• 05 October 2020
  • 23 min read

Things I Learnt As A Care Assistant That Helped Me In Nursing

  • Claire Carmichael
    Adult Nurse - General Practice Nurse
    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Matt Farrah
    • Zurita Faria
  • 2
  • 890
Play video: "Care work was just amazing, and it was where I built all of the foundations of my career."

After beginning her Nursing career in Care, GP Nurse, Claire Carmichael, gives a rundown of the key transferrable skills that she learnt as a Care Assistant that have helped her excel as a Nurse.

Topics covered in this article

0.06 Introduction

0.58 How I Got Into Nursing

2.33 Discovering The Basis Of The Six C’s Of Nursing

3.05 Learning To Care

5.38 Developing Your Communication Skills

7.24 You’ve Got To Have Compassion

8.43 Being Committed To The Role

10.26 Competence In The Role

12.20 You Need Courage For This Job

14.00 It's About Being Safe And Making Sure You Are Confident And Comfortable

15.31 Learning To Cope With Death

17.04 Developing Resilience

18.57 Patients Want Someone Who Knows What They’re Doing

20.09 One Of The Most Important Skills Is Patience

0.06 Introduction

Hi, everyone and welcome back to the vlog.

My name is Claire Carmichael, and I'm a newly qualified General Practice Nurse.

And in today's vlog, I'm actually really, really excited about because this is talking about things that I learnt as a Healthcare Assistant or a Care Assistant working in a care home that I've brought into my Nurse in life.

Things that I've learnt, that's made me grow as a Nurse, if that makes sense.

Those skills, those initial skills.

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And I'm really, really excited because I always rave about this because a care home is where I started my Nursing journey back in 2005.

So yeah, I'm excited.

So, just a very brief, quick overview.

I didn't know that I wanted to get into Nursing.

I left school.

I didn't know what I wanted to do with life.

I got rubbish GCSEs and just yeah, I went into hospitality and that was that.

I just followed my mom's footsteps and that's it.

0.58 How I Got Into Nursing

I had a bit of a dilemma one day and I felt like I was at a crossroads and I didn't know where I wanted to turn in life, what I wanted to do with my career, but I wasn't satisfied in what I was doing.

I had a conversation with my lovely, lovely friend, Ian, who said to me:

"Claire, I can see you as a Nurse".

And I was like, "What?".

Yeah. I never thought of myself as a Nurse.

I never thought of myself even as a Care Assistant because I always regarded those people as amazing, wonderful people and this high profession, and I just wasn't that person.

I levelled myself down here and they were up here.

I never thought of that as a career, but when he said it, I thought, actually, maybe there's something in this because I'm quite a caring person.

I always looked after animals and stuff, birds, pigeons with broken wings and things, when I was younger.

I have got that really deep caring side.

And I thought, you know what, let me just look into this.

So, I had a little look around about how to get into Nursing, how to become a Nurse and all of this.

And something that came up was to start off as a Care Assistant.

I mean, this was back in 2005.

Now you can just jump straight into Nursing pretty much, but yes.

I looked around and I found an amazing role as a Care Assistant in my very first care home.

Completely left hospitality.

And I loved it, I'm not going to lie, I cannot for the life of me, remember my very first day as a Care Assistant, but I never remember regretting it.

I just remember just falling in love with it.

And every day I really enjoyed getting up and going to work.

But yeah, it was just amazing, and it was where I built all of the foundations of my career.

2.33 Discovering The Basis Of The Six C’s Of Nursing

So, the first thing I want to talk about is the six Cs of Nursing.

This is where I built and started that foundation.

As a Care Assistant, you will do all of these and more, and these are absolutely 100% necessary to be a Nurse, I think.

And that's why they're there, that's why it's promoted, and that's why the six Cs came about because it's something they knew that Nursing needed.

If that makes sense?

So, let's go through the six Cs and how I learnt these as a Care Assistant.

3.05 Learning To Care

The first one is care.

This comes in two parts, I think.

So, for me personally, the care that I learnt, or not learnt, but built upon because I was already a caring person anyway, and there is two parts.

So, that first part is being caring.

So, it's about your emotions and your empathy and respecting other people's dignity and wishes.

And just being that caring person, caring for someone else's emotional and physical wellbeing, not just your own.

So, it's having that ability to want to help other people.

That to me was the first thing that I discovered, I really, really wanted to help others and I wanted to be that point of call for their care.

And the second side to this is care as in those care skills, in a way.

So, things like personal care, helping with washing and dressing, if someone can't eat on their own, so helping them with that.

Finding ways to adjust things, to help them live this amazing quality of life, because we want people, especially in care homes, they are very elderly, they're very frail, they're coming to the later stages of life.

You want to make the quality of that life as an amazing experience as possible because those are possibly, sometimes their last moments on this earth.

So, the care that you give and the care that they receive, and those care type of skills are really, really important, I think, especially in care homes.

So, other things like assistance with toileting needs, so some people might need help on the toilet, when they're on the toilet, maybe they physically are completely bedbound.

I hate this word, but I can't think of another word to describe it, but they are completely bedbound and they use maybe a commode, or sometimes they use a bedpan.

Sometimes they might have these incontinence pads as well.

So, it's that type of care that you're given to your patients as well.

Catheter care as well, so if they've got catheters, making sure you're recording the fluid balance and emptying and changing the catheters, that's a skill that I learnt very early on as a Care Assistant as well.

That's not just for a Nurse to do, Care Assistants do that as well.

That was a really, really important one that I took away with me as well, because I could take that onto the wards, because I'd already done it as a Care Assistant.

That was quite good, that I could actually do those things.

So, like I said, care is a really, really important one.

To me, it's one of the most important, that's why I've put it one, at the top, but this is no particular order.

5.38 Developing Your Communication Skills

Next up is communication.

This one is equally as important as care because I find communication is one of those things that if it fails, doesn't matter where you're working, who you are, what you're doing, if that little piece of communication fails, it all crumbles.

It can really, really make or break some people.

It can make or break a shift.

It can just... Yeah.

And the wrong type of communication could lead to the wrong person getting the wrong type of care as well.

They go hand-in-hand, care and communication because communication is important.

And it's not just thinking about, ooh, speaking, listening, you have to think about the whole system.

You have to think about the way that you liaise with your doctors, with your Nurses, with your Care Assistants, with your residents, with your management, with pharmacies, with deliveries, whatever.

But it's not just about the way that you talk to your patient, communication is a whole massive thing.

It's how you're documenting.

It's those nonverbal communication.

They say, I think it's 70% of our communication is body language.

So, it's thinking about your body language as well.

And maybe for those that have... especially elderly people, a lot of people have hearing aids.

They might have dentures.

They might have had a stroke, so their speech is impaired, and they can't communicate as well.

They might have dementia.

It's thinking about how to communicate with those sorts of people, especially in the later stages of dementia, where the understanding isn't quite as it used to be.

Making sure everything's documented, clearly, concisely legible, so other people can read it, other people can understand the care that you're giving.

And putting that out there, so that no mistakes are made.

7.24 You’ve Got To Have Compassion

Compassion.

You have to have compassion if you're working as a Care Assistant, because you have to have that level of empathy.

You have to put yourself in their shoes.

And this is what I did a lot, actually, as a Care Assistant, I found myself having a lot of compassion actually.

I find myself going above and beyond for my patients, because I think, do you know what, this can't be nice for them to be in this Nursing Home, their friends and family aren't here, it must be quite a scary, horrible time.

I would always think, ooh, I need to do this.

I need to do this. I need to do that. I need to do this.

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And I would just put myself out there for the person. It is about showing that compassion, your level of understanding of their needs of that patient as well.

This role isn't about you and your feelings, it is very much about the other person.

And you have to understand that and take the time to understand each patient as well, talk to them, get their background, get their history, find out what they love and what they enjoy doing, activities wise.

And just have that level of compassion for your patients and respect them in a way, and just again, it's talking about that quality of life as well.

It's making sure you give them that good quality of life in potentially their last moments as well.

8.43 Being Committed To The Role

Commitment.

This is an interesting one because you do have to be a very committed, dedicated person to do this role.

This is something that if you're off sick all the time, if you're late all the time, it really, really affects the team.

You have to really love the job.

You have to really be committed to the job, and for me this isn't a job.

This is my life.

It is my career.

The people you work with become your family.

You spend most of your time at work all day, every day, five days a week, three days a week, however many days a week.

You have to be committed to that role and you have to be happy in it as well.

It's not just about commitment.

It's about being happy in what you're doing and finding that contentment as well, in a way.

So yeah, you have to be committed.

You have to be committed to yourself, to your job, to your colleagues, to your patients, to your management, and just show that this is the job for you and show that you're actually a dedicated team member.

Just being that person it'll just make it run so much smoother, and the patients will not suffer as a result for it.

Because that's what it's all about at the end of the day, it's about the residents that live there and being committed to them and making sure that they have everything they need and you have to be that person for them.

And working in a care home will absolutely give you that because the more you do the role, the more you'll feel confident in things and the more you will think, "Do you know what? I love this job, I love it, I'm going to get up earlier, I'm going to arrive earliern and I'm going to see my patients".

And you will fall into that commitment routine as you go along, because it is an amazing career and it's really hard not to be committed to that sort of role.

10.26 Competence In The Role

And then we have competence.

This is quite a good one, actually, because a lot of mistakes are made when we aren't comfortable, we aren't confident to do something or we're not trained properly to do something.

Sometimes we do it anyway because we think, "Oh, it'll be okay. What's the worst that can happen?".

This isn't a Dr. Pepper commercial.

Other brands are available, but it's the most relevant with that one.

Anyway, you have to be competent at what you do and I learnt that skill very, very quickly as a Care Assistant.

And you will be put through amazing training packages to teach you all of the skills you need.

Things like the catheter care, you'll have your manual handling, you'll have personal care and hygiene training.

You'll have different communication.

Some Care Assistants as well, will give medication, so you'll have training to do that and make sure you're competent to do that.

Again, it's something I built on and learnt as a Care Assistant.

I was a Care Assistant for almost six years, so I really did build the competencies to do things.

And if you're in doubt, you should always ask any way and you should always get help and seek further training as well, which they are more than happy to do because they would rather you be safe than sorry.

But yes, as a Care Assistant, I built up those skills and I became a competent individual, so that when I started my Nursing, I was really, really confident and competent in doing things.

Actually, so much so that in my first year, people often thought I was a third year student because I could do things autonomously because I knew, because I'd done it previously in previous jobs, I did all the personal hygiene.

I did medications on the medication rounds.

So, these little things, I already had those skills that I built as a Care Assistant, to take into my Nursing.

And it just made me shine more, I think, in a way.

But this isn't to make you panic, if you're going into Nursing and you haven't had that experience, it's okay because you do learn that as a Nurse as well, but I'm just going through the things that I learnt that really did help me as a Nurse.

12.20 You Need Courage For This Job

And then, we have courage.

So, courage is an interesting one to throw in there because you do need courage for this job.

Some of you may have seen some awful new stories, Panorama documentaries on television, about the abuse that can happen out there.

So, this is really important with the courage, because you need to speak up if you see anything like that, or if you see a safeguarding concern, for example, you need to be able to recognise that.

So, having the competence, taking the competence and putting it into courage, so being competent to see and recognise safeguarding, you'll get the training for that.

And then, raising your voice and raising the concerns to your management teams and safeguarding leads as well to protect your patients.

So, you really do have to have courage.

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And that is something I learnt 100% as a Care Assistant as well.

So for me, this was a no-brainer, it was easy for me to have courage because at the back of my mind, I had the compassion, I had the care, I wanted to protect my patients.

I also had the competence because I could recognise signs of abuse and neglect and safeguarding.

I built on that.

It was a no-brainer for me.

When I saw my patients suffering, I spoke up because that's my job at the end of the day.

I'm not there to make friends with Carers, although that's nice.

I mean, we are all friends and we get along and there's teamwork and everything.

However, if someone, even if it was a friend of mine or family member of mine, if they were neglecting a patient or abusing a patient, I would absolutely speak up.

And I have spoke up before.

I've spoke up a number of times actually, where I've seen a Care Assistant be not so nice to a patient, and I've had to speak up and report that abuse.

14.00 It's About Being Safe And Making Sure You Are Confident And Comfortable

Also, safeguarding as well, so a patient's family member for example, was financially abusing her and I needed to speak up and report my concerns on that.

And luckily other people had noticed that as well, so we had this little case study going.

But not only that, you have to have the courage inside yourself that if you're worried or you're scared about doing something to face those fears and just go for it.

If you've had the training and if you know what you're doing, basically.

If you've got... Again, bringing that competency in, if you're competent to do something, but you fear it, in a way.

So, I know some people that are Nurses that are scared of blood, but they've pushed themselves through it.

They've got their vena puncture training and now they take bloods and they're okay with it.

It's about being safe, so making sure you are confident and comfortable, first things first, but having that courage to push through your fears.

If you are scared of death, for example, and you're really worried about doing the last offices with a patient after they've passed away, push through it and give it a go.

Because I know it's not nice and it is a really tough thing to do, and it really does affect you emotionally sometimes, but try and look at it at different angles.

Don't just think, "Oh my God, this is scary. This is a dead body".

Think about, "Do you know what? This is the last piece of care I'm going to ever give this patient. This patient is going to receive their last piece of care and love from me" - and what an honour that is.

What an honour to do that for somebody as the last thing that you can do when they're on this earth.

15.31 Learning To Cope With Death

I think it's just a really powerful actually, and really privileged to do that for someone.

If you are scared of doing that, please just think a little bit differently about it and do it, but make sure you have a debrief afterwards.

Speak to your colleagues about it, speak to your family or friends about it and how you're feeling about the situation and reflect on it because it can be quite emotional and it can be a little bit, ooh, especially your first one.

So yes, just take your time.

It's okay.

And I am that person, I do fear some things and I think death was one of the things that I feared.

I will never forget the first time I had to do that to a patient, but I am that person that will push myself as well.

All these courage things I learnt as a Care Assistant.

So, facing death, for example, I'm terrified of death, but I faced it and I grew and I've built and I gained more confidence.

I wasn't so scared about it anymore.

And when the time came where a resident had died and someone said, "Have you ever done last offices?" I was like, "I've got no idea what you're on about. What is last offices?".

And they said, "Come on, we'll show you and talk you through it".

And actually, I'm so glad that I did that because it was just nice.

It was a nice experience, as much as it's horrible.

It was just nice that I pushed myself and did that because then again, when I went into Nursing and I had to do it in my Nursing career, it really, really helped for when I was at that moment.

So, if you can do it, do it, but also just take your time and go at your own pace.

17.04 Developing Resilience

Not only with the six Cs did I grow as a Care Assistant onto my Nursing, but actually a lot of resilience as well.

Care work is tough and you will get really, really tough days where you just think, "Oh my gosh," but you do bounce back and you reflect and you grow as a person.

And I think my resilience levels are up here somewhere now, just about, but yeah, you will definitely... Especially reflections, you need as a Nurse as well.

So, you will always reflect sort of unconsciously.

So, you'll think about the previous day, "What went right? What went wrong? How could I have done that better?".

And you naturally do that and this is what is needed as a Nurse.

So, as part of Nursing, you have to write reflections.

You write a list of maybe a situation whether it's positive, whether it's bad, it's up to you, but what went well?

What can you do better next time?

How can you keep this going?

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If it was a good thing that happened.

If it was a negative thing that happened, then how you're going to process that, how you can change that for the next time so that it doesn't happen again, if that makes sense?

So, definitely, reflection is something I've done ever since my first day as a Care Assistant and built that resilience.

Those two things just hand-in-hand.

Other things that I learnt as a Care Assistant that I've took into my Nursing today is definitely how to speak to people.

And I know that sounds weird, but I am that awkward person in social situations.

I wasn't very confident, and I learnt how to fill the time, like I do on my vlogs every day.

But yes, I learnt how to make that small talk, make those conversations, how to sit down and speak to someone and it not being weird or anything.

And also, recognising cues, so you will get confident in knowing what you can and can't say to patients.

So, some patients you can have a laugh with and you can say all sorts and there'll be happy with that.

18.57 Patients Want Someone Who Knows What They’re Doing

Other patients or residents, you can't, and you have to be really straightforward, professional.

They want someone that's assertive, knows what they're doing, and that's a skill in itself.

So, that is something that I've definitely picked up as a Care Assistant and those years of experience that I took into my Nursing with me.

Something else I learnt is patience.

I know. Patience as in, I'm a very patient person, rather than your patients.

It's so weird because as a person in my own home, I'm very impatient. If I'm waiting for parcel or a delivery, oh my God, I'm so impatient.

I just want to get it now.

But it's amazing how different I am in that environment, I'm so patient.

And you will learn this as a Care Assistant, you will learn that everything takes time.

It's not a rush.

And even when you're having a busy day and you need to rush a little bit, you will learn patience and you will learn that the people that you're caring for have to take it slow and have to take it step-by-step, and they need really good explanations and things like that.

20.09 One Of The Most Important Skills Is Patience

And sometimes people, whether it's your colleagues, management, residents, some people might try your patience a little bit and you'll just be like, "It's okay. It's okay".

So yes, patience is definitely something that I've built and grown upon and it actually shocked me.

All in all, literally as a Care Assistant, it was my love.

My first love is where I fell in love with Nursing.

It's where I built all of my foundations of being a Nurse.

It's where I grew.

It's where I developed.

It's where I gained resilience.

It's just everything.

It really, really, and I say this from my whole heart and soul, it really did give me just everything that I am today.

And I'm so grateful for that and I just love it.

So, if you are thinking about going into care work, you're not Nursing yet, but you're thinking about going into care work first, absolutely, 100% do it because it's the most rewarding, amazing experience and you will love every single minute of it.

And if you do go into care work, you just might find out a few things about yourself that you did not realise.

Just like I did.

Good luck.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on WORKING IN care and what I've said about my journey - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Adult Nurse - General Practice Nurse

I am a qualified Adult Nurse, working as a General Practice Nurse. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs to help anyone considering their nursing career and to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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  • Claire Carmichael
    Adult Nurse - General Practice Nurse

About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Adult Nurse - General Practice Nurse

I am a qualified Adult Nurse, working as a General Practice Nurse. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs to help anyone considering their nursing career and to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

  • 2 Comments
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    • Zurita Faria 15 days ago
      Zurita Faria
    • Zurita Faria
      15 days ago

      Hi Morning Claire, I am a health care assistant and is my passion. And it's true we must have compassion, ... read more

      • Morning! Aww that is lovely isn't it :)Iwish you good luck in your nursing home role <3 xx

        Replied by: Claire Carmichael
    • Reshu Gramoney 16 days ago
      Reshu Gramoney
    • Reshu Gramoney
      16 days ago

      Thank you Claire for this very helpful and informative video. It has encouraged me to do and be better with ... read more

      • Morning! Aw that's so lovely, thank you. Good luck! xx

        Replied by: Claire Carmichael