Nursing studies

From kitchen to care home: ‘my career change is as rewarding as it gets’

Care worker and prospective nursing student Ross Balmer outlines his ambitions

Care worker and prospective nursing student Ross Balmer outlines his ambitions

Ross Balmer, second from right

A care home worker whose jiving with an older resident became a social media sensation, has been recognised with a national award.

‘It makes me feel I’ve chosen the right career path. It’s about as rewarding as it gets,’ says Ross Balmer, who was runner-up in the emerging talent category at the Scottish Care Awards, held in November to celebrate the work of staff and organisations in residential care and nursing homes.  

‘I didn't think university was for me’

He joined Balhousie Care Group's Dalnaglar care home in Crieff, Perthshire, in February 2017. The home specialises in caring for people with dementia. ‘It fell together by chance,’ says Mr Balmer, who was nominated by his manager and another care worker for the award. ‘I was working as a chef before coming into the care industry, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I could never have imagined how well I’ve taken to my new career.’

Currently undertaking an access to nursing course at Stirling University, Mr Balmer plans to begin a nursing degree next year. ‘I left high school a few years ago and going to university wasn’t something I saw myself doing then, but it’s very exciting,’ he says. ‘I’ve got some great experience at the care home under my belt, working alongside nurses, and it will be good to take that forward now and become a nurse myself.’

The power of music

At the home, where is he now an acting senior carer, he spends most of his time working with the 17 residents who have dementia. They include Yvonne, who is featured in the video, enjoying jiving with Mr Balmer to Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog.



‘She really enjoys her music and loves to dance, and it’s very therapeutic for her dementia,’ says Mr Balmer.

Filmed by one of the other carers and uploaded to social media, the video has been watched more than 11,000 times.

‘I was so surprised to see the response we got,’ says Mr Balmer. ‘I’m not known for being a great dancer, but Yvonne has encouraged me. We have music playing as much as we can. I like seeing our residents happy and feeling comfortable in their own environment.’

One person posted: ‘Brilliant. That’s how a care home should be, a fun place.’

A supportive environment

But there are challenges, Mr Balmer admits. ‘It can get quite upsetting sometimes and that’s part of the job,’ he says. ‘You have to understand that families are often having a hard time, but you have to support each other and try and make everything the best it can be. There’s a strong team here and we all help each other, providing a good support system.’

Looking ahead, he hopes to expand his knowledge of dementia. He also aims to carry on working at the home part-time throughout his studies, gaining even more hands-on experience.

Once qualified, he says he would welcome the chance to take up his first nursing post back at the home. ‘It’s been inspirational for me and I gain a lot of satisfaction from caring for people,’ he says. ‘Care homes don’t always have the best image but I really enjoy working here.

‘There are so many positive aspects to this role. It’s a great environment and you learn so much from the residents.’

Lynne Pearce is a health writer

This article is for subscribers only