Retail Assistant to Care Village Housekeeper
Each month we profile a care professional who has come into the sector after a career change and who demonstrates that it really is never too late to care! This month we meet Jenna Sheehan, who following many years balancing roles working in retail and bars, has now found her calling in care.
After leaving school at the age of 16, Jenna Sheehan spent more than a decade alternating between a number of retail jobs and being a full time mum. That was until last year when, at the age of 32, she started working as a part-time housekeeper at the state-of-the-art Belong care village in Wigan. Now committed to a career in care, Jenna was recently highly commended by judges at last year’s Great British Care Awards after being shortlisted for the Ancillary Worker Award.
Originally from Wigan, Jenna moved to Wales when she was 11. Her first job after leaving school was as a supermarket retail assistant and she was balancing roles in retail with working behind bars in pubs by the time she was 19.
“I was doing a bit of everything,” says Jenna, “from stacking shelves to operating checkouts and pulling pints. I knew I didn’t want to do that forever, but what I enjoyed about the work was talking to people, getting to know them and listening to the interesting stories that they told.”
At the age of 22, a year after the birth of her first child, Jenna moved back to her hometown. And in 2015, after being a full-time mum for a number of years, she made a return to retail, taking a part-time role at a local branch of Iceland. Then, last summer, she spotted an advertisement for a vacancy for a temporary housekeeper at Belong Wigan, covering maternity leave.
“To be honest, I just wanted another job to earn some extra money, but I soon discovered that I loved working in a care setting,” added Jenna.
Jenna was offered a full time role two months later, and she has worked at Belong ever since. She says that it’s the best job that she’s ever had, and that she loves coming to work every day as a result.
Asked what makes her current role more fulfilling than her previous jobs, Jenna comments: “Care is all about people, so it revolves around what I’ve enjoyed most about my previous roles. Residents at Belong Wigan include men who won medals fighting in wartime and women who have been pilots in the RAF. Everyone has a story to tell, and you can sit and talk to them for ages. I’ve got to know some residents really well, and I really enjoy being there for people.”
She adds: “I also take pride in playing my part in providing outstanding care. I’m not a support worker, but I know the importance of maintaining high standards of cleanliness and tidiness for people’s health, happiness and dignity in a care environment.”
Commenting on what makes Jenna a great care professional, Belong Wigan front of house manager Caroline Knight said: “Jenna is so much more than just a housekeeper. She is highly regarded for her kind and compassionate nature and the ability to recognise and comfort people who may be feeling lonely and goes above and beyond to promote wellbeing and spread joy across the village. It has been known for her to go into work on her days off to bring residents flowers, soft toys or chocolates for their birthday, and she is particularly good at supporting families of residents who are receiving end-of-life care.”
Jenna lives with her husband and three children in Wigan, and she’s clear about what she wants from a career in care in the future. “When my children are grown up, I’d love to study and train to become a carer – I wish I’d done it years ago,” she says.