Nearly three years ago now, I responded to a plea for help from Mrs BigPara to help her get the local Youth Unit back on its feet again after their last leader abruptly left. I was a unit leader, disillusioned by the constant battles to get things done at my unit, looking for something new to do, but stuck in my role until Easter.
About four months later, after stepping down from my leader role, I transferred to the Youth Unit, and took on the secretary role. I learnt how to march, how to parade, how to stand up and hold the attention of ten to twenty 10-18 year olds. I built up my confidence, going from the timid helper with no clue about teaching, to a confident (ish) leader.
A year down the line I became the Leader, and worked hard to make the unit my own. It took time and energy, perhaps more than I should have spared from my degree, but it paid off. I had a full unit with young people who always made me proud.
And then I graduated from university, and got a real job as an engineer. Out of necessity, I moved from UniTown to BigCity, and the far side at that. Suddenly the unit I could get to without a problem became an hour’s train journey from home. And the easy cycle home became the risky game of ‘catch the last train’. I never got caught out, but some nights it got mighty close. I’ve had more than one mad rush from platform to platform to make my connection.
I stuck with it. I didn’t want to let the unit down.
A couple of months of this wore me out. Too many late nights and sleepy days at work. I still didn’t want to let them down, but I couldn’t carry on.
A little over a month ago, with lots of deliberation, and more than a little upset, I put in my notice. The end of the year, I said, and then no more.
It felt like a dive off a cliff. A load of stressing and building up courage, and then nothing. Free fall.
A month passed, making plans for the future. Doing my best to keep things going till I left, then smoothing over the join. Business as usual, to a point.
Then, all of a sudden, it was our last night. Our Christmas party. An excuse to do not a lot, and to socialize. I spent a lot of time getting the next leader sorted, then went to chat to the kids. I didn’t spend as much time with them as I should have, but I got a lot done. I hope that my work will have smoothed over the transfer.
And now I have a little work left over, and then done. A youth leader no more.
And it’s a bit strange. I fully expected a lurch as it all finished, a final thud as I hit the ground. Instead it just feels, well, finished, I suppose. After all the stress of handover, I’m done, and while I’m sad, it still feels almost right. I’ve played my part, built it up, and now it’s time to let someone else take it further.
And now I need to find something else to do. I’ve still got all the clinical work I do, the service delivery as it’s now named. I’ve become increasingly active as an ambulance crew. Also, part of me itches to take on a new management role. There is the rumor that there is a cycle response leadership role coming up, which has captured my attention. It’s still only a rumour, but if it does materialise, I am definitely going to think users about applying. After all I have grumbled about our past leadership, I think it’s time I put my money where my mouth is and actually put into practice what I have been preaching over the last 18 months.
I’ve also got a hundred other things I want to do, now I’ve hopefully got a little more flexibility in my schedule. I’ve not been able to get back into my music since I started being a leader in the Organisation. I’ve got my eye on a local wind band that may take me on, but I need to get back into practice first. I’ve got a year until I can properly settle back into something like that, so plenty of time to do some work…
I’m also looking into starting at the gym. I’m not in too bad shape, but I am now doing a desk job and don’t have a twenty-minute cycle commute anymore. I want to work on my strength a bit (I can’t really avoid lifting when doing ambulance work) and my general fitness, and this seems the best way for the moment.
How long it will all last remains to be seen, but it looks like a lot of new things for the New Year. These could be interesting times…
And, for no other reason than because I’m listening to it right now, I’ll leave you with Snow Patrol:
Safeguarding policy, like any other policy implemented in good faith (HSE guidelines are a good example), is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that not everyone has other people’s best interests in mind. There have been too many cases where a child was harmed by the people who were meant to protect them, or a vulnerable adult has had their trust betrayed by the people who “care” for them. Implemented properly, it protects vulnerable people (children and adults) from the people who would cause them harm, and protects innocent people from life-destroying false accusations.
However, like the HSE guidelines, these policies are open to misunderstandings and abuse. Sensible precautions, such as ensuring that physical contact is unambiguously appropriate, become cast iron restrictions, like the (false) assumption that an adult member cannot touch a youth member. Reasonable restrictions on what we can do with cadets (like not putting them in a dangerous situation) becomes an excuse to do nothing with them. Interesting activities are abandoned on nebulous ‘safeguarding grounds’, and ultimately people’s experience with the Organisation suffers (more on this later).
It is very easy to forget the main aim of safeguarding is to keep people safe, not to wrap them up in cotton wool and do nothing with them. The point is to protect me from false accusations, not to stop me acting when I see an obvious need to intervene.
Take two examples that have happened to me recently. The first one, on my way to my recent holiday, I tweeted about:
In this case, I was stood next to a little boy, and he nearly stepped out in front of an ambulance (under blue lights, no less). Mum was stood nearby, chatting to her friend, and he was wandering around and went to step off the curb. I put my arm out, rather fast, and made sure he stayed where he was. Fairly understandably, he wasn’t too impressed that some random man had stopped him walking around.
His mum was furious. And not because he’d walked off, or because he’d wandered into the road. No, she was angry because I had dared to touch her son and made him cry. I’ll be honest, I was quite blunt with her, explaining precisely what had happened and why I had felt it necessary to act as I had. She wouldn’t have any of it (hence my angry tweets), and I had a train to catch, so I just walked off.
My second example happened today. I was in a supermarket, doing my shopping, and had an encounter with a two-ish year old boy and his dad. The little boy hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going, and I had to dodge to avoid him. Dad was very apologetic, but I made it clear that there was no problem, and we continued our individual shops.
As I headed to the tills to pay, I encountered the same little boy again, this time without his dad. I had a quick look around and spotted his dad looking rather frantic and heading our way, and the boy was making a determined attempt to wonder off. Before he got too far, I walked up to him, took his hand and lead him back to his dad. Dad was very grateful, and everyone was happy. No problems.
Both times I physically intervened to prevent a child from coming to harm. Both times I think I feel I acted correctly, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing again, even knowing how the first scenario would turn out. Both times I think I acted in the spirit of our safeguarding policy, and that is keeping vulnerable people safe.
And yet, if you believed the ‘no touching’ brigade, both times I broke policy, and the first instance (where, in other circumstances, my actions could quite rightly have been considered an assault) doubly so. Even though both times things could have gone a lot worse if I hadn’t acted.
I think that the biggest problem I have with safeguarding is not that it exists, or that it’s quite strict. It’s that policy is being applied blindly, and is being used to replace common sense. And while this doesn’t directly cause any harm to anyone, everyone suffers from lost opportunities.
Somehow, the summer holiday has flown past, and the new school year has started. This evening, I have the first Youth group meeting of the academic year. I’m not sure if I’m more glad that we’re back, or nervous that it’s all going to go wrong. It’s been an interesting year already, and it’s only just started…
A couple of days ago, I discovered that it is likely that I’m an adult down this week. And not just any adult, but my Assistant Leader. This is not helpful. Of cause, I don’t know if this is true, because I haven’t spoken to him since the end of term, and isn’t answering my calls or returning my messages. In fact, very few people have heard from him recently, and then only when he didn’t have their number. This is less than useful, as it means I’m now just below the ratio I need to run the unit properly (though Safeguarding have said it’s not a major issue, as long as it doesn’t last too long)…
This also means that I now have to run one of the subjects this term. Which I didn’t want to do. Okay, I might enjoy teaching, but I really could do with the time to deal with the other parts of my role, like the paperwork, the dealing with parents, and all the other bits of day-to-day running that it would be good to do while everyone is worrying about keeping the young people busy.
On the bright side, I now have three non-commissioned officers to help me out. These are young people who are given greater leadership and organisational responsibility within the unit, to give them new experiences, and to give us adults a hand. I plan to hand off a reasonable chunk of work to them, in the hope that they can get on with it with minimal supervision, and so make it less of a problem that I’m an adult down. I have a meeting with them tonight, and hopefully I will soon have someone responsible for getting our members out to events, someone else responsible for maintaining uniform standards, and another person to help maintain discipline, as well as supervising the other two and helping out with the training.
Now I just have to write my lesson plans, advertise for a new adult and a new Assistant Leader, as well as all the normal new year stuff that will likely take ages.
Sounds like fun…
I’m feeling a little frazzled at the moment, so am struggling to compile any one thing in to a post. Just a bit of a stream of consciousness. Sorry…
Work is being stupid again. After trying to lay me off once (and nobody has admitted they were responsible for that monumental cock-up), they now have us working over the bank holiday weekend and through a University holiday (not just a student one, the entire uni, in theory, is shut) while they go off and have a holiday. They’ve left one poor unfortunate soul to try to sort everything out. I’ve tried to help, spotting a couple of things that appeared to be wrong, and in thanks I got ignored, then shouted down (irritating) and finally patronised (infuriating). In the end they listened, but only after someone else joined in with me, and we finally got on.
Next, I’m trying to organise Organisation stuff against a close and inflexible deadline, and I need two people to get in touch with me. I’ve emailed, I’ve called them half a dozen times each and I still haven’t had a reply. If I don’t hear back, it’s very likely that they’ll not be able to go on duty next year. This will not make me popular. Well, it’s that or I try to guess clothing sizes, which probably won’t end well…
Next is my house-mate again. This time he’s brought someone over (without mentioning it to me…) and is continuing to attempt to impose his taste in everything on me. So far he’s tried to change how I cook my food (and what I eat), the sort of TV I watch, the sort of films I want to watch (for the thousandth time, I am NOT interested in that comedy) and he doesn’t seem to get that I’m just not interested. He also complains when I go and hide away in my room to get some peace and quiet, whines when I don’t drop everything and answer my phone when he’s calling and doesn’t seem to get that we don’t have a huge amount in common. Not to mention that continuous complaints when my cooking/eating stuff is dirty and he wants to eat (and can’t be bothered to dig out his own) or to wash it up himself. Sufficed to say, this is going to be an interesting year…
Oh yeah, and all this stuff is starting to get me down again, and I’m getting stressed and losing faith in my ability to cope, and then call myself stupid because I know I can cope, and it all breaks down in to an argument of the level of ‘I know you are, so what am I’ running through my head.
Yeah… I seemed to have developed a comma splice… Never mind…
Time to go buy some ice cream, hide in my room, and hope everything goes away.
And then get very busy tomorrow when it doesn’t…
A little while ago I had a rant about a sticky situation I thought I’d got myself in to. I had a conversation with the county officer dealing with the situation yesterday.
It turns out that what I did was exactly what they would have wanted to happen. This is an immense relief, not least because I now have the legitimate defence that the situation has been taken out of my hands. I have received orders from on-high, so high that I don’t have any choice but to obey.
This is useful. There is now one less thing for me to stress about… Shame the rest of the list is quite long…
I have a member of staff. I’ll be honest from the start, I don’t like him. I don’t think he’s a suitable person for a Youth unit. Some of the time I wonder if he’s a suitable person for the organisation. However, that is not my decision to make.
I have sat in some of his training sessions for our young people. Some of them are very good, particularly the youth led ones. A couple of sessions where he had his group discussing different types of punishment, I’m told were excellent. However, some of them really aren’t. On more than one occasion, when I’ve been in the room while he’s been training first aid, or event while I’ve been training and he’s been sitting in, I’ve encountered areas of his knowledge that are sorely lacking. The last time it happened, I did something about it: I have made it so that he always has another qualified member in the room when he’s training, to support him (or so I put it).
Of cause, he’s not happy, and I’ve heard (gah, the organisation is terrible for gossip and rumour) that he’s been grumbling in the presence of some important people in the county. Not people in my direct line of management, but close enough to cause me problems. And of cause, all the certainty I had about the decision at the time has evaporated. I know that I don’t like him training first aid. I know that there are gaps in his knowledge. But, I can’t be specific enough to justify what I did, or to solve the problem. And now, I’m starting to second guess myself, and I’m not even sure how I separate my gut feelings from the objective things I can actually put on paper.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Previously I’ve made a decision about someone (well, two someones in this case) doing something that I thought was wrong. I acted on this decision, attempted to get them to stop doing it, and had the whole thing slapped back in my face. So hard, in fact, that I vowed never to be on the committee of that unit again.
I think what I did was the right thing to do. However, I just don’t think I can justify it anymore, or at least not in a way that would convince me, if I was some other person. I don’t know if I can even convince them that it’s not just a personal issue between me and him, or that I’m not just trying to bully him in to leaving the unit.
This has really thrown me in to a spin. I’m not helping myself, as I’m now questioning my ability to make these, and other, decisions. I have a duty coming up where I’m supposed to be in charge, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll muck that up as well.
I can’t everything I’m feeling in to words. It’s all going round and round and I’m just getting in to a mess.
That doesn’t help as much as I’d hoped…
Outside of the University units, the Organisation is rank based. It dates back from long ago when we were a paramilitary organisation.
Coming from a University unit, I’m not particularly in favour of rank. I think it’s an anachronism that shouldn’t be necessary anymore. Anyone who needs a rank to be able to complete their role shouldn’t be doing it (okay, may be ‘not particularly’ was a bit of an understatement).
Officially, as a Youth Leader, I am now an officer, specifically an Officer Grade 4 (we don’t have rank names, just ranks…) This comes with the associated regalia on my uniform, and a vague requirement to where stupid things on my cap and a fancy dress uniform (that is more than a little expensive…). And I am not impressed…
So far I haven’t been officially presented with rank, and so I can get away with for a little while. Unfortunately, TheBoss, and her boss, are rather efficient, and so it’s only really a matter of time. And, if I don’t wear my rank once I’ve been given it, I know full well I’ll never hear the end of it. So I’ll have to relent. I suppose, for the most part, it’ll only be three pips on my rank slides, but, to me, it’s more the principle of the thing. ‘I’ve never needed rank before, and I don’t need it now.’ Which, I know, is not the most persuasive argument in the world.
I do, however, draw the line at being called sir when we’re not at something formal. Because that annoys me. A lot.
Except, of cause, NursaryMan knows this. And so will take every opportunity to call me sir, just to wind me up…
*sigh* Why is it the odd problems that always catch me out…
So, after my lovely accident on my bike, I finally had my Youth Leader interview last week.
To cut a long story short, I had what felt like a terrible interview (though, to be honest, I always think this after an interview), and was then offered the position about twenty minutes later. At the time I was suitably stunned. Once I’d got home, the usual ‘oh my, what have I let myself in for’ set in. Now, a week on, I think I’ve accepted that I volunteered to do this, and that I am actually capable of doing this. It wasn’t for nothing that my boss (who, from now on, shall be christened TheBoss) said ‘about time too’ after I’d accepted the position.
And so now, I start making things happen. Right now I need to build up some momentum, so that I can get all the little changes I want to make pushed through before things start flagging. And then, all going well, we should be trundling along nicely, and we will just need to keep things moving, instead of dragging everything from a standing start.
So, for the first time in a while, I’m feeling optimistic about things. Because things are moving in the right direction.
About bloody time too…
I’ve now just got to get past everyone congratulating me… Oh, and explain to the parents that the Youth Leader has changed again… And interview (with help) and select an Assistant (which could cause an argument with TheBoss)… And… And… And…
Oh boy… </Quantum Leap reference>
I have just got back from one of the more challenging Youth meetings I’ve been to.
I’m currently teaching a small group of our members about what is involved in going on duty. A bit on Event Management, a bit on Risk Assessment, some duty planning. Nothing particularly controversial or difficult. Today, one of the things we discussed was conduct on duty.
It was all going fine. We had the normal things like being respectful, and professional. I was pleased to see a note mentioning about patient consent, something some adults tend to forget about, and was surprised to have someone mention mental capacity. Most of them didn’t know what this meant, so I explained how, before we allow a patient to decline treatment, we have to ensure that they are in a fit state to make that decision. It can be quite black and white (i.e. fully aware patient: full capacity, unresponsive patient: no capacity). However, there are also a million shades of grey that can easily trip you up if you’re not careful. I explained this to them all, and how, for example, a young child is not normally considered to have capacity. This of cause raised the issue of people with mental disabilities, so I had to explain that as well.
This wasn’t going quite to my plan, but they were all listening, and asking the questions in a sensible manner, so I didn’t foresee any reason not to allow it to continue. Yes it’s a difficult subject to explain, but I think they understood.
That is, of cause, until one of them raised the issue of DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate orders). These are basically an advance decision made by the patient (or someone with suitable powers to act on their behalf) that instructs us to not attempt resuscitation if someone stops breathing. It is essentially an order to allow someone to go in peace if they’re dyeing. It is very uncommon to come across them in the first aid field (not least because most of our patients aren’t this unwell), and we don’t normally search for them. In all honesty, it has never really come up in my training. However, I do know enough about them to know that, if I know about a genuine DNR, I need to respect it.
This is difficult enough to explain to some adult members. The decision to just let someone go is very hard to make, and when we are trained to act quickly to save lives, it goes a little against the grain.
Now try explaining this to a small group of young people who are drinking in every word I say. I’ve let the conversation go this far, so I can’t really back out now, and I have no good reason not to explain. I just have to go for it. So I go on for a good ten minutes on what they are, when they are typically used, and explain how we have to respect a patients decision in these matters, no matter how hard it is. I’m honest, and explain how I would find it difficult to handle, and that I would never expect them to be put in that situation. I think they understood it.
I hope they did.
I also hope I can keep off of these subjects in the future.
So, I’m writing my application for the Youth Leader role at my unit. And yes, I’m now procrastinating, because all of my normal (miniscule) writing skills appear to have dried up. Joy…
Write, must get back to it. I have to get it in today, so it’s not as if I don’t have a deadline…