When Jade Matthew turned up at Balhousie Pitlochry as a school leaver age 16, she was looking for a job rather than a career.

That was 11 years ago. Today, aged 27 and a Care Assistant, Jade is gathering the qualifications needed to start a degree in nursing in the Autumn.

She puts her remarkable progress down to the support of her care home colleagues, and the company training available through Balhousie Care Group.

Jade’s initial placement at Balhousie Pitlochry was through a Prince’s Trust programme. “You got two weeks work experience and I chose to go into care.” She showed such enthusiasm for the work, and enjoyed it so much, that she joined the care home permanently.

There followed a move to Fife, where she worked for another care home operator. Then when she returned to Perthshire Jade knocked on the door of Balhousie Luncarty care home, a stone’s throw from where she and her family live.

Jade, now mother to Austin, 3, finds that her work schedule of three 12-hour shifts over three days fits perfectly around her family life and studies. The extra days in her week while Austin is at nursery give her the time to study. When she wants to pick up extra shifts, she works in care or the care home laundry.

Jade left school with standard grades but no Highers. However, with the encouragement of her Home Manager, in two years she has gained her SVQ 1 and 2 qualifications in Social Services and Healthcare and is currently studying for her SVQ3. She is also attending an online access course at the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College and building up the required credits for her nursing degree at the University of Dundee.

“From a young age I wanted to be a nurse. I just like helping people,” says Jade. “I never felt there was something I was really good at before I started working in care. Balhousie and particularly my manager Cheryl saw my potential and that has really boosted my confidence. Working in care is something I know I’m good at.”

Her studies have not only helped with her career progression, they are good for her wellbeing, says Jade. “I do suffer with my mental health. Being on the computer and studying on those days off work has really helped with that.”

She started at Balhousie Luncarty when the first care home lockdowns began due to COVID-19, in March 2020. Did going into care worry her during a pandemic? “Not at all. I followed the protocols and infection prevention and control procedures and did all the mandatory training. And because we have such a tight-knit team here at Luncarty I was always confident coming in to work. I knew we were working hard to keep residents safe.”

But she admits she found it “heartbreaking” to see residents apart from their family members. “You become like family to them, particularly because you’re spending special days like birthdays and Christmas with them.”

Such are the bonds she has formed with residents and colleagues that when Jade begins her nursing degree, she plans to keep working at Balhousie Luncarty. “I just couldn’t leave it,” she says. “This job makes me feel so safe. I love the residents and the staff and I would hate to say goodbye to it.”

Jade encourages anyone thinking of being a carer to “come and see what the job really involves”. It frustrates her that care roles are often misunderstood. “I think people look at care and they think all you’re doing is coming in and doing personal care all the time. There is so much more to the job. It’s being there for the person and making a difference to their life.”

Want to join Jade? Search our vacancies here or email careers@balhousiecare.co.uk