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26th July 2013

Care Coordination- It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it …

Despite working in Homecare for a number of years, I still lack the answer to ‘What makes a Good Care Co-ordinator?’  I truly have no idea, and yet Care Coordinators are the backbone of our businesses. At every Homecare providers meeting I attend, I hear the same gripes and moans from other Managers; all about the Care Co-ordinators they employ.  Please don’t misunderstand me; I have had the pleasure of working with some fantastic Care Coordinators and I still do now. However, it remains a mystery to me as to what qualities are required to excel as a Coordinator.

I do have my reasons for being unable to draw theses conclusions. I oversee a busy service and I am continually on the lookout for a good Care Co-ordinator. I’ll admit, I’m suspicious of those applicants that hop from company to company. There are occasions when the Company Director has become so despondent at the lack of quality applicants that she has invested in a Recruitment Agency to see if a suitable applicant can be sourced.

I have had positive and negative experiences recruiting this way. Two years ago, I interviewed a fabulous female who seemed eager and energetic. She had three years experience as a Care Coordinator and possessed a wonderfully sunny nature. I was immediately impressed and we offered her the role.  Two months after starting with us, the fabulous female was promoted twice to a Care Managers role - she was that good.

But alas – my second experience of recruiting through an agency was not so successful. The male applicant was friendly and interviewed really well. He had 20 years experience in Homecare, overseeing a service of around 2000 hours per week. His CV was impressive, his references excellent and he could recite the Care Standards backwards. The Director was happy to pay the fee to the agency and we offered him the position of Care Coordinator. Just a few short weeks into the role, things were not going so well. We sat down to discuss how he felt it was working and he admitted that he had not actually coordinated Care for 8 years and felt a ‘little rusty’. Six weeks later, the feedback from service users and care staff had not improved and colleagues felt there was a definite lack of empathy towards others. The relationship ended, proving to be a costly mistake. The total fee for this gentleman was £2500.

Needless to say, I would have to carefully consider (read: be desperate) to try a Recruitment agency again.

A number of years ago, I recall interviewing an applicant for an admin post. At the interview he explained he had no experience in Health and Social Care and his understanding of care work was limited to ‘some light housework’. He explained he was an out of work architect and just looking for something to fill his unemployed days. After a resounding start to his admin role, he surprised us all and was quickly promoted to Care Coordinator. His common sense, logical approach to planning and distributing work alongside his sensible, empathic attitude towards the colleagues he managed, won him an army of fans in our staff team and service user group. He was reliable, discreet, an excellent problem solver, a good listener and had a genuine desire to help and support others in a respectful and compassionate way. That architect is one of the best coordinators I have ever known.

It’s hard to explain what qualities and skills you require to be a good Care Coordinator. I worked for two years in the role and I know how rewarding but demanding and stressful the role can be.

I know it can take months for new Care Coordinators to flourish and make a significant contribution to the team. You have to understand the company ethos, how it runs and their policies and procedures. You have to learn the IT system, become familiar with your service user group and their individual care plans. You have to get to know your staff group, supervise them regularly and always be on hand to offer the right guidance and support in any situation that may arise. You need to celebrate their work, be sure to pass on praise but be firm and constructive with those who are under performing. You need to have an affinity with your clients, listen to their frustrations and provide a listening ear when things go wrong and commit yourself to putting it right. You need to have a sat nav in your head and a good knowledge of the area you are coordinating. What some might describe as “just down the road” could be a 40 minute walk to a carer who doesn’t have the luxury of a car. Being reasonable with your staff about what you expect of them, but being firm and keeping a cool head when you have an outraged or frustrated worker on the phone. It is like working with a puzzle and having to make sure all the jigsaw pieces fit in the right place. Promoting good practice and encouraging staff to provide a quality service to the best of their ability. Having a good working knowledge of CQC outcomes, employment law, and knowing what to do in an emergency.

It’s not always necessary to possess these skills when starting, but they certainly are qualities you will be required to develop when working in the role. It is a tough job. There is a huge responsibility that comes with the role, as your actions impact on people’s lives.

As a Manager, you need to nurture good coordinators and provide them with support and guidance, leading by example in your dealings with service users and staff alike. I am proud to say that four of the Care Coordinators I work with have over 30 years combined service. Believe me, when I meet a good Care Coordinator I try not to let them go!

So once again, I find myself looking to recruit another Care Coordinator and I feel I’m too long in the tooth to listen to the interview rhetoric I am so used to hearing. This year I have finally learned my lesson. We have invited those who have been successful at interviews into our office for short trial periods to see how well they work with our already established team.  It’s a win-win situation for both the applicant and ourselves with no commitment from either party.

As I trawl through the pile of CVs for my next recruit, I’m still wondering ‘What makes a good Care Coordinator?’  And find myself at a loss for a definitive answer. If any readers have the answer, please share your knowledge on the QCS Forum, I would love to hear from you.

Rosie Robinson - QCS Expert Contributor on Care


Business Support Manager

One thought on “Care Coordination- It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it …”

  1. Alex Grant says:

    As a care coordinator at a domiciliary care agency I can say (with some authority) that the key to successful coordination lies with the care manager, or whoever accepts new referrals. If new referrals are accepted “over the head” of the relevant area coordinator, then severe difficulties will arise quite irrespective of the character qualities and gifts of that coordinator. No amount of skill and “good character” can magic workers out of thin air to cover care calls. If the manager has the attitude that “you must cover the calls irrespective of staff capacity” (yes, that has been said to me!) and has a cavalier attitude to accepting new referrals without following a well worked out formula to maintain a workable staff to service user ratio, then the coordinator will have to work under extreme and unreasonable stress. Furthermore, call times will have to be adjusted (sometimes severely) and client care will suffer. Continuity of care will suffer, of course, and who will be blamed for this? No, not the manager, but the poor long-suffering coordinator! I think I am actually a good coordinator, and my staff think highly of me, but I am sorry to say that this is the worst job I have had in my nearly thirty years of working life. Sorry to be so negative, but this is the truth. This ought to be a fulfilling role, but it all comes down to the attitude and agenda of the management. Get that right, and coordination will work. The managers of care agencies need to understand that staff capacity is one of CQC’s core principles by which they conduct inspections. Without sufficient staff the agency is running an unsafe service. I have even been made to feel that I am responsible for recruitment, even though this is not my job. If there is a crisis in social care, it lies not with coordinators, but higher up the ladder.

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