A year into my role at Jewish Care, I have just completed my third shift (to be truthful it was actually half a shift) in one of our 10 care homes for older people, something I made a commitment to doing as I prepared to take up the post. Despite working in the organisation for 23 years, there’s no substitute for joining colleagues who deliver services our community relies on.
This was not just a courtesy visit. It was a genuine attempt to work with our care staff, understand their challenges and help to inform how we are planning for the future.
I reported for duty at 7.45am, in time for the handover from night staff – most of our staff work 12-hour shifts.
This home is organised in households of 12 residents, so each household has its own kitchen, enabling the team to offer breakfast in a bespoke manner.
One might expect that early in the morning the team would be busy supporting residents to wake up and get dressed ready for the day. However, several residents wake early and the team had already ensured that they could start their day when they wish – a truly person-centred approach.
My job was to make tea and coffee and talk with residents. Amazingly, one had worked at Downing Street for a number of prime ministers and had fascinating stories to share. It reminded me that when we recruit and induct new colleagues, we talk about how residents in our homes are not just service users, not just receivers of care and support. They are people with rich and interesting histories who have much to continue to offer.
Apart from seeing first-hand the amazing jobs our teams perform, I could see the benefit of our new electronic care planning system in action.
It is hugely challenging for our care teams who have a lot of detail to recall about each person and these systems really do ensure continuity of care.
I know this is just the beginning of the journey to utilise technology to support our work and it will be important to invest further as we plan for the future.
Breakfast seemed to glide into lunch – by which time I was already feeling exhausted. My day as a chief executive is often 12 hours long but pales into insignificance compared to the days of our teams, where the physical and emotional demands of caring are phenomenal.
Yet, despite feeling tired, I also felt an immense sense of pride in our staff, which was matched by the gratitude of the relatives I had the chance to talk to as well.
In a quirk of timing, we are about to launch our strategy for the next few years and I literally finished my (half) shift and went into a meeting reviewing our communications plan for the strategy.
It reminded me of the importance of taking a genuine inclusive approach to thinking about the future.
I have spent much of my first year talking to colleagues at the front line and their views are shaping mine and our organisation’s thinking.
Something that won’t change is our continued reliance on our community to support our work – be it with money or even joining our workforce, not to mention the thousands of volunteers who bring the Yiddishkeit to our work.
Maybe the next time I spend time on the front line, I’ll see you there too, supporting our dedicated teams who care for our spouses, parents, siblings and grandparents.