How did you first get into care?
I fell into care by accident. I was a Beauty Therapist working in North London, but I moved back to Hertfordshire. I thought I could easily get a role in the type of beauty I was doing but I just couldn’t get a job anywhere as it was quite a new treatment that I was trained in. I was thinking about what I was going to do and a friend said ‘why don’t you try care? It will pay the bills.’ I started in care 6 years ago. I was with another organisation originally and then I came to Crossroads a year later, because I wanted to work for a company where I felt like I was making more of a difference. You have enough time to spend with clients at Crossroads and that is important to me.
How did you progress to where you are now?
I’ve always been ambitious and always been one of those people that wants my managers job or even their managers job. I was able to do my Level 2 Health and Social Care qualification here. Once completed a Care Coordinator opportunity came up and I was successful in that role. I worked in that position for 2 years and didn’t think I could go anywhere else here. Then the East Area Manager left and I applied thinking ‘what have I got to lose?’. I got it and have been in this position since November 2017. I’ve primarily progressed through experience and common sense and striving to be the best I can be. Never knock common sense, it gets you a long way.
What does your job as East Herts Service Manager involve?
I have got a team of 1 Senior, 2 Care Planners, and 40 support staff that I line manage. The Care Planners focus on assessments, and the Senior focuses on client queries or minor staff queries. I oversee what they are doing. I ensure everyone is up to date with their training including my own training, and also carry out assessments, reviews, networking, liaising with professionals, trying to market the service and reach the districts that are harder to reach… and more! It’s primarily to grow the business while managing what we have, and ensuring that the team are providing a quality service. That’s key to this, we want to be the best. We are growing at a slower pace but that means we are able to concentrate on the quality.
What hours do you work?
I work Monday to Friday 9 to 5 but there is some flexibility with this. I have to be able to work weekends if required. In over a year I have only needed to work a few of weekends. Sometimes you work late but not that often, and I also on call on a rota basis which is 1 every 11 weeks.
How supportive is your current employer?
They are very supportive. Sue is our HR manager and she will throw you on every course you want to do. For example, if I see something on the HCPA website, I will just ask her and she will book me on to the course. It feels like a family here. I don’t know if it is because we are a smaller organisation in the office, but it feels very connected. If you don’t know the answer to something you can guarantee someone in here will. It’s not a problem for anybody, there’s no stupid questions or embarrassment as there is always someone to help you.
We have staff parties, quarterly full team meetings and there is real community spirit here. It is why people do not leave us, our retention is good. People leave if they use this as a stepping stone into nursing or midwifery, but most staff is long term and don’t leave so long as they want to stay in care.
What do you enjoy about working in care?
At first it was just a job, it paid the bills, kept a roof over my head, and it was alright. Then I started going on courses and learning a lot more detail about the care I was providing, and was building up a rapport with clients. I found I was enjoying going in to see people as I used to see the same people each day or each week. You got to know that person and treat them like a family member. I actually enjoyed getting up each morning and going to work, and it was the first job that did that for me. I didn’t mind working the early or the late, I just enjoyed it, and was the first time I have had job satisfaction.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Helping people. At this level I see it at crisis point. If someone is struggling with a family member that may need some support it is good to know that we can help. Even saying ‘we can help’ can give some people a sense of relief. I go home and reflect on the day, and it is pure job satisfaction knowing that I have gone in and I can provide a service that is required. We are giving that respite to someone, or providing personal care, or helping with the medication. Whatever the task may be, it is making a huge difference for that individual.
What are the needs of the individuals you support?
We support a range of different people, not just older people. For example, we have a young lady who has severe needs, is non-verbal and also requires PEG feeding, and her own mother is not well herself. We only go in twice a week to help her shower but for her it is a massive thing because it the time she gets her hair done and feels girly. Her Mum also has time to herself and to do what she needs to do. She treats our staff like they are family. We match people so that it is consistent for the client and the staff. The support workers get to know the clients so well.
What is the biggest challenge in your role?
Boundaries. It is hard when one of the front line support workers get too attached and we have to support them through that, or if the individual is too involved. For their own lives it’s important they learn to leave work at work.
The biggest challenge when I was a care assistant was personal care. This does not bother some people at all, but for others it is a bit harder to get used to and I was that person. You can either get past it, pull your sleeves up and do this, or you can find it a more difficult aspect of care to carry out. For me personally that was the hardest.
Others may say the hardest parts of their job is when someone passes away. They see these people for years sometimes so when they pass away it feels as bad as when a family member passes away and can hit them quite hard. We have a good support system, we offer training around bereavement, counselling if it’s required and are a supportive network.
What would you say to someone who is nervous to apply for a job in care?
It’s a great career. There is a lot of training that is offered, movement up within organisations. There is a stigma where people see care as not a real job, taking someone to the supermarket for example, however it is so much more than that. You can get so much out of a career in care. If you are frightened then let’s put you out on a shadow shift with people, go and see for yourself what it is really like. Don’t be afraid to go to an organisation and say ‘I am interested but I am not too sure’ because they will be able to match you up with someone that has a lot of experience and see what it is all about.
We have had people from all different backgrounds join and they take to this job like a duck to water. You would be surprised how quickly most people do. I have a lady in my team who used to be a manager of a home store, she has been a Support Worker for 6 weeks now and the staff and clients absolutely love her. She has thrown herself in and is thriving.
You get to meet all different types of people, it’s rewarding and there is great career progression. What I have got out of this is job satisfaction. I go home each night and think job well done. If you have a caring nature, you can do this.