Driving success through wide-reaching training


Susan Dickinson explains how Barchester Healthcare’s commitment to training has supported her.

At Barchester Healthcare, training and development is central to the delivery of care across its more than 200 care homes and seven independent mental health hospitals. Just as importantly, Barchester recognises that its people are better able to deliver person-centred care if they’re well supported and inspired.

That’s why Barchester runs bespoke training programmes designed to empower its people to develop and progress, which in turn enables them to provide the best standards of care and support to its residents, patients and their families. The dedicated learning and development team at Barchester deliver both face-to-face and online learning initiatives in areas including; leadership, clinical programmes, quality and continuous improvement.

Someone who understands the Barchester commitment to training better than most is Susan Dickinson (RGN), a clinical trainer based in the North of England. “After I qualified as a nurse, I joined the NHS and eventually became a senior sister. But I found that I wanted to get back to a more hands-on nursing role. As early as my student placement, I knew I wanted to work in elderly care. I trained on an NHS elderly acute ward and loved caring for patients and supporting their families, so in the summer of 1997, I joined Barchester’s Prestbury Beaumont Care Home. My career has gone from strength to strength ever since.”

Initially, Susan had some reservations – she was worried her clinical skills might not be put to full use in the care home environment. “I couldn’t have been more wrong. My skills have increased, not decreased. We don’t have doctors on hand as you do in a hospital, so we have much more autonomy. My skills were enhanced by the amount of training I received too, and as I progressed to the head of unit role, I became more and more interested in developing and facilitating the learning of others.”

Barchester was keen to channel Susan’s experience and enthusiasm. She became the home trainer, delivering mandatory training on everything from manual handling to safeguarding. Before long, she was the home’s NVQ assessor. Susan wasn’t just supporting Barchester’s training delivery either; she was continuing to benefit herself, “Over the years, I’ve been on numerous courses, all of which have helped me to help others develop.”

Susan’s development has also been driven through exposure to different experiences – one of which was particularly rewarding. She explains, “I was asked to train staff coming into our new-build Cheshire Grange home – it was a huge opportunity for me. It was fantastic to help develop the culture and set the standards of the home. There’s such a lot a new team needs to know; I got to train everyone from the general manager, the nurses and care assistants through to the laundry and maintenance teams. We pride ourselves on our delivery of the highest quality care and support; that starts with the right training.”

For nurses, the comprehensive training provided by Barchester extends beyond the day-to-day into more specialist areas.

“We offer a wide variety of bespoke training on site. Depending on the needs of the home, this can range from syringe driver awareness, oxygen therapy and tissue viability to diabetes and insulin awareness. We also offer mental health courses, to support acquired brain injury, and provide drug and alcohol awareness. Every person we care for is an individual and by running a broad range of courses, we’re better placed to give them the tailored care they need.”

As learning and development has evolved at Barchester, Susan’s role has grown: “ I now support 45 regional trainers by delivering courses such as first aid and quality assurance checks to uphold the high standards that make us who we are. I’ve also had the opportunity to manage a wide variety of projects, including mentoring our senior care assistants on Open University degree courses, running our care practitioner courses, writing policies and helping our nurses with their OSCE.”

So what does Susan enjoy most about life at Barchester? “Each of our homes is different, and so is everyone I’ve trained and mentored. I find it incredibly stimulating and challenging to make sure everyone takes the training on board, and reaches their full potential. That’s what training is all about – helping everyone reach their true potential so they can, in turn, help the people in their care to live their lives to the fullest.”