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ellenor backs Shania as she follows her career dream

“It is a privilege to support such a dedicated, motivated and skilled young person as Shania  to become a fully-fledged Occupational Therapist. It is exciting to see her progress in her professional career I can already see what a wonderful Therapist she will be and what an amazing asset she will be for ellenor” – Claire Dudbridge, ellenor Senior Occupational Therapist.

 ellenor is investing in the future by helping therapy assistant Shania Allsop become a fully qualified occupational therapist (OT).

She first came to ellenor on a work experience placement when she was just 16 and six years later her commitment to the charity is evident. The education team have been so impressed that they have encouraged Shania to do a BSc Occupational Therapy Degree (Apprenticeship Pathway) course with Canterbury Christ Church University.

ellenor was able to secure a government grant to progress Shania’s learning and her career, with just a small financial commitment from the charity and from Shania herself.

She said: “I have good job security as I know that at the end of my course, I will have work here with ellenor. I’m getting a lot of support and encouragement.”

The 22-year-old spends two days a week at the university in Canterbury or studying remotely from home. For the rest of the week, she is at the hospice in Northfleet, where she has worked as a therapy assistant for the past few years. She will finish her course in 2024, when she is guaranteed a job as an OT.

Shania said: “I started coming to ellenor when I was 16 on a schoolwork placement so I could get something to go on my CV. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what a hospice was but my experience at ellenor shaped me. I absolutely loved it.”

Later she was encouraged to sign up for a 12-week course working on the hospice ward and with day therapy patients. She enjoyed the experience so much that she became a volunteer on the ward, and she was the obvious candidate when a healthcare assistant job was advertised further down the line.

She said: “I started actually working at ellenor in 2018 as a healthcare assistant and the following year I was offered the job of therapy assistant, when Living Well changed from a day service into something more goal focussed for individual patients.”

In her current role, Shania helps ellenor’s physio and occupational therapists and lends her support to the nurses and patients.

She said: “I help patients on their journey and give them some direction. Some of the groups we run were affected by the Covid restrictions, but we are now organising more activities again, like having musicians in once a month. I have also set up impromptu karaoke sessions and help out with the seated exercise class and the afternoon activity groups.”

One of Shania’s roles is to work with OT Claire Dudbridge on the hospice ward enabling patients reach their personal goals.

She said: “We recently had a patient who wanted to do some baking – she was a real Mary Berry fan. We managed to do a basic cookie recipe, something she would also be able to manage once she was discharged. It gave her a lot of confidence.”

Although the hospice ward offers end of life care, patients are often admitted for symptom control and once they are stable, they are able to return home if that is their goal.

Shania said: “It really does depend on the patient. I can’t guarantee what I will be doing each week – my job is far from boring!”

“One lady just wanted to go to the new Lidl store at Northfleet, and I had another lady who wanted to do her Christmas shopping in Morrisons. It gives patients something else to talk about other than the weather and how they are feeling – it’s empowering for them.

“I really think a lot of them can be affected by how they feel inside rather than just their physical symptoms. For instance, we had one patient who just wanted to be able to tie her own hair into a ponytail – it’s the small things that can make such a difference.”

ellenor OT Claire will be Shania’s mentor throughout her university studies.

Shania said: “We work together on issues relating to my university work or my work at ellenor. She gives me the support I need to complete the modules. While following in her footsteps, I am learning all the time.”

During her university course, Shania will have numerous placements in very different sectors. She has worked with offenders with learning difficulties and learns in “cohort” with another student who works with children who face mental health challenges.

The pandemic has brought challenges for Shania, not least keeping up patient morale. She is not averse to dressing as a Christmas pudding or Easter bunny!

She said: “I also do a lot of reading and stay up to date with the world news as it gives me something to talk about with patients. During lockdown it was difficult trying to stay lively and positive during Zoom calls. And now I have to be aware of how anxious people are about the news in Russia and the Ukraine – some of the older patients are worried about their grandchildren, for instance.”

Shania has also helped dementia patients learn skills to deal with cognitive impairment and one of her biggest challenges has been helping people deal with the effects of loneliness during the pandemic.

She said: “One bereaved gentleman’s goal was learning how to not be scared by being alone. It doesn’t matter what the goal is. Maybe it’s to sing with other people. One woman wanted to do Tai Chi and be at one with herself and other people want to learn some computer skills. They want to come into the 21st century and not get left behind.

“Working in this environment has shown me the littlest things can make the biggest difference.”