Where to start with Retention

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In this emotionally charged piece, LjB Coach Consultancy founder Lucy Buxton, details her career as a nurse and care worker, and her transition into consultancy and coaching, as well as the downward turn the sector has taken in this time and the key to saving social care.

When I got asked to write this article I found myself reflecting on my career, from where it all started as a care assistant in a local care home to where I am now, working for myself. Memories popped up that I’d not thought about in years, both good and bad, and I found myself wandering down memory lane.

I was always going to be a nurse. It’s probably in my blood. I’d say it would be the same for carers too. We’re the people that give to others when the other person needs help. It may just be a listening ear or it could be administering life-saving medication. We give something of ourselves to do the job we do.

My first job after qualifying as a nurse was on an elective surgery all-female orthopaedic ward. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was the one that I was offered. I managed for six months.

There was a small collection of staff that were cruel – cruel to me and cruel to those we were caring for. I raised my concerns to the matron and left. On my final day, I was placed in a cold shower fully clothed with all sorts of liquids thrown over me.

I then went to an inner-city accident and emergency department. I’d not experienced A&E in my training and I didn’t have a clue what I was in for. Again, I lasted six months. I was attacked by drunk and drugged patients, and bullied by senior nurses. I had no real induction and I was thrown in at the deep end. I had to get away.

My decision was made one late shift where I saw the most horrific death I’ve seen to date. After the team of at least 20 people walked away from this person that had died, I was left on my own with only an auxiliary for support, to do what we could to provide some dignity to the body. I will never forget that night. I will never forget him. I left.

I then got a job working in a new care home, and that is where my career in social care continued (I’d been a care assistant before training to be a nurse).

What do I think is the biggest cause currently?

Not the cost-of-living crisis. I think the biggest factor is the pain and anguish the job is causing. It is the thing that keeps care workers awake at night.

Go back to where I started the article. Even as I type, tears fall from my eyes for that young lad, six years younger than me, the night he died in A&E.
Our brains hang on to these painful experiences.

So, how do we fix it?

If I were to ask everyone in social care this question, we would get a million and one ways to fix it. Many are similar, and many are completely different. Why is that? Well because we all have a different model of the world; we all see, feel, hear and think about stuff differently.

The first place to start, though, is with us.

Individually, as people or as businesses, we have to start with ourselves. For years people have cried out for help from the government and it never comes. So, we need to start with us.

This is easier said than done. We’ve all experienced a lot over the last few years. We have become burned out, worn out and tired. Getting support with this is key for you and your teams. For example, you can work with a counsellor, coach or therapist like myself.

As leaders, we need to model fabulous values so that our teams can learn them. We need staff to understand our mission and ensure that our teams align their values and buy into the business values. We need to recruit based on values. We need to ensure that everything we do in the business is driven by strong values.

We need to think differently. We need to stop trying the same things and expecting a different outcome. We need to understand that the key is retention. Create great places to work where people are heard, seen and believed, where they are respected for being who they are, encouraged and empowered. We need to give them a reason to stay. We need to motivate them toward their job, not away from it, and that starts with us.