April 18, 2018

Rebecca Harvey

When I saw an advert online for the job of a support worker while I was looking for part-time work alongside my Health and Social Care course at Cardiff Met I decided to go for it.
The lecturers had said before how a job in the health and social care sector can be very beneficial and even help with the course. This is one of the main reasons I chose to apply.
When I first applied to be a support worker at a mental health hospital I thought there was no possibility of me being successful, especially with the little experience I had. Three weeks passed and I had completely forgotten about my application. That’s when I received an email inviting me for an interview! Even though I hadn’t secured the position, the feeling of shock and excitement was exhilarating. I had a few days in-between receiving the email and the date of the interview, so I started preparing straight away.
I looked into the post, researching the company and everything the role required. I also reviewed my own experiences of taking care of my Nan and how that linked to the job I had applied for. When it came to the big day the interviewer asked me what experience I’ve had in the past – I’d been dreading this question as I had little to no experience of actually being a support worker.
However, when talking to the interviewer, I realised that the practical skills I had learned from caring for my autistic brother and dependent nan were particularly helpful for this role in a mental health hospital. This was because my previous expertise could be easily transferred in to this new working environment. My interview was a success and I got the job!
I started the post on a full-time contract after finishing semester two. This meant I was going to be thrown in at the deep end working 12 hour shifts – exciting, but also scary!
Luckily some of my lecturers at Cardiff Met had previously worked with individuals who had mental health needs. So I rushed to ask them what to expect in preparation for my first day of training. My lecturers were very helpful in answering my questions and giving me tons of support.
This made me even more excited; hearing their stories gave me the boost in confidence I needed to get over my nerves. As part of my training I had to learn how to properly restrain a patient if I was ever put in a position where it was necessary – this was one aspect of the role which had never even crossed my mind before.
The course provided an eye-opening experience in the world of mental health care. On the last day of training I was told I would be starting on the male ward, and this is when it all became very real. I would be starting a new job in a hospital, with no previous experience and not as much confidence as I would’ve liked.
On my first shift I was introduced to the team, and spent most of my day getting to know the patients. It was interesting to hear their stories and how they ended up there. After a week I felt right at home, doing what I knew best – helping and caring for people. I felt part of the team, not only part of the support team but also part of the patients ‘team’- or I guess ‘community’ sounds better. I was primarily there to support and take care of the patients, but I was also there to be a shoulder to cry on, as cliché as that sounds.
I quickly settled in to the role and got on with my shift work. The work was enjoyable as it was rewarding seeing patients come in and leave rejuvenated after their course of rehabilitation. Learning a range of skills and being included within the mental health community has been hands down one of the best experiences of my life.
I found it difficult working the hours needed for the hospital and completing my university work to the best potential. Therefore, I have transferred to a ‘bank’ contract which allows me to pick and choose my hours to work alongside university. Now, when my uni work is due I can pick up less hours.
Working at the hospital has put a lot of my work into perspective, giving me a better understanding overall. As well as this, I have also spoken to first years about my experience in the hospital and how the job has benefitted me.
Read more about Cardiff Met students learning on the job with our work placement blog posts.