Placement blogs

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Posts By: Charlotte Harris

Moving on Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Earlier on in the academic year, the Lifetime Service went through a tendering process - where the companies managing the service change hands. This was quite disruptive and ended up in two members of the team remaining with the original company (Sirona) and the rest of the team changing to Virgin Care. Splitting the team in two along the lines of where their caseloads were based. On top of this, the change of hands meant that the Lifetime Service had to move out to a new location.

But, no one knew what was happening. Not even those higher up in the service and Sirona knew where we would be moving to or what this meant for the staff and their jobs. So as you can imagine, everyone was really stressed and confused. We only found out a month before the move where we were moving to, and the moving date was only announced two weeks before we were due to have everything packed up in boxes and shipped off to the new location. No easy task as the Lifetime Service has a lot of stores and medical supplies for the various young people they care for and activity groups they run - so much that they take up three storage rooms!

So, after many months of enjoying the commute to the Royal United Hospital and my placement, the Lifetime Service found out they had to move to St Martins Hospital in Odd Down. With only two weeks to make sure everything was labelled and ready to go, whilst also continuing to provide a safe and effective service.

With all these changes going on, it gave me a chance to experience a very different work situation that most people would never have expected to happen whilst on their placement. The service was quite disrupted and overwhelmed with the move, so my role changed quite a lot from assisting the Psychology Team to also helping the Nurses with their work. I was also involved a lot in the moving process of packing up boxes and labelling them for the new office.

In the two weeks before the move, I spent my time going through old files and uploading useful information to our shared computer files that would be coming with us when we moved. - Most things had not been looked at since 2004 so there was a LOT of weird and random stuff buried in folders and boxes across Lifetime that people had forgotten existed. A lot of things were thrown out just to save on space, what wasn't thrown was squished into boxes and sent to the new offices or to an old abandoned church for storage.

With all of this going on, my role as an Assistant Psychologist took a back seat and I was not able to have as much contact with my supervisor. This was OK as it was only short term, but I had to be more aware of thinking of jobs to do and not asking to be given work. This was a little difficult at times but there was so much to go through and sort out to help with the move that coming up with tasks to do was easy.

What you are probably thinking is 'How on earth do you cope with moving during placement?'

I've come up with some top tips to help with moving placement locations:

  1. Check out Transport - As soon as you know where you are moving to look into how you will get to your new location (can you get there with your current bus pass or do you need another one? Can I cycle there 0r walk? Could someone give me a lift? Do I need to move? -hopefully not for the last one). Having a few options to get to your new location can really help take away some of the stress of the move.
  2. Supervision - Meet with your supervisor before the move and ask for a list of what they would like you to do to help the move. Your supervisor may want your help packing up different stores and offices or they might prefer you to work from home for a few days whilst things are most chaotic.
  3. Get all the Knowledge - Try to find out as much about the move as early on as you can, knowing what is going on is a huge relief for you and those around you (When is the move happening? Where can you find boxes to pack up your things? How should you label up the boxes?).
  4. Finance - If you know the move is changing your commute time or route it might be useful to have a look at whether the move will make things more expensive for you. Knowing whether you have to spend more money or not will help you to plan a new budget or organise some extra hours for a job to help fund the change. Some companies may even reimburse you for travel if it is more expensive than before, so have a look to see if this is possible for you!
  5. Be Aware - my last tip is to try and be aware that staff members are likely to be stressed with the move and tensions may be running high. With everyone preparing for the move your role may be side-lined a little, so make sure you ask around for some jobs and expect to do things that you would never normally do as part of your role. If there are not many tasks going, try having a think about other things you could be doing, like your dissertation or coursework - I spent a lot of time calling up different hospices and services to see if their staff could take part in my dissertation research.

It can't have all been difficult. What was the best part of the move?

Definitely having Thai Food delivered to work for a last lunch as a service, with lots of free cakes and chocolates being brought in by different teams to wave goodbye to the different teams in Bath NHS House.

Finally, congratulations to the Lifetime Service. We made it!

 

 

 

Submitting Ethics

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Hello all!

With March having just rolled in, signs of spring are everywhere. We have rain that never seems to end and rows of pretty daffodils covering just about every patch of soil and grass you can see.

bath uni daffodils

But, the beginning of spring marks the beginning of your official preparation for your dissertation. At the Psychology Placement Conference they suggested you should try to have your ethics submitted in March or April. Some people even had their ethics accepted before the Placement Conference! But DON'T WORRY if this isn't you, they were definitely in the minority. You should aim to try and start thinking about your dissertation before your Dissertation Topic Choice Form (late November) is due, having a general idea is really helpful when your department try to pair you up with a useful and relevant supervisor. I got my idea through a five minute brainstorm with colleagues when I was helping them with their research. It then developed by talking with my Placement Supervisor in our weekly supervision settings. Thinking ahead can help ease any anxiety of leaving things last minute - such as when your friends who didn't go on a placement are already talking about collecting data and ask you what you are planning.

Once you have your supervisor, try and book an appointment straight away. Most Dissertation Supervisors are really busy and so will not be able to see you if you drop in for a chat unannounced. Supervisors do have to put aside time on the day of the placements conference to see you, don't let this time go to waste! You have to be on campus anyway so put aside half an hour, it is a great way for you to start getting the dissertation ball rolling and to ask any questions you may have from the dissertation talks at the placement conference.

If you can, try to go into that meeting with a more concrete idea of what you would like to do and an idea of what literature exists in your research area. I found my meeting to be the perfect time to run through what I had planned and talk about some questions I had about the ethics form. We came up with some ideas for improvement, such as performing a power analysis to find out how many participants you need (this sounds scary but with help from MASH it was easy -they can even do online Skype support for placement students) and the possibility of doing a mixed methods study. You can find out more about maths and stats help at uni here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/study/mash/

mash-talks-logo

If you have a Dissertation Supervisor who isn't known for communicating well with students it might be a good idea to send them an outline of your ideas and how you want to test it before you meet, this way they are more likely to help you out as they will have already had a look at your idea and thought about what can be done to improve it. It also makes you look super organised and avoids any awkward silences where you might say 'ummm I have no idea how to test it, I just thought it was interesting' 'umm I hope it hasn't been done before as that would suck'. If this sounds like too much, go in with a brief list of what you want to talk about and with any questions you might have. This gives you something to work from as opposed to going in blind.

Anyway, I came away from my first dissertation meeting feeling a lot more positive than I thought I would feel because I had made that effort before hand. It is difficult but worth it.

ethics

After finalising details of my study with my placement and dissertation supervisor, I started my ethics application in the second week of Feb. This wasn't too hard as I had already gone through most of the information with my supervisors. The hardest part is writing the short background section on why this is an important area to research - which is where looking at articles before your first dissertation meeting comes in handy. But the most fiddly part is designing your information, consent and debrief forms which take a lot of time and tweaking before they are ready to send off. It took me a good two weeks to get everything in a good enough state to submit. It was a frustrating process as the tiniest of details were changed - such as saying psychological wellbeing instead of just wellbeing.

Some tips for writing the debrief, information and consent sheets -look at other studies, like questionnaires online, what have they done? What have they covered? Should I provide helplines for people if my study is about wellbeing or a similar topic? You can then use those ones as a basic template for what you need to talk about. Different Universities can also provide a really easy checklist and examples of what to include in these -I used Nottingham University and The University of Kent.

The next key part of the Ethics form is getting your dissertation supervisor to sign it. Give them plenty of time to do this, especially if you haven't been keeping in touch with them. It is better that they have the time to read it thoroughly and give you feedback on what to improve then just send it back to you in a rush and you have your application rejected. Try and send it to them two weeks before the ethics deadline. If you change anything whilst you are waiting for a reply, send them the updated version of the application immediately!

My dissertation supervisor didn't give mine back until two days before the deadline, even though I had been talking to him about my ideas for a long time, had been keeping him informed of how my planning etc was going and had sent it two weeks before. So, your department are really not joking when they say you need those two weeks.

When it comes to actually submitting your forms, triple check you have attached all of the questionnaires, information sheets and anything else you may need. Make sure your ethics form is as detailed as possible. Most importantly, make sure you have signed two copies and have had your supervisor sign both too! Give yourself at least two hours (if you are submitting it in person) to find the submission box, check through, print and change things if needed. If you are not doing this in person then aim to send it to the appropriate member of staff the day before after checking it through, this gives the person who is printing off your form plenty of time to receive your email and print the form off. If you send it on the day, you might just end up waiting another month to submit as the staff member might be off sick or too busy to make time for the application- a huge pain if you are eager to start collecting data.

And finally, do not be put off if, after all this work, your ethics form comes back to you asking you to make changes before they can accept it. This is really common, my friend said she doesn't know one person who got theirs accepted straight away. If you make these changes quickly, you might not have to wait for the next ethics deadline either. So, please don't feel disheartened as it is completely normal to be asked to make changes with your first application. Don't forget, this is the first time you have ever filled out an ethics application!

Best of luck!

 

Accident in the Ice

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So soon after the rest of the Christmas break I found myself back at home for a week, nursing a very sore head, a lovely black eye and balancing a pair of broken glasses on my head. The one thing so many people fear will happen to them whilst they are on placement happened. However, the bad news did not stop there.

On Wednesday the 25th of January I ended up in A&E after cycling to my placement and going down in a crash. I turned onto one icy road going down a steep hill, braked and my back wheel went out from under me. I landed head first on the cold road, with my glasses cutting deeply into my head. What I first thought were tears from the pain turned out to be a torrent of blood. I ended up needing 17 stitches, with five of those being deep ones where my glasses had cut so deeply. They even pulled out a bit of metal from the wound that had snapped off of my glasses.

Accident in the Ice

(Resting at home a week later)

Thankfully, a mum stopped her car to help me, she called an ambulance whilst I sat there clutching my head feeling very dazed. Her son walked around picking up bits of my glasses and bike that had fallen off. Conveniently, she worked at the RUH and said she would drop my bike there so I could pick it up later. My thoughts then turned to my placement: 'Oh No! I am going to let them down, they were counting on me organising their sibling group today, everyone else is too busy to do it'. I started worrying about that and asked the lady to call the Lifetime Service and let them know about it.

But I needn't have worried.

One of my colleagues came to see me in A&E and sat with me until my flatmates arrived to look after me. She reassured me that everything would be fine and another colleague would sort out the sibling group, telling me that because they had started organising it so late I should not worry about getting it done. My colleague even told me that I should take the rest of the week off. My placement was so understanding, they encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. They even called to check up on me later on, on the day and during my recovery time to make sure the wound was healing ok.

Unfortunately, on the evening of the day of my accident another bad event happened. My Great Grandma passed away at the age of 97, after suffering a stroke caused by her Dementia. The following week, my dad was hospitalised with three kidney stones and my mum went in for a planned operation. Those two weeks were really the hardest in my life. So many bad events happened.

I called my placement supervisor the following morning, to let her know about what had happened to my Grandma and ask if I could have the following week off to attend her funeral (and nurse my mum and dad back to health as I found out on the Monday, whilst looking after my own injuries!). My supervisor told me to take as long as I needed, there was no rush and no pressure for me to return any sooner than I was ready. One of my colleagues even got me a little get well gift and left it in my tray for when I got back. They were all so supportive and it helped me realise that if you do suffer an event like this during your time on placement you shouldn't worry or feel like you have to return to work in a couple of days. Yes, being on placement is like having a full time job, but the pressure of having to come back right away or put the job first is certainly not a similarity.

And this isn't just my experience. A friend's best friend passed away after a long battle with cancer near the start of her placement, she is still struggling with this, having grown up with her friend. When she found out what happened she asked if her placement could be postponed to give her some time to recover, her supervisor said that was absolutely fine and moved her start date to a month later. After my friend had started the placement, she was continuing to struggle with her loss, and broke down in tears to her supervisor one day telling her everything. Her supervisor arranged for psychological support around bereavement to be given to my friend and also changed her working hours so that she could have shorter weeks, giving her much needed time. My friend has told me her placement were 'Amazing' and that she has no idea what she would do without her supervisor who has been so supportive with her on-going difficulty.

So, if you do have an accident, illness or an unfortunate event during your placement, please do not worry about asking for the time off or support you need. As you are working for free at most Psychology placements they really want to make sure your own wellbeing is put first and not the placement. After all, you will not perform well if you force yourself to work when you are ill or too stressed. You do not need to suffer alone whilst on placement. You can still access support through the university Counselling Service and most work places have access to psychological support for their employees (even unpaid ones like us). See more about the University Counselling Service here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/groups/counselling-mental-health/

RUH

Now that I am well on the road to recovery, with two new scars to adapt to. I joke that as the Lifetime Service is based at the RUH, I made it into work on time that day - but just in the wrong department!

 

Return to Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

After a much appreciated Christmas break, I am now back working  as an Assistant Psychologist for the Lifetime Service. For those of you reading this blog for the first time, the Lifetime Service is based in Bath and offers support to children who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and their families.

Going home for Christmas was so nice, especially after two months apart from my pets. My cat was so pleased to see me, she ran up to my room and meowed at me as soon as I arrived, as if to say 'Where have you been? How could you come all the way up here without saying hello to me?'. Who says cats are heartless?

What I enjoyed most of all though was having absolutely no work to do over Christmas for the first time in FIVE YEARS! That's right, after years of revising for GCSE's, A-Levels and University Exams or doing coursework, I finally had a chance to experience a stress free Christmas. You have no idea how much you will have missed this! So make the most of your Placement year, it really is a year like no other. It is a wonderful chance to have a bit of a break from the stresses that have consumed your life for the past few years, whilst still doing something worthwhile.

Now I am back at work, after the sleepy first week after new years day, things have picked up once more. I have been allocated my dissertation supervisor, which was great news as it meant I can really start thinking about one of the aims of a Psychology Placement, collecting data for your dissertation. Unfortunately, the supervisor was not the one I hoped for, however I hope they will still be useful for my topic! They have already agreed to meet me for a first meeting about the dissertation. But if things really do not go well, they will be retiring at the end of the year, giving me the opportunity to start anew with someone else.

I am now busy planning for my dissertation and having a brainstorm of ideas. At first, I really wanted to do something with the people that Lifetime works for, however trying to do research with patients is very difficult. There are so many precautions and rules for patient contact, especially in a service involving children who are not well, even in a service not tied to the NHS; this idea was quickly forgotten. In its place came a new area of research using an easier to reach population: Staff. I am now hoping to do my dissertation on staff wellbeing in a paediatric palliative care setting and how this may compare to other Health Care Staff who work with children. Surprisingly, despite there being a legal requirement for organisations to look after their staff and research showing that staff wellbeing directly impacts patient care, no one has really looked into what staff wellbeing is like (Hill, Dempster, Donnelly, & McCorry, 2016). Moreover, very little has been done with paediatric staff, despite many staff saying that working with ill children is harder than working with ill adults; especially when they are not likely to recover (Mukherjee, Beresford, Glaser, & Sloper, 2009). I am so excited for this new research topic, especially as so little has seemed to have been done in this area giving me lots of room to explore. The best moment was when Hill et al. (2016) said we need more research in this area doing this, giving me a great starting point to think of the aims of the research. So do not be put off if your first ideas for dissertation do not work out, you will most likely find something else even better!

Since the new year, I have also had the opportunity to have some patient contact. A Trainee Psychologist and I ran a stall at a diabetes transition event, teaching young people with diabetes about how stress can influence your diabetes and what they could do to help manage their stress. This was a great experience as I got to see the practical side to being a Psychologist, something I have missed by being behind a desk for the past few months. All the feedback from the event was really positive! All of the young people said they had enjoyed the event and would come again. Some people even asked questions, showing they weren't just there for the free food!

Last week, I also got to visit Charlton Farm Hospice, a hospice in the South West that offers end of life and respite (yearly support from diagnosis of a life-limiting condition) care to under 18's who are unlikely to live into adulthood. This was such a awe-inspiring visit, I would encourage everyone to visit a hospice during their life. The work the nurses do is absolutely amazing, and it really is not what you think!

Contrary to popular belief, hospices are not a place where people come to die. They are a place people come to live. The South West Hospices offer holidays to families who have a child with a life limited condition, complete with farm cottages for families to stay in. There are art rooms, swimming pools, gardens, special baths and showers with specially designed equipment so that everyone can use it. For many children, coming to the hospice may be the first time they have ever been able to ride a bike or take a bath or go swimming as everyone else has told them 'You can't do that, it's too dangerous!'. At the hospice, their motto is 'We will make it work'. The hospice truly felt like a happy place to go for a great time, where you could meet people similar to you and try new things. Each of the rooms were decorated with a different theme, that was specific to the visiting child - for example if a child likes Star Wars, their room will be filled with Star Wars games and bed covers. The staff do everything they can to make the family's visit a happy and fun one. End of life care is such a small part of what they do. it is time everyone finally learnt the truth about hospices.

During my time at Charlton Farm, the only time I felt sad to be there was when entering the beautiful 'Starborn room'. Where the child is placed after they have passed away. This room was filled with sadness but also beauty, as the staff explained all that they did to support the family and how death was not treated as a taboo here, but that parents and children were allowed and encouraged to think about what they would like to do when that time came. They were encouraged to remember their child, hosting special 'remembrance events' for families who had experienced a loss through a long-term illness. I left the hospice feeling happy and so appreciative towards the staff who had looked after the families for so long.

So please, break the taboo of death, learn more about what a hospice is and support the amazing work that these professionals do. They provide opportunities to children who, without them, may never have experienced life to the full. Placement is a time to embrace new experiences and learn more about Psychology.

You can learn more about South West hospices here: http://www.chsw.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

It's Christmas Time

📥  Uncategorized

The past few weeks have gone by in a blur and now it is time to break up for Christmas! I, like my flatmates, seem to be somewhat more excited for Christmas this year than any time in the past. Whether the reason behind this is that we've had our Christmas decorations up since the first, I've been to Bath's Christmas Market twice or that my family have come up for 'teaser' visits that lasts only a day (my mum even brought our new puppy up!) I do not know. But I am as excited as I remember being when I was just a little girl.

Which is one of the best things about having my placement in Bath, you get to take part in all the amazing opportunities that Bath has to offer over the Christmas period. Such as the Christmas Market, the beautiful lights and the Hipster Christmas Bus on the High Street where you can go for a unique alcohol drinking experience.

You can also use your Placement Year in Bath as the time to fully explore and appreciate the city and do all those things that you've wanted to do for the past two years and just do not have the time for. I've accomplished the Skyline Walk, finally seen the famous Sham Castle (basically a pretty wall made to look like a castle that a fancy land owner built to improve the view from his home), and have been able to do the tourist scenes in Bath, like the botanical gardens and the Royal Crescent. There is so much to see and do in and around Bath that you cannot say it is a disadvantage to stay here. Many of the placements the university and nearby companies have to offer are just as good as those abroad or in other parts of the country, so do not overlook them in your search for a placement.

Despite having all this free time to explore Bath in more depth, this past week has been so exhausting, how someone can work five days a week on placement and then go on to do a job on top of that I do not know! I am going to bed at 21:30 most nights to wake up at 7am and am still tired. Placement is such a step up from degree, yes you get the nights off and things, but do not underestimate the strain of having what is effectively a full time job. So, future students, if you can try and save up as much money as possible for placement just so you can enjoy those treasured days off. If this really isn't possible, try to see if you can only work on holidays, I will be working over Christmas but not too many hours. You really will be exhausted (Patricia Sechi, our placement officer, was right about that!).

Regardless of where you go, loneliness will probably be an issue especially if you are not going to be living with your old friends or seeing them most days. Even though I stayed in Bath and have been seeing my friends who are not on placement I still feel a little homesick and lonely. This has been helped by my family coming up to visit me individually over the past three weeks, along with some of the pets from home. This was great fun and really boosted my mood which had fallen a little following a break up from my long term boyfriend and other issues. So really do try to make the most of the free time you have here and meet with as many people and relatives as you can. Life without Uni work or clubs at the weekends gives you a lot of time to think about things so finding a new hobby or something near where you work is a great way to fill that hole.

And I will leave you on that, I hope you all have a happy new year and a good Christmas!

 

Winter is Coming

📥  Uncategorized

All I can say is why go to Iceland or fantasise about joining the Night's Watch, when you can stay and freeze in England.

The temperature in Bath has dropped significantly, and as someone who cycles to their placement (due to the ever worsening 20A/C bus service), this is not what you want to hear. For the past two weeks I have been cycling to work with a thick woolly hat stuffed under my helmet, gloves and mountain style jackets, not the most attractive look. There were even forecasts that snow might hit Bath last week! (To save you checking, as always, they were wrong).

In the past couple of weeks a lot has happened, and to be honest, going to a far away mystical place with white walkers doesn't seem that much worse than staying in a world where Donald Trump was elected as president.... After all, a really big wall will be in both places!

But it isn't all bad! The work load at my placement has picked up. I have become the Audit Queen for my placement provider, completing three audits from scratch over the past couple of weeks. Audits are a way for companies to assess the performance of an area of service. They always start out with questionnaires sent to staff and then an analysis of the data received. So far, the audits I have completed have ranged from understanding why people most commonly seek psychological help from the Lifetime team to a review of why staff do not use their tablets to record patient notes (with a lot of money having been spent on this it is important to know why they aren't being used).  I have also taken on new audits, looking into how complex the referrals to the Lifetime Service are and about how well the transition from child to adult services is. This is very good practise for my dissertation and future research as I am having to design surveys from scratch and analyse the data.

In addition to this I was also put in charge of designing a database for the Psychology Unit of a Paediatric Diabetes department. I was responsible for designing the best way to present the outcome of quality of life surveys the young people has completed so that one can easily see what has changed, what is significant and make graphs. I did so well at this that the psychologist passed on praise to my supervisor, which made me feel that I am really helping around here. A great confidence boost.

I have also been helping to further the research project. Last week I looked over information sheets I had designed with the lead researcher, although the bulk of the writing remained the same a lot of the information was reworded. Showing just how specific the wording of things needs to be. This is great practice for when I will be let loose into the world to conduct my own research (under close supervision, of course!).

So overall, placement appears to be going well. Things are picking up and I am completing a wide range of tasks.

But, that's not the highlight of my past two weeks, though it is part of them!

Last week was Bonfire Night, which for all those who aren't British is where we celebrate a guy called Guy Fawkes failing to blow up parliament, by blowing up fire works. As I am staying in Bath this year, I was able to see the RAG fireworks with my flatmates. They were spectacular. It was  a really nice weekend. However, our neighbours did not seem to get the memo that it is  Bonfire Night we celebrate (not a Bonfire Fortnight), and so we spent the past two weeks with fireworks going off every night. Even the most passionate pyromaniac can't love the bangs after this long.

I have also started to learn Spanish in preparation for a trip to Peru. It took me three hours to read a newspaper article in Spanish, but hey, I felt so proud afterwards. I truly deserved those chocolate brownies I baked afterwards.

 

 

One Month In of a Lifetime.

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

This week marked one month since I started working at the Lifetime Service at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. The Lifetime Service aims to support children and their families with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions through an amazing team of Clinical Psychologists and Nursing staff.

 

In my first month here I have learnt so much. I have learnt how to conduct an audit and have since analysed the psychology referrals to Lifetime. I have also started to carry out an audit from scratch, looking into how many complex cases the staff manage through designing a questionnaire to see what types of complex cases are most common in the service and also the use of mobile tablets to enter patient records. This has taught me really valuable research skills which are great for providing experience for my Clinical Psychologist application in future.

 

I am also helping to run a research project by the Lifetime Clinical Psychologists which is looking into the psychological impact of having a child with a life-threatening condition on parents and how that impact is influenced by having a care package in place. I have created drafts of the consent, debrief and risk assessment, giving me a solid grounding for when I start organising my dissertation.

 

I have also learnt that working with children promotes a whole different range of therapeutic techniques than you would see in an adult. Instead of trying to work it all out in their heads the team use apps on tablets and diagrams to help the child make a picture of their thoughts that they can then explain and be treated. In children you would also be more likely to use a family focused technique, such as systemic therapy. Here you do not see the individual person experiencing difficulty as the only one who needs 'fixing', instead you look at how the family functions as a whole and how they might exacerbate or worsen the individual’s issue. Together they work towards creating a better environment and well-being for the whole family. Creating long lasting change and addressing issues that might have arisen in other family members as a result of the individual's behaviour or concerns. An amazing alternative to person focused therapy.

 

In addition to this I have learnt more about the variety of ways Psychology is used in the health service, it is not just used for treating mental illnesses! Did you know that Clinical Psychologists are also involved in the diabetes service to encourage children and adolescents to take their medication, even though they are terrified of needles? Did you know that Clinical Psychologists help to support families as they come to terms with the loss of a child? Or when they find out that they will likely bury their child?

 

I have discovered that Clinical Psychology is so much broader than I thought possible, with endless applications. I am finding out about areas of psychology that are less in the public eye but just as important to the well-being of their patients. It has made me so pleased that I decided to choose a placement that was not directly in the area I felt most interested in, if I had I would probably have never discovered the wide range of things Clinical Psychology has to offer.

 

But perhaps the best experience this has given me so far is the time away from constantly studying, so I can see who I am as a person and enjoy some of my early years before continuing the long slog to being a Clinical Psychologist. The most memorable event: Taking part in RAG's Zombie Apocalypse for the first time in three years. Update.... I probably would survive a zombie apocalypse (it must be all The Walking Dead training).

And this is why placements in Bath should never be underrated!

 

Here comes the work!

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

I have now been at my placement with the Lifetime Service, supporting children and families with life limiting illnesses for three weeks.

I have accomplished so many tasks that I scarcely know where to begin. However, what I soon learnt from this placement was that there was not always another task to move onto once one finished and I would need to take initiative to find something else to do with my time. This is common during the first weeks where your supervisor and the team are learning whether they can trust you and how good a worker you are. So keep trying your best and try to think of how a task could be done even better than how they suggested it.

For the large part, occupying my time after tasks has meant reading chapters from books to learn more about palliative care in children. A sad topic but one that is really important to understand  for this role. Palliative care occurs when there is no cure for the illness and it is life limiting (whether that be a few weeks or months), the aim is to give the person the best quality of life possible during their remaining days. This might be through discussions about whether they would like to continue treatments or psychological therapy to help them come to terms with their own death, which is where Lifetime comes in! Although reading doesn't seem like the most interesting thing to be doing on placement, it is really important to understand how everything works and the theory behind what the staff do.

Onto the more exciting tasks!

Despite the slow beginnings, things have really begun to pick up over this last week. The tasks they gave me when I arrived at the placement have started to be completed, such as setting up weekly Mindfulness workshops for staff members with a fellow clinical psychologist. I have also been designing 'take ten' meditation cards that have now been distributed grateful staff.

I have also carried out my first clinical audit on the type of psychology referrals Lifetime receives, preparing me for a much more thorough audit of the transition services (moving from child to adult services) which they hope I will carry out in the coming months. I found this really intimidating at first as I was worried that I would mess up such an important task, but that wasn't the case! The audit I carried out went really well, it took time and a lot of research into how to use excel (I am technologically challenged) but I was pleased with the first result and hope to keep developing these skills.

I have also been meeting with a clinical psychologist in the diabetes department, who offers support to families and young people who are struggling with a diagnosis of Type One diabetes or other issues, such as needle phobia or treatment aversion. For example, your typical teenager will want to rebel and one of the ways some teens do this is by not administering their insulin or eating correctly, risking their health. Part of the role I have been playing in this is helping the clinical psychologist to create a list of online resources and apps that might help the family or individual improve their well being. This was so well received that the Lifetime Service also asked for a copy and asked me to expand my current list of resources to include ones specifically aimed at supporting families with an Autistic child. Finding apps that clinicians could use to asses an individual's emotion awareness and websites for parents to turn to for reliable information about Autism and treatments. I felt so pleased that something I had done was so useful to the organisation that they asked for more things designed in that way.

So far on placement, I have learnt that there is always something to be done. Sometimes you just have to look for it using your own initiative.

 

Training Commences: Placement is Real

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📥  2016-17, Psychology, Uncategorized

Ever since I was 11 years old I can remember being dead set on becoming a Clinical Psychologist, someone who helps those with mental health problems. For the past few years I have been collecting as much experience as possible, volunteering with Suicide Awareness For Everyone - raising awareness of mental health in secondary schools and at university volunteering with Student Minds to help run a support group for students with low mood and depression. All of it leading up to my placement.

SO I am living the dream, or at least I hope to be.

This year I am working as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, helping to support children and their families with life limiting illnesses. I hope it will give me the opportunity to learn if I am suited for such an intense and emotionally demanding job as a Clinical Psychologist.

I have just finished my first week! Yay! I thought it would never arrive after having problems with checks and induction training dates. But here I am!

Most of this week has been taken up by training courses. There is so much to learn about the company and how I can help support others. I have learnt about Dementia and how people with the condition are eventually robbed of their latest memories, often becoming trapped in a past time so that they no longer recognise their loved ones. We watched a harrowing video entitled 'Darkness in the Afternoon' where a beautiful 20 year old woman in a red dress strolls down a street and ends up being chased and harassed by an old man. In reality this woman is actually 80 and is wondering around the town in her nightie, the old man is her husband who is trying (poorly) to get her home. For me this was shocking, especially as two of my family members have now been diagnosed. It taught me that you should try to live with their 'mental time' and not assume they remember what actual time period it is. With the lady in the film clearly believing she was 20 and not 80 years old.

I also learnt about delivering first aid, such as choking, to individuals with learning difficulties. For this group they often do not understand that if they are choking their carer is trying to help them by delivering back blows, all they think is that it hurts. So it was really interesting to learn strategies that will help me to apply my knowledge to this group, taking into account their disability.

I have only had two full days at the Lifetime Service so far! In my first I learnt about delivering Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which aims to help improve an individual's well-being by mindfulness and making small actions that aim to help the individual reach their main value in life, i.e. to be social or healthy. This was fascinating as so many other types of therapy may overlook the need to personalise therapy, for example one individual might feel their main value is to get a good education, not necessarily to recover from depression -the doctor's value. ACT is all about working towards this value through small actions, which here would include addressing the depression so the person can go to school or university. By taking the individual's main value into account the therapy seems so much more engaging to the patient.

I was then told about a research opportunity I can take part in, which aims to investigate the impact of having a child with a life limiting illness on the parents mental health and how the support provided by Lifetime and other care packages impacts the parents well being. I am so excited to be a part of research that hasn't been investigated before, I can't wait to get fully stuck in.

As cliche as it will sound I have found myself feeling truly grateful for all the opportunities I have been given to take part in so far at placement. Although a lot of it has been training, meetings or organising work, it has all been so eye opening and informative. In the coming weeks I am sure it will become more challenging and hands-on.

Here's to another good week!