Julie Hyde, executive director of Education and Training Strategy at NCFE and CACHE, a provider of health and social care qualifications, discusses the crucial role of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in enabling the care sector to benefit from the growth of technology-enabled care.
Technology is transforming how we live our lives, do our jobs and complete everyday tasks. From self-steadying spoons and texture-modified foods to automatic pill dispensers and mobile lifting chairs, technology also has the potential to deliver a seismic shift in how we support people with their care needs and enable them to stay in their own homes and maintain their independence for longer.
To succeed in the sector, care professionals need to understand the developing role technology can play in enhancing the care they provide, and they also need the skills to use it effectively. This is particularly important for home care workers, who work in changing environments throughout the day and may encounter different technologies. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and the training and qualifications which underpin it, have a key role to play in achieving this.
CPD is about ensuring that you or your staff keep pace with the changes in the sector and remain at the forefront of the industry – providing the best care possible. With the advent of new technologies hastening the pace of change, it is increasingly challenging to keep up to speed with the new developments; making CPD even more important.
Organisations like NCFE, which provides courses for the health and social care sector through its CACHE portfolio, are increasingly developing qualifications which build the knowledge and skills to enable care workers to successfully deliver technology enabled care and use the latest tools, throughout their careers. For someone training to start a career in the sector, this could be a unit designed to develop familiarity with assistive living technologies.
For those engaging in CPD and embarking on further qualifications to boost their skills and knowledge, for example those in managerial roles, such qualifications can also help to ensure that they can deploy resources effectively and feel comfortable with the latest developments.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has called on the sector to ‘embrace the tide of technology’ and emphasised the role that technology can play in ‘bridging the gap between finite resources and the growing demand’.
However, it has been recognised that a lack of familiarity with new technology has created a degree of suspicion and resistance to change in the sector, which accounts for its slow take up. For care workers, fulfilling their duty of care and promoting the wellbeing of those they support is rightly their number one priority. As a result, they often lack trust in these tools, preferring to stick with tried and tested methods they know well, when there may be a better way. Learning about new technology and refreshing their knowledge can help to build confidence and encourage care workers to embrace new tools.
Proactively learning how to harness technology also has real potential to drive efficiencies and improve support. This isn’t about reducing the amount of time carers spend with those they support or replacing human contact – which we know is so important – but it can help carers to succeed in doing more and providing high-quality care with less, at a time when resources remain stretched. It also presents opportunities to reduce pressure on services and individual care workers, as well as lessening the physical demands of the job.
The confident use of technology can also help care workers strike a better balance between the practical side of care and emotional support, that is so vital to the overall wellbeing of those receiving care. For many in the sector, the latter is also the aspect of their job that they find most rewarding. Technology enabled care can help to free up time, enabling care workers to spend more time providing this important aspect of care and support.
We must of course always put service users and their needs first, but we should not shy away from the opportunities presented by technology to enhance and, in some cases, revolutionise care, and qualifications and training have a key role to play in unlocking this potential.