Issue 18

Eleven years at Caswell Clinic

Andy asked me to put together a few thoughts on my eleven years at Caswell, as an occupational therapist and manager, after recently leaving (for a while at least) to start up a new community-based work rehab. service. So here goes.......

I remember my first couple of months at the clinic, fresh faced and green eyed from University, generally feeling overwhelmed that I had to compile regular CTM and case-conference reports, along with juggling all the other tasks that make up being an occupational therapist in the clinic. "If in doubt, pretend you look like you know what you are doing" was my motto back then and it seemed to work (and still does!).

I also remember during my "early days" in the old Caswell building realising the limitations of the facilities and the frustration of not being able to deliver a full OT service that enabled people to get involved in a wide range of therapeutic activities. However, despite the increasingly dilapidated building, both the staff and the patients made the most of what was available and the foundation for today′s occupational therapy department was laid during those years.

No amount of education or training could prepare me for the challenges of helping develop a new-build and service; knowing the right sports hall floor to buy, what the best concrete mixer might be for a work based project or how to design a rehab. kitchen without windows!! It seemed we spent years (at least three!) planning, meeting with architects, talking about and watching the new Caswell Clinic being built and it was with mixed feelings that we finally moved across in the summer of 2004. Would the new build actually work in practice? Would the close-knit working established in the old clinic be maintained? Would the attempts at combining security and modern facilities, to maximise the quality of life for people living in the clinic, be realised?

It took a while for the OT department to recruit the right staff as new posts were created, including Karl′s sports role and we had to find visiting specialists to undertake some of the work; for example, Aaron who fronts the Wednesday drumming group and Bob who teaches ECDL. One of the greatest achievements though was being able to enable an ex service user to be involved with delivering groups and help develop the Arts side of things. This has been a resounding success and continues to grow from strength to strength.

Other notable "landmarks" included the launch of Caswell Chat five years ago – who would have thought that it would grow to what it is now and I look forward to seeing the electronic version on-line. The development of the activity co-ordinator role has been another milestone and has greatly contributed to improving the "quality of life" and extending the range of pursuits available to patients. It has been really rewarding to see the patient activity timetable develop to what it is today with a range of groups being offered over the week that hopefully contribute to a meaningful rehabilitation programme.

And so to today; the skills and knowledge I have gained from working in the clinic have helped me secure the role of clinical team manager for the new "condition management programme" covering Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot. This is an 18 month secondment from the clinic and an exciting post for me as it aims to rehabilitate people back into employment who are experiencing physical and mental health difficulties.

It has been a privilege to work in a dynamic and forward thinking organisation like the clinic over the past decade and the experiences I have gained in working with patients & staff have taught me many things, not least that a sense of humour can be a great asset, not to take yourself too seriously and that in the face of adversity – don′t give up!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

By: Paul Dunning (Ex Head of OT Dept.)