Michelle David: Transforming Ashton Lodge through Integral Leadership and Compassionate Care

Published by Gary Ellis on May 31st 2024, 9:09am

Michelle David’s career may not have started in care, but it turned out to be her true calling. 

With a degree in psychology, Michelle’s path took a personal turn when her grandfather became terminally ill with cancer. “I had this epiphany that maybe this is what I should be doing,” she reflects on the time spent caring for him.

Starting as a dementia support worker, Michelle provided stimulating activities for patients, which marked the beginning of a rapid ascent in her career. Her commitment and skill soon earned her the opportunity to pursue a registered manager’s award and an NVQ level 4 in health and social care. “My career accelerated so quickly,” she says, recounting the swift progression from team leader to senior coordinator, and then into management within a span of just a few years.

Michelle’s leadership capabilities shone as she helped establish two domiciliary care businesses, growing them into million-pound enterprises. Seeking new challenges, she transitioned into care homes, gaining extensive knowledge in nursing, dementia, and residential care. Her exposure to the clinical side of the sector led her to delve into clinical management.

Her journey didn’t stop there; Michelle went on to provide business support management and specialised in turning around failing homes. She brought them into compliance and achieved good ratings from the Care Quality Commission, which regulates services in the sector. Today, Michelle is the Home Manager at Ashton Lodge, a role she has held since 2022.

At Ashton Lodge, Michelle’s psychology training has been instrumental in her leadership style, particularly in understanding team dynamics and individual behaviour. “Within every group, there is always going to be a vocal person and there’s always going to be somebody that’s highly influential,” she explains. Her approach to management is multifaceted, serving not just as a manager but also as a counsellor, mentor, and teacher to her teams, residents, and their families.

At the heart of Michelle’s success is her unwavering commitment to ensuring positive workplace culture change. “The biggest challenge I’ve found is changing the culture,” she states, emphasising the difficulty of transforming the ingrained practices within a care home. For Michelle, implementing new structures and systems is straightforward; the true test lies in ensuring these practices are deeply embedded for lasting impact.

Michelle describes the process of cultural change as one that requires a clear vision and the ability to inspire others to share in that vision. “You have to have a vision as a leader and to bring people alongside with the vision,” she explains. Leading by example, Michelle is hands-on in her approach, willing to perform any task she would expect of her team. “There’s nothing that I expect my team to do that I won’t do,” she asserts.

Resoluteness is another cornerstone of her leadership style. Michelle believes in maintaining high standards without compromise, fostering an environment where growth, learning, and development are encouraged. She steers clear of a blame culture, advocating instead for openness, honesty, and transparency. “If you have a culture of blame, then people hide things,” she warns, highlighting the importance of owning mistakes and learning from them.

A New Chapter of Community and Care

Ashton Lodge, once a 100-bed nursing and dementia care home, has undergone significant transformation under Michelle’s leadership. “We changed some of our bedrooms into more open spaces,” Michelle explains, highlighting the need for residents with dementia to have ample space. This restructuring has created additional lounge areas and quiet spaces, fostering a more open and free environment for residents.

The home, managed by a team of registered nurses, senior carers, team leaders, and medication technicians, also boasts in-house chefs who cook fresh meals and a dedicated maintenance activities team. With a staff of over 110, Ashton Lodge provides round-the-clock care, seven days a week.

Michelle came at a time when the home had been without a manager for eight months and had faced less than favourable CQC inspections. Her arrival marked a turning point for Ashton Lodge. Despite the lack of recent inspections due to a new single assessment framework, the home has received positive feedback from quality assurance visits, indicating a satisfactory performance.

One of Michelle’s key initiatives has been to reintegrate residents into the community. She revived the use of the home’s minibus, which had been idle, to take residents on outings to places like Kempton Park, the seaside, museums, and garden centres. “That’s standard now,” she says, proud of the regular excursions that have become a part of the residents’ lives.

Innovative approaches to enhancing the home’s atmosphere include installing speakers in all corridors to play music throughout the day, with calming tunes specifically timed for sundowning periods to soothe residents. This simple yet effective strategy has been a “game changer,” significantly improving the home’s ambiance.

Ashton Lodge’s engagement with the community extends to its relationship with the local councillor, Harry Boparai, who recently visited to celebrate the launch of a mini library. The home’s commitment to music therapy, karaoke sessions, and a cinema room that features two movies a day further exemplifies its dedication to providing a stimulating and enjoyable environment for its residents.

A Visionary Leader Shaping the Future of Care

With a career deeply rooted in the care sector, Michelle brings a wealth of firsthand experience and a profound understanding of the delicate balance between commercial acumen and compassionate care. As such, she also understands what traits make the ideal leader. “An ideal leader is someone that has knowledge and firsthand experience of the sector,” Michelle asserts.

Michelle’s philosophy of leadership is built on a foundation of vision, motivation, and mentorship. She describes the quintessential leader as “a great visionary, someone that embodies leadership and is a great example, motivator, mentor, and someone that’s integral and resilient.” Her approach is holistic, recognising the complex challenges of the sector and the importance of a well-supported team. “Without your team, you have no service,” she remarks, highlighting the irreplaceable nature of carers in her industry.

Looking ahead, Michelle envisions her legacy as one of empowerment and enablement. She aims to leave an indelible mark on the lives of those she encounters by “carrying out care with excellence”, whether through providing excellent care, developing individuals to senior levels, or being a supportive figure for families.

Beyond her role at Ashton Lodge, Michelle’s influence extends to consultancy and social media, where she champions personal growth and development. “It’s about being able to excel and always showing up as the best version of yourself,” she explains.

It’s clear that Michelle’s dedication to assuring the best quality of life for her patients is a testament to her unwavering commitment. Her leadership has not gone unnoticed, with multiple nominations for prestigious awards, including Businesswoman of the Year and Employer of the Year, underscoring her forward-thinking and multifaceted approach to care.

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
May 31st 2024, 9:09am

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