In our final Sector Spotlight on Orkney Islands Council, we hear from Lynne Nicolson who is Team Manager in the Adult and All Age Learning Disabilities Social Work Team.
Lynne left school at the end of sixth year and went south to study nursing. After qualifying, she returned to Orkney and had children. While her family were young she undertook a variety of jobs before deciding that she wanted to work with the elderly, which led to roles within care homes and homecare. Lynne then made the move to Social Work, becoming a Student Social Worker and undertaking her degree while working. Being able to able to gain qualifications while working, with the support of her employer and colleagues, has enabled Lynne to develop further and progress to her current role.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as a Team Manager within Social Work?
There is no typical day which is the reason I love my job!
A day can include going out to see people in the community across the whole of Orkney, in their own homes, care settings, day services and the hospital.
Liaising with the multi-disciplinary team that includes Police, nursing, mental health services, legal services, care providers and families.
Attending meetings in relation to Adult Support and Protection, Adults with Incapacity, hospital discharges, review meetings amongst so many other types of meetings.
Doing crisis intervention work as a social worker or as a mental health officer.
Usually, I have to spend part of the day typing up case notes and reports at the computer.
My role also includes supporting the team here in Social Work. Being available to help problem solve and explore options for meeting the needs of people in our community.
But everything that I had planned for the next day can be turned on its head if a crisis situation occurs as this will take priority over planned work.
But, no two days are ever the same.
How did you end up in this role?
I left school at the end of sixth year and went to study nursing as this was the path everyone else thought I should follow. I qualified and had my children.
I then worked in a variety of jobs whilst my children were young, postie, bar work and care jobs. I then decided I wanted to work with the elderly so worked in St Peters for several years, then moved to Smiddybrae and Skarva Taing. Many of these years were as a relief carer as I could work when it fitted in with my children’s and family’s needs.
From there I decided the time was right to take on a full-time contract which I did and moved across to being a co-ordinator with homecare, I loved this job as it was challenging but rewarding.
I had a notion that I wanted to be a Social Worker and I was very fortunate in that I was taken on by the Adult Social Work Team as a Reviewing Officer and then as a Student Social Worker, doing my degree via Robert Gordon University (RGU). I had a placement in Children and Families and managed to pass my degree much to my amazement with a First-Class Honours Degree in 2016. This was an excellent way to train as I could still work, take in a wage but learning as I went. The university and my work team were very supportive of me undertaking the training. My trainee post then became a permanent full-time post in the Adult Social Work Team. I love being a Social Worker.
In 2019 I took the opportunity to undertake the training to become a Mental Health Officer again through RGU. This was an intense course to do but again I was supported by my workplace and colleagues to do the training.
Since then, I have recently applied for and been appointed as the Team Manager in the Adult and All Age Learning Disabilities Social Work Team. A new challenge and one I look forward to.
What is the best thing about your job?
People. Both the people I meet who are referred to the Social Work Team and in the Mental Health Officer role but also those colleagues that I work with as part of the Multi-Disciplinary team who work together to improve the lives of those in our communities.
I think to be a social worker you need to have a natural curiosity about people and their lives.
What is the worst thing about your job?
The hardest part of the job is wanting to make a difference to people’s lives but finding it hard to get the resources to put in place to make that difference. But I am ever hopeful that this will improve.
Also finding it hard to switch off after a busy day and not take home the worries about the people you are working with.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
Having skills in communication is essential, as being a good listener, and being able to show empathy.
Being able to work as part of a large multi-disciplinary team is also a requirement as you work with a variety of professionals daily.
Being able to cope with multiple tabs open in your head at one time and being able to switch between them at speed.
Being able to tackle difficult conversations.
A positive outlook on life and being able to assess situations using all the assessment skills that you learn about.
Having a thick skin is also good alongside a good sense of humour!
What qualifications do you have?
I have a DipHe in Adult Nursing, a BA (hons) in Social Work, and a PgCert Mental Health Officer Award.
As a carer, I undertook a SVQ 3 in Social Care and the HNC in Social Care.
The workplace also puts you through lots of courses in relation to Adult Support and Protection, Child Protection, Health and Safety, etc.
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I have to say that I love being a Social Worker. It provides me with the variety and challenges that I need from my working day. I enjoy that every single day is different, and I love meeting new people and building working relationships with them.
I felt pressure as an 18-year-old to go south and study something but on hindsight, I wish I had just gone for this route straight away. I was able to keep earning a wage whilst undertaking my degree and gaining experience as I went along.
I think anyone considering this as a career should get experience working with people in a variety of settings, Orkney can give people opportunities to work in lots of different settings from children’s services, physical and learning disabilities, elderly care settings and community care.
The local authority was very supportive of me throughout my training, and I feel proud to be a ‘home grown’ Social Worker.
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