Pavlov's Couch

A Psychology Student's Mental Experience

Archive for the category “Forensic Placement”

Work Placement Reports – Problems with essay plans

I have completed my reflective account for my work placement and I am pretty proud of it. I managed to use (vaguely) a recognised model of reflective practice and I suspect I may be one of the few people to write a reflective account with references 😛 (Not that this is necessarily a good thing, I hope I don’t get marked down for it! :S)

The other part of my assignment is coming along nicely although I think I really should have had a tighter focus considering the word limit of 1,500 words. Out of that limit I have so far written…4,000 words :S And even then I’ve dropped out two sections that I had in my plan!

My very detailed essay plan!

I write very detailed plans in mind mapping software, branching off topics and subtopics until I know exactly what I am going to write for almost every sentence and what references I am going to use where. My biggest problem is that I tend to find references first then decide what I want to write, and then I want to use every reference I have found. The problem with this is that it can lead to a very disjointed final essay as it is effectively a collection of many points that don’t always flow particularly well.

While looking again at mind mapping software I came across Rationale, which due to the cost I am not especially interested in but I did like the template they demonstrate on the video on their website – starting an assignment it lays out boxes for you to input two reasons with support, and an objection and rebuttal. While this is a little oversimplified for a final plan (for me) I think starting with this approach would really help the focus of my assignments.

Another approach I have heard of that I would like to start using, which could be tied in with the above, is to create a plan that has a point on it for each paragraph you intend to write. This again helps focus and streamline the writing.

For now I have to stick with what I’ve done and learn for next time. I am juggling 47 references now and I just don’t have the energy to start the plan again!

If you are interested in mind mapping software, XMind is available for free and is very good.

A nice surprise

I have been struggling with a thumping headache all day so our Indian themed Christmas lunch was a nice break from getting frustrated at my inability to read journals. It was made even nicer when I was surprised by a lovely thankyou card from the team and a WHSmith voucher 🙂

My reflective report made me realise just how much I have learned while I have been here (far more than I could do justice in the 1500 words I had!) My placement here has been fantastic and I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have been given, including the opportunity to continue working here as a paid staff member. I am also thankful that it has put me in touch with so many other people in the field and the doors that has opened for me.

I have missed uni, and my friends there, but I will never regret this placement 🙂

Induction End of Week 1

Well it has been quite a week! I have spent a long time learning about infection control, clinical risk, Rio (the patient records software), child safeguarding, vulnerable adult safeguarding, how to safely carry weights, and health and safety. I have had a test, got to know a group of professionals from a whole range of fields with a collective four hundred years experience in mental health, acted as Second Judge in a role play court case investigating the (imaginary) suicide of a service user and whether the mental health services held any responsibility, had my hands glow green under uv light, acted like a robot and a child, given a presentation prepared in two minutes, and eaten a lot of chips from the work rehabilitation cafe. Oh, and I bumped into an ex Brunel student!

And the induction isn’t even over yet!

On a side note I bumped into my manager the other day and she said she was very impressed by my re-edited DVD and was on her way to a meeting with the director and would sing my praise. I have to admit that thought did bring a happy smile to my face 🙂

Trust Induction

I have to admit, when I looked at the timetable and saw the first day of my induction was filled with tutorials on confidentiality policy, equality and diversity regulations, and fire safety training I let out a subtle groan. Having been employed before I have done all these things at least once already so there is nothing more I could learn right? Wrong.

While the confidentiality session was very familiar material, especially since I have done it to death very recently, the Freedom of Information Act material was new to me, as was much of the Equality and Diversity session since there have been so many legal changes over the past couple of years. And the fire safety…well nothing new there but I did get to blast a chair with CO2 which was fun 🙂

I have an identity!

Today I collected my ID cards for my placement. Yes, plural. That confused me too! It turns out (and I’m surprised I didn’t twig on this earlier) that people who need to access the secure wards get two cards because one is left at security in exchange for keys.

So I am now officially a card-carrying member of the NHS. Quite exciting really (it doesnt take much). I also got my library card today so I can take books out of the staff library. That just leaves one more card to get – my smartcard. This is the card required to access patient files so obviously I won’t get it until after induction and training (which starts Monday!) I am struggling to imagine what is covered in seven days of induction (and I’m doing the short course!) but I’m sure I will enjoy it. After all I am a hog for any kind of learning!

I showed my supervisor my work so far and discussed the ideas I have had. She seemed quite happy with it all, which is a relief! I was worried she wouldn’t be satisfied with how much I had done, or that she might react unfavourably to my suggestions but so far all my work has been warmly received and appreciated (quite a change from my previous career!)

One of the ideas I came up with was to make some easy-read versions of our drug awareness leaflets. Statistically substance abusing offenders with “severe and enduring” mental health issues are not the most likely to be especially literate, so it actually surprised me a little that no easy-read material has been produced yet. Now I face the challenge of putting some together, despite my complete lack of artistic talent (preventing me from drawing any funky cartoon characters). In fact it is down to just me and my stunted creativity.

Any suggestions?

Security induction

Today I had my ‘key induction’ on placement (for the non-regular readers my placement is in a department attached to the medium secure wing of a hospital). It was really interesting, but quite scary!

Although it is called ‘key induction’ the training also now covers safety and awareness of prohibited and restricted items. In case you are wondering what the difference is: prohibited items do not come onto the ward under any circumstances, restricted items are only allowed on in carefully controlled conditions. It was an enlightening experience!

How often have you misplaced a pen, or left that last bit of blue tack stuck to the wall, or left a plastic bag lying around? These are all restricted items that could be put to dangerous use on the ward. Blue tack could be used to jam locks, enabling someone to lock themselves in and harm themselves or someone else, or hold a hostage. A plastic bag could be used as a ligature, a weapon, or for ‘fishing’ – hanging out of windows off the ground floor to collect ‘deliveries’ of all sorts. We were told that in one hospital a patient had got a hammer onto the ward in this manner and violently and seriously assaulted staff and trashed areas of the ward. This could have been prevented if careless individuals hadn’t inadvertently supplied the patient with the tools to obtain a weapon.

At the start of the induction we were given a list of prohibited and restricted items and asked to pick five and list the risks associated with that item. Some are obvious, some less so. I felt a little bit like I was channeling the lovechild of Jason Bourne and McCauly Kulkin as I sat devising ways to turn innocent items into weapons and tools of escape!

I invite you to give it a go; pick some items from the list below and think why/how they could be a risk on a secure forensic ward.

Aftershaves and perfumes
Body oils
Tin foil
Dental floss
Plastic bottles
Mobile phones
Needles and pen devices for insulin
Pens and pencils
Sellotape
Shoe polish
Lighters, matches
Cameras
Electrical items
Joss sticks
Pornographic material other than that cleared by clinical team
Racist symbols

How did you do?
Do you have a lot of words like ‘assault’, ‘harm’, ‘injure’, ‘attack’? As our instructor pointed out, these are sugar-coated. On a medium secure forensic ward there are patients who have killed, who may not show any remorse. The words that need to be in your mind when you are trying to remember to keep unsafe objects out are words like ‘death’, ‘murder’, ‘kill’. Luckily it doesn’t happen often, but in these settings were sternly reminded: People. Can. Die.

And that could be the result of that one little item you forgot to check in at the lockers outside the secure perimeter.

It isn’t just intentional harm that is the risk. We were told of an instance in one hospital where someone had dropped a lighter on the ward and a patient pulled it apart and over months fashioned a sharp point out of one piece. They also got hold of a pen and used this to tattoo themselves. They then did tattoos for others on the ward. But they got more than they bargained for and 74% of the ward patients screened positive for hepatitis-B!

It may come as a surprise that mobile phones are one of the biggest risks. Not so much in terms of direct harm but…
With access to a mobile phone a patient has unsupervised contact with the outside world. They can make deals, arrangements, plans, all out of the awareness of the staff. They could call in a bomb threat to the ward, meaning all patients would have to be evacuated from the building – a very high risk situation! If a patient got hold of your phone they then have a list of your friends and family. I’m sure you can imagine the risks of that!  Most phones these days have cameras, so they could take photos of staff, of keys, doors, and so on.most phones have timers – so now the patient can accurately time how long it takes a secure door to close after someone has rushed through and not closed it properly. Your phone is likely to have pictures of your family, even your children; there are pedophiles in these wards.Modern phones have internet access, which means the patient now has access to pornography, instructions on fashioning bombs and weapons, and just as worryingly: access to Facebook. Why is this worrying? If a patient takes a dislike to you, they could have access to all sorts of information about you! Where you are from, where you studied, maybe even where you live, what family you have, a whole range of personal information. “But my profile is set to full security, I don’t need to worry” it may be, but are all your friends as security conscious as you? Remember that although the patients may be suffering from illness or other things, that does not mean they are stupid. In fact some are exceptionally intelligent in certain areas! And they have a lot of time and patience.

In the end today has taught me one key thing (excuse the pun): there is no such thing as being too careful.

Nothing Goes Quite To Plan

I need a third reference before I can start my placement, so my placement start date has been put back. I am also having to request some training I have been put on be rescheduled (not the easiest thing in the world considering it’s a three month training in a group. And my exam for my level 2 NVQ in Mental Health Work was rescheduled at last minute too!

There’s one thing I’ve learned in life: That I have to be flexible!

I have also decided to withdraw my application to be Course Rep for the new academic year. After giving it some serious considering I’ve concluded that seeing as I am on placement for the first term of the year and have so many other things going on that I would not be able to dedicate the right amount of time or energy to being course rep this time around. It is a pity as I have really enjoyed my work as a course rep this year, however in the best interests of my degree and for the best support for everyone else it is the best decision.

Begin the Countdown!

I finally have my references in, my enhanced CRB has been returned (all clear!), and now I have a start date for my placement: 1st Sep! I just need to rush my placement approval form through then I can begin! 🙂

I will be working in a secure forensic ward, however it looks like my work will be centred mainly around drug and alcohol dependency. My role will include
-Assisting with coordinating and running group therapy sessions in a mixture of therapeutic approaches.
-Attending and contributing to meetings at the team and service level.
-Using research and analysis skills to monitor, evaluate, and improve services.
-Producing reports which summarise information, using Office and statistical software.
-Literature research to assist the psychologists.
-I will receive an hour of clinical supervision a week

I am really incredibly excited to start this placement! There is a lot that scares me though. I have never worked with offenders before, or with substance abuse, so I am very nervous about that because it is a whole new area that is so far completely unknown to me! I also have quite deep fears along the lines of: what if I can’t do it? What if I’m not good enough? Will they expect me to know more than I do? Will I end up making a fool of myself and looking stupid?
I know that I am being silly. I Will just have to box up those emotions and fears and put them on a shelf – I can come back to them after I have been in the role a few weeks.

I have finished working at the canteen now. In many ways it is a pity, I met some fantastic people there and really enjoyed working with them. Hopefully we will all stay in touch, and I am looking forward to working with them again next year. Here’s to the “More massive”!

I have almost finished my level 2 qualification in mental health work in the community. I have about three more tasks to write up and hand in then, providing I don’t need to do any more work on any of my assignments I’ve handed in so far, I can hand my completed folder in to be sent for assessment. Also on Tuesday evening I have the exam, a multiple choice online exam. Of course I’m nervous, but after doing a mock exam in class (and acing it) I am confident in my ability to pass the exam first time.

My level three course should be starting in the next week or two. While the level two has been very vocational, with lots of reflective work, observed interaction with service users, and so on, level three is much more academic and involves more university-style research and essay writing.

I had the first part of a two part training this week. This session was about the NHS and mental health (particularly the borough of Camden where the training was held), where it is now and what the future changes are. Unsurprisingly this meant discussing mainly about the financial cuts, and the Personalisation scheme that is being rolled out in the mental health sector. I Will be writing an article about this for the next Psychology Newsletter so watch this space! The second part of the training was all about mental health legislation, including a very quick dummies guide to Section 2,3 and some others (parts of the Mental Health Act which give legal rights, for example, to detain a patient against their will if they are a danger to themself or others). I found it very useful to be taught these in such a simple way.

Placement Interview Take: 2

I have an interview tomorrow for another placement. This one is even better than the last one -ideal in fact! Maybe my lack of success in the last one was for the best. I have heard that they didn’t employ anyone for that role, so I don’t feel so bad about it now!

This placement is at Collingham Child and Family Centre, based in Kensington. The centre provides day and residential care to children between the ages of 5-14, who have severe and/or complex mental health issues. The multi-disciplinary team at the centre employs a number of different approaches and tailors the care plan to the individual, as well as involving, supporting, and educating the child’s family. I am very excited about this because this is exactly the kind of work I want to ultimately go into!

So I have been doing my interview preparation work, and learning from my mistakes last time in the progress. I have been researching the organisation, how it fits in with its parent organisation (CNWL NHS), read the annual reports, looked up key players in the company (although I immediately forgot them thanks to my poor memory!), and have been preparing my answers to the likely questions, as well as a few questions of my own. This time I am going in confident that if I don’t get the role, it won’t be my performance in the interview that has let me down.

Wish me luck!

Keep Moving Forward

Unfortunately I did not get the placement I applied for. It upset me quite a lot when I first found out. But now a bit of time has passed and I am able to view things in a much more constructive way. I have been able to learn a lot from the experience, and have done more research into how to succeed in interviews (the best of which I have crammed into an article I’ve written for the next PsychNews, so keep your eyes peeled!). I know now that I will do even better in the next interview I face thanks to this experience.

I have also found a back-up placement. It is at where I volunteer, which is why ideally I would like to avoid it for the sake of widening my experiences. But it is there as a fallback, which takes the pressure off somewhat.

I have finally managed to get myself in gear and start revising. I am tackling statistics first since I missed almost all of the lectures. There is an awful lot that I don’t understand, but I am getting there slowly. MS OneNote is proving to be a real godsend for my note-making/revising despite its many flaws, thank you Gil for insisting I try it out!

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