Why staff training will be critical to the running of care homes this winter

The pandemic is not over. The challenges and heartbreak which swept the care home sector in the UK in 2020-2021 are fresh memories. New research, ‘Beyond the control of the care home: A meta-ethnography of qualitative studies of Infection Prevention and Control in residential and nursing homes for older people’ (Health Expectations, August 2021), has shown that the spread of Covid within care settings was not just about covid imported infection. The training of care home staff and the motivation of care home managers to keep on top of staff training impacted the story of the pandemic within care homes. With the prospect of a particularly difficult winter ahead, it is critical that we learn the lessons from this research. Despite the pressures of high staff turnover in the care sector, emphasis on training and good practice in infection control within care homes is essential if we are to keep the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society safe. Even without Covid and the inevitable new and unknown potential threats, there are 100s of pathogens widely circulating in the environment and these threaten the health of some of the most vulnerable in our society. Prevention is better than cure. The heart of infection control is the implementation of a rigorous training schedule with a refresher programme in best practice. This research demonstrated that if care home managers really took on the mantra that good infection control was within their power then outcomes were usually improved both for care home residents and for staff.

Daniel Pink has shown us that staff engagement (read motivation and retention) is improved through purpose, mastery and autonomy (‘Drive’ Daniel H Pink 2009). A focus on infection control backed up by robust, regular training goes some way to support this. Led well you can achieve the benefit of improved infection control and more engaged staff.

Implementation of a rigorous training schedule in care homes is key to infection prevention

The route to effective prevention of an infection outbreak in care homes is driven at its core through rigorous and impactful staff training. Effective staff training needs to cover all aspects of infection control protocols from seemingly simple measures such as making sure that hand washing is performed to a high and consistent standard through to training on how to use sluice room equipment. The sluice room can easily be the source of an infection outbreak within care settings. Ensuring that an infection outbreak is contained and confined to the perimeters of the sluice room is essential to the safety of residents and the smooth running of the care home itself. The serious consequences of an infection outbreak running out of control need no highlighting – they are obvious. Through a rigorous staff training programme which is updated regularly, infection outbreaks can be largely mitigated and contained.

Neglecting staff training in the sluice room poses unnecessary risks

Staff training should never be neglected. It can be a management challenge with high staff turnovers typical in the care home sector and fluid shift patterns in making sure that you and your management team are always on top of the staff training programme schedules. The pandemic was not all bad news however, – necessity has brought about a huge increase in blended learning. This mixes aspects of face-to-face training with digital training conducted on-line and in real time. Digital learning has the added benefit of ensuring that core aspects of infection control training which might seem obvious, such as hand washing, cannot be missed or skipped. Delegates participating in good e-training are forced to revise and review key aspects of infection control protocols. This is good practice and reinforces the need for hygiene never to be compromised or taken at face value. The pandemic has reinforced the lesson that implementing simple and rigorous infection management protocols goes a long way in infection prevention. E-training enables you to insist staff pass basic criteria before they enter the workplace, or at least before they come into contact with residents.

The lessons from Covid re training in care homes

It will take time to review all the lessons to be learned from the Covid pandemic. One lesson is clear: prevention is better than cure. Make sure that your infection control training regime for all staff is maintained and regularly updated, reinforced, and repeated as a key tool in maintaining infection control in your care home. The dedicated training team at Stanbridge with their years of experience in working with care homes and through supplying reusable sluice equipment which is built to last, and designed and engineered to be easy to use. It is this expertise that ensures your staff are trained and kept up to date with the latest development in infection control management. The Stanbridge team can conduct the training in-person or on-line. It is the flexibility and professionalism of our team which makes Stanbridge the perfect partner to work with you to keep your care home safe and meet the training needs of all your staff in infection control management.

If you would like to speak to someone at Stanbridge about updating your training programme or to make a booking on an infection prevention course, then please contact us.

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