Ann has been working in the caring profession for 33 years, although she only joined the NHS in January this year. She loves being a member of the Home First team and has nothing but praise for the support and encouragement she receives from colleagues and managers. She particularly values the opportunity to get to know her patients and spend whatever time is needed to assess and meet their individual requirements. Ann and her colleagues work out how best to look after each person they see and develop caring strategies based on what they need. One patient has advanced vascular dementia and can react quite violently to attempts to provide her with personal care. Ann and a colleague visit together and one holds the lady’s hands and chats to her, keeping her calm, whilst the other washes and dresses her.
Zoe has been looking after people for the last 30 years, initially with the council but more latterly with the NHS. She says she has learnt a lot since joining the Home First team and has had lots of opportunities to develop her skills and gain responsibilities, for example she is a medication champion and a local expert on assistive technology. She is also enthusiastic about the way team members share information via their mobile phones which enable them to check their visits and record their observations and assessments. This keeps everyone up to date and informed. Zoe knows she can make a real difference to her patients, for example a gentleman had recently come out of hospital following a serious urinary tract infection. His daughter was concerned he was becoming unwell again and would need to go back to hospital. Zoe was able to carry out a urine test there and then, contact the man’s GP and get antibiotics delivered within the hour.
Jane has a background in fashion but wanted to do something different. She joined Home First 15 years ago – though it wasn’t called that then, and offered a slightly different service.
In particular she likes doing the first visit when someone comes out of hospital, meeting the new patient and finding out how to help them get back to where they were before they had to go to hospital. “As the first member of the team to visit it’s up to you to find out what’s needed and respond to how that person is”.
Much of what Jane does is caring for her patient’s physical needs such as washing, dressing and encouraging them to eat and drink. But it’s much more, constantly evaluating and checking on all aspects of the patient’s wellbeing and also being mindful of the needs of carers and family members, and even pets. The focus is always on getting the patient to do as much as possible for themselves and encouraging them to regain as much independence as possible.
Her patients might have had a fall, such as Bob, who also suffers from dementia and doesn’t really understand what has happened to him. He needs to be encouraged to get out of bed and get dressed. Olive is just out of hospital and was struggling to remember to take her medication. Jane needed to liaise with the family to get permission from the GP to help her, although the hope was this would only be for the short-term so Olive could go back to looking after herself. Terry is living upstairs so Jane can help him access the bathroom as its all on the same level. She explains this is much better because it’s the normal thing to do and offers a break from the same four walls. Jane has helped Freda use a piece of equipment called a ‘dog lead’ which features a loop to hook over your foot to lift your leg up, and as Freda’s muscles have built up she is more able to get into bed herself.
No two days are the same, every person needs something different, and those needs change. “We don’t watch the clock; just do what we can to help the patient get better, even if it’s just sitting with them to make sure they eat something. During Covid-19 when family members may be isolating, we can offer a friendly face – even if we have to wear full PPE, mask, apron, gloves etc”.
“I enjoy meeting so many lovely people and it’s great when you see the end result, though it can be sad knowing you won’t see that person again. Our aim is not to be needed and there’s no better feeling”.
Katherine joined Home First in June and is loving the opportunity to give something back to the community. She has worked as a personal carer in the private sector but enjoys the variety of her new job. On one day she experienced two contrasting situations. Visiting a gentleman who had broken his knee and had to keep his leg up for a couple of weeks she found him recovering and ‘buzzing’ because he had got himself up and made his own breakfast. However the next visit was to a lady who was very poorly and would need ongoing care. In the one case Katherine knew she would be able to step down the number of visits, but in the other she needed to begin the process of getting others involved in making a longer term arrangement. Katherine says it can be quite emotional, but so rewarding when you feel you have made a difference.
Clinical Inpatient Matron
Sarah has led on improving the sexual safety of service users on inpatient wards at the Redwoods Centre in Shrewsbury. She has developed, introduced and embedded cultural and procedural changes on wards and across multi-disciplinary teams. These have included changes to incident reporting, new admission procedures, new patient information, introduction of reflective practice, supervision and role modelling, multidisciplinary team discussions, training sessions, trauma-informed care plans and developing a collective approach to consistent leadership on these issues.
As a result, there is a significant and measurable difference with sexual safety incidents being now negligible on the Redwoods wards, demonstrating the continued impact of the quality improvement work. The wards have been formally commended by CQC on this work. Sarah and colleagues have presented at a number of national events and many NHS trusts have visited the wards to understand the work further.
Sarah would say that involving staff, being honest and open and helping them to form solutions so that they are invested in the innovation is crucial to success.
Becky Williams always wanted to be a nurse but back in 2007 she didn’t feel university was right for her so she joined MPFT’s bank as a nursing assistant.
For the next 5 years she worked in a number of teams before successfully applying for an Assistant Practitioner role with the community dementia service which enabled her to complete a Foundation degree, attending university one day a week for two years.
At this point Becky was offered an academic secondment and the opportunity to gain her nursing qualifications. As she had completed the foundation degree, this meant two further years of university study alongside her nursing placements. She graduated in September 2017 and gained a post in the Memory Service, applying for and gaining a further Band 6 position after 18 months.
Then, along with NHS services across the country, MPFT needed to review how services were provided due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff were asked if they were willing to be redeployed and Becky, feeling that it was important to lead by example, said she was happy to go wherever her services would be most useful. With her experience of older adult mental health care she was placed as a Staff Nurse on Oak Ward at the Redwoods Centre in Shrewsbury.
Becky feels that working on an inpatient ward is very different from her role in the community, highlighting the awareness of physical health needs and the importance of communication with family members. Visiting patients in the community there was more opportunity to get to know the family, but Becky also reflected that it could be difficult to accept the limitations of a service that couldn’t offer the same 24/7 level of support as the ward environment.
However, Becky really enjoyed the post on the ward and when a Ward Sister position became available she applied for that and then for a vacancy for Ward Manager, an appointment she commenced in October this year.
“When I was first training, my mentor Ann always said take every opportunity that is offered and I have really embraced this. My managers have always been very supportive and encouraged me to apply for posts, even if it was just for interview experience. I have been able to build a successful career and would recommend the various nursing trainee roles as great stepping stones. A nursing degree course may be right for some people, but there are lots of other ways to get into the profession.”
Becky says “Nursing is hard work, but very rewarding and offers real career satisfaction. The NHS offers lots of opportunities to develop and grow, with different roles and training available.”
Anne was selected as one of just 12 NHS staff whose portrait was captured by acclaimed photographer Rankin as part of a collection unveiled to celebrate the NHS’ 72nd Birthday.
Throughout the pandemic, Anne has not only been an excellent and caring District Nurse, but has worked hard to support her colleagues and raise their morale, organising local school children to share pictures and messages, and coordinating a mass sing along to ‘This is Me’ from 'The Greatest Showman’ to mark International Nurses Day.
She also demonstrated her commitment to her patients and their families, even going so far as to help foster a pet dog to allow a couple needing hospital treatment to be admitted without worrying about their precious pet.
The story generated national and international headlines and Anne’s image has been displayed across the country, most notably on the Piccadilly Circus lights.
Anne said: “I’m not a hero. I’m a nurse just trying to do the best I can. I was inspired by an aunty but I also think being a nurse is ingrained in you.”
Specialist Practice District Nursing
When I was eight years old, my grandad had terminal oesophageal cancer and was receiving palliative care by a local district nursing team. It was at this young age that I saw the compassion and care nurses gave to him to keep my grandad at home and very comfortable.
At eight years old I could only describe them as ‘superheroes’, but not like Superman or Batman – something more, something real.
Obliviously through my school and teenage years, I never realised men could be nurses, and I found it difficult to settle on a career suitable for me. I returned to college in my early 20s with the intention to be a paramedic. However, everything changed when I volunteered on a ward at my local hospital.
I will never forget my first day on that respiratory ward where I was greeted by a male nurse. It was then I realised that staring back at me was the start of my journey to become the nurse I always wanted to be; to become that superhero figure that inspired me and cared for my grandad all those years ago.
Nursing to me is not just a job or even a career – it has been and is my life. I feel that as nurses we go over and beyond by putting our patients at the heart of everything that we do and with that in mind, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank those nurses that looked after my grandad and inspired me to be the person I am today. I also want to thank everybody that has been part of my journey and has given me the opportunity to shine.
Nursing has truly brought out the best in my character and it is an honour to work in such a fulfilling job.
Community Mental Health Nurse
I was a Student Mental Health Nurse studying at Staffordshire University in the September 2017 cohort. We were due to head out on our final sign off placement of our degree at the end of April. For me this was due to be in the community with the South Staffordshire Memory Service. Due to the increased risks attached to this patient group, face to face patient contact was stopped and it was felt that they would not be able to facilitate my placement and learning. I was then re-allocated to Ellesmere House (Forensic Learning Disabilities) at St. George’s Hospital Stafford. The whole cohort had their first day on placement and then found out that night that we were all being withdrawn from placement due to safety risks re Covid-19. This left us all in a state of limbo where we didn’t know whether we would be allowed back out on placement or whether we would able to complete the rest of our course. Thankfully the government and the trust initiated an opt-in system whereby we could finish our final placement in an extended format with our own preference in mind. I had already gone through the interview process to get a job in the community in the Psychosis Pathway in Lichfield, so this is where I opted to complete my placement.
The weeks prior to getting assurances of being able to complete our degrees were quite anxiety provoking and uncertain. Once I found out I was going to Lichfield, I felt much more relaxed and calm. I had been there on placement previously in my first year, so knew the team and it would mean I got a head start on preparing for my role once I qualified. The idea of being in placement during a pandemic was a little nerve racking, but honestly was just happy that I could still complete my training and contribute at a time when needed. The team have been brilliant in supporting and nurturing my learning as well pushing me towards becoming an independent clinician. I was able to manage a small caseload and develop all the skills required to move into my role as a community mental health nurse. This massively helped with my confidence and overcoming some of the anxiety issues I had had prior to placement about the transition from Student to Qualified Nurse. Albeit we are seemingly heading towards another serious wave of the pandemic, which may disrupt service provision, I feel in a good place to manage what comes and to provide care as best I can to my service users.
Michelle worked as a care assistant in a care home before she had her family. Once her three children were all at school she decided she was ready to go back to work and keen to be challenged a bit more. She completed her nurse training at Staffordshire University and qualified in 2008.
She initially worked on the female acute ward at what was then Shelton Hospital. Although she gained a lot of useful experience this wasn’t where she wanted to be so she moved to Whitchurch Cottage Hospital to work with people with dementia. She took the opportunity to gain some community experience and when the cottage hospital closed took up a permanent post with the community mental health team which went on to become the Memory Service. By this time she realised her passion lay with the assessment and diagnosis of people with dementia and this has been the focus of her subsequent career. Along the way she has also gained qualifications in physical health and in prescribing as well as becoming a student mentor.
Michelle has held a management position with the memory service but has now returned to a more clinical role as a Nurse Practitioner which she prefers. The role involves the assessment and diagnosis she is passionate about, as well as a medication prescribing role.
Michelle says “No one wants to hear that their loved one has dementia, but if the assessment and diagnosis is done well it can make a difficult situation so much easier. You need compassion, patience and knowledge to carry out the role but it offers me real job satisfaction.
The Coronavirus pandemic has presented some interesting challenges. I was redeployed onto a ward which was a bit of a learning curve as things had changed. We also went virtual and had to work out how to carry out assessments via video calls. I was sceptical at first but it has proved successful and will certainly make us more flexible and resilient in the future – coping with bad weather for example.
I never thought when I started caring for people aged 18 that I would be where I am now, but I have been given lots of opportunities and supported to gain the confidence to make the most of them. I feel MPFT is a very forward-thinking trust which recognises the value of a nurse-led service”.
Degree Apprenticeship Students
In 2020 the SWLA were proud to announce the first cohort of 8 social work students undertaking the 3 year level 6 degree apprenticeship in social work. The apprentices were already employed by MPFT in unregistered social care roles and they started their 70 day placement in April this year. Placements have been found in MPFT. North Staffordshire Combined NHS Trust services and with Stoke-on-Trent Local Authority. Apprentices from Staffordshire County Council have joined MPFT in the OP/PD and Hospital discharge services.
Jackie Rowlands, a Social Care Assessor in the South Discharge to Assess Team, has moved to the forensic service for her placement:
“My placement with the Liaison and Diversion team is going fantastic, the team I am working with have been so supportive. I am based within a custody suite and working with people that have been bought into custody to identify vulnerabilities they may need support with when released from custody. The placement has given me a great opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge in social work and to reflect on my own practice and value”.
A move from the older people/physical disability team in Burton-on-Trent has taken Apprentice Sylvia Smith to the Personalisation Social Inclusion Team. She describes her transition into mental health services:
“Day 1 of my 70 day placement the exciting feeling of meeting my Workplace Supervisor in person and my own expectations as well as getting a more in depth understanding of the impact individual’s mental health can have on their overall health; seeing the flip side to my current role within an adult community team. I was surprised how easily I fitted in with my placement team, applying my existing skills and sharing knowledge with other professionals. The newly acquired learning from my first placement will support me in my future practice and newly created connections with practitioners within social care mental health”
Social workers undertaking their Approved Mental Health Professional training within the Trust, are expected to complete a placement away from their substantial post. This is particularly important for social workers who do not have specific mental health team experience. Karen Ferriday, a Social Worker in the Stafford Mental Health Team, has had the opportunity to be the first student AMHP in the Children Eating Disorder team within the Trust. She has taken time to reflect on her experiences:
“As part of the Approved Mental Health Professional Training I have just completed a 43 day placement with the Children Eating Disorder Service at The Bridge, Stafford. This was a pilot placement, so as their first AMHP candidate I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to Bronwen Spence, Andrew Barnett, Emma Fitton and the rest of the team for making me feel welcome and part of the team. I have been a qualified social worker in Adult Services for nine years so the experience to work with Children and Families has been an excellent opportunity for me, especially within in the context of the AMHP role. The placement has given me a valuable insight into the complexities of eating disorders, along with first-hand experience of the referral, assessment, therapy and preventative work this service provides children and their families across Staffordshire. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with such a passionate team, their hard work and commitment really does prevent many young children from needing to come into hospital for treatment and for those that do I have gained some useful knowledge and insight into the processes and dilemmas of accessing specialist Tier Four beds, and how these are managed within the team.”
I came into Social Work through the influence of my mother, who used to work with people with physical and mental disabilities and she really advocated for them and tried to help change societal views about their inclusion. I wanted to be just like my mum and break down barriers and discrimination people unduly faced.
My mum is so proud of what I have achieved, how I have achieved it (through my Open University undergraduate and then Think Ahead Masters route) and the work that I do to help people be the best they can be.
That is the best part of my job, when you see a journey through from the start and you get to see their progression, improvement and them blossom and no longer need your support. I feel incredibly privileged to be in this role; helping people and being invited into their lives is a genuine privilege.
For me, good social work is about listening and respecting people in their own rights, as experts in their own lives and how they wish to be supported to achieve their chosen goals.
Social Work student
She says “I came into social work because I had seen how social factors can impact people’s mental health, and I wanted to directly work with people to support them during those challenging situations.
"The positive aspect about social work is that we look at providing holistic care, which enables a person to lead independent and fulfilling lives, and in many cases not letting a person’s mental health diagnosis define who they are.
"Good social work to me is having the ability to build a working relation with service users and families, and being able to understand what their needs and priorities are, in order to support them in making a positive change in their life".
Mental Health Social Worker
“I was always interested in Sociology and came into social work as I felt it would be a rewarding opportunity to work with and support people to improve their circumstances as a result of social injustice. Good social work involves person centred, strengths based practice with a holistic approach, ensuring the person is supported in the least restrictive way”.
Joanna says she fell into social work after working in customer care taking initial referrals and realising that she wanted to do more and felt rewarded by helping people. She feels the positive things about social work are meeting the service users, listening to their stories and helping them through difficult times, varied workload – every day is different. She also values the opportunity for personal growth through overcoming your own fears to help others. To her, good social work is about listening to the individual and helping people to live the way they want to, taking action where necessary and supporting people to help themselves when they can.
Care Act Assessor
“I was drawn to social work as I have a passion for social justice and supporting vulnerable people who struggle to have their voices heard within society. A positive aspect of social work is the empowerment, choice and control it can give back into peoples’ lives through effective professional practice. Good social work will always have the person at the centre of all practice, with their best interests always at the heart of what we do”.
Student Social Worker
Holly came into social work because she wanted to be able to make a positive difference to the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our society. She says “I also really enjoy learning about and understanding the diverse life experiences of others”.
She adds, “Social work brings a real feeling of fulfilment when people you have worked and built a relationship with, achieve a positive outcome, their goals, and are able to flourish.
“For me, good social work is centred around having a genuine and respectful curiosity into the lives of those you work with, and using this to build positive relationships so that you can work together with them to reach their goals, whilst being prepared to respond and adapt to change.
Social Work, Level 6 Apprentice
Bethan started her first year of study in January 2021. She says she came into social work as it felt like a natural transition after working with people with support needs as a Community Care Worker/Mental Health support worker and Social Care Assessor . She wanted to make more of a difference to service users’ lives - helping them to achieve life targets and support them to remain independent, happy and healthy.
Bethan says “I enjoy working with individuals, getting to know their lived experiences and personalities and having the ability to achieve life changing outcomes for people.
“A good Social Worker has to be creative, passionate and tenacious and have the courage and confidence to challenge injustice and inequality. We also have a chameleon-like quality to understand and engage with each citizen as an individual.
Social Work student
Johanna, from Staffordshire University, is currently completing her 70 day placement with The Moorlands Adult Social Care Team in Leek:
"I feel everyone should feel they have a purpose and a place in society and the lack of this can be at the root of many social issues. I came into social work as I have a genuine interest in people and I strongly believe that society must protect its most vulnerable members and make sure their lives are as integrated as possible.
"A social worker needs the ability to think outside the box and look at a situation holistically and be creative with solutions. I think social work bridges the gaps between families and other disciplines and professions and we can also act as an advocate and ensure equality. It’s important to be genuinely interested in service users and always update your own knowledge and skills. Being aware of how the law and legislation can assist people and what their rights and entitlements are. Adhering to social work values at all times".
Level 6 Social Work Apprentice
Eve works on the Personalisation, Social Inclusion team and started her first year of study in January this year:
"I came into social work because I want to make a difference to the lives of all those in society. I want to support people to achieve their wishes and aspirations and live the way they want to.
"A positive aspect of social work is the diverse nature of the individuals we meet. Social workers encounter many different individuals from all walks of life and it is both intriguing and exciting waiting for the next working day, as no two days are the same.
"Good social work is about compassion, empathy and commitment to supporting individuals in their lives. It is about taking the time to speak with individuals and form effective working relationships to create an environment of comfort and reassurance".
Social Work student
Zoe is from Staffordshire and is completing her final 100 day placement with the Discharge to Assess team at the Haywood Hospital:
I had been interested in social work for some years but waited to pursue it as a career until my children were at school. I have a particular interest in working in adult social care with a specific interest in unplanned care. I am passionate about being the voice of older adults when considering their care and support needs in an acute setting. I feel that social workers do a lot of good and I want to be part of that.
I get real satisfaction from helping others and advocating for service users and their families. I like the fact that no day is the same and a lot can be learned daily.
For me good social work is about having an honest and open non-judgmental approach to practice using our professional knowledge and skills to assess and work with families. To be able to work in an empathetic way but use our authority to achieve goals set with the individuals and families we work with.