By Gillian Currie
Stroke Education Facilitator/Speech and Language Therapist, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland
As a Speech and Language Therapist I was fortunate in my early career with the NHS to work closely with the voluntary sector. I was always impressed and intrigued about the flexible and person-centred ways in which they worked. In the back of my mind I always wondered what it would be like to make that that transition to working for a charity, but I was cautious and wary. So after some time working in brain injury rehabilitation in New Zealand I returned to Scotland and felt it was time for a change. Luckily a post was advertised for a Stroke Training Coordinator with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS).
It seemed like perfect timing to make that move as I was restless and looking for a change in career but still keen to draw on my 10 years of experience working as a SLT in stroke and neuro-rehabilitation.
So I was lucky to be offered the post and envisaged that I would stay for 2 years or so in the voluntary sector and return to clinical practice after that. Surely I would miss direct clinical work with my patients too much? Somehow it didn’t work that way, 8 years later I am still employed in the voluntary sector and my role has evolved to Stroke Education Facilitator still with CHSS, working in partnership with NHS Lothian. For more information on the courses available to NHS Lothian staff go to: https://www.chss.org.uk/health-professionals/training-and-education/chss-stroke-training/lothian-and-borders/
At the heart of what I do is a passion for education and that is something instilled in all AHPs and stroke is a condition that lends itself naturally to learning in an inter-professional manner. So I lead and deliver stroke training to health and social care staff across hospital and community sectors. Instead of directly working with patients I now spend my days teaching and supporting a fantastic team from NHS Lothian comprising of nurses, OTs, SLTs, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists and dieticians. Every day is different. I have also had the opportunity to contribute to the successful STARs elearning for stroke (this and the rest of our e-learning portfolio can be found here: http://chss-elearning.info/) and I represent CHSS on professional forums such as the Scottish Stroke AHP Forum.
When you make that move out of clinical practice you are scared that your skills will fade and perhaps you will become removed from the clinical environment. What I would say is that it is disconcerting but with a landscape of health and social care integration as AHPs we are ideally placed to work in voluntary sector organisations. We can use our knowledge and skills to work with health and social care staff in roles like mine to ultimately influence and support the best quality care for patients, service users and their carers/families.
There are so many opportunities when working with a charity and a strong history of working in partnership. Over the years my role has involved working with the NHS, local authorities, universities, schools, community groups, other charities and even being a consultant on a film about stroke. As an AHP I am uniquely placed to draw on the skills I developed working in the healthcare to now support and ensure those with stroke are given the care and rehabilitation that they require to live their daily lives to the fullest and self manage their condition.
I am immensely proud to be a SLT working within the voluntary sector. I am lucky to share an office at CHSS with other AHPs and nurses but also with fundraisers and volunteers. We all are supporting people with chest, heart and stroke conditions. We are our own multidisciplinary team, not based in a clinical environment but in the community and with the balance of care shifting to this landscape it feels like a pretty good place to be.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussion Points (Use the comments section below or tag us in your response on twitter (@AHPScot):
Would you welcome opportunities for AHPs to work more with the voluntary/third sector?
Tell us about the skills you have as an AHP which could be utilised by the voluntary sector.
If you are from a voluntary organisation tell us how your organisation has, or could, benefit from AHP involvement; or let us know about opportunities which are open to AHPs and encourage them to get involved.