18 Qualities That Make an Exceptional Care Worker
Care work is a hugely rewarding, yet at times, challenging profession.
Looking after the most vulnerable people in society is a pivotal role in health and social care, maximising their quality of life in the face of illness and disability.
Which is why the role requires a special type of person.
In this article, we’ll explore the essential qualities and personality traits for a career in care work.
This is perhaps the most important quality a care worker can exhibit. While skills and training are paramount to maintain high working standards, it’s passion for helping those in need that makes the real difference.
Along with passion, dedication to the profession is paramount. Many in our care community view their work as more of a calling than a job. They are the people that friends and family members look to in times of need. For many care workers, the role is part of their identity and putting others first comes naturally. It’s this calling that, despite the pressures of the work, makes the care worker community so strong.
This isn’t the type of experience you may imagine, as no formal qualifications or training are needed before entering care. However, often care workers come from distinct backgrounds and bring varied life experience to their work, meaning they can relate to clients more effectively. Such experience in other fields of life, or simply getting through other challenges, adds a tremendously to the care worker-client relationship.
If clients are withdrawn or exhibit behavioural issues, having a friendly presence is vital to ensure they feel happy and safe. Being open and warm helps care workers build rapport with their clients and not only develop better working relationships, but also long-term friendships.
Care workers regularly encounter individuals from varied backgrounds with diverse health issues, which may impair their ability to communicate. Interacting clearly with clients, who may have individual needs, will assist with effective working practices. Good communication with colleagues also ensures that clients receive a standardised level of care.
Unfortunately, isolation is a situation that many clients face daily, with numerous negative consequences. Humans are social by nature, and therefore just being present is a huge part of care work. In addition to physical assistance, engagement and listening to clients is one of the most valuable services a care worker can provide.
7. Sense of humour
Laughing truly is the best medicine sometimes. While clients can suffer from serious health issues which need to be treated professionally, making them smile, even for a short time, can make the world of difference to their physical and mental well-being.
As a care worker, you’re on the front line, facing clients’ health challenges alongside them. You’ll naturally build close relationships with your clients and it may be difficult to see their health suffer. However, if you can remain strong and positive during these difficult times, it can be infectious, helping your clients face such difficulties more effectively.
As a care worker, it’s important to place yourself in your client’s shoes. What would you feel in their situation? How would you react? Imagining yourself in such scenarios allows you to build a greater understanding of your client’s mindset and behaviour, helping you provide the individual support they need.
10. Desire to learn
While no formal qualifications are required for care work, training must be completed to ensure you’re safe and effective at work. Education doesn’t stop after the induction, however. Treating every day as a learning experience can improve your knowledge and skills as a care worker. Coupled with daily reflection on the management of certain situations will contribute to your continued professional development. You may also utilise this learning to complete further formal training as you advance in your career.
11. Going the extra mile
The best care workers know that they’re responsible for providing the best quality of life possible for their clients. Even in stressful or demanding situations, they go the extra mile for vulnerable individuals in our society, often without any fanfare or recognition. Those added touches could include anything, from showing interest in a client’s personal history, to asking their family how they like their cup of tea!
Care work involves dealing with people from diverse backgrounds, with the behavioural, cultural and religious differences that entails. Care workers treat their clients with respect, regardless of their lifestyle and beliefs, and ensure that they receive the dignity they deserve throughout their care journey.
Depending on the work environment, care workers may have a range of activities to coordinate in a typical day. Working in home care can include numerous house calls, with specific input required for each client. A care home position can require planning and coordination with colleagues to ensure residents receive personal care, nutrition, and activities at appropriate times. In addition to remembering important pieces of information about the health and capability of each client, contribution to care plans ensures a seamless delivery of service.
14. Calmness under pressure
It’s no secret that working in health can be stressful. Care workers are extremely busy, bearing the demands of an increasingly stretched health and social care sector. Juggling these time constraints with the desire to provide the best care possible to their clients is a constant balancing act for care workers. Coupled with the constantly changing health needs, care workers must be alert to the changing needs of their clients, which can easily lead to pressure.
For many vulnerable individuals, care workers are their lifelines. They may not have much contact with friends or family and rely on care input for much needed social interaction. Therefore reliability in the role is key, not least because these individuals often rely on their care workers to assist with basic activities of daily living. Changing routines at short notice can have profound health consequences, as well as the psychological impact for a client adapting to a new care worker or schedule.
Working with clients suffering from physical and psychological health issues requires patience. A calm presence is essential to put an individual at ease, especially in conditions such as dementia, with altered behaviour often a primary symptom. Alternatively, individuals with mobility issues or personal care needs may be slower in their activities and require extra help. Although care workers must often maintain a tight schedule, working with clients at their own pace can improve the delivery of care.
Care work is one of the most varied jobs in health. Many in the community love what they do because every day looks completely different. However, this variety also means that every client has unique needs which must be accommodated. Also unlike most jobs, care work doesn’t stop at 5 pm. Clients sometimes have care needs that stretch through the day and night. As a care worker, this means being flexible in your approach to help clients maintain a good quality of life.
18. Critical thinking
Health and social care is a complex area, not least because of the wide range of conditions encountered. Being alert to small changes in a client’s presentation may help screen any potential health complications before they become serious. Additionally, conducting routine risk assessments and problem-solving where appropriate ensures care workers stay safe at work while delivering the highest quality of care.
Don’t worry if this list seems overwhelming. Many of those drawn to care work embody these qualities naturally.
The practical skills needed for care work can be taught and practised, but often it’s the softer, people skills, that make care workers so exceptional in their role.