A day in the life of a Recovery Support Worker at Eldertree Lodge

Posted / 10 September 2020
Kate Berrisford works at Eldertree Lodge near Stoke on Trent as a Recovery Support Worker.   At Eldertree we look after men and women with autism, Asperger’s and other learning disabilities.  Kate works as part of the Occupational Therapy team who provide leisure activities which not only support the mental wellbeing of the adults at Eldertree Lodge but which also promote physical health.   We caught up with Kate to find out about a typical day in the life of a Recovery Support Worker.

What does your role involve?

‘Upon admission to the hospital we get to know our patients and find out their likes, dislikes and any hobbies they might have. It is down to us to make sure every patient has access to an activity that they find enjoyable, either on site or in the community.

Where appropriate we develop group activities and organise larger events such as festivals and productions for our patients to get involved in. This is to provide a positive focus and to allow a person to feel a part of a larger accomplishment. Such events help to build confidence in social situations, so that when our patients are ready to move back into the community, they feel prepared and not overwhelmed.

We are aware that looking after mental wellbeing can be just as important as physical wellbeing. And that is our aim, to provide positive and joyful experience for all.’

Can you describe a typical day?

‘My day usually starts at 9 am (although on occasions I will complete a late shift, 1pm-9pm) and I meet with my team, made up of other Recovery Support Workers and Occupational Therapy Assistants. Here we will have a thorough hand over of what has occurred in the previous 24 hours. This can range from a change in someone’s care/needs, to where additional support is required on certain wards and a general check up on how our patients are doing. This provides us with a good insight of the current ward dynamics and allows us time should we need to make any changes to our timetables. It is also my responsibility to ensure that the security checks are completed in my building every morning and every afternoon.

I follow a weekly timetable comprising a mixture of routine and impromptu sessions.  My first call of duty is to attend to the pet animals that we have on site. We currently have a pet rabbit, Marty, who resides in our sensory garden area. We have a six week rota of patients who help me to attend to the animal care.  Each day a patient and I check on Marty by completing some general health checks, making sure his coat, nails and teeth all seem good and eventually giving him his breakfast. We try and make this role as independent as possible, so we provide an easy read sheet that prompts our patients to know what to feed the rabbit and how much and also what to check for in the hutch (such a checking the water bottle and making sure he has enough hay). Once this has been completed then we might give Marty a brush and put him into his run area.

As the animal care job role is so popular we try and get as many patients involved as possible. Therefore, whilst Marty is in his run I would ask another patient if they would like to help clean out the hutch. More often than not I am spoilt for choice with volunteers, despite this being a messy (and sometimes smelly) job to complete.

As a department we run an onsite café, worked and predominately led by patients. The café process involves patients applying for a job role, being interviewed by the café team and undergoing a six week training course before starting their role in the café.  One of the job roles that I facilitate is to purchase food for the café. Whoever’s job role it is to complete the purchasing I make sure that the correct paperwork is in place and that the transport is booked for the trip to shop to collect all the ingredients we need. I accompany the patient around the shop and I am there if they require any support. During this I look for their reading and organising skills, how they navigate around the shops, their spatial awareness, how they interact with others, their money handling/budgeting skills and more. I make observations of all the areas they’ve excelled in and the areas they might have found more difficult and then I know in future sessions what areas to work on to improve their skills and confidence.

Once we arrive back at Eldertree Lodge, usually around midday, it is at this time the site has a “protected meal time”. In this time the patients and staff can have their lunch and the nurses can allocate any medication that is required. During this time I type up my notes from the morning and prepare for my afternoon sessions.

As well as helping to facilitate some occupational job role the Recovery Support Workers offer plenty of leisure and educational activities which is typically what our afternoons consist of.

At 13:30 we start our afternoon activities.  I am normally allocated a one-to-one session for a leisure activity, such as creative writing. During this type of session we are heavily influenced by an AQA scheme that the company have aligned with. This gives us a structured body of work in which to frame our sessions. During each session we have goals/markers for the patients to attain to help them develop their skills. For a creative writing session we sometimes look through different types of text and look at distinguishing features or techniques used by the writer to convey certain effects. We then try to apply these techniques to the patient’s own work. Some of the creative writing projects that are ongoing at the moment include creating informative posters for some of our in-house events and developing a fictional story to share in our local newsletter.

We also have access to a fantastic gym area on site where we run sports groups twice a week. We like to change it up a little and offer something new every few weeks such as basketball, circuit training, badminton and our favourite (weather permitting) outdoor volleyball. The sports session are very popular and provide an opportunity for both staff and patients to get to know each other better as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle.

To end my day I would often go back to check on our onsite rabbit, Marty.  Accompanied by a patient, we check to see that he has enough food and make sure he is tucked away safe for the night.

I typically spend my last hour of the day making sure all of my clinical notes are completed from the day’s sessions, do some prep work for tomorrow’s activities and complete the final security checks for my building. Then I’m all set for another day of achieving positive and meaningful engagement with our patients!’