Lara Murray reflects on what she wishes she had known at the start of her journey to becoming a Community Links Practitioner
1. It’s more about listening than doing
Beginning a meeting with an individual can be daunting and, especially in my early meetings, I worried about achieving “solution-focussed interactions.” Over the time I have been in practice, I have learned that solutions only begin to emerge when you take the time to listen to and understand the problem.
Accepting that some problems can’t be solved can feel like failure. A shift in perspective has helped me to see that this isn’t the case. Often, a big part of a problem is when there is no one to listen. Simply listening and bearing witness are powerful actions.
2. Sometimes I need someone to listen to me
The National Links Worker Programme is a supportive team to be part of and we are all encouraged to be mindful of our own wellbeing at work. Sometimes the work is challenging, heart-breaking and uplifting all in one day, and then you need to spend two hours checking emails and completing other administrative tasks. Variety is a huge part of what makes this role great but it is important to take time to reflect on those strong emotions and manage them as well as the paperwork. A quick phone call to my experienced buddy Community Links Practitioner, or taking the time to share my experience in a team meeting, helps me to gain perspective, advice, support and to feel prepared for the next challenge.
3. Being reactive can be frustrating
I like to plan. I like to write lists and I like to have a routine. With the three elements of the Community Links Practitioner role to balance, I find this a helpful way to work. Honestly, I can find it frustrating when plans and appointments change and I need to alter my routine.
Most jobs require some degree of flexibility or agility and the nature of the Community Links Practitioner role can often make it easy to adjust my priorities. An urgent phone call can change the whole day and put in perspective what it is important to achieve in a day. When the urgency has passed, I can return to my list.
4. Time management is challenging
Actually, I learned this before joining the Links team and have always found time management a bit of a challenge. This is sometimes related to lesson number three but other times it is important to stick to a schedule and even say no once in a while.
5. Communities are so important
As a Community Links Practitioner in the Provanmill area of Glasgow I have been privileged to see first-hand that many members of this community look out for one another by assisting elderly neighbours and volunteering in local groups. Supporting people to access community resources can make a profound change in an individual’s life and should not be underestimated. The communities that are part of the National Links Worker Programme are full of resilience and people working to help one another. They have resources at their disposal and should not be underestimated either.
6. You get out what you put in to team meetings
Our Monday team meetings are a key part of what transforms a rewarding role into a rewarding role that is part of a supportive team. Mondays are a time to get together, learn about services across Glasgow and learn from one another. Attending and participating in these meetings has been very valuable to me.
7. My colleagues are some of the best people!
Before joining the Links team I worked at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland as part of the Self Management team so I had met the members of the original National Links Worker Programme. However, as with any new job, I was nervous to work with a different group of people and meet my new colleagues. Over the last four months I’ve learned that there was no need to worry. I’m lucky to have such a great group of colleagues. We support one another with the more challenging aspects of the role and have already found time to have a lot of fun together!
The whole ethos of our team is that we work together and everyone is always very responsive and helpful. I can reach out to team members in an email, text message, WhatsApp, phone call and in our team meetings. Everyone is always keen to help and views this team work as part of the role. I had a lot of questions about how I could support one of the first individuals I worked with and asked one of the more experienced Community Links Practitioners for help. The very next morning I received a text message to say “Surprise! I’m here!” My colleague had come to my practice and spent some time with me, answering my questions and ensuring the individual got the support they needed too.
For me, that is the best thing about this role. Even though Glenmill Medical Centre is my practice, the local community is mine to map and the individuals I work with are my clients… My colleagues view all of this as part of their role too. We share information and work together to find solutions and supports for people across the city.