Meet Alannah and read how her short student placement with Strathcarron's Rehab Team helped build her confidence 

Alannah’s degree is in Sports Therapy and Podiatry and now she’s studying for a Masters in Physiotherapy at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. At the beginning of her 5-week student placement with our Allied Health Professionals (Rehab Team) at Strathcarron, Alannah told us she hoped to have the opportunity to observe and learn.

Noting that she felt a ‘little scared’ about the thought of coming into the Hospice and working with people at the end of their lives, Alannah wondered what kind of difference she could genuinely make as a physiotherapy student over her short placement. Alannah also highlighted that her grandfather died of Cancer when she was much younger and the thought of coming into a Hospice was bringing back some of these memories.

We spoke to her at the end of her placement to see how she got on.

Alannah says, “At university we learn so much in theory, but my education at Strathcarron has been incredible – so practical. I learned so much in such a short timeframe.

I’m not sure why I was so worried! Strathcarron doesn’t feel like a ‘sad’ place at all. I met and worked closely with many people and teams and I feel very fortunate to work with the specialist multi-disciplinary teams. They include, Nursing teams, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Patient and Family Support (social work), Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Rehab Assistant, Pharmacists, Chaplains, Complementary Therapists, Consultants in Palliative Medicine and Specialty Doctors.

At first, I felt guilty for ‘watching’, but as a student I know I’m learning. Now, with more hands on experience, my knowledge and confidence has been building.

Rehabilitation in palliative care means supporting people and helping to make them comfortable and to improve their quality of life. However, as a Physiotherapy student in a Hospice setting, I wasn’t sure how, in such a short time, I could feel like I am actively helping people. But in the 5 weeks I spent at Strathcarron I felt I made a difference, which made this placement so worthwhile for me.

Goal setting is important and understanding what matters most to the individuals is at the heart of what the Hospice teams do. That I managed to, for example support someone to get themselves up and out of bed seems simple, but means everything to that person. The health concerns of Hospice patients are complex and their palliative care needs vary from person to person. I have worked closely with patients and teams in terms of moving and handling, frailty, respiratory and COPD needs and learning about different types of Cancers.

As part of my placement, I also worked in the community. The initial thought of going into someone’s house was also daunting, but you learn so much about them and their needs when you see how they live. You can better identify what their needs are e.g. how they use and move around their kitchen or bedroom. The Strathcarron Rehab team can introduce small adjustments that make all the difference.

Strathcarron’s Rehab team are small in size but such a close team; it’s amazing to see and be a part of, even for the short time I was there. The detailed triage that Sandra the Rehab Assistant does means that the team get to know so much about the person before even meeting them.

I also really enjoyed working with Sally, our Speech and Language Therapist. Some people may be unable to communicate their needs through speech, so through other means (for example, a hi-tech communication system, an alphabet chart or a symbol book) the Rehab team work with the person and their family to find the best way to support how they communicate.

I’ll return to University far more confident, in terms of putting the theory into practice with the hands on experience I benefitted from at Strathcarron. That I’ve worked with people in real life situations, helping and supporting them feels great personally and professionally. Every day I felt that I had really helped someone and I can’t thank the entire AHP team for sharing their knowledge with me over the 5 weeks.

I’ve thought of my grandfather often over these 5 weeks and how people like me would’ve helped and supported him towards the end of his life. It makes me feel proud of the work that I have done in my placement with Strathcarron and how specialist and special palliative and Hospice care is.