I got to sit down with Donna Sheridan to discuss all things healthcare! Within my time with her, Donna answered 10 of my questions from her point of view of being a healthcare assistant for almost 10 years.
1) When did you begin your career as a healthcare assistant and why?
I became a healthcare assistant 9 years ago. My grandmother sadly suffered with Alzheimer’s, I was her carer at home and when she passed away, I thought of how much I liked that work and how I would love to help others as best as I can and I knew that the homecare industry would be the right place for me.
2) How long have you been with Kare Plan?
I have been with Kare Plan for 4 years.
3) What made you choose Kare Plan?
During my time with Private homecare, a lot of my clients went into residential homes or passed away and they were not as quick to put new clients in place and I was quite anxious over that but I had seen an advertisement on Social Media looking for healthcare assistants and I rang them up and was given an interview date straight away. I had my interview with one of the directors of the company, Emma Dandy who explained everything about the positions available and gave me great information about the company itself and the career advancement opportunities. I soon became part of the double-up team reporting to Emma Dandy herself.
4) What was it like for you at the start?
At the very start, I found it hard to find my feet. When I started with Private Homecare at the start, I was dealing with a lot of Alzheimer clients and it brought a lot of emotion and pain to the front as I had just lost my grandmother but once I got into the routine of primarily looking after each client as oppose to bringing myself back through the pain, I was fine.
5) Did you do any training or complete any courses prior to becoming a healthcare assistant?
When I started at the beginning, I had no training at all but when the Fetac / QQI came in, I did my training with Kare Plan Training School and completed my Care of the older person module and Care Skills module which are the two mandatory modules required to be a healthcare assistant. These courses were very helpful because you learn about things that you have never heard of before such as best practices and bad habits. Especially since I had no training prior to becoming a healthcare assistant, there were a lot of different things I did not know. Especially when it comes to health & safety, I would not have paid as much attention to this but on the courses, you learn just how important it is always to mind your surroundings and be alert for any hazards. I really am enjoying the courses so much so that I am currently near the end of completing all modules to achieve my full QQI Level 5 award to graduate in June 2019.
6) What is the double-up team?
The double-up team would cater to those of high dependency clients who require the use of a hoist which in turn would require two healthcare assistants to assist.
7) What are some of the best factors about being a healthcare assistant?
There are so many amazing factors about being a healthcare assistant. One of those would be when you go into a client each day and you feel that warmth when they thank you. Some of my own clients are non-verbal but they always give me a smile or try to rub my face and some people might see this as something small, but it is something that stays with you for the rest of the day. To know at the end of the day you made people smile is indescribable feeling.
8) What are some of the difficulty’s healthcare assistants can face?
One of the difficulties healthcare assistants face is the views some people have of what a healthcare is. A lot of people do not realise that we are actually a lot than they think as they probably believe we just go into people’s homes and just change their clothing but we do more than that, we are their hairdresser, their makeup artist, their cook, their cleaner, their confidant where they can confide in you. All in all, we are there making sure that people’s loved ones are looked after.
Another difficult aspect is not bringing work home with you. It can be very difficult leaving client’s at the end of the day because you know that they will be on their own for the rest of the day as they live alone and you wish you could just take the client home with you for a few hours but unfortunately, you can’t actually do that. Once you leave the house, it is like leaving your job and you have to try and disconnect yourself which is incredibly hard especially when you have built a relationship with them.
The next big difficulty is something we can all relate to and it is when you see a client suffering or when the pass away. It is painful and I found it quite hard to deal with at the beginning, but you know at the end of the day that within the time you knew them, you were able to make their days easier.
9) How do you prevent caregiver burnout?
Before I went onto the double up team, I would work Monday – Friday and have the weekend off. My weekends were about making up for what I was unable to get to during the week and spending time with my children especially on the Saturday. Sundays would be my day to spend with me to get myself ready for the week ahead. It really was a day for me to chill out completely.
On the double up team, I work 3 days off and 4 days on which now allows me to recharge my batteries and gives me plenty more freedom in terms of sorting out my own house work and run all the errands I need to with the peace of mind that you also have enough time to do all of that while preparing for the next few days of work.
Caregiver burnout usually happens when there is no proper routine and you are not going by a system that suits you and your lifestyle. You always need to have that work/life balance on point because if one side suffers, it is only a matter of time that the other side will also suffer too.
I am someone who would be quite active. For instance, if I finish work at 2pm and I do not have another call until 6pm, I don’t go home and sit there for a few hours. I like to keep going but at my own pace because those gaps allow me to take my time to get what I can done.
Keeping fit can be very difficult especially when you have families and responsibilities, I for one really enjoyed going for walks. I found it mentally stimulating when I would be walking and it was a way to clear my mind but because I am so busy these days, it has been very difficult to try and get out for that walk.
10) What advice would you give someone who is looking at becoming a healthcare assistant?
If you are looking to become a healthcare assistant, make sure it is not for the money. This role is not for those just in it for money, it is more than that. Make sure you come into this role with an open heart and an open mind and really ask yourself is this the right kind of job for you. You have to be willing to take the good with the bad because you could go into a client who is in great form today but come tomorrow it could be the absolute opposite and you need to be ready for those sudden changes and be able to manage it.
If you cannot guarantee that you can be there on the times and days you agreed without any issue, then this role is not for you. You must be dedicated. Your company, your clients and their families are relying on you to be there when you need to be there and give each day 100%. This is a very active role where you need to mentally and physically be there for your clients.
This job is not just about working for your client/s, but it is also about working as a team with your client too. You are promoting independence and that requires you to meet your client halfway. Patience is key.
Be kind to yourself in this role too because I believe a lot of us who are working in this role don’t always see the difference we make in peoples lives and it can be hard trying to avoid any negativity thrown at you, especially at the beginning, whether it be by people you know, clients, their families or even your own family but it is so important that you remember that your job is changing lives each day and you make life easier for so many people.
Thank you so much to Donna Sheridan for taking time to answer all of these questions and give an insight into the life of a healthcare assistant.
If you have any questions about the above, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org