Armed Forces Day: First impressions count for Royal Star & Garter home manager

Royal Star & Garter
Jamie Stubbs hatting to WWII navy veteran Harry

Qualified nurse Jamie Stubbs worked for the NHS before joining the RAF in December 1995. During his 19-year military career, he attained the rank of flight lieutenant nurse. Now he is the home manager at Royal Star & Garter in Solihull. To mark Armed Forces Day, he reflects on finding his dream job at the veterans’ care home

I remember walking into the home for the first time on Christmas Eve, following my appointment as the interim home manager. It was a real opportunity to just feel and see the service I’d heard so much about. It was critical for me that it went well, but I’m always nervous when I’m about to meet a new team on unfamiliar territory.

As I approached the reception door with an outstretched finger to press the buzzer, it miraculously opened. Standing there with the warmest welcome was Kevin, who is our driver and part of the wellbeing team. Unknown to me, the home had received my biography prior to arrival. Kevin appeared to have memorised the whole document because instantly he knew all about me and my past! This led to very easy conversation and instantly settled my nerves.

Kevin took me into reception where I was warmly greeted by Sam, the receptionist, who explained that she would let lead nurse Heni know I’d arrived, which allowed me to have several minutes to soak up the energy of the home. I was simply delighted to hear staff laughing and talking with each other as they passed through. There was all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas Day. The immense Christmas tree was up in the foyer, there was chatter, there was a buzz in the home.

As I sat there, the military paintings on the wall took me and my thoughts away to familiar places and spaces. I served in the RAF for 19 years, and the paintings made me feel comfortable, almost like I had visited before.

Heni then came to greet me. It’s hard to read people’s faces when they have masks on, but I could tell from her eyes that she was smiling, and her introduction was real, warm and genuine. We went to the lead  nurses’ office and the conversation was easy, free-flowing and it became clear that we both held very similar views on what person-centred care should look like. She spoke with passion about the home, the residents, the team and the charity. It was infectious – I had felt this energy from the minute I walked into the home.

Heni told me that two other lead nurses, Yuriy and Nadine, were coming in on their days off to say ‘Hi’ and introduce themselves. This hadn’t happened to me before – I am acutely aware of how hard people work in this sector, and days off are precious.

The reception I received from them was warm, welcoming and from the heart. It was clear their passion and drive matched mine. I felt all my Christmases had come at once. How could I be sitting in a room with three people who all wanted to achieve what I did and more? I had never experienced this in adult social care before.

One thing I will never forget from that meeting was when they said to me: “Tell us about you, not the manager you, the real you.” They wanted to know what kind of human I was. That told me all I needed to know about this band of three. The person inside is everything to them and that’s how it should be.

My tour of the home with the three lead nurses was a wonderful experience. Each floor was buzzing with laughter, smiling residents, activities and such a positive feeling. Every member of staff I came into contact with wanted to talk to me; they were genuinely interested in me and what I had done previously. They spoke about their work with compassion and conviction. They spoke about going the extra mile. They described residents being at the centre of their care and all that they did. They wanted residents to live their best lives in a safe and secure environment. They involved the residents in their care and decisions related to it. I was in a spin! I had never been surrounded by such positivity in this setting before. What was intended to be a quick 45-minute ‘dip-my-toe-in-the-water’ visit turned into a four-hour afternoon visit.

Three months into my interim contract I was appointed as the permanent home manager and I couldn’t be happier – this really is my dream job. Working here made such an impression on me from day one that I never wanted to leave. I became a nurse because I care about people and I wanted to make a difference. I’m doing that now. I’m in the company of people who have similar military experiences and it’s an honour to look after them. And I think the residents appreciate the bond we share too. We have conversations about military life and what we’ve been up to; we speak about the bits and pieces we have done.

I have learned so much in that time. I have visited the other homes and met all of the teams. Royal Star & Garter appears to be a magnet for attracting only the best, most caring staff across all disciplines. All of the homes have felt familiar even though the geography is different. The energy of the staff is like nectar – it’s addictive and you can’t get enough of surrounding yourself with it. It’s the magical and mysterious glue that pulls us all together and makes us all want to perform at our very best.

The first six months have been a thrilling and joyous experience: to be in the company of people who are always striving to do what’s best for our residents; it’s a joy to be working with a team that’s so committed. It makes me feel proud, and there is nowhere else that I would rather be. Royal Star & Garter is the place for me – it makes sense to be here.