship, innovation and service development.
These awards are ‘X factor’ awards and will provide students with an advantage in the social care job industry. I know many graduates, who have walked into managerial roles in social care having just completed their degree, and this might be the avenue for you.
One of the things you want to remember is that a qualification is not the end of your training in social care. It is purely a beginning.
Learning skills and new abilities are something we need to do throughout our working life. So, whether you eventually get that job, or are still on the pathway towards it, it is essential for you to adopt a life-long learning or Continual Professional Development (CPD) approach to both yourself and others. A manager who has, or maybe has not, got qualifications still needs to constantly update themselves.
As a manager, you have the ability to transform your team, to radically change the lives of those you work with, and improve the working conditions of your staff. Equally, you have the potential to turn it into a nightmare. The first option may take years, the second only months.
Being engaged in learning communities is a great thing to do. Again, Skills for Care is a brilliant place to start. They have numerous programmes delivered through partners that relate to people at all levels in social care.
These are grouped under the following headings:
• Aspiring Leadership
This is for those who are looking to take their first steps into a managerial position. Typically, these are for senior care workers, key workers, team leaders etc.
• Emerging Leadership
These courses are those already in frontline managerial roles who want to develop their leadership skills and improve their service.
• Establishing Leadership
These courses are for those who are looking to become more established in their senior leadership role.
• Advancing Leadership
This level of course is for those who might be involved in commissioning services and working on integrated care through cross-sector working and design of services.
These courses represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of courses and training on offer.
One of the things provided is a registered managers network that you can join, once you have become a manager. In the meantime, there are plenty of other ways to network.
Have you ever thought you could do the job differently?
What do you mean by different, and what will different look like for service users and staff?
Answering that question isn’t easy, but it comes down to one word; vision. What is your vision for your service?
If you really want to be a successful manager you need to know what you’re doing and what that means for everyone involved in the service you wish to be running.
There isn’t room in the current market place for the ‘same old, same old’. These services are going to wall as fast as country pubs are closing. You need to be different!
At this stage you might not have clear ideas about what ‘different’ looks like, and in that case I strongly urge you to begin to network within the sector, both locally and nationally.
The best way to do this is via social media. Social media is a great leveller. It allows you to follow anyone, and amongst the list of celebrities, I strongly urge you to think about following those who appear to be talking about solutions and innovations in social care rather than the moaners.
There are many innovators and change agents online on Twitter and Linkedin. Two names that come to mind are Helen Sanderson, and Vic Citarella. By following these, you will begin to get ideas about what the current and new debates are in your sector, and how people are beginning to think differently about delivering care within current policy.
These tweeters are great to engage with, and when you have summoned up the courage, they are great to ask questions of. Of course you don’t only need to network on social media.
If you have opportunities to network locally with staff from other organisations through meetings or events put on by the local commissioners or your local provider network, get involved. Talk to other people from different organisations and ask to visit their place of work.
Seeing how other organisations work can be great for ideas and can help you think about what ‘different’ means. Networking locally also allows for another opportunity; finding a ‘mentor’.
Social care struggles to mentor staff and help them progress through training. Other professions do it as a matter of course, but we haven’t quite set it up yet. I’ve been fortunate to mentor many people in previous roles, and seeing them grow and succeed is a wonderful thing.
If you can find someone in the sector senior to you, who is willing to meet up with you and help guide you in your career, you will be given an advantage over others.
What I would say about having a mentor is you get out what you put in. Use them, ask them, and make the most of them.
Do You Want To Be That Manager?
It’s great having the training, qualifications and experience, but the big question you have to ask yourself is do you have the temperament for the post of manager?
This is a hard question to answer because being a manager requires a range of soft and hard skills, one of which is resilience.
Do you have the ability to reduce the pressure your manager is taking everyday?
Staff, resident and family complaints, managing sickness, dealing with CQC, balancing the books, keeping up with staff training, care plans and attending reviews.
These activities and responsibilities require someone who is tough and able to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions. In previous roles I’ve worked with some wonderful people who were poor managers, and I’ve helped them realise this enabling them to step down from their roles.
One group of people who are regularly encouraged to apply for a manager’s post are those who are great practitioners; those who have the people skills that staff and residents love.
Being a manager, however, takes these skilled staff away from what they are good at, into a realm that requires different skills and abilities. You need to ask is that what you want?
Again, I have worked with people who have climbed to the pinnacle of an organisation only to realise that it isn’t what they want to do. Sadly, and at present, we don’t always value those staff who excel at being great carers.
Opportunities for career progression and new challenges are not that common beyond a senior carer role.
In nursing, we have seen the development of nurse consultant roles, where excellent nurses are being promoted, and we need something similar to happen in social care.