My Journey; Night Nurse to Home Manager – never the plan but what an honour! This is me.

Shy, timid, reserved, wanting to please, no desire to make waves… looking back, I don’t recognise the person that donned your doorstep all those years ago. Every challenge, every frustration, every accomplishment has nurtured my progression and brought me to this point.

I have truly dedicated the last 4 years of my life to learning and trying to hone my craft and growing within the walls of Vida Hall; a home that undisputedly provides ‘exceptional dementia care’. At last, ‘Outstanding!

Then came the time to breathe; to relax a little and to celebrate our success together as a team… victorious.

A wise woman often says ‘never presume anything’ (Bernadette Mossman 2020). An unprecedented global pandemic strikes when all defences are down and laid bare. With its best efforts, it aims straight for the jugular; attempting to rip the heart and soul from us all and life changes forever, in a mere heartbeat. When we need each other most – segregation, isolation…

Challenges, heart ache, resilience… literal blood, sweat and tears.

Yet, here we still are, still standing, still strong, not defeated but maybe a little fractured. Still laughing, still smiling, still ‘outstanding’.

So, where next? Complacency, stagnancy, frustration, limbo, more change, more unrest and uncertainty. But what a gift, for those that remain are more closely bonded than ever before with such loyalty each has amassed. Those no longer with us still in our hearts, never far from our thoughts.

So, how do we move forward and continue to strive for excellence when honoured with such a prestigious accolade and move past such turbulent times? The service has to continue to seek improvement by driving new initiatives; focusing on and searching for the vulnerable areas and acknowledging its flaws. It can’t stand still. Knowing and recognising our weaknesses can be our biggest strength. Having the available resources around us and not having the connections or courage to reach out and celebrate each other’s strengths is a tragic waste for each and every one of us. This is my focus for moving forward.

I have worked across all houses in varying capacities tirelessly both day and night; never alone, I may add.

I know the residents, the staff teams and dynamics and what makes the place tick… or not. Still much to learn but the day you feel there is nothing left to learn, I feel, is the day to be concerned or time to throw the towel in. I cannot wait until we are open freely and crossing houses with ease to develop more in-depth relationships with those I don’t know so well.

I am not, nor will I ever be the loudest voice in the room but in the silent moments I am busy. Listening, watching, thinking, analysing. The quiet voice can often be underestimated; it shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness. I will speak out when I feel necessary and when I do, I feel I am listened to. A team needs diversity and a measured approach is a valuable commodity. If I sense injustice, especially for those in my care or teams believe me; I can roar.

I have led a nursing house with its share of challenges; a place I am truly proud of and will always remain a piece me.  The most diverse range of people and some of the most dominant characters have come together as a mega team and where I hope I have earnt respect and driven some change for good. I feel my work there is done now; I am ready for a new challenge as are they. I have learnt from some of the most experienced nurses and care staff and I hope in return I can do them justice and make them proud.

I have gone into outbreaks; inwardly terrified, leading from the front, fearless (or so some thought). Attempting to restore calm, order and peace. Working across the houses has given me sound knowledge from ground level which I feel is invaluable and is not to be lost. You can only be a role model if you are able to lead by example; a team player.

I have strong and trusting peer relationships. I have learnt so much from them. I know what they need in order for them to excel and feel safe and supported within their roles. Vida’s ethos identifies them as our ‘greatest assets’ and now is the time to make people feel valued and invested in. People deserve to be happy at every level. Work can be challenging but we must try to celebrate successes in each day; as well as acknowledging our failings.

I believe the service has the potential to become outstanding in all areas with the right support, leadership and team dynamic. Safe, effective, well led… we know what we have to do to improve ourselves and with the correct systems and strategies now in place, there is no excuse to settle for ‘good’. We deserve to be great.

I’m devoted to supporting others, staff included. I relish the thought of being able to help people grow, gain focus and confidence and provide opportunities where they are deserved. I’d like to operate an open-door policy where people know there is always a safe place to talk, reflect and come will solutions not only problems.

I have recently enrolled on my level 5 Management diploma. The vision; to fill some of the gaps in my knowledge and find the tools I need to fulfil the role to the absolute best of my ability. I am well aware I have much to learn; although daunting, this excites me. I am honest, loyal and ready to embrace this opportunity with both hands and I thank everyone who has given me the opportunity to try and prove myself.

As we move towards a brighter tomorrow, we cautiously start to reopen our doors and welcome back families and loved ones to Vida. They are the heart-beat of what we are about; it can’t be underestimated how much they’ve been here but what a privilege to witness the reunions and a hope for happier and safer days ahead.

Clare Shuker

Registered Home Manager, Vida Hall