Do I have to deal with poo or violence to get on the ladder?

Information about qualifications, experience and the typical career path
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Do I have to deal with poo or violence to get on the ladder?

Post by miriam » Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:41 pm

I can't bear the idea of bodily fluids, how can I get my first foot in the door?

bluecat said:I completely understand where you're coming from on that, but it's surprising how quickly you get used to it once you're in the post!

I suppose the thing to remember is that HCA jobs with the mentally ill do not involve as much intimate bodily contact as do HCA jobs with the medical population, although I'd be lying if I said I could guarantee that there would be none of it.

One alternative to an HCA post is a support worker post for people with learning disabilities, although that is not guaranteed to be completely deviod of bodily functions! It would depend on the population, the more able the client group, the less likely you are to come into contact with bodily fluids. However, it's also true that the more able the client group, the harder the job is to get (possibly because the more able clients need less input therefore there are fewer jobs available).

My first job after graduation was as a research assistant (half time), but I did supplement this with a support worker post with severely learning disabled children (LOTS of bodily functions), and a volunteer post in a child and family psychology unit.

Not wanting to do this sort of work will make it harder for you to get relevant experience, but I shouldn't think it would be impossible to find a post with minimal contact with bodily fluids...

Having said that, since being a trainee, I have had some contact with poo - one of my clients is a boy with severe learning disabilities who likes to put his hands in his pad - he was pleased to see me and gave me a great big hug... I smelt all day.

I guess an HCA or support worker post is not a necessary precursor to having an assistant psychologist post, but it certainly is the most straightforward and easiest! If you really don't want to do this sort of work, you are going to have to be really creative about what you do do, or be really fussy about the sort of HCA or support worker post you apply for. Off the top of my head, I guess the sort of posts you'd be least likely to come into contact with bodily fluids would be drug and alcohol services, forensic services, and acute adult services, although I can foresee situations where you could expect to have to deal with it. I guess you'd be most likely to have to deal with bodily functions in older adults, neuro rehab and long-term care.

Rat said: With regards to the poo issue...

I am the most squeamish person I know and I NEVER thought I would be able to work with bodily fluids. When I finished my degree I started applying for nursing assistant / support worker jobs and due to my lack of experience, I was lucky to eventually secure an NHS post on an older adults ward. I was excited about finally being able to do something relevant but really gutted that I hadn't been able to get a job on the younger adults wards. The prospect of dealing with poo and the likes filled me with dread and my friends often gave me sideways glances whilst obviously thinking, 'you are not the kind of person who can deal with that.'

To my absolute amazement though, I got used to it so quickly. It's not pleasant, but it's not that big a deal either - and God knows how long I'd have been waiting for my 'ideal' job. I'm glad I accepted the post because the experience has been very useful. I get lots of time to chat to patients and I get to see how things work within the NHS. Furthermore, although I work with older adults, out of 20 patients, only 1 needs help going to the toilet, 2 need active help getting dressed and washing and a further 4 need supervision when having a bath or shower.

Basically, if your struggling to get relevant paid experience, do consider jobs where bodily fluids may feature because the competition is likely to be less and it's not that bad at all. If I can get used to it than anyone can.

Astra said: I have gone from degree, through voluntary work and assistant posts to getting a place on the course without ever coming into contact with any unsolicited bodily fluids! I too would have felt uncomfortable with such things ! So how did I do it? I got a first on my degree, then did secretarial temping whilst applying for assistant posts and, simultaneously doing Samaritans and a mentoring scheme for teens in care. Then got an assistant post in Chidren's outpatients psychology, followed by an assistant post in a forensic mental health ward then, after a break, a Project Lead post with a day a week in older adults psychology during which post I secured a place on the clinical course! So you see it can be done!

Miriam said: I also managed to evade any contact with bodily fluids or poo. I worked on summer playschemes for children with disabilities, as an assistant on a research project relating to older adults, did an MSc by research, and did 6 months at a family unit doing assessments and behavioural interventions. I then did the clinical training and have worked for 6 years since, all without any contact with bodily fluids. It is possible.

I'm getting hit in my support work job, is this necessary?

I'm a clinical psychologist and I don't ever have to face personal threat or violence. I wouldn't do a job in which I did. And nor would most clinical psychologists I know.

I appreciate that in severe mental illness and in certain developmental disabilities and learning disabilities a minority of people have aggression as part of their challenging behaviour, but it would be very rare indeed for a clinical psychologist to be on the front line dealing with it. We'd be more likely to observe, analyse and then try to intervene to reduce that kind of behaviour than to actually try to contain or restrain.

You don't need to do this to become a clinical psychologist, you don't need to do it in training and you don't need to do it as a clinical psychologist. Even most support workers don't need to face violence. So change job, but you don't necessarily need to change career!

I think dealing with challenging behaviour in person, hands on, is great experience - particularly if you can experience success in doing this - however I don't think it is essential. Clinical psychology is a very broad career and within it there is plenty of scope to select what is and isn't your thing.

As to getting involved on the ground, I think it is nice to do sometimes and makes sure you are grounded and realistic in your suggestions and management advice. However, it is the nature of the huge demand on Clinical Psychology that we end up having to do a lot at a one-step-removed level, such as via consultation. In certain jobs (particularly in learning disability and some facilities for severe and enduring mental illness) you are more able to get a client's eye view of the world and spend more time just being with them in their daily life than in other services which expect much higher turnover. I kind of envy that opportunity, but I also see that there is just so much to be done that there is always a compromise between quality and quantity. I think the further you get into your career the harder you have to work to hang onto the proportion of face-to-face work, as there is increased pressure to do supervision, management, service development, consultation, etc etc.

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Content checked by firegal (trainee CP) on 24/06/19.
Last modified on 30/04/2012.
Last edited by miriam on Wed May 02, 2007 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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