Kirsty Cartin is the Care Home Manager of Rashielee Care Home in Erskine.
Do you have a chair in your house that is yours? The old one in the corner, coffee stained on the arms, the sofa with the perfectly comfortable dent where your bottom has relaxed for years? I believe we all have the equivalent of that chair in our working lives – the comfort held in knowing our place, the sense of security from being in the familiar, the balance that the status quo offers. What if I told you that this comfort isn’t actually all it seems? The proverbial springs are starting to push through and things will start to irritate you. You hear of things happening elsewhere that spark an interest and you start tinkering with the idea of leaving your comfort zone – but the thing holding you back is fear!
This was me, perfectly comfortable in being a new manager in a care home that I had worked in for many years, because I had been deputy and had long periods of acting up. I knew the residents, I knew the staff, I had an awareness of the politics of the sector. I didn’t know COVID-19. Nobody did. The pandemic hit less than a year into me taking the reins. I was suddenly presented with a situation I hadn’t predicted, didn’t have enough knowledge on and I was outside my comfort zone. My chair felt very vulnerable. There were two options – fight or flight! Having worked in the care home for 13 years, I had developed strong relationships with residents, relatives, staff and the Director. Flight was not an option. Fight, on the other hand, soon became a very obvious course as the unique needs of the social care sector were continuously overlooked.
I stepped out of my comfort zone with the aid of a strong catalyst – a virus that had the potential to catastrophically change the lives of residents and staff. I was running on adrenaline through the pandemic, reaching out and being inspired by the bravery of others in the sector who were also advocating strongly for care homes. I gained a valuable network that continues to support and inspire me today.
The pandemic left its toll on all of us. As a care home manager, when the pandemic fizzled out, I was glad to return to my ‘armchair’, to my comfort zone for a while. I was emotionally and physically drained and needed to create a new baseline for myself and others. I had changed though. The dent in the chair, perfectly aligned to me, didn’t quite fit anymore. I knew that the legacy of COVID-19 had left questions that needed answered within the care home but also within the sector. I knew I had the potential to do more, but I was afraid.
One day, I got a curious email through from a couple of faces in that valuable network I had developed through the pandemic. Alyson Vale and Ivan Cornford had created a group known as Hivemind and they were asking me to attend their first meet up in the V&A in Dundee. The instructions were vague, just a meeting of likeminded individuals who would creatively explore the social care situation. I then received a postcard in the post and was invited to decorate it, to reflect social care, in any way I chose, before the first meet. How many professional opportunities do we get to play? I was curious and energized. I took a tentative step out of my comfort zone once more and have never looked back.
Hivemind has given me the opportunity to persistently step out of my comfort zone within a safe space, both in my thoughts and in my acts. We are encouraged to think aloud, to use artefacts to unravel our existing thoughts and put them together in a different way. We are encouraged to share these thoughts not just with those in attendance, but with members of the public who we encounter. On one occasion I recall being asked to stand in the midst of the V&A museum holding a placard, with a question I had unwittingly wrote down on a large piece of card. I was to invite people to discuss my question. My question was ‘What is Care?’. I was equally mortified and terrified in doing this, I was perfectly comfortable speaking to people I know or people that travel in my circles, but to provoke complete strangers! I have now spoken to strangers on the streets in Glasgow about their perceptions of care homes, read poems that I have created out loud, discussed uncomfortable topics to my peers and helped to create visual pieces to display in a museum. I have been scared, vulnerable and apprehensive whilst gaining confidence, finding new ways to expressively assert my views and gathering new contacts who I know will offer me more rich experiences in the future. Despite my own fear though, I have always felt safe. The space created in Hivemind, allowed me to grow within a space that allows for different opinions, that appreciates that conflict creates opportunities, that challenges your self confidence.
Find your opportunity to be brave, to be bold, and step up out of that armchair and into your best self.
Reflective Challenge: What’s really important for you to think about if you’re planning on changing your furniture?
Manager, Rashielee Care Home
I’m Kirsty Cartin, manager of Rashielee Care Home in Erskine. I’ve nursed in care homes for 22yrs and I’m passionate about changing the image of care homes. I’m talking about Hivemind because the founders of this social care movement, Alyson and Ivan, are inspirational to me. They challenge conformity, they are curious about how things could be, they encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. Having that creative space in Hivemind is important, a safe space to question, to challenge and to explore – a place to collaborate and let ideas flow.
All information regarding our contributors was correct at the time of publishing.
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