‘Just go for it’ - Woman dedicates life to care work and urges others to join
Picture: STAND AGENCY
She has dedicated her entire working life caring for others, now Nikki Smith, of Norwich, wants to encourage others to share her passion.
The 51-year-old is an assistant locality manager for the not-for-profit organisation Dimensions, and has worked in all aspects of the care industry since college - from residential care to home care, including working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
So what is her advice to those considering a career in social care? She urged them to “just go for it”.
And while she has supported many people over the years, she built a particularly strong relationship with one woman, Nicky Clark, who used a wheelchair and communicated only through facial expressions.
Speaking of her fond memories of their time together, she said: “Her dad knew she always wanted to go on a cruise – but thought it would be impossible, with having to use a hoist, getting her special food and medicine administered etcetera - but we managed to do that.
“We took the hoist, drove to the coast and went on an eight-day cruise to Norway. It was such a special moment – to be able to give her the same experience that you and I could have, and perhaps might take for granted.
“She was a real princess – and went abroad the Princess cruise ship. The amount of attention she got aboard was amazing, and you could see she was so pleased the whole time.”
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As well as being able to help others achieve their goals she described why she loves her job.
“The best thing about my job is the freedom that we give to people we support. They are able to choose what they want to do – there’s no specific timetable, we’re giving people freedom of choice and the independence to make their own decisions.
“If you have passion to make a difference to someone’s life, if you can teach someone some specific life skill – then go for it.
“It’s not all about the money. Come and see what it’s all about. It’s not mundane, every day is different, the work is never boring. There’s so much rewards every day – it’s not like stacking shelves.”
Her job also involves supporting people with learning disabilities and autism, and she said she has “never felt more fulfilled”.
Ms Smith has been working through the pandemic and admitted that it had been challenging at times but that the people she supports have coped admirably.
“People didn’t understand why we needed to put masks on, so for some it was quite frightening. The ladies wanted to be like us, so we gave them masks to wear as well – this made them feel more relaxed, they didn’t want to be different and that way they felt included.”
Ms Smith added that she was grateful that society finally seems to be recognising the importance of social care work.
“At the beginning it felt like we were not thought of as equal, we weren’t included. It was good to see this has changed – it was nice that we got noticed, that they were showing people in care setting on the telly... It was perhaps a bit too late, but I’m so glad it finally happened.”
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