Ask me your
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
How did you go about getting your current job?
I had heard in the papers that St. Michael's were hiring people. Once I called to enquire I was sent out an application form which I filled in and then I was called for interview about a month later.
I felt that went well, it was with 3 women working high up in the organisation and I relied a lot on previous experience and gave examples of how I would work in a certain situation.
This seemed to be what they were looking for and so about 3 weeks later they offered me the job. I accepted it but they didn't start me for another month!
I had to go for a medical also before I started.
Describe a typical day?
As a social care worker you are working 'on the floor' with the clients so you are supporting them with their lives on a daily,hourly basis. In the morning you will be helping them get ready to go to their place of work, supporting them to have showers maybe and get ready, to prepare and have breakfast and to get all they need for their day ahead.
You may be involved in taking them to their place of work, using public transport or if they travel independently just making sure they are organised and have all they need and don't miss the bus!
Once that is done you may need to clean the house and then start your administration, keeping reports, scheduling meetings with psychologists or social workers about work in progress, family matters, with doctors regarding medical issues, working on house maintenance, staff rosters, budgets, maintaining lines of communication between staff and the wider organisation.
You may have meetings in the house with these people to discuss the well-being of the clients, their progress, if their happy with their lives and if not how we can help them become happier. You may have staff meetings to discuss house issues and development plans. You may need to go to their place of work to liaise with staff there and discuss their progress and any difficulties.
You will be working with a lot of people from many different disciplines i.e.Service managers, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychiatrists and you will need to keep all involved in the know and working together.
Once the clients are home you then need to support them in whatever they need to do that evening, be it doing their laundry or phoning their parents or if they want to go out shopping, to the cinema or meeting friends. Maybe they attend a club which you facilitate. Also you support them in making dinner and other household tasks which they can participate in.
You support them to attend to their personal hygiene and encourage healthy and positive living habits. You support them in sharing their living environment, respecting each other and their property. You will support them learning social skills, how to get along with each other and how to treat each other properly.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
- To take part in the running of the house,
- To share responsibility for the well being of the clients.
- To be a Key Worker for a client which involves working with this person and representing his wishes (if he/she cant do it themselves) to the organisation.
- To help that client develop skills that will enhance their lives.
- To work according to the policies and procedures of the organisation and
- To provide a good service to the client and their families.
What are the main challenges?
The main challenges for me are:
- Dealing with the dynamics of clients in the house and how they interact (why and how they get on or don't ), identifying skills that they may need help with in order to learn how to get on better and finding ways we can teach these
- Liaising with the wider organisation in finding solutions for problems
- Developing new areas and generally increasing the potential for our clients in how they live and what they can expect from the service
- Working with a large team of people from different backgrounds, cultures and with different values and beliefs, all which affect our work and how we see our clients and our work
- Our clients may not be able to communicate properly what is wrong and therefore may display behaviour which is not appropriate or which is aggressive or antisocial. This is a challenge to encourage good behaviour and give them other more positive and mature ways of communicating their problems.
Being involved in peoples lives at such a basic level is really 'cool'! It is cool to have such great opportunities to relate to our clients in a real and meaningful way and see the difference your team can make on the lives of those in your care.
You have some great times, great fun with your clients, you get the opportunity to expose them to great challenges and to see them develop new skills and participate in society in a meaningful way.
I love to see a client find a new skill or hobby or to be involved in making something happen in their lives which before would have seemed impossible i.e. that they would find employment in mainstream society or that they would join a film club.
What's not so cool?
The things I like least in my job would be:
- Personal care! - its an area that no-one likes to do but you have to do it and be respectful and professional, knowing that they probably don't like it also but its necessary for their health and over-all well being too!
- Challenging behaviour - if your client does get upset and displays aggresive or anti social behaviour it is very stressful and sometimes dangerous to ourselves so this is not a highlight!
- Weekend work - you usually work every 2nd weekend and though I enjoy the weekends as you can do lots of activities with the clients and the house is more relaxed than during the weeks, its hard sometimes to be in work when your friends are out partying!
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
- Good report-writing skills
- Communication skills
- People skills
- Conflict resolution skills
- Creative thinking - the ability to think outside the box, use imagination in your dealings with your clients, i.e. in coming up with a way to persuade someone that they really do need to have a shower every day!
- Sense of humour- a lot of our clients respond to humour more readily then they'll respond to logical debate or criticism. Also humour is a great way in helping you manage the dynamics of a large staff team or the multi-disciplinary team.
- Empathy and caring qualities - to be a good listener, to be able to read body language and pick up moods or different stresses which a client might be feeling (especially if they aren't able to communicate them)
- Positivism and energy - to be able to motivate people and get things done! Not to be put off by negativity but being able to work with people and deal with obstacles and make things happen on behalf of your client.
- Value the individual and their uniqueness and the contribution they make, however small, to their world and the people around them.
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
I didn't know what I wanted to do when I left school so actually my choice of subjects only reflected my interests (Art, History, French and Classical Studies).
So if I were to do my Leaving cert again I might choose to do home-economics or biology to increase my medical knowledge as well as my cooking and domestic skills!
What is your education to date?
I completed Junior and Leaving Certificate. Then I did an Early Childhood and Education course in Sallynoggin College which was part-time over 1 year and was a NCVA Certificate.
I then did a BA Degree in Applied Social Studies in Social Care in Carlow College over 4 years which also included three 8-12 week work placements and a dissertation in the final year.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
As part of my degree, the module of Family Studies was relevant as we studied the impact of disability on the family and how to work with the families you come into contact with.
The module of Drama therapy was useful in seeing others ways of communicating and working with clients with different disabilities.
Social Studies and Health Promotion were interesting in learning how society affects us all and how the institutions of society can enable or disable people and especially marginalised people such as those with disabilities and how we can work against this process and help advocate and empower our clients in our service.
Psychology and Counselling also stood out for me in opening up the theories of psychology and of abnormal psychology and the approaches of working within this field. I also learned the importance of good person-skills and the importance of personal awareness in working in any team, as you have to be aware of yourself, your beliefs and values and what you bring to your work.
Of most importance overall was the work placements which you did for 8-12 weeks for three years. These are in any area of social care, community work, residential care etc and provide you with a real taste of the work available and what it's really like.
You can experience 3 different areas of work and find out what you're suited to and what possibilities for your career each area could give, the specific skills you may need to develop for each area and the challenges unique to each one. You have a supervisor throughout these placements and this can be a great support and knowledge base for you.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
What is your dream job?
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
My job allows me to work flexible hours where I can be off during the week which allows me more free time to spend with family and also to pursue other interests.
I like the different hours and the variety in your week where you can have - 3 lie-ins a week or other times you can be finished work at 12 midday and have the whole day to yourself.
Each week is different and that suits me as I don't like to follow a strict routine, I like the freedom to be different!
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
What is your favourite music?
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
As part of St Michael's house we are sent on training in various areas relevant to our job. These include First Aid, Manual Handling, Challenging Behaviour Training, Sexual Abuse Training, Training in Individual Personal Plans (which are each clients individual yearly goals) and Health and Safety training.
I personally have an interest in Bereavement Counselling and plan to undertake the course provided by this organisation when possible. Outside of work I am completing a Foundation Certificate in Psychotherapy and Counselling as it continues to be an area of special interest for me.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Any work voluntary or otherwise with people with disabilities will provide you with a good knowledge of what this work is about. The more you do the more you will be comfortable with communicating and working this great group of people.
There are a lot of voluntary groups around which are open to anyone interested in the area to come and help and this will expose you to the various levels of need and the different age ranges and therefore the different levels of support services provided within this sector of care-work.
Education and Training?
Advice for Others?