EDGE Trainer Carly Power: Memories of the NHS

I have been reflecting on my time in the NHS and while I could recall many happy and funny scenarios of former patients, colleagues and work day shenanigans, I have decided to focus on just one patient and her story.

I have been an Occupational Therapist since 2003 with my oldest patient being 106 and the youngest just 26 days old. I specialised in paediatrics over 10 years ago, and it has been a real roller-coaster of learning experiences including the highs and lows of the patient journey through the NHS.

In 2014 my role in the NHS was that of a Children’s Community Occupational Therapist. I provided therapy and support in an additional supports needs department at a local secondary school.

I was supporting a patient called Laura. Laura had a profound learning disability, which meant that her learning capacity and care needs would be that of a 2-3 year old child. Laura was 16 at the time.

The NHS had an agreement with the local education authority to provide support to children like Laura in school. Laura’s learning in school was limited, so the focus shifted to developing life skills and maintaining her mobility. Laura was a happy and very engaged child, but very much on her own terms.

At times she could be so stubborn that she would refuse to move from the spot. I soon discovered I needed more creative ways to get Laura to engage with me.

I discovered Laura was very motivated by water. I enlisted the help of the department head teacher and we set up sessions for Laura in the hydrotherapy pool.

We used it as an opportunity help Laura practice using the shower and hygiene skills, including getting dried and dressing skills.
Laura’s favourite game was to place one item of clothing on at a time in the changing room, open the door, wait for a round of .applause from my colleague and I, before closing the door and attempt the next item of clothing. As you can imagine, these were not short therapy sessions!

Laura loved to play shops. How do you play shops in a hydrotherapy pool I hear you ask?!

I would be in the pool with Laura and using a floatation mat as the trolley, we would walk around the pool collecting toys and items floating in the pool, then take them to my colleague Ann, who was on the check out at the entry steps! Laura loved this, it got her mobilising and using her hands in ways she wouldn’t normally, if not motivated. I even emptied a bucket of empty cotton reals in the pool once and Laura collected them with me, to thread onto string, to practice her fine motor skills.

As an NHS worker it was so effective being able to work jointly with another service, to support Laura to be the best that she could be.

Sadly in 2014 Laura passed away suddenly and to say I was shocked was an understatement. At Laura’s funeral it was packed with staff from the school and those from the NHS who supported her. Laura loved lanyards and photo ID badges and I proudly donned mine in her memory at the funeral.

Working with children and young people is a minefield of emotion. Over the years working in the NHS, I have concluded that I cannot change what has happened to my patients and I cannot stop what is going to happen if they have a life limiting condition. However I believe I am instrumental about what happens in the present time, helping children and families to create a meaningful life full of memories. For that I am truly honoured to have worked with such incredible people during my time in the NHS.

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