CARERS WEEK: how Erin is turning her caring nature into a successful career

Vision Studio School student Erin O'Shea at work in Portland College's student accommodation.
Vision Studio School student Erin O'Shea at work in Portland College's student accommodation.

Across Mansfield, Ashfield and the rest of the UK, thousands of dedicated individuals or organisations have one main ambition in life -- to care for others.

The contribution they make to families and communities in a range of roles, such as midwife, physiotherapist, nurse or care assistant, is worthy of the highest praise.

All have one thing in common - they possess hearts of gold. And this week is designated as national Carers Week, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of the care industry and to show how important professional caring is.

Your Chad has taken a close-up look at how one youngster in the Mansfield area is devoting her career to care.

ERIN O’Shea has always had a caring nature. But having the confidence and skills to transfer that into the wider world of work is another matter.

She was determined to learn something ‘hands-on’, and so she turned to the Vision Studio School in Mansfield, which offers vocational training for youngsters aged 14 to 19.

The school, on Chesterfield Road South, operates more like a workplace than a classroom, imitating working conditions, providing work-placements and easing the transition into employment for its students.

Now she is on the brink of a rewarding career that will not only bring her immense job-satisfaction but also give much-needed help to those less fortunate in society in need of expert, professional care.

“Before I went to the studio school, confidence was a big problem for me and I struggled to even talk to anyone,” said 19-year-old Erin, who is from Meden Vale, near Warsop.

“But going to work placements helped lift my confidence and made a real difference. I’m fortunate to have had a wealth of experience, and it’s helped me get a valuable insight into the care industry.

“I can see my true character now. In this industry, you need to be naturally caring and have lots of patience. You also need to be non-judgmental and be able to accept that there will be some sad times working in care.”

Erin joined the studio school after studying AS levels at school. She is studying the level-three extended diploma in health and social care.

“I attended an open evening at the school and I liked the sound of their style of learning,” she said. “To know that work placement was part of the studies really appealed to me.

“After years of A-levels and exams, I wanted something more ‘hands-on’. Having done psychology studies, I knew I wanted to do mental-health nursing.”

Erin spends four days a week at the school and combines her studies with one day each week as a fully-paid care support worker at Portland College in Mansfield, helping disabled people.

“My placement at Portland supports the teaching and care side,” she said. “I put my theory into practice, and it really stretches me. I support people with a range of physical and learning disabilities, assisting with their eating and drinking, washing and dressing. Some residents are really dependent, while others are not. How I care for them depends on their ability.

“Other placements have seen me work at a youth club and at King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton, where I gained experience of shadowing dementia nurses on the wards.

“My diploma offers so much. It covers all aspects of health and social care and has also helped me understand how to get over communication barriers with people who can’t speak.”

Erin, whose next step is to go to university to study for a mental-health nursing degree, has won rich praise for her development as a carer.

Freya Burn, a senior carer at Portland College who works closely with her, said: “Erin is fantastic in her role, always looking for new jobs to tackle.

“A typical shift involves getting students out of bed and ready for lessons. We tidy their rooms and help them with their lunch.

“Erin has developed brilliant skills, and her caring and compassionate nature is essential to a role like this.”

Studio school tutor Claire Lowe is equally delighted with Erin’s progress, which she describes as “significantly upward”. She said: “To begin with, Erin sat at the back of the class, working very well but with so little confidence. Soon she was putting her hand up to answer questions.

“She’s been offered all the university places she’s applied for and is on track to get triple distinctions at the studio school.

“I can easily see Erin working in a management role in future because she’s extremely well organised and a good diplomat. She has turned into a role model for many students, and it’s been wonderful to see her develop these skills at the school.”

The last word goes to Erin herself, who says: “It’s important to raise the profiles of people who work in health and care roles, whether it is in hospitals, care homes or places like Portland College. They are the closest thing to family, and it gives me such pride when I’m comforting and helping people.”