Wanted: social care nurses with a flair for multitasking

A new document sets out the impressive range of responsibilities and contribution of nurses in social care 

A new document sets out the impressive range of daily tasks that nurses in social care perform

  • Skills for Care document summarises role, knowledge and skills needed to work in the sector
  • However, it doesn’t cover career progression, terms and conditions, or pay
  • These are factors in high vacancy rates, RCN says
Operations director and nurse Tracy Paine (standing) with another staff member at Belong
dementia care village in Macclesfield. Picture: Neil O’Connor

Wanted: a nurse with strong leadership skills and the ability to make decisions under pressure and work autonomously.

Must have enhanced interpersonal skills as they will need to negotiate, mediate and advocate in a complex system with multiple partners.

Oh, and they may need to sort out broken lifts or arrange cover for a cook who can’t make it into work. And that’s all on top of providing nursing care.

An impossible job?


nurses working in social care

(Source: Skills for Care)

An impossible job? No, it’s what nurses working in social care do day in, day out, according to a document produced by Skills for Care in England.

The document, Registered Nurses: Recognising the Responsibilities and Contribution of Registered Nurses within Social Care, sets out the role, knowledge and skills needed to work in the sector, as well as spelling out what they need to achieve.

This ranges from helping people live independently to contributing to avoidance of hospital admission and early discharge.

Variety of responsibilities

It is believed to be the first time such a detailed job description for nurses working in social care has been produced at a national level. The underlying aim is to use the variety of responsibilities involved to attract nurses to the sector.

‘What comes across loud and clear is that nurses in social care value the time and space they get to really understand the people they work with’

Andy Tilden, interim chief executive at Skills for Care

Around 42,000 nurses work in social care for voluntary, private and state sector employers.

But with around 5,000 posts vacant and annual turnover rates running in excess of 30%, the sector is in desperate need of more nurses.

Exploring the opportunities

Skills for Care interim chief executive officer Andy Tilden hopes the document will encourage more nurses to think seriously about exploring the opportunities social care offers, whether it is day, domiciliary, respite or long-term settings.


posts vacant in social care nursing

(Source: Skills for Care)

‘This statement is a huge step forward in making sure we know what is expected, but it also recognises the massive contribution nurses make,' he says.

In producing the six-page document, Skills for Care spoke to those working in the sector about their roles and what they valued.

Loving the challenge

Nurses talked about loving the challenge and how ‘no two days are the same’.

Mr Tilden says one of the real joys of social care work is that it gives nurses the chance to use all their hard-won skills to make a difference.

‘What comes across loud and clear is that nurses in social care value the time and space they get to really understand the people they work with. They leave work knowing they have delivered care that allows people to live the lives they want to.’

Skills for Care is now looking to promote the document and support it with other materials, including a myth-busting video challenging perceptions that working in social care is easy or is done by nurses who cannot get a ‘proper job’.

Watch: Ten myths about being a registered nurse in adult social care


Ten myths about being a registered nurse in adult social care from Skills for Care on Vimeo.


One of the clearest themes in the document is the autonomy and level of responsibility involved.

It says nurses may find themselves working in services where they may be the only nurse on shift, leading multidisciplinary teams and even taking responsibility for operational and business management.

Stacey McCann

Stacey McCann, nurse and chief operating officer at Belong, which runs dementia care villages, says she hopes the document will boost the image of nursing in social care.

‘Traditionally the sector has not been seen as the first point of call for career progression, but there are some exciting opportunities,’ she says.

‘At Belong the nursing roles we have developed are akin to community nursing roles.’

Setting out what is needed

RCN professional lead for care of older people and dementia Dawne Garrett says the document should be helpful and wants to see employers use it.

‘It’s tough working in the sector at the moment. The roles are so varied and there are so many different employers, and not all of them understand what the nursing roles involve. It is good to have a document that sets out what is needed,’ says Dr Garrett.

But she says there is a limit to what it can achieve. ‘What it doesn’t do is deal with issues such as career progression, terms and conditions, pay, and how they compare with NHS jobs. They’re all factors in why we are seeing such high vacancy rates.’

Social care nursing: what the job entails

  • Helping people with complex needs live as positively and independently as possible
  • Tailoring approaches to individual requirements – people may have sensory, cognitive or behavioural needs
  • Ability to focus on health condition as well as the effect it has on social and community life
  • Enhanced assessment skills and knowledge to act immediately when health worsens or during acute health crisis
  • Significant leadership skills – nurses may find themselves leading mixed teams
  • Operational and business management acumen, as responsibilities could range from dealing with unannounced inspections to arranging elevator repairs
  • Ability to operate with a high level of autonomy, which could involve grappling with ethical dilemmas such as an individual’s capacity to consent
  • Involvement in multi-agency decision-making about eligibility and service provision
  • Confidence in working across organisation boundaries
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills – negotiation, mediation and advocacy are all needed

(Source: Skills for Care)

Nick Evans is a health writer

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