An 18-year-old care worker. Not exactly my expectation, but for now, the reality. The routine of a six-hour school day gone after 14 years.
My schedule now? I assist an older lady with her morning shower. I make a widow her breakfast. I dress a gentleman. I hoist an immobile woman from her bed. I give medication, I escort people to hospital appointments, I provide companionship, I care.
After unsuccessfully applying to study medicine last year, I wanted a job involving people that would immerse me in the health and social care world without requiring a degree. I searched for roles as healthcare assistant, volunteer, anything that didn’t involve only a desk and a computer. I uploaded my fresh CV to some sites. Then homecare company Bluebird Care contacted me.
Training was completed in three days. A week later I had my tunic, fleece, gloves and aprons ready in a plastic bag (I like to think of them collectively as my super suit). My alarm set for 6am, I slept, nervously anticipating my first day.
I need to be patient, tolerant, completely calm and understanding at all times. I stand there with 18 years of a life lived, but in front of me is a whole life lived, an abundance of stories and memories, still being lived – and my responsibility. Service users surely have prejudged my abilities given my age. Many clients ask how old I am when I walk in: a pale, rosy-cheeked girl with impractically long red hair. I reply boldly, “18”. Their eyes widen, showing worry and surprise – understandably so. I like to prove their assumptions wrong from this exact point. This is the time to eradicate any negative judgement and disapproval by kicking arse at the job I am proud to be doing. So far, no complaints have been filed.
The uniform has quite an impact on how I am perceived in public. As a teenager, I am used to averted eyes, judgmental sighs and prejudice. When in uniform, people make way, glance a smile, look comforted, thinking if they dropped down right then on the pavement I’d be able to save their lives.
I’ve never truly appreciated the benefits of a good night’s sleep before now. The job requires unrelenting energy, complete attention, and is physically and mentally demanding too. I’m caring for lives, so I need to be at my best. The added pressures of teenagedom don’t make the naps any less frequent: friends, family, hormones, boyfriends, broken hearts, nights out, hangovers, university applications. I’m exhausted, rushing through this year of my life, an age many of my service users refer to as “the good times”.
The truth is though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the demands and fatigue, I love the job. The people I meet make it all worthwhile, the stories I collect. I come home every day, knowing I’ve made a positive difference to at least one person’s life. There are moments that make me laugh until my sides split, and others when I can’t help but cry. My eyes have been opened to the stark reality of what many people’s lives come to. I have matured, by demand, and taken on responsibilities many people I know would not, and could not, cope with. I never imagined how this job would affect my life. My perspective has changed on everything, my behaviour too. My priorities, values and morals have all been rearranged. I’m trying to appreciate this time of my life, after being advised multiple times by my clients “don’t grow old”.
So yes, at 18, I am a full-time care worker. The school holidays are long gone, emotions are erratic, partying in town is rare, but I’ve never felt so worthwhile in all my years.
-Jodie Gornall, Care Worker, Bluebird Care Trafford
*Source: Guardian Social Network
I was drawn into care work after the death of my first husband, I nursed him until his death, and after that I felt I had so much more to give.
My first motivation for going into care work was to care, and when I first began working for Bluebird Care York, I was very nervous, in fact it is probably true to say I was scared and unsure if I could actually do it. I had little confidence, and I was painfully shy.
But I truly wanted to work in care, I had a strong desire to make a difference, to care for people, make them feel valued, safe and to enable them to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
When I began shadowing I just remember thinking, "how on earth am I ever going to be able to do this". Making small talk with people was a big deal for me, and not something I found easy.
My first week alone was daunting, but addictive, watching people change, gaining their trust and to see them begin to relax in my care was an amazing privilege.
Now I love my job, I am very passionate about what I do. My day starts at 6am I get up, ready and set off for my first call which is at 7am. Calls can vary from a half an hour to up to 3 hours depending on the individual needs of our customers.
I care for each person I visit in the same way I would a family member. As care worker's we go into people's homes, into their personal space and we must respect this, it's a great responsibility and an awesome privilege.
It's true that you can learn most things, but you need compassion, a love for people, and a desire to give your all, because these are the things that matter the most to those people in our care.
-Sheila Warris, Care Worker, Bluebird Care York
I was one of the first care workers to start working for Bluebird Care Bournemouth 8 years ago this January. I always knew this was the career for me, but trying to find a care company that really cared for the customers and about their staff was very hard! I tried many but didn’t succeed until I met Vivian Davies. His outlook on the care industry was exactly the same as mine, and that was to provide the best standard of care we can, and to a very high standard. He was not worried about growing the business at a great speed, but to succeed by doing well with great reports and word of mouth.
Hence why I have been here this long. I started as a care worker, then became a senior care worker, a supervisor and finally I am now coordinator of both the Bournemouth and Poole offices. All with lots of support from my colleagues and managers I have managed to achieve this, and I am truly grateful for all the courses and diplomas I have undertaken. Even though I am now over 25 I am still being offered further education at still no cost to myself.
There have been great difficulties at some points during my time working here, to which I feel any other boss would have let me go. My eldest daughter was born disabled with hip dysplasia and autism. As I had to be her main carer Viv worked really hard to give hours to suit me and my family plus other opportunities to keep the money coming in to pay my bills.
I still wanted to expand my family further. During my pregnancy I was well looked after and thorough risks assessments were taken place to ensure that I would always be safe. I gave birth to a very healthy (plus extremely beautiful) baby girl. After returning to work I was never overlooked and had always been able to further my career even though I am a mum of two.
I could never see myself leaving Bluebird Care as I have been given understanding, caring, extremely approachable and fair bosses. We have great work colleagues and excellent care workers on board. I would be the first to leave if in any way I thought we were not providing a brilliant service. The job satisfaction I have is my adrenalin and I couldn’t be happier with being part of this great team.
-Emma Haggan, Care Coordinator, Bluebird Care Bournemouth & Poole
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