11 Skills & Qualities
Needed to Work in a Care Home
There are many different roles open to you in the care sector; from working in a care home to visiting someone’s house to care for them there. Although working in a care home can bring its challenges, it can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding jobs you ever do. After all, you’re helping some of the most vulnerable people in society achieve a higher quality of life!
So, if you’re thinking about the next step in your career and you’re wondering what skills and qualities you need to be able to work in a care home, read on to find out…
1. Compassion and Empathy
Our number-one quality for working in care is compassion - simply put, you have to care. Many care seekers face isolation, loneliness, health conditions and boredom, which over time can have serious effects on their mental health and wellbeing. As a caring person, you’ll spend time each day interacting with and listening to each person, no matter what.
Empathy is also a super useful quality to possess when working in care. Not only will being able to empathise with residents and their family members show them that you truly care, but it will also help you to work better - after all, if you can walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you are able to build an understanding of their mindset and see the world from their perspective.
2. People Skills and Communication
Working in a care home, you’ll spend a significant part of your day-to-day role talking to residents, their family and friends and your fellow care home workers, so being able to confidently interact with people is key. At times you may find yourself having to have difficult or sensitive conversations and good people skills will help you to successfully navigate different scenarios.
Leading on from people skills, good communication skills are also key. However, communication doesn’t always mean talking. As a care worker, you’ll be dealing with individuals who might have certain health concerns that mean they aren’t always able to talk. Listening, responding and communicating with residents’ friends and family is therefore vital to make sure that nothing is missed.
3. Leadership Skills and Independence
There are lots of different roles within a care home and depending on your level, you may be required to manage or lead different members of the team. For example, care home managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of the care home, including creating a staff rota that ensures that everyone is where they should be at all times.
Although in a care home, staff typically work as a team and report to the care home manager, you may find that you have a certain amount of independence in your role. Being able to assess situations on your own and make your own decisions will be a large part of your day, so if you’re confident doing this, you’ll likely make a great care worker. If you don’t feel like this is you yet, don’t worry! Lots of skills are learnt with time and experience.
4. Positive Attitude and Passion
Although sometimes the job can be tough, a friendly and positive attitude will go a long way to helping you in your care home career. Not only will this make residents and their families feel better, but your fellow care workers will appreciate your positivity too.
A passion for care is also a really important quality to have. A real drive to do the job often makes all the difference and is sometimes valued more highly than qualifications and training.
5. Time Management and Flexibility
Working in a care home is often fast-paced and sometimes you might feel as though you’re needed in two places at once! Good time management will help you stick to your daily tasks and make sure everything gets done at the right time.
Your role as a care worker may require you to complete a variety of different tasks each day, with a number of different people. Being flexible is therefore important to ensure you can quickly and efficiently move from one task to the next, as well as being ready to run to assistance should you be called on. You may also be asked to do different tasks to your normal role if cover is required. Being able to seamlessly shift between tasks and job roles will give you the edge.
6. Organisation and Reliability
In juggling many different tasks each day, you’ll need strong organisation skills to keep track of everything. Care homes can be extremely busy places to work, some with hundreds of residents who all need care, support, medication and companionship. If you’re an organised person, you’ll be able to stay on top of your tasks for the day with ease, from taking medication to residents and helping out at mealtimes, to organising trips out and activities.
Care workers need to be 100% reliable as part of their job. Vulnerable individuals will be counting on you as a lifeline for support, care and company, especially if they don’t have family or friends, so you must prove that you can turn up on time and complete your tasks as best as possible. A consistent daily routine helps to calm and reassure, whereas interruptions to routine can cause agitation and distress.
7. Keeping a level head and problem-solving
If you work in a care home with lots of residents, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. With an overstretched health and social care sector and time constraints added to the mix, some situations can quickly become challenging. The ability to remain calm in stressful situations and keep a cool head is vital to ensure that the situation is resolved as quickly as possible.
Similarly, problem solving is another useful skill to possess in a care environment. The job might throw challenges at you that you’ll need to calmly and logically work around to find a solution, such as deciding how best to treat a resident who has specific health complications.
8. Resilience and patience
Sometimes care home life can be demanding, so you’ll require resilience and patience to deal with all its challenges and tricky situations. When it comes to resilience, having a thick skin isn’t vital but it will help you to do your job more easily, whether it’s the long hours, difficult conversations, challenging behaviours from residents or general stress. Learn to be patient and roll with the punches.
9. A desire to learn and a sense of humour
Although you don’t always need a qualification or previous experience to work in a care home, a willingness to learn is an attractive prospect to a potential employer. Many care workers study for qualifications on the job, as well as being able to access more training as they progress. If you show that you’re keen to learn, this will stand you in good stead in any interview.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ - and while technically this isn’t always the case, a cheerful, happy and friendly disposition works wonders in a care environment. Making care home residents smile or laugh might just be the highlight of their day; whether it’s a joke to distract them when they’re feeling down or a shared experience that cheers them up.
10. Respect and professionalism
Demonstrating that you take a professional approach to your job will set you apart from other candidates for a care worker role. Working in care requires a drive to provide the highest standards of care in accordance with moral and ethical codes, as well as respect for care home residents.
11. Going the extra mile
Good care workers provide care and support for care home residents - great care workers go that extra mile to make residents feel comfortable and happy. This could be remembering how they take their tea, asking about their family, or knowing which items of clothing are their favourites. It’s the small things that make the real difference.
We hope this article has helped you decide whether you’ve got what it takes to be a care worker. Remember that although you can study the practical skills needed for care work, a lot of the time it’s the soft skills that will make you a fantastic care worker. Good luck!
About the Author
Will Donnelly is the co-founder of Lottie, a digital marketplace that connects care seekers to the best care homes in the UK. Before co-founding Lottie, Will spent over 5-years advising the UK's leading care and retirement operators and was part of the property team that helped the NHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.