The Rota –  art and science?

Residential care and support is a full on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year professional service. It is governed by the cycles of life as they change daily, weekly and seasonally. It is punctuated by high days and holidays. For residents, routine may mean safety and stability. Whereas the unexpected can be frightening and unsettling. At the same time repetition may be boring and stagnant; change exciting and stimulating. At any one moment the past and future can collide in the here and now. Residential care is simultaneously predictable and unpredictable.

How to manage and lead when there is such uncertainty? When, as one manager said to me: as you come on a duty and ‘its’ noisy then ‘its’ happening and if ‘its’ quiet then ‘its’ about to happen. Well the rota is the overriding management and planning tool used. Whilst it is the individual care plan that shapes how personal requirements for physical, emotional and occupational health and well-being are met; it is the rota that dictates the way they are met.

The characteristics of an effective rota include:

  • Sufficiency of staff to meet the needs of the residents as a group at all times
  • Sufficiency and competency of staff to meet the particular needs of individual residents for agreed periods of time
  • Identified time to meet the needs of the staff for time off, training and supervision
  • Time for communication between staff and between shifts
  • Time for individual care planning and review involving residents and key workers
  • A diary of important events such as birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations
  • Access to a record of what was intended to happen, what’s happening and what actually happened. (the past the present and the future)

These are basic, but if they are in place they do allow sense to be made of both the routine and the turmoil that can be residential work. Build in some time to think and reflect, some time to prepare, consult on and manage the rota as a role and responsibility of managers then a residential setting has a good grounding for success.

There are many subtleties and skills to effective rostering that come with knowledge and experience. Managers tend to learn by trial and error when some training, support and shadowing wouldn’t go amiss. A rota can allow good practice to flourish and errors can be minimised. A rota should be considered an art rather than a science in my opinion, but like with all art forms it is practice that makes perfect.

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Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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