Ian Hall, Macmillan Social Worker

Ian Hall is a Macmillan Social Worker for the Northumbria Health Care Trust.

Starting off his career in the Royal Navy, Ian proves that you do not have to continue in the same line of work that you started in.  Changing careers for a few reasons, he now works as a Macmillan Social Worker.

Can you give some examples of what you do in a typical day or week?

My work is varied, but, essentially, my role is to support people who have a palliative diagnosis and are not expected to live longer than 12 months.

I am a registered Social Worker and work predominantly with people living with terminal illnesses.  Social work is sore to palliative care.  With the other multi-disciplinary professional team surrounding the person and those most important to them, I ensure that services and interventions take account of the person as well as their family.

The setting for this kind of social work can be diverse and challenging and I am currently employed within the community and predominantly visit people in their own homes.  We are employed differently in area: by the NHS, adults’ and children’s services, independent hospices, and disease specific charities, and are often funded with money drawn from several different sources.

We work with anyone who has a palliative care diagnosis, whether that’s cancers, respiratory or heart failure, motor neurone disease, HIV/AIDS, or anything else.  I work across boundaries and am often the link between health and social care for the people that I work with and my professional colleagues.

I offer a wide variety of support to both the person in palliative care and those who are important to them.  This can include sourcing practical help at home, accessing other services, advice around debt or income maintenance, help with housing, advocacy, work with schools or employers, or offering psychosocial support.  I also offer therapeutic intervention, be it systemic family therapy, counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy, and I sometimes work with groups as well as individuals.

I have a keen interest in working alongside people with lived experience and including others in how we shape our services and practice for the future.  I undertake work around helping people to prepare for the end of their lives through advance care planning and pyschosocial interventions.  I also provide bereavement care for people who need more specialist support.

The overarching theme of this kind of work is to continue to see people living within a whole family, rather than as an individual with a set of specific problems to solve.  I seek to understand the connections of live and support people as they come to terms with that is happening to them or someone close to them.

I also offer teaching and training opportunities to health and social care colleagues and students through their own organisations, education departments, and also through university training courses.

What do you enjoy most and least about your work?

I love the diversity of the job, meeting and supporting different people, and the professional relationships I build with my clients.  The downside of this is that we both know that they will die at some point in the near future and this can sometimes be difficult of manage on an emotional level.

How did you get into your current career?

I left school at 16 years of age with only a GCSE in English to my name and, subsequently, joined the Royal Navy as a Radio Operator.  After a long career working in communications, most of it spent at sea, I was presented with an opportunity to transfer to a different job specialisation and become a welfare specialist to support the family of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.  This is a social work service specifically for families in the military and the first two years were particularly challenging, supporting the families of those who were kill in Afghanistan or who returned home with life changing injuries.

I was then offered the opportunity to undertake my social work degree via the Open University, which was funded by the Royal Navy and I completed in 2013.  Due to the demands of service life and the time I spent away from my family, I took the decision to leave the Royal Navy in 2016 after 25 year and I have been employed as a Macmillan Social Worker ever since.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your career?

I believe that life experience is incredibly important as a social worker and, in the first instance, I would look to undertake some voluntary work within the third sector to get a feel for the families and people you will support in the future.

What do you like doing outside of work?

Keeping fit, although it can sometimes be hand to find the time in what is an incredibly busy job.  I also like to go walking two to three times a week, which allows me to practise some mindfulness and to process my thoughts during a busy week.

Thank you Ian for sharing your story and for all the detail about what you do for a living.

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