There’s no doubt about it. Home grown is best, whether you are talking about vegetables, fruit, or in the case of Hawkhill House nursing home on the outskirts of Aberdeen, staff. The home, which celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year, has an unrivalled reputation for retaining and developing staff.
“A lot of our people start as part-time domestics while they are still at school,” said matron-manager, Kristin Jackson-Brown. “Then they go on to be carers when they turn 17, decide they want to do their nursing training because of what they have experienced here and stay with us on a part-time basis while they train, then come back full-time when they are qualified. Even when they get to retirement age they want to stay and we keep them as part-time or bank workers.”
Sarah Mauchline said “I always felt I would come back here,” she said. “This time, I’ve been back for a year as a staff nurse although I first worked here eight years ago as a carer before I went off to do my nursing training. When I qualified I worked in another home but didn’t enjoy it and kept waiting to hear of any vacancies at Hawkhill.”
Her colleague Rachel Stroud has a similar story. She has nine years service at Hawkhill, starting as a domestic before training as a nurse. “When I qualified I got a job in the maternity theatre. I thought I wanted to work on the surgical side until I tried it and discovered I preferred being with old people, and everything about Hawkhill. So I came back.”
Claire Harper has also spent nine years at Hawkhill. “I loved it when I worked here as a carer. The teamwork was great then and I think it is even better now. It feels like a home from home and I personally feel very well supported,” she said. “When I qualified I tried working in orthopaedics but didn’t enjoy it and wanted to work full-time here, which I’m doing now.”
Kristin added: ‘‘At present we have three care assistants who are doing their nurses training and they are already showing exceptional understanding of the needs of elderly people.’’
All the girls are lavish in their praise of Kristin – who herself started working part time at Hawkhill as a 17-year-old nursing student and has been there ever since – and Mrs Rona Tayler, the owner of Hawkhill, Aberdeen’s only remaining privately-owned nursing home. Both Kristin and Rona have a policy of encouraging personal development of their staff and it is clearly a policy which pays off. Kristin herself is an example of this, having combined her role at Hawkhill while studying towards a master’s degree which she gained last year.
It’s almost impossible to quantify what makes Hawkhill so special to its staff and residents. The shift patterns are the same as everywhere else. The work is just as hard and demanding. Sarah, Claire and Rachel put it down to the teamwork, the support and the family feeling. “You can ask any question, no matter how basic, and you know someone will help you,” said Rachel. “We all work well together.”
Kristin and Mrs Tayler always recruit locally and try to offer work to student nurses whenever they can. They have never used agency staff and put continuity of care very high up their list of priorities.
“It’s nice to know the families out their trust in us to care for their relatives,” said Sarah. “The families are so appreciative of everything we do for the residents.”
Among them, Sarah, Claire, Rachel and Kristin have a total of 31 years service at Hawkhill. Some members have staff have worked there for more than 20 years, and given that the home has been open for 25 years, that’s an impressive statistic. Mrs Tayler cares for her staff with annual pay rises and gifts to mark 10, 15 and 25 years service and annual bonuses thereafter.
The girls are all convinced that Mrs Tayler’s unique style of management has a lot to do with her ability to inspire and retain staff. How many other employers could have four staff sitting round a table agreeing that it continues to be a pleasure to go to work each morning and find themselves the envy of colleagues who work elsewhere?
Not many and it’s all down to Mrs Tayler’s determination to grow her own staff.