H. Lord , S. Freeman , S. First 

University of Bolton (UNITED KINGDOM)
Care homes are at the front of social care provision often managing long term and complex conditions. The advent of the global pandemic in 2020 highlighted the challenges that social care staff were facing as they were required to undertake more complex care delivery and advanced decision making as wider services withdrew in response to the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines. At a time when social care is needing additional support, funding increase plans have excluded budgets for workforce education and training presenting a risk to quality of care and accessibility for those most in need. This has led to a recognition of the need to develop new and innovative educational programmes for those working within the social care sector.

A pilot programme of education was designed and developed for carers working within elderly residential and nursing care facilities in the North of England providing quality assured education. The aims were to equip carers with the knowledge and skills to improve residents’ outcomes by addressing unwarranted variations in care, promoting safe care and reducing unplanned hospital admissions. Further aims were to explore a model of education that facilities learning providing optimal opportunity and accessibility for a diverse workforce under pressure. The approach used was an asynchronous teaching method, delivered via an online quality assured learning package. Developed by a team of academics the interactive online packages were designed to engage students in a journey of exploration and learning providing an opportunity to develop core knowledge and clinical skills.

A scoping exercise with care home managers was undertaken to identify the educational needs of the carers working within the care homes. In response twelve modules were developed and included within the pilot programme. Evaluation of the education was undertaken using a qualitative approach through the thematic analysis of comments provided in short reflections of learning for each module. A total number of n=47 reflections were analysed, and the key themes identified were those relating to professional hierarchy, professional boundaries and the emotional impact of caring.

Overall findings suggest that the impact of using asynchronous digital learning and reflective narrative enables the students to express, in their own words and regardless of their experience the impact of their learning. There was evidence of carers implementing learned knowledge and skills into practice whilst demonstrating their ability to be self-aware.