My Career Journey - Kerry Cooper
At Runwood Homes, we are always looking for people to join our high quality teams. We care about our staff, and invest in providing opportunities for advancement, as well as a friendly, rewarding, working environment. We would like to share Kerry’s story and her journey as a Home Manager at Leatherland Lodge care home.
Why did you join the social care sector?
In the beginning my job at Leatherland Lodge was a job of convenience. It was 2005 and I was a young mum who needed to make some money. I knew people at Leatherland Lodge that had told me it was a nice place to work, and I liked the idea of working somewhere with a community feel. However, my connection to my role in social care quickly progressed, and I soon realised that it was more about just money and colleagues – but also the amazing residents we had the privilege of caring for. My connection with the residents grew and it quickly became extremely apparent that was the sector I was meant to work in.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My role as a Home Manager is a tough one. It can be extremely challenging, demanding, and is most definitely not a 9-5 gig. For some people this wouldn’t be the right fit, they would struggle with the constant changes, the hurdles and what can be quite emotionally taxing situations at times. But for me, this is what I enjoy most about my role. I love the challenge this role offers me; it’s constantly showing me that I’m capable of more than I think. I love the busy nature, because with the busy nature comes the people – and it’s the residents and employees that makes this role worthwhile. Despite Leatherland Lodge being a small home, it's packed full of character and fun. We have built a community here that I’m so proud of, and every day that I leave my home, I’m able to walk through the door to my second home.
Tell us a bit more about career journey at Runwood Homes?
In 2005 I started my journey with Runwood Homes as a servery assistant, working a few hours of an evening, clearing tables, and washing up. However, because of my good work ethic and desire to do well in my role, this quickly progressed to a full-time role as day servery assistant.
Due to my background in cooking (many years as a grill cook on kiosks) and my hard-working nature, in 2007 I was offered the role of cook. I loved this job and enjoyed cooking and feeding the residents.
I was employed as cook for a few years before I was offered the role as Head Cook in 2010. Again, this was a role I enjoyed immensely, and I look back on those years in the kitchen fondly. I loved my role as Head Cook.
It was around this time I began helping my colleagues by picking up care shifts. I had never really considered being a care assistant, but I love my home and have always wanted to help where I can. I continued working as Head Cook and helping with care shifts for the next several years.
In 2016, I was offered the role as CTL, and so continued my role as Head Cook and CTL over the next couple of years. In 2018, I was given the role of deputy manager. This was not a role I was actively seeking, but due to my high performance as a CTL, the previous manager and ROD decided I would be good fit – Which I am extremely grateful for. It was lovely to know that people believed in me.
My role as a deputy only lasted a couple of years, as in 2020 I became Leatherland Lodges home manager. Again, this was a role I was put forward for, and was not actively seeking. However, it was felt by my seniors that I was the best fit for the job at that time. I have been the Homes Manager since and have felt supported by my seniors during this time. Although at first, I feared the change, I have really found my feet over the last couple of years and can say that this is a job role I love. Being the Homes Manager is a big responsibility, but also comes with big rewards – such as the power to ensure the safety and happiness of my residents and staff.
Who is your social care hero and why?
I couldn’t say that I have one social care hero. When I sit with this question, I can think of 20+ people who could be named as a hero. The carers, my CTL’s, our District nurses, the trainers, the mental health team etc… the list goes on.
For my home to run smoothly, the residents to be safe, the workers to feel supported, many people need to be involved, and without ALL these people, none of those things would be possible. So, my hero is not one person, my heroes are the people who give their time, energy and minds to the support of some of these countries most vulnerable.
What makes a great care worker?
I could say words such as ‘hard working’, ‘efficient’ and ‘good time keeping skills’… But that’s not what makes a great care worker in my eyes. For me, a great carer is empathetic and nurturing. They are understanding, and willing to show patience and kindness to those who require it the most. I’ve worked hard over the last few years to build a community and create a home, where everybody feels seen, listened to, and understood. My residents are my number one priority, and their happiness is essential. I believe that skills such as timekeeping and paperwork can be taught, but to have a good, kind and understanding nature cannot. So, it's essential that the care workers that I have employed here at Leatherland Lodge are all those things – because that is what will make them great at their job as care assistants.
What do you do when life gets a bit too much?
Honestly? … I have a bath, put on my PJ’s, order a takeaway, and have a Jack Daniels and coke. Life can get rough at times, and it can all feel too overwhelming. But taking time for yourself, doing something you enjoy and giving yourself a treat can work wonders. Sometimes we’re so busy doing everything for everybody else that we forget to make time for ourselves. Self-Care is essential – without it, you can’t care for others properly.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop giving yourself such a hard time. When you’re young, you feel like everything should be happening now. You think that all the milestones should be met, all the challenges should already be conquered, and that by 30, you should be in your dream job, earning a good wage, in a comfortable situation… But things take time, and just because it isn’t all happening right now, doesn’t mean that it won’t. You just must keep putting one foot in front of the other, work hard and have some faith. Everything is going to work out in the end, it always does.
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