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How one care home manager has brought joy to elderly residents during lockdown

A care home manager who has dedicated more than half her life to social care, has been named a Healthcare Hero in a nationwide search celebrating key workers.

Danielle Bullent from Gorleston-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth has been awarded the accolade in Quinyx’s inaugural Workforce Heroes Awards. She was nominated by her colleagues from Laurel Lodge residential home in Norwich and her former manager from Park House in Great Yarmouth.

Danielle was involved in organising a surprise anniversary celebration for Derek and Phyllis Mapes. The couple, both aged 90, were unable to celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary as they had been apart for eight months because of lockdown. After Derek joined Phyllis at Laurel Lodge in the autumn, Danielle and the team organised a special meal with entertainment, to commemorate the occasion.

The 35-year-old mum-of-two began working in the care industry as a care assistant, aged just 17. Steadily progressing up the career ladder, in October 2019 she accepted the role of manager with the Black Swan Care Group home, after completing an NVQ in Leadership and Management. care home manager Danielle doing resident's Hazel's hair

After only 12 weeks in the new position, the coronavirus pandemic hit. Danielle recalls how the past year has been challenging but how she is extremely proud of keeping the care home COVID-free, while prioritising residents’ mental health and wellbeing and maintaining a positive environment for all.

Describing work as “her passion”, she explains: “I was new to the role and there were many different protocols and procedures to implement around infection control, PPE and safeguarding residents because of the virus outbreak – so it was a lot to get my head around at the start!

“There were some real lows – residents missed their families, and the team was faced with significant additional pressure. But looking back they did, and are still doing, a tremendous job. I couldn’t be prouder.”

To keep spirits high amongst her workforce of 39, Danielle introduced regular group chats for her team on WhatsApp so everyone could air their thoughts and feelings, while being commended on their achievements. The team could also take advantage of pizza treats and sweet baskets, for when they worked late or needed a little pick-me-up. The addition of a ‘You Matter’ display, which featured helpful local information and support services and a breakdown of the ‘who’s who’ of the head office team, proved particularly popular with Danielle’s colleagues.

Making this difficult time a little easier to bear for the 30 residents and their families, Danielle organised daily Zoom chats between loved ones and ensured the weekly schedule of activities included something for everyone, from cooking or dancing to a music session. A former majorette, she put on a baton twirl show for residents and hand-delivered them all biscuits and a rose on Valentine’s Day.

Danielle’s idea of a wishing tree, for the community to share their hopes and aspirations, resulted in one palliative care resident getting a signed Wolves shirt that he had always longed for and signed autographs from his favourite players.  And at the end of last year, memory books were created for the families of those who had sadly passed away. The keepsakes featured images of the resident along with messages and memories from the care home team.

Although this past year has been mentally and physically tough for Danielle and has meant her willingly clocking up 60+ hour weeks, she has focused on keeping herself and her family, sons Jay (17) and Harry (11) plus husband Remi, healthy.

Losing a stone since November, after she took up running to help manage her stress levels, Danielle concludes: “When I started the new manager job the weight crept on as I was grabbing convenient foods and snacks when I could. I started to feel sluggish and it was making me feel a bit low, so I began making healthy food with the family and now run about five miles, three times a week. I feel great for it.”

Daniel Holmberg, Country Manager for workforce management solution Quinyx UK was one of the judges for the Workforce Heroes Awards. He adds: “We had some really strong entries for the accolade of Healthcare Hero – it is so hard to pick just one winner when there’s so many fantastic examples of people going over and above at work.

“What really stood out from Danielle’s entry was that she’d been nominated several times by her team and she is so passionate about making sure everyone is happy and healthy – both physically and mentally. She faced the pandemic head on – leading by example, making her a very deserved winner.”

Celebrating the hard work and dedication of frontline workers who really excelled in 2020, Quinyx launched the Workforce Heroes UK search in early 2021 to find the Retail, Healthcare and Logistics Heroes.

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