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(The Care Guy)
Nobody is special
Posted on 7:32am Friday 20th Jul 2012
Tweet Part 28 of The Mental Health Workers' Guide makes the point that nobody is special. It's far better to be 'unique', like everybody else. Don't forget that you can download the podcasts and video clips that accompany this series here.
People are just people
Following on from the idea that there is ‘no such thing as ‘us and them’, I’d like to make a more general point about people. Nobody is special. There – I’ve said it. You are not indispensible at work and your boss, your colleagues, your friends and your favourite service user are all replaceable. Nobody is special because people are just people.
If you work in mental health or social care services you will be used to certain professionals behaving as though they are more important or somehow more worthy of respect than others. You may even be tempted to behave that way yourself. Many in my own profession of nursing seem as though they have been pre-programmed to emphasise their own importance way beyond all recognition.
Different professional groups have different responsibilities and different levels of education are important but they don’t make us special. I trained as a nurse – a pretty well educated and experienced nurse at that but that doesn’t put me in a position to tell a newly qualified social worker with a basic professional education how to do their job. I’m not special and I don’t know everything.
Similairly whilst I’ll happily defer to a GP when dealing with complex physical problems I’m not about to take their word when planning a cognitive therapy strategy for someone with psychosis. I will listen to them though.
By the same token I may be responsible for planning and organising a shift and delegating care tasks to support workers but I’d better not forget that they are more likely to know the best way to hoist, bathe, feed or approach a particular resident than I do because they know their own jobs.
Nobody is special.
Nobody is indispensible.
Nobody is irreplaceable.
People are just people.
People do the best they can with what they’ve got
Imagine a small child in a very large sweetshop. The lights are off and it’s completely dark except for a single spotlight illuminating a tiny piece of shelving. On the shelf, visible in the little pool of light are three bars of chocolate. One bar is milk chocolate, another dark while the third is white chocolate. That is all the child can see.
The child has one simple instruction…
Take your pick.
Obviously the child will choose one of the three chocolate bars he can see. It doesn’t matter what other treats might be in the shop because he can’t see them – he doesn’t know that they are available options.
This little post isn’t really about chocolate bars and children in sweetshops though. It’s about social care service users and the options they have available.
The sweets in the shop represent coping strategies. They’re behaviours. They’re choices about what to do in different situations. And just like the child in the sweetshop, service-users (along with everybody else) only choose the options, the behaviours that they know about.
So if someone you work with makes poor choices that’s not necessarily because they don’t want to do better. It’s more likely because they either don’t know what else to do or because they don’t think that other options will work for them. Many people understand intellectually about good coping skills, socially acceptable behaviours but don’t believe that they will be given the opportunity to make different choices work for them. If they’re used to being treated with mistrust they won’t believe that the truth will work for them. If they’re used to being ignored they won’t believe that not drawing attention to themselves will meet their need for human contact. And they may well be right.
So, just like the child in the sweetshop they take the best option available to them.
They do the best they can with what they’ve got. That’s true for workers too. Remember the point from the last episode…. There is no ‘us and them’.
People with more knowledge have more options. They may well make better choices. But they’re not special.
Don't try to be special. It's better to be unique, like everyone else.