Helping patients live a meaningful life with persistent pain

Dr Suzanne Roberts, Psychotherapist at the Wolverhampton Integrated MSK and Pain Service, explains how after 20 years nursing in the NHS she retrained as a psychotherapist and is now focussing her energy on helping patients live a meaningful life with persistent pain.

Everyone genuinely supports each other at Connect Health. There’s a clear MDT approach, and everyone really cares about best quality care for the patients. It’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

 

I studied nursing at The University of Central England, and went on to become an intensive care nurse at the City Hospital, later completing a further degree in intensive care medicine

I was motivated by the desire to help other people, and of course in ICU you are working with the sickest patients. I initially completed 18 months of mental health nursing. I enjoy challenging roles, and intensive care can be very fast paced. Many of the patients required one to one care and a key element of the role was supporting the families.

 

I worked in intensive care units and emergency departments across the Midlands region, facilitating organ donations for 13 years

For the last three years of that role, I worked as a specialist requester. You get called out to assess a patient for potential organ donation, support breaking bad news conversations, offer end of life care options and support the family. It was this work that made me realise that what I really enjoyed was the therapeutic elements of care.

 

In 2014, I retrained as an integrative psychotherapist, whilst still working part time in my NHS role

I had various placements, such as cancer and general medicine, but I also worked in persistent pain and that was the area I found most interesting and rewarding. I graduated in 2017 and went on to set up my own psychotherapy practice.

 

It was daunting leaving the NHS

There was a stigma around it and a perception that you join and then stay in the NHS for your working life, but I think things are different now.

 

I have an interest in physical and mental health

I knew I wanted to work in physical health psychology, and once I’d qualified, I was looking for a job in a pain management. I find it fascinating working with patients who have complex issues related to physical health conditions.

 

I feel really valued at Connect Health. There’s a lot of support and I love working with my team. It’s a forward thinking organisation and you have a lot of freedom to be innovative.

 

Connect Health was recommended to me

I joined in April 2019. Working at Connect Health is really nice and very different to the NHS. It is a smaller team that works really closely together to make a difference to the patient. I knew a couple of people in the service, but everyone really welcomed me straight away. It’s a very friendly team; everyone just gets on.

 

What drives me are the patients

When you first see the patient, they’re not sure how we can help and what to expect. Then week on week we see them changing and improving, and their quality of life starting to improve with, and despite, pain. They start to visualise a life beyond pain that is meaningful to them.

 

I have recently completed a professional doctorate

My research focused on exploring individuals’ everyday experience of change during a pain management programme and how auto-driven photo-elicitation can support this process. Three significant time points in the pain management journey were constructed as insight and awareness, integration and reframing. Auto-driven photo-elicitation was found to ‘invite reflection’ and held ‘therapeutic value’ which facilitated the change process. Photography was found to be an engaging and valuable method for helping individuals to articulate their pain management journey. This provides support for the adaptability of pain management programmes and the use of photography to create therapeutic opportunities.

 

Working at Connect Health is really flexible, and I’d tell anyone to think outside the box when it comes to working in the independent sector

I can still run my private practice and devote time to my research. They’ve been really supportive in terms of allowing me to do my research, giving me access to patients and time to attend meetings. I feel really supported. It’s a really challenging and exciting environment, and you feel you make a difference.

 

If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact hr@connecthealth.co.uk

Click here to download Suzanne Roberts’ Story

Why is a MDT approach important?

Because of the complexity of persistent pain, a Multi Disciplinary Team approach is important to ensure that assessments and interventions are tailored to meet the needs of the patient with appropriate clinician expertise.