Observation is believed to be a very powerful learning tool, and is widely used in educational settings. In care settings it is particularly useful when encouraging staff to step back, take time out and consider what it is like for residents, families and fellow staff.

The How

Work with a friend, a relative, resident or a care home manager colleague to observe together and discuss what you see and feel. Be mindful that there is a risk that we observe only those things we want to see and which relate to our own priorities and agendas.

The Where and When

It is essential that for the duration of the observation you are freed from your normal duties so that you can observe the work and life of your home. Observation periods of between 30 minutes to an hour are ample and it would help to take notes and put a time against each activity observed.

  1. Firstly, ensure that you have made clear to your staff that you cannot be disturbed.
  2. Take five minutes to still your mind, become mindful, aware of yourself, your thoughts and feelings.
  3. Take five minutes to think through the work on relationship-centred care.
  4. Identify an appropriate place in the care home eg a corridor, a lounge, or somewhere where activity is taking place. Get comfortable.
  5. Sit observing for 30 minutes and consider what you see, feel, smell, hear? Is it busy, is there calm? Is there laughter? Is there stress? Distress? Are residents, relatives, staff content or discontent? Allow thoughts to enter your head and be aware of how you are feeling. Get yourself into the shoes of your staff and residents, enter their worlds in terms of how they are feeling and how that might make you feel. Notice the small acts that seem to be making a real difference.
  6. Immediately afterwards, share and discuss what you have seen, sensed and felt together.
  7. Write notes to yourself about the experience i. e. something that you can read which gives a real sense of the culture, ethos, atmosphere of the care home at that particular time and something that is personal to you, that explores your feelings about it.
  8. Consider what action you can take based on your learning from the observation. For instance you might wish to reflect to your team and others the great things you saw and felt to trigger further conversations about how collectively we can make these positive things happen more often.

Resource to download

Gathering further Evidence through Observation