Taking the time to stop, look, listen in care homes


Nursing assistant, Terry Elms, realised that taking the time to acknowledge good care - however small it may seem - can have a postitive impact on morale

As children, we were all taught to “stop, look, listen” in order to cross roads safely. As the years go by we adapt to knowing how to cross the road, paying little attention to what we were taught. We take risks, calculated or otherwise, take chances and cut corners on the principles of safety yet somehow still manage to get across the road.

The demands and issues I face on my shift often overshadow my ability to take the time to stop, look and listen in my role as a nursing assistant. The immediate need to “get things done”, making sure everyone gets what they need and we can all go home on time whenever possible, is prioritised. This is the same for most people working in care up and down the country. Care homes are busy, pressurised environments, involving people with complex and multiple needs and teams of staff who turn up day after day to attend to those needs.

“Care homes are busy, pressurised environments”

In 2016, I was asked to participate in a learning set to look at the “caring culture” which is part of the Teaching Care Home pilot. Meeting other home teams and being supported by the Foundation of Nursing Studies meant that, for the first time, I had the chance to really think about the care we give and the way we give it.

We all try to do our best and perhaps are lulled into a sense of false security that our best is good enough, without thinking that by doing something in a slightly different way we can make an even bigger difference.

I learned not only how to reflect but why reflective practice is important. This started me thinking about the principle of “stop, look, listen” and how it could be used at any time, with anyone, during any shift.

We’ve found that feeding back positive care observations, including the team in decision making, and learning through reflection has paid dividends in improving residents’ care experience.

“We all try to do our best and perhaps are lulled into a sense of false security that our best is good enough”

These strategies have led to consistent team engagement and had a positive impact on morale. Care assistants do an incredibly important role in supporting people to live a full life and no one can say they don’t work hard, long hours in a demanding environment. Recognition of the good things people do is important in our job. We all need to be reminded that the small things make a real difference and we need those small things pointed out to us.

When you’re doing a good job in the middle of a 12 hour day it really does help us all to maintain our morale, energy and drive to do things well and be consistent when someone takes that moment to “stop, look listen” and then tell each other what a great job we’ve done.

“We need to spend more time on the positive”

Improving the team’s morale has also had a positive impact on residents and families. It’s important for those who live in the home or visit, that I come to work with a positive “can do” attitude. Using the reflective approach has made me realise we need everyone’s input into care planning, care plan reviews and involving and reflecting on everyone’s thoughts and opinions about residents has improved the way in which we can for them. We can feel the changes.

Without the opportunity to personally “stop, look, listen” through the Teaching Care Home pilot programme I don’t think I would have invested as much as I have in listening to my colleagues, giving them positive feedback and realising that by taking those moments during a shift to reflect enhances the morale of everyone: residents and staff alike.

We need to spend more time on the positive, learn from the things we get wrong and work together to find ways in which to do things better. Long shifts don’t feel so long when you’re learning together.

Terry Elms is a nursing assistant at Rose Court Care Home, Bury