Hampshire-based Lead Dispenser Emma James tells us about her role with Visioncall and what she loves most about the people and the environment she works in.
What did you do before joining Visioncall?
I was with a high-street retail optician for eight or nine years and I wasn’t looking to leave, but then Visioncall saw my CV on LinkedIn and got in touch. I’d never even heard of domiciliary before, but they offered me a ‘shadow day’, so I thought ‘why not?’ and agreed to do it.
I got cold feet before the first shadow day and postponed it, but on the second one, I spent the whole day with the team, and it flipped my head on its axis. I saw how much we can actually help people, and from that point, I knew that I wanted to do that.
How do you find working in a domiciliary environment versus in-practice care?
It’s the best thing. I actually left Visioncall after five years to go to a high street optician, but I missed Visioncall so much that I asked to come back. Going back to retail was too ‘normal’ for me, and what I genuinely missed was being able to help people that really need it.
What are the best parts and the challenges of working with patients with complex needs in a domiciliary environment?
The biggest thing is that we can make a difference to people. I also love that we get to hear so many stories of these residents’ lives; it’s just bonkers how much talent, skill and knowledge you can find in a care home. It’s very easy to forget that someone in a care home with dementia had a life before. We’ve had patients who were Bletchley Park codebreakers, World War Two pilots, ex-football managers, even someone who taught the Queen how to drive! But seeing how much it changes peoples’ behaviour, and how that affects the carers – that really sticks with me, and it shows people why we do what we do.
When I first started, some of the more challenging patients were a surprise to me, but now I’m so used to it. If you have someone with advanced dementia who’s showing challenging behaviour, you need to be patient with them; perhaps they’re being cantankerous, but that’s not their fault. I love those patients the most in a way because they are a challenge, but once you get that little sparkle in their eye and you connect with them, you can see it. I don’t really see these things as challenges anymore – I see them as perks of the job.
What would you say to other dispensers considering a move into domiciliary?
Do it! Don’t even hesitate, you won’t regret it. It’s just a completely different way of working; one day you could be in Bognor Regis on the beach in your lunch break, the next day you could be in Reading seeing someone who hasn’t been able to recognise their family in five weeks, and the next day you could be in Jersey in a care home overlooking the sea. No two days are the same, you don’t have to work weekends, and once you’re home, you’re done for the day and you know you’ve made a difference.
You get to change someone’s life, and who wouldn’t want to do that? It’s the best feeling in the world. So, I’d say just do it. Don’t even think about it, just do it.