This year I will celebrate 20 years working in the social care sector, and to be honest it is not a direction of travel that I had intended.
My experience to that point was working for a manufacturing company whilst studying part time for a business degree. Fresh out of night school, armed with my degree I wanted a challenge, I wanted to do something different and at the same time work in an environment that helps people.
I was attracted to an advertisement in our local paper by a care home with a solid track record and reputation, which was looking to develop a domiciliary service.
I am proud to say that I am still working for that same organisation, Springhill Care Group. I feel extremely privileged to have enjoyed the development opportunities that Springhill has provided me over the years up to MBA level. I have also grown with the company to become the Managing Director of what has now become an organisation employing some 400 people.
Over that time I have worked with and witnessed some great work, often unseen by people who just want to contribute and help others.
We feel so strongly about the work conducted by people in the industry - and not just from Springhill - in an industry which is relatively underpaid for the skills developed and undervalued for the contribution made.
To that end, we have launched our Caring Heroes campaign, aimed to recognise and value the people who care for the most vulnerable people in our society day in day out. These unsung heroes are really making a positive difference to the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society, they are supporting them to lead a life we take for granted every day.
They provide the sunshine to their day, they are the first and last person they see in the day, they are there to hold their hand and offer comfort, even whilst the person they care for takes their last breath,
There is no doubt that working in the care sector is no easy ride, after all we provide services to vulnerable people who require care and support 24/7. As we know, people are not products or commodities and can’t be put on a shelf and forgotten about until the next time when you are in work.
It did occur to me early on in my role with Springhill that working in the care sector holds tremendous responsibility along with a yearning desire to do the right thing by the people you care for and support.
Over the 20 years I have worked and continue to work alongside a great team of caring, compassionate and dedicated people who I now know are here not simply to do a job, but see it as a vocation.
Recently, I was chatting to Sharon who is a support worker for our Affinity Supporting People, supported living service. She told me how much she loves what she does, how the team sing and dance together with the people they support.
I also recall speaking to a nurse who told me how she had been caring for a resident who was at end of life – the nurse went off duty and returned home. In the middle of the night she awoke and felt the urge to go to the care home to see the resident she had been caring for earlier that day.
When she arrived she sat with the resident who then slipped away peacefully. It was like she had been waiting for the nurse to sit with her - a truly touching moment.
Working in the care environment requires sensitivity, care and compassion regardless of your role in the service. You may be in the office having a meeting but you are also in a person’s home.
It is important that we all respect that. I always smile when I am in a meeting having a serious business discussion, and in the background you can hear people singing an old classic such as You are my Sunshine.
When this first happened I apologised to the person who was in the meeting with me, and then it struck me “what am I apologising for?” I had nothing to apologise about, after all it’s their home, now I smile and sometimes even join in.
It does seem surreal sometimes how you can go from having a discussion about budgets to learning that a resident has passed away and seeing how a staff member is trying hard to hold back the tears as they comfort the grieving relatives. A stark reminder of why we do what we do.
Twenty years working with such a team of people, I consider myself extremely privileged.
Please let us know your story – see #caringheroes on Twitter.
Springhill Care Group