Care Coordinator – NHS
MA Philosophy, 2015
What does your role involve?
I currently work as a Care Coordinator with my specialism being in social work. I work within an Early Intervention Psychosis service within the NHS Trust. My role involves supporting individuals who are experiencing a first episode of psychosis. My aim is to intervene and provide that support early enough in order to reduce the likelihood of individuals developing a long and enduring psychotic illness, and needing support by mental health services in the long term.
I work in a multi-disciplinary team alongside psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and support workers; and work closely with my colleagues to co-ordinate a person’s care and support, whether that is providing psychological support such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, addressing social needs such as housing or finances, or providing psycho-education around medication. I have to have a good understanding of mental health law such as the Mental Health Act, Mental Capacity Act, and Care Act in order to empower and advocate for a person’s rights.
How did you get your role?
I applied for a place on the Think Ahead graduate scheme, and became part of the first cohort. I applied for this scheme shortly after I had graduated from University. It was quite a rigorous assessment process - I had to complete an application with a video detailing my motivation for applying for the scheme. Once I had completed that, I had to complete a situational judgment test, and then attend an assessment centre. The assessment centre was quite intensive, and involved an interview, role plays, written exercises and group work.
Once I had a place on the programme, I attended a 6-week intensive training course, before being placed within one of the NHS trusts to begin my training as a student social worker. After completing a year of placement which also involved academic assessments, I became a newly qualified social worker, and have begun my new role in the Early Intervention team.
How did your Masters degree help prepare you for this role?
During my Master’s degree, I participated in various academic modules which combined my interest in mental health and philosophy. I was able to research into issues of mental capacity within eating disorders; consider the impact of the mental health act legislation on human rights; evaluate concepts of mental disorder; and for my master’s thesis I researched into whether paedophilia was a mental disorder and the potential clinical, moral and policy implications of this.
In studying Philosophy at Masters level, I was also able to further develop my critical analysis and structure of argument. This has been highly useful in my work as a mental health social worker, as I have been able to utilise different perspectives, approaches, and the current research and evidence base within mental health, in order to critically use these within my own direct work with patients i.e. court reports; mental capacity assessments etc. Being able to think critically is crucial for social work, not only in being able to consistently evaluate and reflect on my own clinical practice, but to also critically evaluate the support provided to individuals, and how to best support a person with their mental health and wellbeing.
How did you draw on your Masters experience and degree when applying for the role?
In applying for the role, I had to show certain competencies that were important to social work practice, including the ability to reflect and think critically. In fulfilling these competencies, I was able to include the work and research that I had undertaken during my master’s degree and the application to mental health. I was also able to demonstrate my ability to prioritise and manage my time, due to balancing a full time master’s degree and volunteer work, which has been very applicable to my social work role, as I am having to manage a full caseload, as well as completing academic research.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I work with wonderful people. Firstly, the people who I help to support with their mental health are quite frankly, amazing. I work with people who have undergone incredible stress, trauma, and horrific life events, but still have an incredible amount of resilience and strength, which I find both incredibly humbling and inspiring. I feel immensely privileged that every day people invite me into their homes, and I get to listen to their stories, and try and help in whatever way I can. Mental health is an immensely complex, but incredibly fascinating field which varies each day.
Secondly, I am very lucky to be working in an immensely supportive, talented, and creative multidisciplinary team. I love working with people from all different disciplines and perspectives, and being able to utilise other people’s knowledge and expertise for my own direct work has been really helpful. It is also really nice to have that support, when your day isn’t going too great or is stressful, and sometimes you need just that extra bit of help when there’s a lot of risk or things are immensely challenging.
What’s most challenging?
Having to be comfortable with uncertainty. Feeling like you don’t know anything keeps everything always varied and interesting, but it can also be a bit scary. I have been in situations where I’ve had to suddenly adapt to things, and it can be stressful when there’s a lot of risk to the person you’re working with, and you’re not sure what options are available to you. That’s why working in a team who is supportive is so important, because then you don’t have to manage on your own.
Other than that, working within the NHS is immensely pressured, having a high caseload with an ever increasing demand of people who need support, whilst services and resources are being cut, can be incredibly difficult and frustrating at times, not only for us as professionals, but for the people we work with and help support. Whilst I hope that will change, I try and do what I can to help the people I work with, with the resources that I’ve got, and try and help as much as I can.
What advice would you give to postgraduate students interested in social work/mental health?
There’s a couple of tips I would probably give. Firstly: get experience. If you want to work in social work or mental health, get as much experience as you can, whether that’s volunteering, or working as a support worker or whatever. That’s going to really tell you whether this is something that you want to do, as well as give you some good background experience before embarking on it as a career.
Secondly: read about it. It’s always good to keep up to date on what’s happening in health and social care, as changes can and will probably affect you if you go into this area. Plus, if you are interested, it’s probably good to have some primary knowledge. Have a look at mental health blogs, mental health legislation, MIND website and Rethink website, or the Guardian or Community Care websites for useful and up to date information.