Our Carers – Tracy’s Story
I first entered into community care in the year 2001; I had been looking for a part time job that would fit in around my home life as I had two sons. My sister already worked for an agency and kept saying I should have a go at care work — I might like it. At this point I was not so convinced!
Eventually I called the agency and they asked me to go in for a chat. When I arrived I was greeted by the manager; to my relief she was actually the mother of one of the children my sons were at school with. After a lengthy chat and feeling at ease I thought: I can do this, and I think I could be good at it.
I started with formal training and was then taken out to shadow work one of the regular carers. I started just working in the evenings as this suited my family life, gradually with time, I was asked to help with morning and lunch calls whilst my boys were at school. I really enjoyed visiting my regular customers and building a relationship with each of them as individuals; I enjoyed helping with their daily tasks and found it very rewarding. It was good to have someone be so pleased to see me and to feel I had made a difference.
I continued with training and completed my NVQ 2. I was promoted to senior carer and was responsible for spot checks and supervisions for a team of eight carers. I would check the care plans were up to date and advise my manager should changes be required and carry out customer reviews to check they were happy with the service. In 2006 I left domiciliary care to work for Slough Borough Council as part of the Intermediate Care Team. I did this to further my knowledge, as this team dealt with rehabilitation, and I was interested in working to promote independence. I worked for the team for one year and completed my NVQ 3 in rehabilitation, which is now a real advantage for me when I carry out care and risk assessments. I use all this knowledge to structure their individual care plans by assessing their mobility their independence levels and looking at any aids that would be of assistance and then arrange for an occupational therapist or physiotherapist to visit and assess. After finishing my NVQ3 I felt I really wanted to return to domiciliary care.
I returned to an agency which, after interview, offered me a position as a coordinator. I accepted, as again I felt this would further my knowledge and experience. As a coordinator I would plan working rounds, place customers with carers that were trained to suit their needs or to customers I felt they would work well with. I was responsible for making sure all work was allocated and covered in an emergency. My main areas of focus were to assist the customers, prepare a care plan specified to their needs, contact third parties on their behalf, ie, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, care managers, GPs and district nurses. I believe a good coordinator is a good listener and communicator, someone who is fair but firm and will work alongside their staff and not expect them to do something they wouldn’t do themselves.
Today I am the operations manager at Halcyon Homecare. I hold on to all my experiences throughout my career and use them in my current role. I have to balance providing the best quality service to our customers and looking after our staff. I visit all of the customers so at anytime know where they live and understand their personal needs. I spend time with the staff individually and know their capabilities and availability. I use all this knowledge to manage and coordinate a high level of good quality and reliable care for our customers with the continuity of regular carers. In our staff I look for reliability, a caring nature, professionalism, good communication and listening skills and an ability to work well as part of a team or alone.
Even as the manager I still go out and assist with calls in the community, as I believe it is important to be seen by the customers and the staff. It keeps me in a position of still being connected outside of the office and still doing a job I love very much.
For those of you who have not met me, I have bright red hair — as in letterbox red. This came about when I visited a lady that had impaired vision, and she would sit next to her lounge window looking out for when people came to the door. I suggested to her that I would dye my hair as bright as I could so she would know it was me, hence my trademark red hair. This lady was able to still see my very bright hair and would always say “I always know when you’re coming, I can see the red flash come past the window.” It put her mind at rest that she knew who was coming in. One of my other favourite memories of being a carer is of a gentleman I used to visit four times a day. On one occasion, when his son was visiting, his son asked: “Is this your regular lady?” He replied to his son: “She is not just my lady, she is like a friend — I can ask her anything.” Making a difference is what being a carer is about — it’s not just a job.