A real story of striking a work-life balance


It can be a fine balance working and building a career when you have small children. Juggling between work and home life can be challenging and having a family, employer and team that understands can be invaluable.

Nicki Hockley, RGN, Head of Unit at Barchester Healthcare’s Plas Y Dderwen care home near Carmarthen has two small children, Lily 4 and Lewys 10 months as well heading up a 32-bed nursing unit in the home. “I started with Barchester in 2015 when my husband moved to Wales from Shropshire with his work.”

“I was working on a NHS urology ward when my daughter was born but it was difficult to plan family life as our hospital had varied rotas. When we moved I was a little apprehensive to leave the NHS as that was the only work environment I knew. A friend of my family suggested elderly care and I applied for a nurse position at Barchester’s Hafan Y Coed Care Home. I then moved to Plas Y Dderwen in 2016 and accepted a positon as unit manager.”

“Instantly I loved it. I hadn’t thought of elderly care but it was like working in someone’s home. I have the time to build relationships with my residents and give the in-depth care I knew they needed. I didn’t realise that there would be so many other benefits to working in a care home.”

The stability of the rota system in Barchester is great, I know exactly what I am doing up until Christmas and my days are set so my husband, the school and the childminder all know the pattern. The children also have the routine that they need so much when they are little. They know which days Mummy or Daddy are picking them up.”

Many of the nurses on Nicki’s unit are working parents; they are all supportive of each other, making sure that both the residents in their care and their families at home have an equal amount of their time.

“The care home is my second home and I come here to have a break from the kids and go home to have a break from work, it is a great balance. We all support each other to make sure that the residents are well looked after and we have quality family time. For example, on Christmas Day we have agreed to split the shift to 4 hours each so we can spend time with the residents and our children at this special time of the year.”

The culture at Plas Y Dderwen is very nurturing and family orientated. Nicki really appreciated the care and flexibility the home offered her when she had her son.

Nicki laughs “I actually started my labour while I was in the home. I was only 35 weeks pregnant so I just thought I had back ache. My manager Sharon was great, she was worried so she stayed on after her working day to finish my shift when my waters broke in the car park! I had had my baby shower in the home with family, friends and the residents, so perhaps it was fitting that Lewys’s journey into the world started here too!”

Nicki was keen to come back to work as it is such an important part of her life. After 10 weeks she started using her Keep In Touch days one day a week. “I was still breastfeeding when I came back to work and this was accommodated easily. I had a private place and protected time on my shift so that I could express. Sharon and my deputy Nicola made sure we had regular meetings to catch up after I started back to ensure I could express and to just make sure I was generally alright. New babies are lovely but can be hard work.”

Many new Mums worry about their career and whether taking time out or having other priorities might been seen as a hindrance, but the thought couldn’t be further from Nicki’s mind.

“I have my beautiful children and quality time with them and my husband and I’m still progressing in my career. I am studying for my management level 5 and looking at a mentorship course funded by Barchester. My children aren’t going to be little forever and one day they will be off living their own lives, so I need to make sure I still have my career. Barchester is making that happen by being so supportive while my children are little and investing in me and my prospects for the future. I couldn’t ask for more.”