The RSA uses cookies on this website. By using this website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more read our cookie policy and privacy policy. More Info

Ode to our care workers

Comment

  • Picture of Dr Cecilia Akrisie Anim CBE FRSA
    Dr Cecilia Akrisie Anim CBE FRSA
  • Public services
  • Social care
  • Arts and society

There are serious and significant issues facing care workers, arising from a multiple contributing factors including the pressure of the role, low pay, underlying health inequalities and so on. Cis Akrisie FRSA welcomes a small but powerful project enables care workers to express their concerns and feelings through poetry.

As we enter Autumn and a second wave of Covid-19 seems to be upon us many of us will be feeling anxious about what the coming months hold. But for many care workers who have worked through the past seven months supporting people who have been called ‘the most vulnerable’ this anxiety is likely to have never gone away.

There has been significant research on the poor mental health of care workers, with the group having high suicide rate which is twice the national average according to the Office of National Statistics. The RSA report All Clapped Out, which focuses on the impact of Covid-19 on key workers, has identified worrying figures of deteriorating mental health in this group with 61% of care workers stating they were finding it “more difficult to maintain their mental health”.

I know a thing or two about health and social care, having worked as a midwife /nurse in both Ghana and the UK since 1968 and, during that time, supporting my fellow nurses as the Deputy President and President of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). I also have lived experience of supporting people with learning disabilities. This combined experience gives me a unique perspective on the impact of Covid-19 providing support in incredibly challenging times.  

This pandemic has exposed the gaps of inequality caused by the lack of sustained investment in social care. This has exacerbated the opportunities for the virus to spread its harms to the most vulnerable and unprotected in our society. For those in the sector, it has shown us that the impact of inadequate funding, poor planning, lack of investment and ongoing undervalued support for the social care workforce creates just what we all feared.

The challenges the sector faced have been unprecedented, the lack of personal protective equipment , low staff numbers .The fact that some of the staff in the sector do not enjoy the best terms and conditions ,poorly paid ,zero hours contract has in some cases meant  that they faced the horrible choice of taking care of their health or earning money to support themselves and their families . The loss of key workers and residents to corona virus not mentioning people with learning disabilities  is a tragedy .

One of the things that unites my experiences is my love for my role. Compassion and skill are part of our currency as nurses. As a professional community, we are uniquely and powerfully fluent in the language of care. How we deliver care to those who are the most vulnerable in our communities remains central to our civility in society and it vital that we continue to focus on the future of social care at this moment.

During this pandemic social care staff have made enormous sacrifices, often at immeasurable personal cost to continue to care so beautifully for their patients and clients. They have been the buffer against harm that provides expertise, skill and compassion.

Poems in a Pandemic

While structural change is needed to address these challenges, I am proud to be supporting Poems in a Pandemic. Social care staff are central to combating Covid-19 and theircontributions deserve recognition, their experiences need to be shared and their stories told.  We must support and value their contributions and wellbeing long after the media attention has moved away. We are on a journey, but we never have to travel alone; poems are just one way can stay energised and connected.

Poems in the Pandemic is an additional road map of support for staff to give them a voice through art and poetry; when people are listened to and engaged with they are more likely to feel valued. The project, which enables carers to share their reflections and experiences through poems and art, provides a platform for staff to express their creativity as well as their worries and hopes.

I am reminded of a Maori saying from a friend of mine who lives in New Zealand: “That which is nurtured, blossoms and grows”.

A video of Poems in a Pandemic is now available here.

Dr Cecilia Akrisie Anim CBE is the former President of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) having been elected after serving two terms as Deputy President. Prior to this Cecilia was an RCN Steward for 19 years and a Health and Safety representative for 17 years. She was  a member of the RCN’s Council Executive Team, Membership and Representation Committee, International Committee, Ethics Committee and Awards Panel and Cecilia coordinates the RCN Menopause Network Group in London.

Related articles