Valuing HCA roles (and HCAs!)

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Valuing HCA roles (and HCAs!)

Post by Amina » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:36 pm

Not sure this is the right section, but....

At the outset of this (moan?!) I have to declare an interest - I've recently started work as a bank HCA, and after years out of health and social support work, it does currently feel like my dream job and I do feel very, very pleased to be doing it! I have also (way back in the dim, distant past), worked as a Senior Support Worker, an AP and a Senior Practitioner, so my experience is varied.

Yet despite my enthusiasm for my new role, last week I found myself uttering the words 'oh no, I'm ONLY an HCA' - (to someone I got chatting to who thought I might be a locum doctor...........!). How very annoying, it felt, to have used the word 'only', when I could so easily have used 'actually'. Was I embarrassed? Do I secretly feel my role is of low value? Or expect others not to value it? Is it not prestigious enough?

It really underlined the fact that most of us using clinpsy are actually working towards the great, exiting, somewhat elusive career goal of 'Professional Psychology' (add triumphant sound effects). And so many times we seem to dismiss the HCA and Support Worker roles (even though these are, to many, careers and professions and vocations). We just use this work as a tick-box on the way up. And I do mean up. Because no-one, not the public, or the government, or the employers, or many of us actually doing the work, really values these roles. The pay is poor, the training can be sketchy, the supervision even sketchier, the progression (within similar roles) often limited.....

And I wondered to myself, if we only see this as a stepping-stone to something bigger and better, how can we really work well, be engaged, be 'good' at what we do, be professionals? We're working day-to-day with some really vulnerable people, we spend far more time with them than most other recognised Professionals, including Psychologists - we have a really important, special role to play in people's lives when they most need support. How would they feel if they thought we were undermining our roles, and this area of work? Can we expect other Professionals to respect these roles if we don't really respect them ourselves?

So then I thought about Mindfulness - in a very simple way - of being present and savouring the moment and really experiencing now, rather than always dreaming of the future. 'Being, not merely Doing. Actually, this is something the more experienced contributors here are often suggesting - when you're choosing a job, course, relocating, do it because you'll enjoy it and get something out of it beyond a section on your cv.

I hope I take my own advice and really begin to value my job and talk about it more favourably to others. I'd love to hear how you feel - if you've experienced situations where you've devalued your own work as I did, or found yourself ticking off the time until you can apply for a 'real' job, or calculating your pay to decide if it's worth it!

There are loads of great quotes about the past, present and future, (and this isn't necessarily one of them, but it speaks to me of being mindful!)

"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor." ~D.H. Lawrence

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Re: Valuing HCA roles (and HCAs!)

Post by ell » Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:07 pm

I wouldn't call that a 'moan', Amina. I thought it a very interesting and challenging post, giving me lots of food for thought. I hope you are able to engage more with your role and enjoy it.

I was a support worker in the same place for 3 and a half years (not ideal for career progression please note). It was hugely valuable in terms of helping me learn about the NHS, develop skills in just being with people with mental health difficulties, but most importantly, giving me time to develop more as a person (sounds cheesy, but was really important). I developed confidence, professionalism, interpersonal skills... the list goes on.

But that is a summary of what I gained from the post, written years and years later. At the time I was frustrated and bored with doing the same activities over and over again, and having a smaller voice in clinical discussions and organisational discussions (although I was respected generally and was often mistaken for a CPN, you know how it goes). I often felt despondent that I was continually 'failing' to get the AP jobs I was applying/interviewing for. It was a difficult time by the end of it, and I was soooo ready to leave. I was by far not the only person who wanted to leave, but it was notable how half of the people who wanted to leave just did the minimum, while the other half of us who wanted to leave still put in effort right to the end of our time there. At the end of the day, regardless of our careers, support workers and HCAs have as much contact (if not more) with clients than the more 'qualified' members of staff, and therefore have as much (if not more) impact on the quality of the care received by them. As 'only' an HCA you have so much to offer and more responsibility than you may realise.

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Re: Valuing HCA roles (and HCAs!)

Post by AmyO » Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:40 pm

I appreciate and agree with a lot of what you have said Amina. I too have found myself on a couple of occasions using ‘only’ to describe my job role.

I too am a support worker. I must admit that I initially applied for the role as a ‘stepping stone’ into a more ‘psychology related role’ and to bulk up my CV. But I don’t think I ever anticipated how much I would actually learn and enjoy the role!

I quickly decided after starting my role that I am here now and I’m going to give it 110%. I could have worked for a year doing the bare minimum and put it on my CV, but why waste such a brilliant opportunity?

I can echo what ell has said also, it is a great opportunity to learn about working in the NHS, work with client groups that psychologists often work with, team work skills, understanding of MDT and communication skills. And for the cheesy part… I have also developed a new appreciation for life; working in healthcare you really do see life at its strongest and weakest moments. Being there to support someone at their most vulnerable time is truly a privilege. It is far from the most glamorous job in the world, it can be difficult and undervalued... however it is very rewarding and a fantastic opportunity to learn loads!

So here’s to the people that are ‘only’ HCA’s and Support Workers – we salute you! :P

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Re: Valuing HCA roles (and HCAs!)

Post by daisychain123 » Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:42 pm

I worked in a medium secure unit for a year as a HCA before securing my first assistant post and I have to say I absolutely LOVED my job! I sometimes thought to myself if I wasn't so driven to become a psychologist I would have been perfectly happy to stay there for a good few years. However I have to hold my hands up and admit I too have used the phrase 'only a HCA' when I started in my honorary assistant role (part time alongside being a HCA). The psychologist pointed me out on this and quite rightly so.

I worked alongside some phenomenal HCA staff who really deserve more recognition than they receive! They are often overlooked by management and yet they are the often the service users first port of call when they are distressed or just simply having a bad day!

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