An interview with…. Elaine, A Specialized Therapist working with older adults.
An interview conducted by Megan Grimley, a Careers Adviser for CareerWave. Speaking with a health and social care professional about their role as a specialised therapist for the NHS.
Tell me a little bit about your job. What are your main responsibilities?
I work for the NHS as a ‘Specialised Therapist’. I primarily work with elderly patients who have recently undergone surgery, broken bones etc and those who may be becoming less mobile. I can also work occasionally with adults and young adults in similar situations. My role is to help rehabilitate these clients with physiotherapy exercises and therapy plans.
I have been doing this role for twenty years now – so it’s like second nature now.
On a day to day basis I work through therapy plans with clients with the aim to rehabilitate them to the best of their ability.
If I have a new patient referred, my routine would be to check referral notes this is to make sure I have adequate information about my client so I can devise a therapy plan with background knowledge. I then will check the NHS global system, System one, where I can access all health-related information about my client. This builds a better understanding of all the needs of the client. Finally, I will arrange to meet the client.
At first contact, I will try to build a good relationship with the client. Ask them their ‘story’ – what do they feel their health needs are. This is usually a great start, for 1. older adults usually love to talk! They love speaking about their lives and 2. it allows me to paint a more personal picture of the client and look at their personal needs. It sometimes allows me to pick up information that none of the systems have.
Back to day to day, once I have met all the clients, we will go through their personalised therapy plan. Often setting personal goals they want to achieve before they are discharged.
I will go through physio exercises with clients, giving verbal prompts and demonstrations where needed.
As I work for the NHS, it is important that I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. So, when working with my clients I need to see what other support they are receiving and if we need to refer any other services for them. If a client expresses that they are struggling or in potentially a vulnerable situation, I will work with the client to get them the best support they can. Most of our clients aims are to become independent again so we always ensure the client is in the centre of decisions.
My role I often become an unofficial ‘therapist’, because I have usually built a good relationship with patients, they usually start to confide in me. This is when it is important that I work with other services. For example, working alongside social services if I have any concerns etc.
Then we have the paperwork. At the end of every day, I need to write up notes for every patient I have seen that day. What exercises we did, how they seemed on the day (when I went into the house, during the therapy and when I was leaving). It is also important that I note any concerns that I have, this will be picked up by relevant people if needed.
Overall, my job varies from day to day. No two days are ever the same!!
What motivated you to go into this type of work?
I was motivated to pursue a Career in this type of work because I always wanted to help people. I wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives and in this case, it’s by helping them gain their independence again.
I enjoy the fact that I get to know so many people and their families and build such lasting relationships with them.
I also knew it would we a worthwhile, rewarding Career. Although not every day feels that way, on a whole, it is a very rewarding job.
Like I said, I’ve been doing it for twenty years, I must enjoy it.
What do you most enjoy?
I enjoy the opportunity to speak with my clients and the ability to help them through difficult times.
I get a lot of job satisfaction from my role (not always, but more often than not).
I enjoy that my job is varied, my day to day role is never the same. Different clients bring different needs and ways of working.
I meet a lot of great ‘characters’ in my role which keeps it enjoyable.
I love seeing how a client progresses, from the first meeting after referral to discharging them at the end of their therapy plan is amazing. If a client can achieve the goal that they set at the beginning of the therapy, then to me that’s the most rewarding thing.
What do you least enjoy?
The things I enjoy least in my role is the paperwork, definitely the paperwork!
I feel it takes my time away that I could be spending with clients. However, I do know that the paperwork is important.
Another thing I least enjoy is if I can’t always help a client. Sometimes their needs are more extensive than first thought and aren’t ready for the rehabilitation stage yet. Or even worse, they pick up illnesses/ injuries along the way where unfortunately they pass away. I think that’s one of the hardest things to deal with. When I’ve built up such a good relationship with the client and I see them deteriorate rapidly.
What would you say are the most essential qualities to thrive in this type of work?
The most essential qualities for someone to do well in this type of work are you’ve got to be sociable. On a daily basis you are visiting numerous patients, speaking with not just them but their families and any other service providers. You need to be able to communicate. You also need to want to help people, it’s a caring role so it’s part and parcel of the role. You’ve got to have or be able to develop a thick skin. Unfortunately, you are going to come across hard situations, meet challenging people and see/ hear some upsetting things – you need to channel that emotion and put it into your work. I also think it’s imperative that you are confident and can stick up for yourself. You need to be able to challenge the patient/ family members and other service providers.
What was your career route into this job? Describe the paths you took and who you networked with.
I left school and started to work in a Care home, whilst I was there, the NVQ came into effect. Carers then needed the correct qualifications to work with clients. So, I studied for my NVQ in Continuing Care. The care home was then unfortunately sold and the new owners, in my opinion, didn’t have the right values that were needed to run a care home, so I looked for a new job.
My Mam explained that the care home she worked for, was building a rehabilitation unit. The aim was to get clients from hospital, to the unit, back to their day to day life. This sounded different to what I was doing but something I’d enjoy. So, I applied.
I was successful on the pretence that I studied towards another qualification. This was a Level 3 NVQ in Diagnostic and Therapeutic Support. My manager was the NVQ assessor and when he left, there was no one to assess anyone. So, I studied for the qualification and took on the assessor role.
The unit grew bigger and we got referred more patients with more complex needs, so I was then put through a university degree through Teesside University in ‘Managing Long Term Health Conditions’. This made me more confident within my role.
The unit unfortunately was disbanded – due to government guideline changing. We then moved to a more mobile rehabilitation service working from the council offices liaising with separate care homes and hospitals and this is what I’ve been doing since.
Do you currently hold a Cache qualification? If so, what is it and did it help you pursue this career route?
I don’t hold a Cache qualification, but if I were starting out again, the Cache Health and Social Care qualification would be something I would investigate as it would be a good starting point into my role.
If you were to give people advice about going into a career in health and social care, what would be your top three tips?
My top three tips would be:
Make sure you have the correct qualifications and feel that you are motivated to gain the experience needed.
Never be frightened to say ‘I don’t know’ – if you don’t ask when you don’t know, you are putting you and your clients at risk.
Make sure you are aware of other services around you. Network with social workers, doctors, district nurses because you will need to – it’s a multi-disciplinary team. We all need to work together.
What skills or life experience do you think helps someone to do well in a career in health and social care?
The most important skills in my view are you need excellent communication skills. You need to be able to speak to people and listen to what others have to say.
You need to be able to show empathy and you need to be able to trust the people around you and for others to be able to trust you.
Other important skills are:
Patience, good time management skills, organisation skills, ability to build good working, professional relationships and to be respectful. Also, I think you need to be open minded, not everyone has the same views/ beliefs.
What kind of progression opportunities are there in your field of work?
There are loads of progression opportunities within my work. Due to working for the NHS I think we can progress quite quickly if we want to. There are always opportunities for us to train further, get different/ higher qualifications. I do think the NHS like to train and develop their own.
We are on a banding scale, with the top band being a Grade 10. So, whatever band you are on under the 10, you can progress. It all depends on if you want this or not.