“What excites me about my job is I love working so closely with people, and I love having the challenge of such a steep learning curve, at the same time as feeling fully supported by my brilliant team.”
I'm part of a team of five psychologists who specialise in helping people with learning disabilities. We are a part of the 'community team': visiting clients in homes, schools and care centres across most of Berkshire. I am in the first year of a three year doctoral course, completely funded by the NHS. I spend three days a week working as an assistant here, one day studying at University and one day on 'placements': travelling around the region to learn about different parts of the NHS Trust.
My day starts in the office, often with a referral meeting for the whole team. We discuss and review ongoing cases, and clients are allocated to different team members. New cases, referred to us from doctors and teachers all over the county, are assessed to decide the sort of learning disability we're dealing with, and how severe it is. Names are then placed on the waiting list according to their urgency. As a trainee I have to report back on my clients too. It can be a bit daunting, but we have a lovely friendly team here and I get plenty of help and support from my clinical supervisor.
After the meeting I organise my case load, planning my client visits. Then I jump in the car. There is a lot of driving in this job, often several hours to get to each client. Mostly I work one-to-one with each patient, for about an hour at a time, talking, playing and trying to understand their needs. Sometimes I simply sit and make observations as they work and play. I go to people's homes to try and help and support families, and to schools and care centres; talking to staff about individual cases or, in the cases of people with more severe learning disabilities, sitting with teachers and clients together to see how I can help.
It's a great job; emotionally very fulfilling, with lots of varied work in a very supportive environment. There are frustrations too, some things you just can't help anyone with. Having a learning disability is usually a lifelong challenge and it can be emotionally tough working with families who are struggling to cope with all the problems that come with it. But my supervisor really helps with lots of support when the job gets difficult, and it's really great when things go well. When you see someone slowly starting to make progress you can feel you've really made a difference.