5 Things to Consider Before Hiring an Aged Care Manager

I consider myself very lucky. My position exposes me to the wonderful people who work in the aged care industry on a daily basis. We have all heard about our ageing population and what the future...

I consider myself very lucky. My position exposes me to the wonderful people who work in the aged care industry on a daily basis. We have all heard about our ageing population and what the future of the aged care industry holds, and while I agree that strategies and plans must be put in place to address our future needs, I am also determined to keep a focus on our present needs too.

For the most part, I have found that those professionals who chose to work in this industry do it out of passion. It is not just a job for them, it is a vocational calling. At the pinnacle of this field are the aged care managers; the people who coordinate and bring that passion together to enhance the lives of their residents and the families with whom they have entrusted the care of their loved ones to. Now that is real responsibility. When we are sourcing managers on behalf of our clients, we do so with five key objectives in mind to ensure that whatever the facility, that manager is going to make a real and present difference to the lives of the residents and staff.

1. Passion, Passion, Passion.

Many people in our world go to work, to work. What I mean is that they view their job as an ends to make a living, pay the bills, enjoy their free time; but are not engaged or ultimately don’t care about the effect of what they do while at work can have. An aged care facility is no place for someone like this. The best and most effective aged care managers I have had the pleasure of working with have all had one common trait – they were all passionate about what they did to an almost extreme level. These amazing professionals all understood the real and direct impact their decisions and actions had on the lives of the people around them. So before you hire a manager for your facility, switch on your passion metre when meeting prospective candidates – if you doubt their passion then there’s no doubt that they are wrong for the role.

2. Aged Care Managers are not nurses.

This may confuse some people as most facility managers are, in fact, actually nurses. What I mean by this is that a management role is more far-reaching than providing quality and loving clinical care. I have never met a nurse who wasn’t filled with passion for what they did, but I have met facility managers who were the wrong fit for their position. Managers manage; they have an ability to take a helicopter view of the facility, the systems, the commercial realities of the business, and they thrive doing it. Many nursing staff simply have not got the ability or inclination to do this. And believe me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this; personally I would rather have a wonderfully passionate nursing clinician engage with me when my time comes than the facility manager! My point is that when sourcing a manager for your facility (or if you are considering a move away from clinical work into management), you must be sure that the day-to-day management of a facility and its residents and staff is something the individual is capable of and truly desires to do.

3. Understanding the humanity of the role.

I once overheard an employee of an aged care facility (non-clinical I should add), refer to their residents as ‘in-mates.’ If you’re shocked by this you are not alone. When looking for a manager for an aged care facility you must delve deeply to see if they understand the special human aspect that comes with the position. Treating the elderly should be viewed as a special honour, a privilege that few should be offered and those who are feel blessed to have been given that opportunity. The elderly enter aged care for a myriad of reasons whether it is for health reasons, mobility issues, or simply are alone in this world and have no one else to turn to. These people have lived their lives, they've paid their taxes, they have loved and lost and seen more than you or I have (or possibly ever will). They deserve our respect and have earned the right to be treated with dignity. If your prospective candidate doesn't have a deep understanding of this then you have a responsibility to move on to someone more deserving of the honour.

4. Experience matters.

This speaks for itself for all of the above reasons I’ve stated so far. As the aged care industry grows to try and cope with our ageing population, we find ourselves stuck in the vicious circle of ‘not enough experience’ and ‘can’t get experience.’ Your facility manager needs relevant and proven aged care experience, but as I continuously advise our clients – this is a shallow pool you’re swimming in. Now is the time for those aged care companies to succession plan, and succession plan for up to ten years ahead. If your junior staff have joined your facility it is because most of them felt a calling to work with the elderly. So reward them with a career, provide training for them on an ongoing basis, identify your employees with a strong ability (natural or trained) to move into a management role, and nurture it. If your current aged care manager is due to retire in five to ten years then you should be reviewing your staff’s ability now to identify their potential successor. Experience matters, and experience within the same organisation and facility matters even more.

5. Take your time.

This point is short and simple. Do not rush into an appointment because you’re concerned about leaving your facility rudderless. I can promise you that if you rush a decision as important as this; then you, your staff, your residents and their families could live to regret it. We have all seen the horror stories of what can happen when the wrong person has been given access to loved ones and the worst has happened. If you need to provide leadership in the interim of a permanent appointment there are options (fully vetted locums etc), and while the intermediate solution may prove a little expensive in the meantime, it will never be as expensive as the horror story that could unfold from making a rash and wrong decision with your permanent placement.

I’m sure you have all heard the expression ‘with great power comes great responsibility’; well I believe that this is truer now for those in leadership roles within the aged care industry than ever before.

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