You Can Care Week 2020: Professionals tell us about their careers in care
“If you are passionate about care, helping people and supporting them to live their life as they want, as much as possible, then nothing could be more rewarding.”
#YouCanCareWeek is a campaign launched by Home Instead Senior Care to highlight the rewarding opportunities of working in care. This is a week created to shed more light on the different jobs available in the care sector and show that if you’re compassionate and love to help people, then you can care!
To support You Can Care Week this year, we got in touch with some professionals who have a range of experience working in health and social care to hear more about why they started their career and what keeps them in their profession.
How did you know what area you wanted to work in?
There are many employment opportunities in the care sector, and whilst some people may know what area they want to work in, others, like Andy, may just know they enjoy working with, or want to help, other people.
Graham: I always wanted to work in mental health with the initial thoughts of becoming a clinical psychologist. The role of Occupational Therapist (OT) first became interesting to me in my first year working in health care. This is when I first became aware that occupational therapy existed as a profession. Although it wasn’t until a few years later I transitioned away from psychological therapies and into occupational therapy, I was instantly interested in the profession.
Andy: I initially wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and go to sea but I slowly realised I did not have the required skills and knowledge and it was at school when I realised I enjoyed working with people.
Nicola: My grandmother saw a poster in a hospital explaining what occupational therapy is and thought it sounded like a profession I would like to be in... I researched it and applied straight away to train as an OT!
Bethany: When I was in secondary school, I knew I wanted to work within health care but I did not know which area to go into. After looking into nursing for a couple of years, through word of mouth I heard about the career of occupational therapy. Straight away, I was very interested in finding out more about this role, and believed it shared similar values to my own.
If you want to know more about the different areas of social care, Prospects offer a great overview, so you can see the types of employment opportunities that are available. If you’re unsure about the area of care that might be suited to you, Prospect also offer lots of advice and information on how to find your ideal role.
Each professional we spoke to told us a bit about their current job roles.
Graham: I am a Senior Occupational Therapist working in a mental health rehabilitation unit. The OT side of my job supports people to do the things they need to do to help them maintain accommodation in the community (such as budgeting, domestic ADLs and personal care) as well as supporting people with the things that they want to do, such as leisure activities, employment and developing a meaningful routine.
Andy: I am Interim CEO for Skills for Care and have been for about a year. My substantive role is as Director of Operations. The role of Interim CEO involves working with our Leadership Team, Board and other colleagues in order to ensure we respond to and meet the workforce needs of the adult social care workforce in England. The role involves liaising with the Department for Health and Social Care, employers and a wide range of other groups.
Nicola: Occupational Therapist - Private practice, home assessments for equipment needs.
Bethany: My current role is an Occupational Therapist. I work within the community therapy team. My role includes supporting service users to meet their goals and engage in activities and meaningful occupations which are important to them. Within my role, I look at a patient’s safety within their home environment, provide falls advice or equipment to increase their independence, confidence building and consider energy conservation.
Melanie: Head of Therapy at The Children’s Trust School. We are a team of allied health professionals, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, music therapy, play assistant and assistive technology practitioners. We support children and young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and complex health needs who attend our school and stay with us on site in residential homes. We work as part of a multi-agency team to provide integrated health, therapy, education and care for our young people and families.
Advice for those who are thinking of working in care
We asked each professional to offer some advice for anyone who might be interested in working within the care sector, including the kind of skills and attitude it takes to work in a caring role.
Graham: If you are passionate about helping people and supporting them to live their life as they want, as much as possible, then nothing could be more rewarding.
Andy: I would say to be open minded about a career in care, ask lots of questions, try to visit lots of people who provide a variety of social care, ask yourself whether you care about helping people live the lives that they want and if you like variety.
Nicola: There are a lot of fantastic jobs in the care sector. I would advise you to think of a few settings you're interested in and arrange some work shadowing first. Ask lots of questions and make sure that you're passionate about helping others.
Bethany: Being in care uses a personalised care approach which allows patients to have their own choice, treating patients as individuals and showing them respect and dignity at all times. I’m bias, but I would recommend the job to others and, although sometimes challenging, it is a very rewarding role.
Melanie: Working within care settings enables you to think about an individual’s quality of life, meaning and positive relationships and emotions and engagement. It is a unique environment to think about how a young person can be supported to fulfil these aspects of their life.
Qualifications and studying
Many health and social care jobs involve a lot of studying, often at university or college, to ensure that you can provide the right advice and support to the people you are caring for. However, you don’t always need a higher-level qualification to get started in care and you are likely to gain more qualifications as your career progresses. Nicola, Andy, Graham and Bethany all offered some more insight into their studies at university and the qualifications they gained.
Graham: I studied an MSc in Occupational Therapy some years after my BSc in psychology. It was a full-time condensed course, meaning I was qualified after two years.
Andy: At Birmingham University I did a Youth and Community Studies degree with PE as a subsidiary subject. I studied Social Work at Bristol University and also gained an MBA from the University of the West of England. (UWE)
Nicola: I trained at university, completing a 3 year BSc degree.
Bethany: I studied for three years at Coventry University and graduated in November 2019 with a first-class honours in an Occupational Therapy degree. Throughout university, we had three placements to explore various areas of the profession and to learn clinical skills and knowledge ready for future practice.
First jobs and previous jobs
Working in the care sector sometimes involves working in a few different areas of care. We asked each professional to tell us a bit more about their first jobs in the health and social care sector and the different roles they have done throughout their career.
Graham: Straight from university was my first paid job, when I was 21. I had done some voluntary work in mental health, working for some voluntary groups from 18.
Andy: I was 21 when I got my first care assistant job in an Observation and Assessment Centre.
Nicola: I was 25 when I got my first OT job, but was working as a carer in residential homes before that.
Graham: After completing a psychology undergraduate degree I worked as a health care assistant in an older adults mental health ward. After this I worked as a ‘psychological wellbeing practitioner’ in primary care delivering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based interventions to people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety disorders. From here I did my OT training and spent a couple of years working on a mental health unit for working adults before moving to my current role where I have been for three years.
Andy: I started as a Volunteer for Kent Social Services in the 70s and then after training as a teacher I worked as a care assistant for Dorset Social Services before training as a social worker in the 1980s. I then worked as a social worker, a lecturer as a learning and development manager in the NHS and I was executive manager of a charity attached to a larger learning disability charity that delivered training to the social care sector. In 2000 I joined Topss England which was the predecessor organisation to Skills for Care.
Nicola: My previous jobs have included working in acute medical wards in NHS hospitals, both as a locum and NHS employee, rehab wards, orthopaedic, renal, geriatric. Discharge planning.
Bethany: I started my occupational therapy job June 2019, a couple of weeks after finishing my university degree. I volunteered in care when I was 17/18 years old.
Advice for those who have just started working in care
Whether you’re training to be an Occupational Therapist or have just started caring for someone, the professionals we spoke with offered some great advice to help anyone at the start of their career, including: be patient, listen to those who you care for and if you’re unsure, always ask questions.
Graham: Everyone we work with is trying their best in life, so even if things don’t move forward in the way that you would want or would expect then don’t get too frustrated or take too much responsibility for this. Be there for people, work with them in figuring out what they want and need and how you can work with them to get there. We don’t lead people to where they want to be, we walk with them and talk together about the possible paths ahead.
Andy: My advice is to listen and learn from people who receive care and support and to constantly challenge why you are working in the ways you do.
Nicola: Always ask questions if you're not sure of something. Arrange times where you can learn from others e.g. a morning with a dietitian, nurse, other Allied Health Professionals, doctors. But also remember to have fun!
Bethany: It may be overwhelming at first when you start; take time to shadow colleagues and the different areas and tasks within your role. Do not feel that you are expected to know everything. No question is a stupid question and your colleagues will be able to share knowledge and experiences with you. Always treat your service users with respect; give them time to listen and build a rapport with them – this is very important and will enable you to build trust.
Why are you so passionate about care and what keeps you working in your profession?
All the professionals we have included in our article emphasised how rewarding it was to know that they are always helping others and making a real difference to people’s lives. They also admired the diversity of their job roles and addressed the fact that a role in care is not without its challenges.
Graham: I enjoy the diversity of the role; every day is different and how you work with each person is different. I feel like I am doing ‘proper occupational therapy’ in my job which is why I came into the profession. Interestingly, when it comes to psychology and occupational therapy, I always see occupational therapy in mental health as often being a much more ‘hands on’ therapy than psychology which I enjoy, so I am pleased with how my career path developed.
Andy: I have only really worked in and around health and social care. It is never easy and at times can be very frustrating, given the lack of resources to enable people to live the best lives possible. However, it is never dull and brings with it a great sense of wellbeing when there is a realisation that your work makes a difference. In care, you are largely surrounded by committed dedicated colleagues and working in social care can bring great career opportunities.
Nicola: It's such a great profession, as there are so many different settings one can work in. I love helping people to problem solve and work on goals to help them achieve their potential, in what's most important to them.
Bethany: The profession of occupational therapy is diverse, meaning no day is ever the same and there are lots of areas of the profession to work in. I love working collaboratively with a patient to achieve their goals and work towards increasing their independence and confidence.
Melanie: The children and young people that we work with, as well as a supportive team, are what keeps me in this profession.
Thank you to Graham, Andy, Nicola, Bethany and Melanie for sharing their views with us. Here’s a quick summary of what it is like to work in care according to their experiences:
- You’ll be helping people to live better
- Every day will bring new experiences
- You’ll always be learning
- It can be challenging, but is an extremely rewarding profession
If you are just finishing school and are interested in the care sector, UCAS is a great place to find more information about different job roles and the types of qualifications or education you need to start a career in care. Skills for Care also provide information about starting or developing your career in care and even have personal case studies from people who are currently working in care.
Help us to support You Can Care Week this year, and get more people talking about the rewarding opportunities that are available in care, by sharing the information above!
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