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My Support Worker Journey

Today, 23rd November marks Nursing Support Workers Day, shining a light on the essential contribution nursing support workers make to patient care and nursing teams. We spoke to Graham Staddon, Support Worker at Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke about his Support Worker journey and what’s needed to attract more people to this challenging and rewarding profession.

Q: Could you please tell us about yourself?
A: I have been working as a Support Worker for Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke, Nash Ward, which is a male psychiatric intensive care, for nearly eight months now. Prior to joining Cygnet Health Care, I have worked as a Support Worker and Activity Coordinator in different care settings including supported living and residential care for patients with Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD) over the years since 2012. In between, I have also worked for a furniture removal company too. I used to check Cygnet’s job posts regularly but I didn’t think I ticked all the boxes as I didn’t have any qualifications. However, with a little encouragement from my partner, Lizzie, I decided to go back to the care sector and work as a Support Worker again.

Q: Why did you decide to come back to work as a Support Worker?
A: I just felt as if I’ve got a lot to give to people in the mental health sector and I like helping people and making a difference in people’s lives directly. I always think of the service user’s feelings first. If they are not looking very happy, I always ask if they want to have a cup of tea or to go to a quiet lounge to have a chat and vent a little bit. No day is the same at the ward. It is a very challenging and rewarding profession.

Q: Would you say the roles of Support Worker are underrepresented?
A: I’m probably speaking on behalf of a lot of people working in the healthcare sector, not just Support Workers when I say I don’t think any social care worker or mental health worker is valued enough. Rates of pay are generally low across the sector. However, there are a number of ways that management teams can make employees feel valued. When you get a little thank you note from your manager after a long and tough shift, it goes a long way towards making your job feel fulfilling and rewarding. Just a small appreciation can help employees to feel valued and motivated.

Q: What keeps you going?
A: On a professional level, I think we’ve got a great team of nurses who kind of take you under their wings in Nash Ward and everybody supports everybody. On a personal level, I’ve got a really good partner, who has been supportive throughout my career. We are still in a pandemic but our wonderful team at Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke and my partner are what keep me going.

Q: In the light of the national shortage of healthcare professions including support workers, what would you like to say to the younger generation?
A: Being a mental health care worker helps you in your own life in many ways and to see your life from a different perspective. It makes you appreciate little things in your life. And working for a mental health hospital is something that would open up a range of career options too. There are a number of prospects as well at Cygnet Health Care as it offers many career progression opportunities across the organisation, from Support Worker to HR, IT and Finance.

Q: What are the essential qualities and personality traits of Support Worker?
A: The best support workers I’ve ever come across are people who’ve got life experience and have a very good heart and empathy. I think life experience beats any university degree. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be professional when it comes to providing care and support to our service users but you have to have a good heart and I think that’s the key element of being a good support worker.

Q: Is there anything you would like to highlight?
A: Massive hats off to my colleagues at Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke including my fellow support workers, the ward manager, the nurses who have pulled together during the pandemic to support our service users. I think they are doing an amazing job and I am very lucky to be working with the brilliant team.

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