Round the clock care – The e-Easy way

400,000 care home residents require care around the clock. A 24-hour service is offered, but the need to train night staff is often disregarded by many care home managers and professionals. The focus tends to be solely on day care resulting in night workers being left out of the loop.

Care home residents are entitled access to fully-trained and professional staff at all times of the day. However, according to a recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), many residents are missing out on quality care during the night, often enduring hours of disturbance and unease. Not only were residents reporting a lack of professional care at night but there were unacceptable levels of noise and light during the night, resulting in agitated residents. The 2008 report stated: ‘The night-time physical environment was disabling rather than enabling, especially for people with dementia.’

It has become a common occurrence for many night staff to be excluded from fundamental healthcare training. They do not seem to be given the same respect or supervision by their managers as day staff. The JRF study found that management has little involvement with night staff. Lacking knowledge of their sector and residents’ needs affects their ability to work efficiently and effectively, placing residents in danger as signs of pain, thirst and hunger go unnoticed. Many night staff report on feelings of isolation and anxiety, and because of their unease, many suffer from a culture of over-checking. Frequent and haphazard checks for issues such as incontinence and breathing are carried out by numerous care workers, leading to unnecessary disturbance of residents.

Traditional ‘v’ an alive and clicking approach

The main barriers to educating staff lies with funding and the logistics of sending employees out on training courses. Care home managers opting for traditional classroom based learning will come across many problems such as costs involved with travel to and from the classroom, overnight accommodation and the inconvenience of arranging cover for absent staff. Learning has to take place at a convenient time for everybody, and managers often have to seek out a number of different training providers to cover a comprehensive training program.

Care home managers also face the issue of staff with varying levels of ability. Classroom learning can be ineffective as information, pace and learning style is tailored to the class, rather than the individual. Not only that; training, if delivered in a classroom, runs the risk of being one-way, monotone and uninspiring.

e-learning, on the other hand, offers an array of advantages in a 24/7 service industry. A computer based training resource can be set around shift patterns with learners progressing at their own pace to ensure that they retain what they have learnt. We also need to consider that the preferred learning styles of generation X and Y* employees may be working in front of a computer, at their own pace and even at home! 

To ensure a thorough pedagogical experience and quality results, e-learning solutions often require a 100 per cent pass rate. This serves to ensure that staff members retain a comprehensive understanding of the subject material.  A record of staff training can be stored centrally so that staff progress can be tracked and future training needs can also be assessed as required. 

Each learner can participate in a pre-training assessment, which enables each individual to receive tailored tutorials, to precisely target specific knowledge gaps.  This helps to increase learning effectiveness and dramatically reduces the average time needed to accomplish each learning goal.

Types of training courses

The tracking of learner progress and completion of mandatory training courses in particular is of paramount importance. Online training courses such as the Knowledge Set for Care: Infection Control ensure care home staff are aware of how to prevent the spread of infections like MRSA. Staff can also learn Skills for Care aligned job skills such as Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults (SOVA). This is aimed at care home staff who work with vulnerable adults. Topics such as roles and responsibilities are addressed. 

Administration of medicines is a further e-learning course that provides awareness and underpinning knowledge about how to administer medicines correctly and safely. For example this is of utmost importance for night staff that may need to administer pain relief in the middle of the night. Customer care is another highly important area for night staff to be trained in. It gives staff the awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence required to meet or exceed the expectations of all service users and colleagues. Training such as this can be the answer to night staff nervously over checking and disturbing the residents.

It is essential that care workers, especially those that are night staff, understand that night time care is not just about promoting sleep. Care workers must understand that their role is to cater for each resident individually. It is not acceptable to assume everyone will like or require the same attention in the night. Many care workers will perform a policy ‘round check’; this should not be instructed, carers must listen to the residents’ needs.

A pace to suit the individual

Studying may be a new experience for many night-time workers, therefore the ease and accessibility of an e-learning course will motivate them to learn more, rather than providing a daunting experience. User-friendly platforms can be used by both advanced learners and those with basic IT skills, meaning learning can be entertaining yet informative.  e-Learning courses can also be highly customised, with content delivered to suit the individual requirements of the learner – whether online, on CD, or on a touch screen PC.

e-Learning allows for each individual to learn at a pace that suits them. Studying can be administered in bite sized chunks to ensure higher attention levels. The average course time for the traditional one day course is just over three hours which also leads to considerable labour savings.

Care staff can learn during any spare time they have in the normal working day or shift. They can focus their training around the peaks and troughs of the day, pre and post lunch times for instance.

Migrant workers and skills for life literacy

The poor levels of numeracy and literacy skills among the adult population in the UK are well documented.  This coupled with the increasing number of migrant workers in the sector makes basic skills training a necessity for many care home managers.  For migrants, English may be their second language and e-learning from both a pictorial and a language support perspective can be far more effective than an English speaking trainer conducting a group session.

Good e-learning solutions when combined with traditional training techniques makes for a well balanced provision of training. Using the appropriate training method to cover the right subject matter allows time, effort and resources to be directed appropriately making both money and time go further in delivering top quality training.
It is important that managers of care homes realise there are training courses out there offering packages that encompass the needs of night staff. e-Learning is flexible, inexpensive, and accessible – an ideal solution for night-time carers who can work in their own time and at their own pace.  Like day staff, night staff are entitled to full training on how to deal with complex cases like dementia, and residents are entitled to 24-hour care. With e-learning readily available, there is no excuse for care managers not to train each and every member of staff working in their care home.