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Care Managers Show

29 - 30 NOVEMBER 2024 EXCEL, LONDON

29 Mar 2023

Spotlight on Melanie Wightman, Care manager, Charter’s Court (HC-One)

Spotlight on Melanie Wightman, Care manager, Charter’s Court (HC-One)

Mel manages HC-One’s 60-bed site in East Grinstead, Sussex, comprising nursing, dementia, and residential care.

Tell me about your career so far

My career started in hotel and leisure; I used to be a country club manager. I did that from my early 20s, when I started as a receptionist, and worked my way up.

But I got to a point where I loved the job, but it wasn’t rewarding. And there was a job with Bupa, completely out of my comfort zone, as a resident experience manager at a mental health home in Brixton, where most of the people had HIV-related dementia. I absolutely loved it.

My manager quickly promoted me to her deputy, and the home was Requires Improvement, so we worked together to get it to Good. We implemented new ideas – like when a lady came to me and said she couldn’t take her son out for a meal anymore; he had complex mental health needs, and she couldn’t keep an eye on him. So we brought out this private dining in a room in the home.

I was then asked to take a secondment to a Bupa home in Wimbledon to help turn the home around. The home manager left so I ended up being interim manager and really had to learn on my feet.

Then I got my first home manager role, at a 30-bed home in Croyden. I thought I was never going to do it because of the responsibility, but I was already doing it as interim manager... so I bit the bullet, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
 

And how long have you been with HC-One now?

I moved to Charters Court nearly three years ago. The home wasn’t in a great position; we were Requires Improvement in all areas and there were breaches, like people’s MCAs [Mental Capacity Act] weren’t followed properly.

When I got here, it was about the staff. Staff morale was really low, and there were some not-nice managers in the home. We empowered the carers – they can feel so low, like they’re bottom of the pile. But they’re the most important people in the home! So it was about putting them on training and building their confidence.
 

How do you find the job as a non-clinical manager?

So I’m not an RGN, but I’ve gained a lot of clinical knowledge over the years. I work closely with my clinical lead, and we have regular catch-ups – so I can tell you now how many pressure ulcers we have, who’s losing weight, and who’s at risk of a fall.

But it can be tough as a non-clinical manager if you’ve got nursing capacity. My site is split into four: a nursing suite, two dementia residential, and a residential. I did find that hard at the beginning, but as my experience has grown over the years, I know what to look for, and my quality assurance tools help me – we have a system called Cornerstone which helps us to audit, so we can pick something up before it becomes an issue.
 

How do you manage your relationship with CQC?

I have a fantastic relationship with my CQC inspector – before I send a notification, I pick up the phone and say, hi, just to let you know this happened, this is what I’m doing about it, and these are the actions we’ve taken. I have that relationship with her – we share tips on the menopause and everything!

I’ve always promoted honesty and integrity – everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we learn from them, and I’ve always promoted that with the staff. I try to ensure the staff look at CQC as a tool to help us, so we know what we need to work on.
 

And what is your approach if / when things do go wrong?

Incidents do happen, but if it does happen, you need to show that you’re taking action, you’re responsible, you’re going to learn lessons and you’re making sure it’s embedded with staff.

But it is hard sometimes, because the big challenge at the moment is recruitment, and having that stable work team is really helpful for you to embed stuff. When you’re using agency staff, that can break the communication and that’s when you fall. So we support our agency as if they were our own team.

Do you have any tips on recruitment and retention?

HC-One have got a big ‘Kind Care’ model, and we’ve recently got an app with staff benefits to try and attract staff. But I think it doesn’t matter how many benefits you’ve got: it’s the workplace – you have to make it a nice place to work. If you’re coming to work and feeling worried, scared, unvalued – it’s game over.
 

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Making a difference. We have residents come in who’ve lost their partner and the house they’ve lived in for 30 years – they don’t want to be in a home. And it’s hard seeing them like that because they’re so down. But it’s seeing them change, once they settle in, that’s rewarding. And sometimes, they have a better quality of life now because they were lonely at home. You can still have a full life in a care home.

It can also be really rewarding at end of life – I had one lady who was coming in every single day to see her mum, who was really deteriorating. All this lady wanted was for her mum not to die on her own – and when the time came, we rang the daughter, but she couldn’t get there in time. So I sat and held the lady’s hand so I could tell the daughter she’d not passed on her own. It’s all these things, really.
 

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Making a difference to staff – the feedback from staff is often that they feel they’re not relevant, so I try to change that mindset and empower them; make them feel like they’re important. And they know I’m approachable and that they can knock on the door.
 

How do you feel about the way the care sector is managed by the government?

They [the government] need to make looking after the care and wellbeing of a resident a career that somebody can be proud of. There needs to be more recognition and aspirational opportunities to make it more attractive as a role.

We’re now finding that carers are leaving just to go into supermarket roles because the pay is better and the hours are more suitable. We’ve got to up our game or people will start leaving the industry, which is quite scary.
 

How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?

I love spa treatments and pampering, so I’ll have a massage or a nice facial. And especially with going through the menopause, it’s important to take that time for self-care – while looking after two teenage boys!
 

What would you like to ask other care managers?

What barriers are you facing, and what support are you getting to face them? I’ve had fantastic support from my area director and the company for the challenges I’m facing – like recruitment – and that has given me the strength to stay, despite the pandemic and everything.

 

 


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