How I got Here
Many years ago, I came to work in the care industry through a number of personal experiences.
I looked after my grandmother at a young age, as she suffered through cancer and, although difficult, took to caring naturally. A lot of my family had worked in the industry in one form or another. I was unsure of what I wanted to do when leaving school and had a few different jobs until starting work as a domestic in the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at the age of 17.
I loved chatting with the patients, helping out and showing kindness. The Ward Sister there was very insistent I should move into the care side of things, so I applied for a position at St Joseph’s Hospital (now closed) and was successful in my application.
I remember walking to the hospital on my first morning and things coming to me, such as, how I would deal with personal care and intimate support that may be required and having doubts. On arriving it was, to say the least, a challenging day as it was a unit; but it struck me how well supported the people were by a team of staff who had such different backgrounds, skills and experience. The compassion was amazing, and the people supported who lived there (and had for most of their lives) responded to each staff member in differing ways. This fascinated me and nurtured a feeling of direction; that direction was of advocacy for those receiving care and support from me and those I worked with. I built great relationships with individuals and learned from an amazing team of staff that anything was possible for people relying on me.
This I carried forward and still do, coming from a place of "Yes! Let's do it!" That is my philosophy.
When the hospital was under closure and people were moving into the community, it initially saddened me as this had been a community of its own, however, the benefits that unfolded were truly startling – the potential in people was unlocked in so many ways, it was striking!
I went on to work with older people in a number of settings as well as working with people with physical disabilities and for a time in a young disabled unit until again working in the supported living arena.
It was reasonably new and had this world of opportunities for people who had lived in long- term institutions and hospitals – this was where my heart lay. I found my skills were in getting to know people and being able to tap into their likes, dislikes, aspirations, and skills while supporting people to meet their challenges.
I was very blessed over the years in many settings of meeting people and being a part of their journey. I have met and worked with some amazing colleagues whom I have learnt from, been a mentor to, and watched their growth and development.
I have had the experience and opportunity to work in various roles throughout my career from domestic, care assistant, senior carer, support worker, senior support worker, care home manager and service leader, however, after 13 years in a previous post I needed a break.
I had made great accomplishments such as my SVQ3, SVQ4, Leadership and Management Award but eventually needed a change. I took a short time off until I decided to go back to College and study. At the (tender) age of 39 it was a big change of pace and culture and I loved it! At the same time, I had begun working some relief shifts at the newly opened Caltongate service.
The people supported there were dynamic with so much potential and ambitions. It was right up my street. The newly formed team were nothing less that brilliant to work alongside. I studied my HNC in Social Care and was given Caltongate as my placement. One of the people we support kindly agreed to participate in my graded unit planning and executing an activity earning us an A! After qualifying I applied for a senior support worker vacancy and was successful. I have the same constant challenges and new experiences as I have had all my career and continue to thrive in my role as I always have done. Being a part of people’s lives brings me back to when I looked after my own grandmother and my belief that you should treat everyone you support as you would expect for yourself or your loved ones.
When studying for my HNC I was tasked with forming a group social event that people could attend (the theory was about shared support and budgeted hours funding). I came up with “the Friday night social” initially. It was a movie night with popcorn and drinks, which was really successful and the people at Caltongate wanted more! We made it a monthly thing to start but it then became weekly. We have had discos, themed nights such as Big Brother, where the people we support had to evict the staff; I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, where we had different challenges, including tasting liquidised foods and having to guess what it was; we have our annual Halloween Party where everyone gets dressed up for a murder mystery and many other ideas that we discuss at our people we support meetings.
When I am off duty, I have a little dog called Toby and love taking him out for walks with my husband. I like to try new things that I can the share with the people we support at Caltongate. I recently started making scented wax melts, which I plan to do with a few of the people at the Service who have shown interest in learning. I have always loved working in the industry and continue to adapt and change as the Service grows and the people we support’s needs change to meet the challenges ahead. Lockdown has been a struggle, however, together we are coming through it. I have had an amazing time with millions of opportunities working at Caltongate over the last five years and look forward to the next 5!