The first ever Young People’s Emotional Health Worker to be based at Nottingham Children’s Hospital has helped more than 500 patients since starting her role in June 2014.
Lucy Rychwalska-Brown took on the post after the NUH Youth Service at Nottingham Children’s Hospital identified the need for a specialist therapeutic youth worker to support young patients in crisis.
Lucy works with 11 to 18 year olds at the Children’s Hospital, which is part of Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust, and sees up to 40 patients each month. The new post was funded by Nottingham Hospitals Charity until June 2015, when NUH Trust took over the funding after the role had proved to be so vital in its first year.
“Over the years it was becoming quite clear that the number of young people arriving at the Emergency Department (ED) having self-harmed or taken an overdose was steadily increasing,” says Lucy. “So the NUH Youth Service team decided to do something about it, and created this role.”
When young people come to ED after having self-harmed or taken an overdose, they are admitted to a children’s ward while awaiting a mental health assessment. This can take up to two to three days, so Lucy acts as a bridge between each young person’s admission and their mental health assessment.
“I go and see the young people while they are waiting to be assessed,” explains Lucy. “My role isn’t about assessment or clinical care, it’s about the young people having someone they can talk to. It’s very person-centred and it’s about finding out what support each individual needs at that moment in time.
“For example, I worked with one young person with Asperger’s Syndrome, who didn’t like making eye contact or having people looking at her. So I sat next to her instead and we did some crafts together, and she gradually started to open up about her feelings. She felt able to open up because we were doing it on her terms.”
Once young patients have had their mental health assessments, Lucy refers them to the NUH Youth Service, where they can get ongoing support and attend youth clubs and trips with their peers. Lucy says the number of patients attending the youth club has increased significantly since she took up her post, meaning more young people are accessing the support services they need.
Lucy, who had previously worked at NUH as a specialist therapeutic youth worker, counsellor and wellbeing coordinator since 2010, also supports young people being treated for long-term conditions, whose long stays in hospital may be having an impact on their mental health. She also supports young people once they return into the community if they need extra support, for example to help re-establish their daily routines such as returning to school.
As well as supporting patients, she also works with nursing staff to educate them about working with young people in crisis, and says her role has helped relieve some of the pressure on nursing staff.
“The nursing teams at the Children’s Hospital are amazing but the demands of their workload means they have to prioritise their clinical work,” says Lucy. “So to have someone like me to come in and take on the mental and emotional health side of things lightens their load and allows them to be able to concentrate on their clinical work.”
Lucy says none of this would have been possible without the support of Nottingham Hospitals Charity and its donors.
She says: “Without the initial support of Nottingham Hospitals Charity to get this role established, young patients at Nottingham Children’s Hospital would be missing out on vital support at one of the most difficult times of their lives. Thanks to the Charity’s funding we’ve been able to prove what an impact this role can have on young people and how important it is for this support to be available.”
The Charity also gives around £22,000 per year to sustain the NUH Youth Service, which provides support for young people in hospital, as well as a weekly youth club and regular activities and residential trips to help young patients get time away from the clinical environment and gain important peer support.
Barbara Cathcart, Chief Executive of Nottingham Hospitals Charity: “We’re proud to be able to help patients at Nottingham’s hospitals by funding unique posts like this one. It’s gratifying to know that the Charity has enabled so many young people to get the support they so desperately need.
“None of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors, so thank you to everyone who continues to support their local hospitals in this way.”
Nottingham Hospitals Charity exists to benefit patients, staff and facilities at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s City Hospital, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham Children’s Hospital, Hayward House Palliative Care Centre and Ropewalk House.
Generous donations from our supporters help us provide the added extras that make a real difference to patient care at Nottingham’s hospitals, such as specialist equipment, improved facilities, medical research and staff development programmes.
To find out more about Nottingham Hospitals Charity, to make a donation or to get involved in fundraising, please go to www.nottinghamhospitalscharity.org.uk