Vicky Kershaw is a community domiciliary physiotherapist in Surrey who enhances the lives of people with dementia through her innovative approach.
What does your role entail?
I’m a community domiciliary physiotherapist working for CSH Surrey, an employee-owned social enterprise, and my remit is to see any clients in our catchment area who are unable to access outpatient services. Many of my clients have a diagnosis of dementia. The challenge is to find the key to open up their world so that you can meet their actual physiotherapy need. Achieving this is undoubtedly the most rewarding aspect of my role.
We hear you use a person-centred approach. Tell us more
A few years ago I identified a need to expand my skills and knowledge in the field of dementia to improve client outcomes. Through this training, I now have a number of techniques that assist me with client interventions. I use a person-centred approach to therapy, setting realistic joint goals with the client and involving family and carers too.
The initial assessment is crucial. I spent a lot of time on first consultations to ensure I really understand what clients need help with. I take time to appreciate their past skills and abilities and I often use this information to formulate my treatment plans. For example, organising therapy overlooking the gardens of a client’s nursing home as my client was a keen gardener.
Does it help to be able to draw on your sense of humour?
As my clients are housebound, they tend to be diagnosed with a longer-term condition and many have other disabilities and co-morbidities. However, with patience and a caring approach, all clients can benefit from physiotherapy to some degree. Having a sense of humour also helps and I find making therapy fun is more engaging for clients. I rarely do conventional exercise therapy as getting clients to do formal structured exercise rarely works. It is more about adapting a standard approach to their daily routines.
Tell us about your recent awards win
I was shocked to be told I had won the patient champion category at the third Kent, Surrey and Sussex Leadership Collaborative Summit and Awards in November.
I was delighted just to be nominated. The award was in recognition of the work I do individually with clients and more widely within our organisation. Having my work recognised by colleagues is very humbling. I have worked in the NHS for over 30 years in various roles, learning from some great therapists which have shaped me into the therapist I am today.
Tell us about the work you do to improve patient communication
I try to get care home staff to communicate, approach (and handle if required) all clients in a uniform manner. I stress the importance of giving clients time to respond to questions or instructions.
It can be tricky for clients when they are feeling stressed and stretched. I use the same approach of good clear communication with all my clients, whether they have a neurological condition or not. I don’t treat ‘the dementia’ – it is simply a factor that needs to be understood to allow me to provide successful physiotherapy interventions.
How do you unwind outside of your working day?
I love spending time outdoors. Walking in the Surrey countryside is a regular weekend activity with my family. I also like to spend time in the garden or switch off with a good book or jigsaw. I swim every week too. fl
- Vicky Kershaw is a community domiciliary physiotherapist and co-owner with CSH Surrey, a social enterprise based in Ewell
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