Spotlight on Caroline Smith - Community Chidren's Phyio

Caroline Smith Caroline Smith has been a Community Children’s Physiotherapist in Lewisham for nearly 10 years.

We caught up with Caroline to talk to her about her role here at Lewisham Healthcare.

Firstly, could you tell us what being a Community Children's Physiotherapist involves?

I work with children who have conditions which affect their ability to move, such as Cerebral Palsy. These are usually long-term conditions and children will need physiotherapy support throughout their life.

At a child's first appointment I will assess their motor skills and the way they move.  I then decide which type of physiotherapy they will benefit from, taking into account parent/carer concerns and goals for their child. This can include 1:1 sessions with hands-on therapy, group sessions, hydrotherapy, and strengthening programmes. We are also involved in provision of postural support equipment as children who have movement disorders often need help to maintain their posture as they grow. Many children require all these different aspects of physiotherapy as they grow or their condition changes.

As well as clinic sessions at Kaleidoscope I also see children in their homes, at nurseries and in their schools. We work closely with parents, carers and school staff to help them care for each child and integrate physiotherapy management programmes into their daily life. Although therapy treatments begin in the clinic, it is very important that they are continued at home, for the child to gain maximum benefit.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I really enjoy working with the children and families and building relationships with them. It can be very challenging to help the children to meet their therapy goals but ultimately incredibly rewarding. In order to engage the children we need to play games and make sessions fun so work is never boring. I also love the variety of the role and see children with a number of different conditions and of varying ages.

Could you tell us more about the Children’s Community Physiotherapy Service?

We have a large team of specialist children’s physiotherapists, technical instructors of physiotherapy, and administrators. We see children and young people between 0-19 years (if still in full time education) who are registered with a Lewisham GP or attending a Lewisham school. We specialise in managing neurological conditions, motor delay, coordination difficulties and genetic disorders.

The team is based in Kaleidoscope Centre for Children and Young People which is the first centre of its kind in the UK. The centre supports families and their children, and brings together specialist community services for health, disability, mental health, education and social care - all working closely with the Voluntary Sector. It is a place where paediatricians, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, health visitors, social workers, nurses and educators can work together to provide the individual support each young person should have.

We run clinics at Kaleidoscope but when needed see children in their homes, and visit them at nurseries and schools in Lewisham. Physiotherapists also work with two local gyms to run sessions which encourage older children to be more independent with their physiotherapy routine.

What do you like most about working at Lewisham?

We have a really friendly team of skilled physiotherapists here and everyone works well together. Due to the structure of the service, we are able to see and treat a wide range of conditions.  Kaleidoscope is a real asset and means that we can work closely with a number of services – all under the same roof- to care for children. It is also great for parents because it means that their child can have the treatment that they need, in one place.

I live locally so I really enjoy working with Lewisham residents and feeling like I am giving something back to the community.

What do you feel are the most important aspects of good patient care?

I feel it is important to make sure that I am constantly developing my clinical skills and ensuring I can offer a high standard of physiotherapy. I also think that empathy and making sure that parents are fully involved in their child’s care is very important.  Communication is vital and we need to make sure that we are clear on any exercises that we hand over to parents /carers to carry out. There are often a number of different healthcare professionals looking after a child, so we need to ensure that any information we pass on about their condition or treatment plan is clear, and that in turn, we are fully up to date with all other aspects of their care.

What made you want to become a physiotherapist?

Science, particularly Biology, was my favourite subject at school and I have always enjoyed working with people and being active. Physiotherapy seemed like the perfect career choice for my interests.

As well as being a physiotherapist, you enjoy singing. You recently appeared with colleagues in a BBC 2 show with famous choirmaster Gareth Malone. Could you tell us more about your involvement in the Lewisham Healthcare Choir?

I sing in the alto section of the Lewisham Healthcare Choir which was formed for the show.  We competed for the title of ‘Britain’s Best Workplace Choir’ and finished runners-up.

What made you choose to audition for the choir?

I’ve always enjoyed singing and have sung in my local church and in a community choir. It’s the sort of experience that doesn’t come along everyday so felt I had to go for it. I was interested to know what it would be like singing with colleagues and thought it would be a great opportunity to improve my singing by learning from professionals.

What are your highlights of being in the choir?

Our first rehearsal was very exciting, when the choir sang together for the very first time. I was amazed that a group who had just met could make such a great sound and it made us determined to see what we could achieve with more practice. Throughout the programme we had the opportunity to sing in some amazing places and it has been a privilege to be part of the process.

Are the choir still performing?

Absolutely! The choir’s main aim is to benefit patients and staff of the Trust and the local community. We have had the honour of performing to patients on the inpatient wards and in memorial services hosted by the Trust, and we plan to have many more performances in the future. If you would like to find out more information about where you can see us perform, you can follow us on facebook and twitter.