Maggie Davison, a support worker at Helena’s House, tells us all about her role as a support worker, and how she has supported residents.
I am a support worker for Northern Healthcare. Northern Healthcare provide specialist clinical care and support for people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or autism.
Northern Healthcare’s ethos is putting people first. In my current role, I have kept resident care at the forefront by aiming to be approachable, understanding, concise, and professional. I am prepared and tailor my communication with the residents with a person-centred approach. I maintain clear and open channels of communication with staff and residents, as everybody deserves the right to stay informed about their life.
To ensure resident care remains at the forefront, I constructed daily task lists and tables for a selection of residents, with their support. They can tick off each task as they complete it that day and can clearly see which tasks are left for the day. This helps them to stay organised, focused and avoid being overwhelmed and stressed. I record accurate and detailed notes to ensure that staff are aware of any positive or negative changes in the residents’ behaviours and their care plans can be adapted accordingly.
All Northern Healthcare homes provide 24/7 care; this means as staff we work both night and day shifts. I feel as though I have built more rapport with the residents and gained a holistic understanding of their routines since working both shifts. This in turn allows me to provide a higher level of personalised care.
My favourite part is seeing the effects of the rapport we have built with the residents and their families. To see how much residents who may struggle to trust people, can feel safe and secure with staff is an honour to be a part of. My favourite days are when I assist somebody with something and help them resolve an issue they have been facing and have otherwise felt they were not able to overcome, however together we have created a positive solution.
Many of the people we care for may have more than one diagnosis, and our comprehensive support plans are tailored to the needs of each individual. I thrive to learn and develop as a person, and I actively request training sessions to increase my knowledge of mental health, so I can better understand how to provide the best care. Recently I attended a spotlight session on Bipolar. This educated staff on facts about bipolar and refreshed our knowledge on signs, symptoms and treatments.
Using approved approaches, I also help the residents process their emotions and fears whilst easing any frustrations. I ensure that any discrepancy is recorded and reported to the appropriate channels immediately. I believe it is more important to treat each situation on its merits rather than merely react to ‘stress.’ During my career to date, I have discovered that when you handle a situation with the proper care and attention, it immediately becomes less stressful. I personally use Gibb’s reflective model when looking back on situations to see what I could have improved on.
I thoroughly enjoy when I am able to support the Occupational Therapist with her activities and assessments of the residents. Monday to Friday, we run a session called food group where residents who wish to partake contribute £1 and we cook an evening meal. It is so rewarding when residents tell me they had not ever cooked a particular meal before or even they did not think they would ever be able to. Our residents’ cooking skills have improved tremendously since becoming more active in food group. I enjoy seeing the residents interact and take responsibility for their part of the meal or cleaning. Developing their cooking skills is one step closer to complete independence.
I record accurate and precise notes each day on the Eirmed system, about the residents mental state, involvement in activities, physical concerns and appointments in the community etc. In order to do this I have to have good and open relationships with the residents and observe them throughout the day.
I conduct risk assessments and follow protocol when practicing safeguarding and maintaining confidentiality.
I complete an accurate and concise handover of all the relevant information at the end of every shift, ensuring that I communicate this clearly to the next team. This ensures that each team is aware of what is expected from them for their shift ahead. Good communication is vital in my role. I must communicate effectively with residents, emergency services, clinicians, support workers, admin, the residents’ family and friends; along with members of the community both on the telephone and in person.
My role requires me to ensure the service is a safe, clean and enjoyable environment to live and work in, this also includes domestic duties. We attempt to make communal areas as aesthetically pleasing as possible, always offering the residents the opportunity to create decorations and making full use of all donations. We encourage the residents to personalise their rooms and to view the house as their home.
I am the infection and control lead and I actively promote good hygiene. At the start of each shift I ensure the staff and residents’ temperatures are taken. Staff conduct weekly COVID tests and residents comply with monthly tests. This ensures that staff minimalize the risk of COVID.
An example of how I have contributed towards resident care within my role was during an incident a resident became overwhelmed in a communal area, I recognised various signs they usually display upon entering an episode. I approached the resident calmly and from in front of them. I approached the situation not wanting to draw the attention of the other residents, as this may make the resident feel more uncomfortable. We then went into a private area to make them feel safer whilst preserving dignity and confidentiality.
When we were in the room I explained to the resident that I was there to listen and talk with them if they wanted me to, I explained that if they told me something which indicated risking their safety or another’s safety then I would be obliged to tell management, but that information would be handled on a need to know basis. The resident fully understood and said they did not mind who was told, they disclosed their worries and fears to me.
I understood in that moment it was important for me to sit and listen to their thoughts, I would never appear disinterested or belittle them. I would never dismiss what they are feeling because although these feelings may be linked to their delusions, they are still their feelings and they have just as much right as any other human to feel them.
After the resident had finished speaking about their issue we spoke about possible solutions, I remained positive and hopeful when the resident did not see a positive outcome. I showed compassion and understanding. It is important to remember something that is so easy and simple for one person can be quite difficult to interpret for another individual so I did not judge or patronise if they felt that something was unattainable.
Eventually we thought of and discussed a possible solution that appealed to them. I understood the importance of keeping them involved in the situation, as clear channels of communication are an important part of resident care, so I told them that I would write a note about what had happened, include the solution we have reached and I would tell the manager to ensure that they got the message. We would update the resident’s care plan and update the staff on what steps we were going to take to help reduce their stress about this situation. I think it is important to set SMART goals, in order to maintain motivation and ensure the goals are attainable to avoid disappointment.
I ensured that all steps of our safeguarding and confidentiality policies were followed. The resident was really happy with the outcome and I saw a vast improvement in their attitude.
I always make sure the residents know that I love my job and I am committed to helping them.
Working as a mental health support worker has encouraged me to apply for my mental health nursing which I started in September.
If you’re feeling inspired by Maggie’s story and think that being a support worker would be the perfect role for you, find out more about working for Northern Healthcare and check out our current vacancies here.
Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash.