An important lesson I learned today while on duty. There is very little point asking a small child for a pain score.
This particular little person had fallen down a couple of steps, and had been brought down to be checked over. He didn’t have any pain anywhere significant (like the back of the neck), and neither did he seem to be in any particular distress. Normal practice suggests that I then try and have him quantify his pain level, so that I can work out if there’s something more going on. I go through the rigmarole of explaining ‘where 1 is next to nothing (as I gently poke him for demonstration) and 10 is the worst thing you have ever felt’, and his first answer “9”. Now in my experience, people who have 9/10 pain and and show no signs of it have either been really lucky (and so 10/10 is relatively low), have an incredible pain threshold (but even so…) or might possibly be stretching the truth a little. Looking at this little guy, his mother and I went for the latter. So I asked him if he was really sure it was 9/10, and stressed how important it is to tell the truth. So he now says 6, because that’s his age. Cue much rolling of eyes from me, my crewmate and his mother, and I give up.
The important lesson here, I think, is that I had made the mistake of treating this child like a little adult, and tried to apply a technique aimed at adults to someone who didn’t really understand what I was asking, let alone why. Children are not little adults, though it can be easy to forget this sometimes, and remembering this is important.
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.
So, I think I should do a bit of an update.
I’m currently in the middle of my final ever exams at Uni. I’ve done one, and have another three to go. I’m a bit stressed, as you can imagine.
It goes without saying that all the depression and anxiety are acting up, with all the problems that entails, not least because I still haven’t got around to doing anything about it…
On the bright side, I have just received confirmation that I have a graduate job with a big engineering company, doing pretty much the engineering I think I want to do. How it pans out remains to be seen, but at least its something to go in to while I worry about everything else. My plan has always been to get a graduate job, and then see what happens next. I can still go into nursing (or something else) later if things don’t work out, and in the meantime I can build up my savings, ready to go back to uni if the need arises.
Typically, now I’ve got this all sorted, I’ve got my project supervisor pestering me about doing a PhD with the uni. I’ll admit, the idea is slightly attractive, but not enough to make me abandon my longterm plans. I can’t justify further expense that could be on a doctorate in something I’m not that interested in as a career ( and I have no desire to be an academic…)
With the Organisation, it feels like we’re on the verge of mutiny with the local Adults. One member (who I have already introduced as CycleGuy) has jumped ship to join my youth unit, and the feeling is growing that two more may be planning to leave. To add to this, I have heard through the grapevine that the Adult leader may want a word with me about ‘stealing’ CycleGuy, after having both of us make it clear to him that the unit he held his membership at was his choice, and neither of I nor the Adult leader minded what he chose. The fact that CycleGuy and I both found this out through a third member doesn’t help the matter. Needless to say CycleGuy is slightly miffed (and I’m far from impressed).
I also know that CycleGuy (as well as HistStudent) wants to become my 2IC. I am a little sceptical, mainly because I worry that he doesn’t have the Youth Work experience, but my alternative is HistStudent who I know (at a gut level that is difficult to explain in words) would be wrong for the position. I have been putting off re-opening the position (long story…) because I can’t really face the interviews and the stress they’ll cause, but I don’t think it can wait any longer. I could be off for good in a few months time (sad times 😦 ), and someone needs to know what to do if I go.
I think that’s a catch-up of everything that’s been going on over here. I have an exam tomorrow, so I can’t stay up too much later. Fortunately I’m reasonably confident about this one (at least, everything is making sense).
It’s now confirmed. I am now an Assistant Leader down, and there is probably nothing I can do about it.
Of cause, he hasn’t actually had the courtesy to phone me, or email me, or otherwise get in touch, electronically or otherwise. Nope, I have found this out by him not turning up to the meeting today. Oh, and he’s updated his current location on Facebook to somewhere suitably distant from here.
Needless to say, I am furious. Not only did he put me in a position where, if I hadn’t heard rumours, I would have been an adult down on an already hard day, as well as nearly landing me without any session next week, I think it’s just downright rude. How difficult is it for him to send me some form of message, explaining that he couldn’t come down any more.
As an aside, this has probably ruined any chance of me getting a decent night’s sleep, which is just what I need when I have work tomorrow…
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…
The Youth Team in my region of the Organisation seems to be on the verge falling apart. TheBoss is still my immediate line manager, but we’re short staffed at her level, leaving some units without direct support. Her line manager has just put in their resignation and their counterpart for the younger youth groups (5-10, while my lot are 10-18) has been promoted to fill the gap of senior youth officer, leaving nobody at that level. Oh yes, and we’re always short of people at the local unit level. I could do with an extra female helper (having only one is a pain when I’m supposed to have at least one man and one woman at every meeting), and other units are desperately short of helpers, or even have no appointed Leader (my role).
It may be okay, but it’ll all depend on how well the new senior youth officer gets on with the older youth groups. It sounds a little cynical, or perhaps I mean paranoid, but last time we were short members of county staff that I was involved with (while still at the University unit) every unit they were responsible got close to collapsing. They’re just starting to recover now, but it’s taken a couple of years.
We should be okay for the moment. We’ve got enough momentum to keep going for a while yet, and as I said, TheBoss is still around, but it doesn’t do a great deal to douse the sense of impending doom. Hopefully it’s just the depression talking, but the way the Organisation feels like it’s going at the moment, I have a feeling it’s going to be a rough few months.
We’re at a street party. Not a lot’s happening, so you’ve come to see the ambulance car. It’s something new, something different, and most importantly has blue lights, bright colours and a siren. In short, it is exciting! You come bounding up, resigned parents in tow.
You go suddenly shy when you reach me, hiding behind your daddy and peering from the side if his legs. He looks at me and shrugs. ‘What can you do?’
I crouch down next to you, and smile, saying “Hello!”. You smile, a little, uncertain. “Do you want to see my ambulance?”
You peer up at Daddy, and he nods, and so you do.
“Come on then.” I put out a hand, flicking a look at Daddy to make sure he doesn’t mind, and you take my fingers. I can feel my partner’s eyes boring me in the back of my neck. I’m closely pushing what I am technically allowed to do under child protection regs, but I have parental permission and you can always leave if you want, so its fine.
We wander around the vehicle, having a peer at everything and anything. I put the lights on. That gets a grin. You have a look in the cab, sit in the driver’s seat. You’re having great fun, and when we’re done you go skipping over to Daddy.
Well, you try to. You get about half way when you trip over your shoe lace. Daddy, my colleague and I all lurch over to catch you, but we’re all too far away. Bump. You look up and give us all a stunned look, not least because you’ve now got three people, two in bright yellow and green, looming over your head. There is a bit of a lip wobble, but no tears yet.
Daddy and I crouch down and Daddy asks “Are you okay?” You give a small nod, still a bit stunned. He takes your hands and pull your back to your feet. Your sleeve slips, and I spot an abrasion all along your lower arm.
“Shall I do something about that?” I nod at the graze, and Daddy replies “Please.”
Together, we lead you back over to the car, and Daddy lifts you in the treatment area (aka the boot…). As I rummage through my kit, digging out saline, swabs and dressings, you peer over my shoulder, and I talk you through everything I’m doing. Daddy baulks when I mention the saline I’m going to clean your wound with. “He’ll never let you put that on it.”
Now I know saline is salt water, but the concentration is so low the most people don’t notice. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything else. How about we give it a go and see how we get on.” Daddy shrugs, obviously saying ‘on your head be it’. To you, “This may hurt a little, so I need you to be really brave. Can you do that for me?” You nod, gone all shy again.
Carefully, I clean your grazes. I’m trying to get clothing fibres out of them, and I know from personal experience that this is most unpleasant. I have my hand support your arm, and you don’t even flinch. I see a little grimace from time to time, but otherwise you do really well. I am definitely impressed. I’ve had adults fidget and fuss more about this than you.
We’re done in minutes, and your up and about and dashing around as soon as you’ve hopped down from the car. We spend a few minutes doing paperwork, and then we’re finished and you and your parents are off again.
I do love working with kids.
Just a quick post to check in while I get some downtime. As you may have guessed, I’ve been rather busy recently, with upcoming deadlines, Organisation business keeping me even busier, and generally stressing as the academic year comes to an end. I’m currently sat in Starbucks, taking a break before I go off to an event (second one this week).
I checked my email today and got some stunning news… I have apparently been nominated for a volunteering prize for my work with the Organisation. The nomination must have come from someone in the Organisation, as I got the message to my personal Organisation email account, and I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it was.
Of cause, the presentation is next week, quite neatly overlapping with my Cadet meeting, so I won’t be able to go. It seems a little against the point of the prize to me if I skip a meeting to be presented it. However, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…
Also, the Cycle Response course I’ve been looking forward to may be happening in about a month. I am rather excited!
Of cause, being Friday 13th, I’ve had my glasses break on me while I was changing to come out on duty. They are currently held together by some dressing tape (classy!) until I get a chance to get my opticians to fix them. Hopefully it’ll hold until then, and I don’t drop a lens in to the lap of a patient.
Right, must go, duty calls. I’ll try and get a proper update in some time soon…
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…