The role of Night Support Worker at Catherine Court in Hanley, Gingerbread’s Teenage Parent Unit, is new. I am Carolyn, I’ve worked here for 8 years, but my new role of Night Support Worker at Catherine Court only came into being in April. Prior to that, I worked a mix of evenings, nights and weekend days. The night shifts are 12 hours long, so it is difficult to catch up on the beauty sleep!
I like to think that I can make a difference to the young parents and their children’s lives by being available to offer support. By having a night worker, The Gingerbread Centre is offering a 24 hour service. Nights can be the loneliest and most frightening time for a young mother or father. Babies and toddlers don’t come with instruction manuals and a toddler who won’t go to bed or is having a tantrum at 2am, or a baby who won’t settle or is unwell can seem a hundred times worse for a parent than in the day. A reassuring phone call or visit can help, along with offering appropriate advice and support, maybe to ring 111 for medical advice if needed.
Any advice offered has to be correct and consistent. Any parenting advice that is given, is up to date and is from the Heath Visitors themselves or the NHS website. Having the availability of 111 helps to cut down the need for doctors and hospital appointments. The residents are also reminded that they can speak to the chemist or go to the Walk-in-Centre in Hanley from 8am the next morning.
Parenting, especially feeding advice and weaning, has changed considerably over the years. In my previous life, I was a staff nurse, which included 2 years working on a children’s ward and I was also a midwife. Research has changed the way weaning is done, now not being recommended until the baby is around 6 months old. Sometimes it is difficult for the mum’s to understand this as they often have input from their own mums, who started weaning much earlier.
On nights, it is also important to offer advice and support regarding co-sleeping. Research has proven that co-sleeping is a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs). If there are concerns, I do welfare checks at night and if a mum is found sleeping on the sofa or in bed with her baby, I would recommend the child is put back into their cot and offer appropriate advice there and then. The Lullaby Trust website has a lot of useful information regarding this.
The most exciting time is when a resident goes into labour at night … well for me it is! Luckily no one has had to give birth at the unit, although there have been a couple of close calls! It’s one of the best things to be able to help a mum-to-be through the initial few hours and to give reassurance. If someone is frightened it makes them more anxious and anxiety causes the pain to worsen. It’s always great to have a cuddle of the baby when mum comes home too.
I’ve known several of the children at Catherine Court since they were ‘bumps’ or tiny babies. I love seeing their smiley faces and having a hug. I especially like singing nursery rhymes with them if it’s not too late at night.
Anything can happen on a 12 hour shift. For most of it, I lone work, only having contact with another member of staff during handover. If there are any difficulties, it is reassuring that I can phone on-call for advice. These are the managers for Rothesay Court and Catherine Court who work on a rota system. If there is an emergency I ring either 999 or 101 for the police.
I get called upon for more than just health and safety advice, and checking the security of our residents and the building, which is also a big part of my role. It may be that a resident’s boiler might not be working or they are about to run out of electric, they may have fallen out with their partner, or they complain about noise from a neighbouring flat, or even that a resident just wants a listening ear, telling you what happened tonight in a TV reality show or soap, I am here to be called upon to ensure their welfare, provide support, or just chat to be of help. There’s never a dull moment being a Night Support Worker.