Member Spotlight – Claire Gardiner, Community Link Worker

Member Spotlight – Claire Gardiner

Meet Claire, Community Link Worker at Caring in Craigmillar.

Please summarise your role responsibilities

Based in two GP practices in the North East of Edinburgh my time is split between them providing a holistic service to patients. Referrals come directly from practice staff and I offer an appointment to meet and connect with the person. Together we make an assessment of their needs and discuss a plan. My role includes providing help to access information, support, specialist services or activities in the community which will meet their needs and improve their health and wellbeing. I work collaboratively with the wider Edinburgh CLW network to evaluate and develop the service.

I am currently hosted by Caring in Craigmillar who provide services that prevent isolation and improve the quality of life for vulnerable older people with complex care needs and those with a diagnosis of Dementia in the local community.

What is your most significant accomplishment in your role?

Part of the Edinburgh Community Link Network since the beginning of the national programme in December 2017, I contributed significantly to the set up of the service and successfully integrated the role into the primary care team – as well as making significant links with community groups and services across the locality I am based.

I was initially employed by community organisation The Ripple where I worked closely with colleagues to identify gaps in services for local men which led to a successful funding application that allowed us to run a Men’s Wellbeing Programme. I was able to directly channel the referrals from the surgery to that group and demonstrated the successful way this CLW model can work when we collaborate. Men were able to get a service that improved their health and wellbeing, reduced isolation and enabled the destigmatisation of conversations about mental health in men.

What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing?

Working from home and not managing to do face to work remains the greatest challenge. We use so much of our body to communicate and this is all lost over telephone consultations and even video. Losing the power of eye contact makes connecting so much more difficult. Furthermore, the lack of availability of face to face services in the community to support people to link into also makes the role very different. This is the greatest challenge facing the people in our communities who need the human contact and someone to meet. We know isolation and loneliness can directly affect our health and with so many of us having been isolated for the best part of a year, it is having a negative impact on many areas of our health and wellbeing. I also think that there is a sense of nervous anticipation for what is to come, and what the lasting impact of this pandemic will be.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Social Prescribing Link Workers and/or Social Prescribing Programmes?

As this is a dynamic and fast moving role, often hearing people’s experience of trauma and working with people with complex needs, it is important you look after yourself before you can help others; “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping other put on theirs”. Self care is something we help our patients to learn about and do to maintain a good health and wellbeing balance and we need to do this for ourselves – self care is not selfish.

What do you do for fun when not working?

“If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong”!
I like this quote a lot and I try to apply it to work and all areas of life. I love a variety of sports and exercise from boxing at my local club Holyrood Boxing Gym and I am Captain of a Netball Team (both things I am missing).
I run and cycle – enjoying a lovely cycle to work, it is downhill all the way there, so the home journey is tough! I love to cook and eat (thats why I run!). I am lucky enough to have a back garden so absolutely relish the chance to get stuck in to a bit if digging and getting dirty. We have grown vegetables and fruit and this is something I really enjoy – being in and respecting nature.

How does National Association of Link Workers add value to Social Prescribing and Link Workers?

Being part of this wider national network allows us the chance to learn from each other about our experiences, and I believe that there is always power in numbers. This is a powerful platform for learning and developing professionally together. I am really excited to have been chosen to be one of the new Champions and look forward to connecting with my colleagues in Scotland and throughout the UK in upcoming events with NALW.

Have comments? Share your thoughts and connect with us @nalwuk #LinkWorkerNetworks on Twitter.

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