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Friday, 12 February 2016

Care for a career? Rewards of working in older people's sector

Written by The Editorial Team

Amanda Scott started caring for older people when she was 17 before qualifying as a nurse in 1984 and working in paediatrics, intensive care and a variety of care roles. Today, she is Managing Director of Sunrise Senior Living and here she gives us an insight in her rise through the ranks and the rewards of a career in care.

To those looking to take up a career within the social care sector, I can describe it in one word: rewarding. If you are passionate about caring for others, then adult social care is for you.

The opportunity to deliver long term care to older people gives a fulfilling sense of completion that shorter term care environments can’t. Getting to know the residents and their families was, and still is, extremely special. It is very humbling when you realise that they are entrusting the care of their loved ones to you and your colleagues.

Leaving the NHS to work in a care home environment was one of the biggest decisions I have ever made, but it was the right one. I remember at the time, some colleagues were very sceptical of my move but looking back, I don’t think they understood the career pathway and the opportunities that existed. To many people, social care has for a long time been viewed as a vocation. It is a common misconception that a career ladder doesn’t exist in this line of work.  However, if my story is anything to go by, I can tell you that not only does our sector attract some of the kindest, passionate and most giving people that I have ever met, but we can also offer fantastic career opportunities. The sector is becoming more and more professional, with all of the training, structures and processes that come with that.

I started caring for older people when I was 17, to earn extra money prior to starting my training as a nurse. I worked in paediatrics and intensive care before moving into assisted living 19 years ago. I joined the Sunrise team four years ago as the Care and Quality Director, and became the UK operation’s Managing Director in 2013.

Of course, career progression requires dedication and hard work on the part of the company and the individual, but that’s one of the many ways that makes it rewarding. One of my most exciting discoveries - after moving into health and social care - was the opportunity to progress through learning and development programmes. I love the autonomy in decision making.

When working with older people, it is worth remembering that care is different for everyone. When a new resident moves in, we work with them and their family to take the time to get to know them. This is so that everything - from their care and activities, to their meals - can be tailored to their needs, personality and preferences. Every resident must be treated like a member of your own family, and their families will also come to feel like your own.

‘Buddying up’ when you first start is essential, especially while you are going through the induction process. If your organisation doesn’t offer this, do simply ask if you can shadow a member of the team and ask them to be your mentor. I remember when I first started, I felt like a fish out of water. At Sunrise for example, we are committed to team member engagement, and recognise and value every single new employee. That support system is vital and makes all the difference.

I believe in transformational leadership, which means identifying the needed change, creating a vision to guide the change, and executing the change with the commitment of the members of the group – it works very well. Don’t be afraid to speak out, throw in ideas and identify areas that need to improve. I am privileged to be surrounded by talented and passionate individuals from my own leadership team and General Managers to the care staff at each community.  

As with all jobs, there can also be tough moments, and there are unfortunately no easy escapes from the pressures that working in social care can sometimes entail. Prioritising your work-life balance however can really help. Always communicate with managers and other colleagues when things are getting on top of you. Simple things such as taking regular breaks, eating well and exercising, can make a big difference.

The most important thing I have learnt is…don’t give up! The job will be hard, but knowing that you are changing the lives of so many people makes it all worth it. My grandmother always said, “It will be alright in the end. And if it isn’t alright, it isn’t the end.”

Sunrise is not alone in the way it has brought professional cultures to the sector.  The career opportunities available, the work being done by care providers to aid employees’ development and the growing professionalisation of the sector, mean that a career in care is an increasingly appealing choice. So if you make the most of it, and work hard, there is no limit to what you can achieve with a career in care.

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