I first became a care worker in a care home when I was 18. Originally, I wanted to train to be a nurse and I started a degree to pursue that, but my circumstances changed after becoming pregnant, so I took a step back from my course to focus on raising my son while continuing my career in care.
I changed jobs to do more flexible domiciliary care where I became a team leader and then a care co-ordinator.
After a while in domiciliary care, I moved back to working in a care home before I had my second child and worked nights, which fitted my personal circumstances well.
I moved back to home care again and became a branch manager which I really enjoyed before an opportunity came up to manage a WCS Care home in 2017, which was something I really wanted to do.
The care home I run has 36 beds for both socially-funded and privately-funded residents. We also run a day care centre. The home is really welcoming and I loved it from the second I walked in. The staff are genuinely lovely and we have wonderful residents and families, too.
When I applied for the position, I realised that Christine Asbury (our Chief Executive), Ed Russell (Director of Innovation and Development) and Shirley Randle (Service Manager) – the senior management team who interviewed me for the role – shared many of the same views that I have about what a care home should be like.
In our home, there’s always something going on. We go for trips out to local attractions at least once a week using our Oomph! Out & About service, and visit some of our other care homes in the area, so that residents can carry on doing what they’ve always enjoyed doing.
During one of the visits to our neighbours, we realised that two ladies from two different homes knew each other and had a lovely time catching up – something we wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for trips like this.
It’s inspiring to work with Christine, our Chief Executive. She lives and breathes our values and was instrumental in bringing them to the organisation. The whole senior management team regularly pop in and see us and sit with the residents.
Our senior management team is really supportive and there’s a great learning culture across the organisation. We’re encouraged to try new things and if they don’t work first time, we learn from them and move on until they do work.
They’re great at encouraging us with our own personal development and many of our staff have progressed through the organisation to become managers or senior managers.
The culture at WCS Care is very different to other organisations I’ve been to – people are encouraged to live their life how they want to and aren’t being told what to do or when to do it; it’s completely up to them.
We support people to maintain their independence for as long as they’re able to, so if someone wants to butter their own toast, pour their own milk or make a cup of tea, then that’s absolutely encouraged.
Our home also has the policy that family can come and go as they please, which is particularly important during end of life care.
Recently, the relatives of one of our residents receiving end of life care stayed at the home for a week to be with their loved one in the final days – it was a privilege to be able to give that time to them and know that we had done everything we could to support them during this difficult time. And it shouldn’t be any other way.
We work in our residents’ home, not the other way around – and our staff respect that in everything they do. From delivering care to ordering furniture, we ask the residents what they want. Recently, we ordered carpets and asked each resident to pick their favourite, just like they would in their own homes. Residents get choices on everything as it’s their life.
As a manager, I’m very hands-on. I do spend time in my office doing paperwork, but I also go out onto the floor regularly to see what’s happening, talk to staff and residents. If my staff need support, I down my pen and help them out.
I expected the job to be difficult and it is, but the support from my team makes it so much easier. I get a lot of joy out of my job. Not many people can say that they love coming to work, but I do.
I get to help my staff develop and climb the ladder if they want to, and helping the residents and their families to live a happier life is also really special. You get to make a difference to so many people’s lives.
We’re a tight-knit family at the home and there are obviously times that are harder than others, particularly when supporting relatives and staff through times of grief – it’s important to just be there, be compassionate and be respectful, while helping people focus on the happy memories of that resident and the realisation of the positive impact you’ve had on their life.
I first found out about the Rising Stars programme when our Chief Executive, Christine told me she had nominated me to take part. I had only just started at the company and it was a real privilege to be recognised as a ‘Rising Star’ in the organisation.
I’ve learnt so much since being on the programme. My mentor, Rory O’Connor from the Royal Air Force, has been brilliant. Being able to have someone to speak to outside of the company has been great for bouncing ideas off, and the NCF staff are all amazing too. We get sent reports and policies and all sorts of documents that help us gain knowledge which really helps with our personal development. The programme has opened up doors for me that I never thought I’d be able to even knock at.
My confidence has improved hugely through the Rising Stars programme. I think it’s to do with the knowledge-building. I’m so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity for self-improvement. I didn’t expect the impact that Rising Stars has had on my career in such a short time.
I’m more than happy being a care home manager but Rising Stars and WCS Care have given me the confidence to think about my future goals. While I’m truly happy where I am and not planning on changing any time soon, I can see a world of opportunities to aim for such as Service Manager or maybe Director eventually – I’d be happy to stay here forever. I think if it happens, it happens.
I used to think that I’d need to go to University to further my career but Rising Stars has shown me that it’s about more than that – having the passion to succeed is a big part of it. Yes, you need the practical knowledge, but it’s about how you apply that knowledge too.
Until now, I didn’t feel I had the confidence to climb any further up the career ladder, but now I do and I’m looking forward to taking the next step.
My advice is to never forget why you’re in this sector, doing the job you do. No-one works in social care because of the money – it’s because you care about people and that’s what matters most.
Always remember that you are a carer – share your passion with others and be supportive. When you’re making a difference to people’s lives, everyone is important and should be valued, whatever their role is. We all need to help staff to feel this.