Initiation not induction?

Des Kelly recollects his first shift in a
care home

“Can
you remember your first shift in a residential care setting?” This was a
question asked of me by Vic Citarella following a recent Residential Forum
meeting. And my reply: “I sure can!”

“Then
write a blog about it”, he said. 

Although
my first shift was close to 46 years ago I was surprised at just how strong the
memories still are – it seems like no time at all! I expect this is because the
event had a significant effect on me as it proved to be formative. So formative
that the whole of my working life of 45+ years has been connected with
residential care services in one way or another.

I
had never been in a care home, not even as a visitor, when I was appointed as a
care worker in a local authority home for older people in the early 1970s. I’m
guessing that the average age of the residents was then probably a little over
70. There were certainly a lot of residents in their 60s and 70s, and few in
their 80s. Several had lived in institutions of one sort or another most of
their lives. The level of physical frailty was much less than that regarded as
usual in care homes these days. In fact, I don’t think the resident population
of care homes from the 1970s would be in any way recognisable seen with today’s
eyes.

My
first shift was in the evening. I was one of two care workers for 36 residents.
I’d call the experience initiation rather than induction. A test. A test of
resourcefulness and resilience because I was on my own providing personal care
and support from a very early stage. I don’t remember there being much in the
way of explanation about the way things were done or how. Or even much
explanation about the residents and their lives. Certainly nothing was given to
me in writing. My memory is of being told of the routine by another care
worker.

Most
residents were in shared rooms – some with as many as 6 beds, arranged like
dormitories. Privacy therefore was a challenge, partly because of the
environment, and dignity and respect were therefore undermined. Staffing
quotients most likely compromised efforts to treat people as individuals
despite the level of independence amongst many of the people who lived at the
home. There is no doubt in my mind that the routine was regimented with limited
choice and control.

Home Life

I
don’t imagine that my experience would be different to anyone else working in a
residential care setting in the early 1970s. In fact, I’d go as far as to
suggest that the provision of care didn’t really change in any meaningful way
until the publication of ‘Home Life’ in May 1984.

Thinking
back to that first shift made me think about what we can do as individuals when
we are starting a new caring position and don’t have knowledge or experience to
guide us. You can’t really expect to know, so you should be encouraged to ask
lots of questions. We should expect to have an induction with information about
residents and their support needs. It should be in a written form to reinforce
what you are shown and told. If you don’t receive this information before your
first shift it is important to ask for it. There may be other training
resources it would be helpful to have bought to your attention including
reading material and training videos. Look for learning materials on the Skills
for Care or Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) websites. The Relatives
and Residents Association have produced ‘Keys to Care’ as guidance about best
practice. I can guarantee that your experience of your first shift will be
greatly enhanced by preparation and by having access to these good practice
resources as part of a well-planned induction. I now know that I would have
been!

The Residential Forum would be
pleased to hear all your stories about FIRST SHIFTS in care homes – adults and
children across the UK and wider – and will post them as part of our mission to
show how residential care should be a POSITIVE CHOICE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: