Sharing best practice: care homes as centres of learning

Care England's honorary nursing adviser Deborah Sturdy talks about a pilot scheme which will put care home nursing on the map

Many of the advanced nursing roles we have now grew from the nursing development units created in the mid-1980s.

The advancement of care home nursing did not find a similar foothold.

Care home nursing is all too often seen as a last resort rather than an opportunity. People talk about care homes in disparaging terms, ignoring the fact that nurses have the greatest autonomy in these settings and they can manage complex clinical caseloads, without the constant distractions and demands of a hospital ward and multidisciplinary teams to refer to and plan care with. These are places where nurses lead care every day of the year. These centres of nurse-led care should be an obvious place where nursing students could learn to flourish and learn to lead.

So why haven’t we put long-term care nursing at the heart of the undergraduate curriculum? Or used these settings as positive learning environments for care and nursing management? Why have we overlooked some of the best nursing services that could – with support – offer so much more?

The Department of Health has recognised this by funding a year-long pilot programme, Teaching Care Home, which will help five Care England members explore and develop a model of good learning and practice that could be used in other centres. The five homes are:

Millbrook Lodge, Orders of St John Care Trust in Gloucestershire

Rose Court, HC-One in Manchester

Berwick Grange, MHA in Harrogate

Lady Sarah Cohen House, Jewish Care in London

Chester Court, Barchester in Bedlington

The homes will create a culture of education and care that nurtures learning and best practice. Supported by the Creating Caring Cultures programme led by the Foundation of Nursing Studies, along with executive coaching, the homes will work with senior academics from the nursing department at Manchester Metropolitan University to create a framework for providing the best learning experiences for nursing students.

The thirst to lead the sector and share the learning is palpable. This is a unique opportunity to put long-term care nursing on the map. The need to set up a centre for care home practice has never been more urgent.

Our ageing population means that there will always be a need for long-term care, in different shapes and guises supported by nurse-led models of care which promote inclusion and enablement.

We have an opportunity to use the launch of the Teaching Care Home pilots to put a marker in the sand and set a firm basis for change for care home nursing.

About the author

Deborah SturdyDeborah Sturdy is visiting professor, Buckinghamshire New University, honorary nursing adviser, Care England, and editorial advisory board member, Nursing Older People

For more information, visit or tweet using the hashtags #teachingcarehomes and #TCHproject.

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