As a nurse, one of the questions I am frequently asked by other nurses is “why would you want to work in social care?”.  Well after more than 30 years as a qualified nurse and having worked in the acute sector, higher education, hospices and social care, I think the question really ought to be “why wouldn’t you want to work in social care?”.

On what is international nurses day, I am reminded of the reasons I went into nursing as well as all of the interview answers from prospective student nurses and newly qualified staff about their ambitions for a life as a nurse.  Key among these reasons are the desire to help people, to get to know people, to give something back and to make a difference in the lives of the people one is caring for.

Of course one can get to do all of this in almost every setting in which there are nurses, but, in my estimation nowhere else enables nurses to do it to the extent seen in social care. Among the watch words of nursing are “holistic care” and “person-centred care”, these both require the nurse to get to know the person (in social care we call them people, clients or service users and never patients) in some detail. To be holistic we have to understand the person’s physical, mental and social health and background, while to be person-centred requires that we understand their wishes, wants and needs in detail.  This cannot happen in any meaningful way in acute settings where the emphasis is to get “the patient” through the system and back out again.

Being holistic and person-centred is a journey and not a destination.  That journey takes time, patience and more than a little stamina.  It has be undertaken at the pace of the service user (for want of a better word) and cannot be hurried.  In social care such relationships are forged between nurses, and carers, and the people they care for over many months and years and include an intimate knowledge and understanding of the other person which is often only usually seen within the family unit.

Being holistic and person-centred is a journey and not a destination.  That journey takes time, patience and more than a little stamina. 

There is a reason, care homes and nursing homes are called homes, the clues is in the word home.  It is a place where nurses can be with the people they provides care to and work with in a familiar family environment.  Home is where we gravitate to when we need solace, succour and familiarity.

When I was training, I recall we talked a lot about the role of the nurse in being with the patient, it was perhaps not until working in social care I really understood what this meant.  If the person is the sum collective result of all their experiences and this is reflected in their relationships with family, friends and community, then, like getting to know one’s family, a nurse has to be there over a long period to truly get to know the essence of the people they serve.

I really cannot understand why there is a crisis in recruitment in social care which affects nursing staff.  It is one sector where the nurse can be quite independent, again the clue is in the name, nursing home, and can practice all of the things which sit at the core of nursing.  If we for example, consider the 6c’s which are said to underpin the provision of care in all settings, then there are few places where these can be seen to such a great extent as in social care.

– Care – Competence – Compassion – Communication – Courage – Commitment

The care is derived from a long term relationships in which the nurse has to demonstrate competence in managing health and wellbeing aspects of the persons care in a committed way over months and often years.  It is bounded by compassion for those people to whom we choose to give of ourselves day in and day out, communicating with then according to their needs and having the compassion to care for them in life, end-of-life and ultimately their families after the person’s death.

No, I don’t think the question is “why would you want to work in social care?” this international nurses day it is clear the real question is “why wouldn’t you want to work in social care?”.