There are a huge variety of roles within Helen & Douglas House, both as a member of staff and as a volunter. Here are a few of them....
Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Care
The first thing to say, is that no two days are ever the same, and this is perhaps one of the best aspects of the post! I start work at 10am usually by having handover from the both care teams about any issues overnight, after which we plan as best we can for the day’s admissions as well as for the children & young people who are already in House. Any given day can include one or more emergencies, which can be deteriorations in the health of patients known to us, or come in the form of new referrals from any of our local hospital & community teams, as well as families themselves.
Sometimes we give advice by phone, and at other times we bring children & young people in to House for urgent assessment. In addition, each afternoon there will be a number of children / young people arriving for respite stays with us, and the Doctor’s team asses and review everyone soon after arrival.
I am on call overnight once a week, and for a weekend every month or so, as well as taking part in the ‘Consultant of the week’ rota to offer senior support to my colleagues. Other than direct clinical work, I also take part in regular meetings relating to new referrals, clinical governance, medicines management, and research / audit.
This is a busy, challenging and exciting role, which keeps me on my toes constantly.
Occupational Therapist at Douglas House
The aim of the role is to support young adults to get the most from life and be as independent as possible. This could be looking at the fun things such as engaging in leisure interests or, for example, assessing the need for adaptive equipment in everyday activities such as eating and drinking, bathing and mobility.
No two days at Douglas House are the same. However, a day may begin with checking e-mails a good way of catching up with what is happening in-house. It is important to prioritise the days’ workload which may include meeting with Guests to discuss and assess their needs, liaising with and referring to professional staff local to their home advocating on their behalf for equipment needed or facilitating a leisure activity.
Many fun activities take place in Douglas House including project work in the Art and Craft Room which has included the completion of a Batik which is mounted on the Dining Room, making decorative flowers and insects which were displayed at the local Cowley Road Carnival and completion of a range of mosaics which will be placed outside each Guest room. In addition there are opportunities to engage in music sessions, quizzes, themed activity nights such as murder mystery and sensory sessions using touch, smell, vision and hearing and much more. The OT works closely with Guests to find out what they would like to do, what their interests are and puts together an individual leisure profile. The goal of the OT together with other members of the Care Team is to support Guests to be comfortable, have access to equipment needed and be able to do things they enjoy.
I arrive in the office and get up to date with emails and telephone messages that have arrived since yesterday! I make some calls to families that have left messages, and arrange a home visit to meet a young adult who is staying with us and wants some support around changes to his care package. Then I attend a morning meeting with the referrals team at Helen House, to discuss the allocation of nights to new guests who have just met us for an assessment stay. It always rewarding to know that you are making a decision that will potentially result in a child and their family having a lot more support then they might otherwise.
After lunch I plan a direct work session that I am going to be doing with a child later in the day. Taking a walk around the houses, I meet with several care team members about work we are doing together and am able to meet a young adult staying in Douglas House who has asked for social work support. Then I depart to travel to a school where I am doing direct work sessions with a sibling. He shows up excitedly for the session and it goes well. Time to go home!
Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities
Each day brings the opportunity to work alongside patients who have a wide range of experiences, conditions and support needs. Douglas House provides the RNLD with the opportunity to work with all patients who visit Douglas House and benefit through the focus on teamwork and partnership working between the nursing branches. As RNLD’s we have the opportunity to further develop clinical skills whilst promoting advocacy, assessment, care planning and communication.
At the start of the day we may be coordinating the shift, allocating staff to patients, liaising with our medical team, providing telephone advice to families or supporting patient in crisis and working with local hospital to plan an emergency admission. In house a patient may be experiencing physical pain and require assessment and pain relief , emotional distress and need someone to be there and listen or the opportunity to explore different methods of communication to express their feelings. We may be working with a patient and their family to develop a behaviour support plan. A lot of our time is spent keeping our allocated patient comfortable , administering medication , providing support to have a shower or bath , giving feeds by gastrostomy /NG tubes or supporting with meals. We also ensure we spend time in fun or sociable activities each shift, e.g. using sensory room, Jacuzzi, art room. Some patients may wish to have a story read, watch a DVD or spend time in our bar.
Whatever the day, one thing’s for sure the role of RNLD is never boring, always varied and provides the opportunity to continually learn and develop within a supportive, inspiring environment.
Like most of the people who work at Helen and Douglas House there isn’t a typical day for me, as what I’m doing day to day depends on what’s going on in each of the houses.
A large part of my role involves planning Sibling Activities and Camps, which are part of Elephant Club, a group set up to help support the brothers and sisters of Helen and Douglas House children and young adult. All Elephant Club activities provide the young people a chance to have fun, meet other siblings and share their experiences of having a brother or sister with a life-limiting condition. They also provide the young people with a safe environment to talk about their feelings with a member of the Family Support Team, should they wish to.
When I’m not busy planning activities which might include things like graffiti art, climbing and canoeing, I might be visiting a sibling at home or school, or even in Helen or Douglas House for 1:1 support. The duration of support depends on the young person needs and what they would like from the support. They may just want to meet a couple of times to get some more information about their sibling’s condition, or they might want someone other than their friends or family to talk to on a more regular basis.
Family Support & Bereavement Worker
My working days are all very different. I provide support to families in their homes and this take me all over. I have got to know the M25 very well! Every family situation is unique so the work is very varied. With lots of families living away from their extended family, it can mean that when they suffer a bereavement they feel very isolated; we try and bridge that gap and offer them a listening ear.
I also respond to what is happening in both houses, at any given time, and make time to support families.
I feel very privileged to be able to work so closely with our families. They are willing to share so much of their story with us. Although we are a small part of their lives they give us so much and I am always amazed at how strong and resourceful they are.
Care Team volunteer at Douglas House
As I work an evening shift, I arrive around tea time which is a good time to meet the guests and the families who are staying and to catch up with the staff. I get involved in all sorts of duties during my shift such as helping around the kitchen, restocking linen trolleys and cupboards and helping out in the laundry where there is always plenty to do! I have been trained in manual handling so I am able to assist the staff with guests’ personal care and moving them between their wheelchairs and beds.
I am also a massage therapist and aromatherapist and I give treatments to the guests and their parents during their stays. Some treatments are given in the therapy room, but I might also massage guests in their rooms to relax them before bed. I really enjoy treating the guests and parents to some personal relaxation time during their stays.
I will also spend time with the guests, talking about a wide variety of subjects, everything from sport, the soaps, to Fred Astaire musicals! I also go along to special events such as Quingo (where I discovered the guests’ amazing range of general and music knowledge) and a 70s evening (where I discovered the staff’s love of dressing up as Abba look-alikes!).
Last, but certainly not least, I make a lot of tea which keeps everyone going!
Nursery Nurse in Helen House
I first started working at Helen House on the bank as a Nursery Nurse, this was back in January 2007. I worked 3 days a week covering maternity leave. It was very early on that I realised that Helen House was the place I wanted to work forever! Unfortunately there were no permanent vacancies at the time so I followed my original path to study for a PGCE at Oxford Brookes University. I continued to work on the bank and found myself very busy especially in school holidays.
My luck changed when in the Summer of 2010 a permanent vacancy became available and I was very happy to apply and received my permanent contract in November 2010. It is an amazing and very unique place to work and each day is so different, I enjoy the variety and the wide range of challenges that each shift presents.
It is a brilliant opportunity to use all the skills I have gained in a variety of different ways. In particular I enjoy working with the children with challenging behaviours it is so rewarding when you see the evidence of the hard work you have put in and especially when you see those children become young adults and move onto Douglas House.
It is at times an emotional experience particularly when you are caring for a child and their family throughout the end of life stage. It is such a privilege to know the family and support them throughout the worst time in the lives.