The healthcare sector, of which care work forms a significant part, is an amazingly diverse area of employment that offers a range of opportunities to Armed Forces leavers. Could you work in care?
What is care work?
Care encompasses a broad spectrum of roles – from administration, logistics and practical back-up support, to complex medical care. Around one-fifth of all health professionals are employed within the private sector, and many more are self-employed in areas such as physiotherapy, podiatry and holistic/complementary therapies. With life expectancy continuing to rise and increasingly serious staff shortages in the social care sector, employment opportunities, for care workers in particular, are excellent – which is why we focus on that role here.
If you enjoy helping people and want to make a real difference to their lives, the job of care assistant (also known as a care worker or support worker) could be for you. It will require you to help people who have difficulties with their daily activities.
You might work with children, people with physical or learning disabilities, older people or families, in their own homes, in sheltered housing, at day centres, or in care homes or nursing homes.
Working hours vary, depending on the job, and are likely to include evenings and weekends. If you work in a residential location, you may be expected to stay overnight on a rota basis. In some jobs, you might live in.
What skills do care workers need?
Many people join the Services to ‘make a difference’ to communities and individuals, and there is a very similar ethos within the healthcare sector in general. The ability to work calmly and with initiative while under pressure is a core Services skill that is directly and critically applicable to this sector. Beyond these major attributes are practical skills relevant to certain areas of the health sector, such as the ability to drive, operate technical equipment, coordinate people and/or supplies, as well as the ability to work with initiative – individually or as part of a team.
TRANSFER YOUR SKILLS
As a care assistant you will need:
- a friendly and caring approach
- a genuine desire to help people
- the ability to relate to people from a wide variety of backgrounds
- tact and sensitivity
- respect for others
- patience and a sense of humour
- reliability and flexibility
- team-working skills and the ability to use your own initiative
- the ability to work to health and safety guidelines
- the capacity to remain calm under pressure.
WHAT DO CARERS DO?
The exact nature of your duties will vary depending on where you work, but your day-to-day role is likely to include:
- helping with daily personal care such as washing, dressing, using the toilet and feeding
- carrying out general tasks such as housework, laundry and shopping
- helping families get used to new caring responsibilities
- working with other health and social care professionals to provide individual care and development plans.
Finding a job
A common way into this career is to do some volunteering work with an organisation that supports vulnerable people. You can also draw on personal experience of caring for someone you know. Although not essential, there are a number of qualifications that you can work towards (see below), whether you are looking to learn more to get into this career or if you have just started in a paid or voluntary position. You can find a full list of qualifications on the Skills for Care website, which also has more information on routes into this career.
How do I qualify for care work?
Once you start work as a care assistant you will receive on-the-job training from your employer. You may also attend external courses, e.g. on first aid, food hygiene, health and safety, and how to lift and move people safely. You may also be encouraged to work towards further qualifications, such as the level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care, to become a senior care worker. As your career develops, you can move on to higher-level qualifications.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELCAS website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on the Quest website
CARE SERVICES APPRENTICESHIPS
Care sector apprenticeships combine home and hospital visits with clinics and other vital assistance for people who need extra help. Apprenticeships include: adult care worker, social worker and physiotherapist. Use your favourite search engine to find out more, or click here to find out more.