Victoria Shaw, from Hull, tells local press that she was ‘thrown into the deep end’ and had to walk away from her ‘dream job’ because she had inadequate support
Social work is well-known to be a difficult job, with recent research showing that working conditions are ‘chronically poor’ and at least half of all social workers are looking to leave their current positions within the next 18 months.
Despite these issues, it remains an attractive career path and social work remains a an oversubscribed course at many universities.
A recent graduate has spoken to her local newspaper about the challenges she faced making the transition from university to her first role as a qualified professional.
Victoria Shaw began work as a mental health social worker after qualifying was contracted to 24 hours a week. At the start of her employment she met with her supervisor to create a plan to phase her into position.
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Victoria explained how “It was discussed that as I had no prior experience as a social worker or in mental health social work it would be appropriate for me to undertake joint visits and shadow current employees. I was advised that for the first three months I should network and shadow senior staff to gain experience of how the trust works with patients”
“I was advised that I should not run a full case load till about six months in”
This promise was short-lived and, according to Victoria, she was soon allocated more cases than she was able to safely manage.
“I was allocated a further six cases just two weeks after the meeting with my supervisor and manager” she detailed.
“I immediately emailed my supervisor as I felt very concerned amount the amount of cases I had been given”
“I advised in the email that I was under the impression I would complete all my training before having my own case load. How could I do anything on the computer systems when I had not had any training to do so??”
“So, in effect, I was running the six cases allocated and the four other cases giving me ten patients to work with on ten days experience as a mental health social worker.”
Victoria, 41, told her local newspaper how she felt her lack of experience could pose a risk to herself and patients.
She told reporters: “There was not only a risk to my patients as I am untrained in the nature of care and support the community mental health team provides but further risk to myself and my lack of shadowing visits and training in safe practice”
“With only ten days experience how is it ethically correct and legal to place ten mentally ill patients in my care?”
“Further, I was very aware that I had not received any induction apart from receiving a printed-out booklet that I was asked to read”
“I was overwhelmed. In the office I had to ask other team members how to write a case note as I had visited patients and needed to record the visit. I had no idea how to record these visits on the system”
“I was visiting patients with no clear way to electronically record the visits correctly. This again was risky practice as I was leaving myself very vulnerable without electronically recorded details of visits”
“I began to experience worry and stress and found myself working weekends.”
The work began to ‘pile up’ for Victoria and she was allocated another set of cases, ending with her having worked 19 days for the NHS and already responsible for 15 mentally ill and psychotic patients.
Sharing the responsibilities placed upon her, Victoria told her local newspaper that she had experienced anxiety and depression in her past; which she had disclosed to her employers from the outset and began to feel returning due to workplace pressures.
“I was under tremendous stress and my mental health was beginning to suffer”
“I was feeling frequent panic. I was responsible for people who were in some of the worst situations in their life. I had the responsibility of a patient who was suicidal. I had no idea how to deal with this and no training to do so”
“When I tried to get support or help, my colleagues were extremely busy and under pressure themselves but still helpful where they could be”
“The advice was confusing, and paperwork, assessments and meetings were piling up”
“The pressure of being on duty was making me cry frequently. I was not trained or experienced enough to handle the calls”
“People were telephoning duty in desperate situations threatening suicide and I had no idea what to say and this made me feel inadequate and stupid”
“Despite the promise of shadowing on the duty rota till I felt confident, this did not happen. I only shadowed a nurse once”
“This caused my anxiety to spike and I began to feel constantly anxious and depressed at failing at the job”
“If I had been supported or trained before handling duty calls I may have felt better and more confident in my knowledge to support callers”
“Further and more importantly had I undergone the plan set out to gradually phase me into running a caseload, I am confident I would not be in the position I am now”
With a planned family holiday bringing scant relief from workplace pressures, Victoria was signed off sick by her doctor and never returned to work.
“Having studied for and achieved a first class degree in Social Work and a master’s degree In education, inclusion and special needs with distinction, I know given the correct training and support I would not be in the position I found myself now” she explains.
“I felt that everything I had endured had impacted my mental health and I no longer had trust in the workplace to be aware and support me in my social work role”
“The only option was resignation that I feel was forced by the mistreatment and mishandling of my employment and role with the NHS Humber Trust.”
Victoria has not issued a grievance claim about her issues but was compelled to share her experiences with her local press in the hope that lessons will be learned.
“I am now unemployed and receiving universal credit as I am signed off by my GP as unfit to practice” Victoria told reporters.
“I have lost a job and a consistent income providing safety for myself and my son. I have worked hard at university for four years only to be treated in this despicable manner in my first social work position”