We should be celebrating the fact that people are living longer

Mary Cummins talks with Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI). Sharing leadership insights, Tadhg discusses celebrating longevity, care of the older person, career development in the private sector, and the role of nursing homes within the broader health service.
We should be celebrating the fact that people are living longer

Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland: I think sometimes the narrative around age can be quite negative.

DESCRIBING his leadership style as inclusive, Tadhg talks to the people around him on a regular basis, to get their thoughts and views, then tries to condense that into what needs to be done.

“I think that people would say I am approachable. I would be forgiving as well. If someone makes a mistake, I would like to think I would say; look hands up, we didn’t cover ourselves in glory here, and how can we learn from this.”

A people person, Mr Daly stated that a big part of his role is developing relationships, and trying to maintain those relationships, adding that this will stand to you in difficult times.

Beginning his career as President of the Students Union at the Regional Technical College, Cork, having paused his business course, Mr Daly from Drimoleague later progressed to President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). Returning to complete his studies, following graduation, he went to work with the ISPCC, primarily promoting the services of Childline. Joining the Irish Nursing Homes Organisation in 2005, he was instrumental in setting up Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) in 2008, bringing together four groups who represented nursing homes at the time.

A passionate advocate for older people, Mr Daly joked that maybe there is a little bit of self-interest there.

“I think sometimes the narrative around age can be quite negative, quite pejorative. I mean you see statements like the tsunami of older people and the burden of aging. I think that language is quite corrosive.

“I think we should be celebrating the fact that people are living longer, and then providing a full range of services to meet their needs.”

As the national representative organisation for the private and voluntary nursing homes sector, NHI have four hundred and seventeen members across the country. Commenting on the organisational challenges when invited, Mr Daly outlined the three main topics as: funding, workforce, and regulation, stressing that the workforce is the single biggest challenge of our time.

“You have debates in the Dáil, and they talk about a new elective hospital for Cork, or they talk about Sláintecare.

“Even if we had all those beds and buildings, one of the biggest challenges in healthcare is finding, training, and supporting the people who are going to deliver care, because it’s a tough, tough job, and not everybody can care. It is a particular skill set,” said Mr Daly.

Elaborating on the role of the Carer, he said: “The caring profession is a role that is misunderstood, and not valued, whereas it’s hugely valuable.”

In response, and to advance the role of healthcare assistant for the care of the older person, Mr Daly and his team worked with the National Apprenticeship Council, to develop a new apprenticeship programme, launched by Minister Harris last month. The programme allows healthcare assistants to attain QQI level 6 qualification, facilitating further development of their skills and knowledge, and strengthening their career pathway.

Mary Cummins: Career and Executive Coach, Trainer and Facilitator.
Mary Cummins: Career and Executive Coach, Trainer and Facilitator.

Mr Daly believes that the opportunities for people working in the Nursing Homes sector are considerable. A nurse working in a medium or large-sized nursing home can progress to a Director of Nursing role at a much faster pace than in the public system if they show the right aptitude, and the right skills, he said.

“The private sector is agile, and for the right type of people, it’s a very dynamic place to work. While I think historically nursing home care and older person care might not have been seen as cutting edge, now what you see is the dependency, the age profile, the complexities of care in nursing homes are much, much higher, so it’s a challenging environment to work in.”

Referring to the frustration in the sector of losing staff to the HSE, Mr Daly considers that retention of staff is multi-faceted, more than terms and conditions, and stressed the importance of continuous professional development. He also mentioned the importance of raising the profile of people who work in the sector to make it attractive and to support people to do what is a very difficult job.

In discussing the Covid-19 pandemic and reflecting upon the learnings, Mr Daly outlined the need for integration of the sector with the broader health service. “Ultimately the resident is a resident, whether they are in public, private or voluntary care, so we need to focus on the person, focus on their care needs, irrespective of where they reside.” Touching on attributes considered important in today’s world of work, Mr Daly is of the opinion that organisational fit is key, referring to himself as a “can do, will do merchant.”

Concluding the conversation, Mr Daly proceeded to quote the late Lieutenant General Dermot Earley saying: “Your attitude is more important than your ability, your motives are more important than your methods, your courage is more than your cleverness, and always have your heart in the right place.”

Mary Cummins is a Career & Executive Coach, Trainer & Facilitator and can be contacted by e-mail at: info@careerchanger.ie

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