From Sheffield to South Africa

Encouragement from her team led Val Jones to push herself that one step further – with amazing results. Julie Penfold reports.

Summer 2016 is a time that will always have great professional significance for Val Jones, an upper limb specialist and lead physiotherapist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 
In June, Ms Jones was awarded the prestigious Copeland Fellowship by the British Elbow and Shoulder Society (BESS) at the society’s annual conference. As part of her fellowship, Ms Jones will travel to South Africa for a 12-day visit from the end of October, where she will spend time with some of the country’s leading surgeons and physiotherapists, observing clinical practice and how trauma is managed.
‘Steve Copeland was a pioneer in shoulder surgery and I feel extremely privileged, proud and honoured to travel as a fellow in his name,’ she says. ‘I’m excited to go out to South Africa and learn from the surgeons and physiotherapists, looking at how they manage trauma and devise post-operative rehabilitation programmes. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a fantastic team of surgeons for over 15 years and I’m looking forward to sharing our expertise and bringing back new knowledge and experience which could help to shape patient care in Sheffield.
‘As well as being an ambassador for BESS, I will also be an ambassador for the physio profession. I want to share what physiotherapists can do as part of a collaborative team,’ adds Ms Jones. ‘Physios have a wealth of knowledge that enables us to integrate pathology, pain physiology and exercise prescription to achieve the best outcomes for patients.’
The BESS Copeland Fellowship is offered to one allied health professional member and one consultant member annually. Ms Jones was awarded the allied honour while the consultant fellowship was awarded to Chris Peach, a consultant elbow and shoulder surgeon at the University Hospital of South Manchester. The pair will visit South Africa along with Mike Thomas, president of BESS.
The team at the trust’s shoulder and elbow unit works across orthopaedic, fracture and physiotherapy clinics. As the unit’s lead physio, Ms Jones also teaches band 5 and 6 physios and provides mentoring support. Juggling all the different aspects of her role can be challenging at times, she admits. To keep on top of evidence-based practice she finds Twitter and podcasts are useful for her continuing professional development. While driving, Ms Jones listens to a podcast (for example, Jo Gibson, shoulder rehabilitation specialist) as a way to stay informed. 

Unforgiving joints

Functionally, the shoulder and elbow can be unforgiving joints following injury, says Ms Jones. ‘The elbow is the most unforgiving joint we know. If you don’t treat it properly or you immobilise it, the elbow just doesn’t move and then you struggle with even everyday activities such as bringing your hand to your mouth. The elbow is sometimes seen as a poor relation. It’s a forgotten joint and I’m passionate about ensuring that the elbow is treated really well. I’m more known for rehabilitation of the elbow.’
The team sees a lot of fractures and dislocations, particularly from climbers and cyclists as Sheffield is just five miles from the Peak District. Additionally, Sheffield city centre is home to a number of tramlines, which can lead to cycling accidents – particularly when the tracks become wet due to rainfall. 
‘We see a whole range in Sheffield,’ says Ms Jones. ‘We see a lot of trauma sports injuries and injuries caused by people outstretching their hands to soften falls, leading to fractures and dislocations. We also see patients with conditions such as degenerative tendinopathy and osteoarthritis. We’re really good as a unit at discussing and devising rehab programmes to ensure that we get patients moving as safely and as early as we can to maximise positive outcomes. Our surgeons are very pro-physiotherapy and it leads to great collaborative working.’
An aspect of her role that Ms Jones find especially rewarding is overcoming complex injuries and enabling patients to get back to normal. ‘When you can turn patients around that have experienced failed treatment or those that have given up on physiotherapy helping them, it is enormously satisfying.’
A young man was recently a referred to Ms Jones by colleagues in London. Elbow surgery had left him with an unstable joint that affected his confidence. Ms Jones and her team’s rehab successful programme left him elated. ‘He has gone back to work and is playing sports again,’ says Ms Jones. ‘He’s a different guy now from the one that was first referred to us and it’s great to see him continuing his life.’

Support from colleagues

It was the team’s support that first led Ms Jones to lecturing in new settings. After presenting a paper at a BESS scientific meeting, she was asked to speak nationally and also presented to the European Society for Shoulder and Elbow Rehabilitation Ms Jones is now the society’s UK national delegate and has presented in Poland and Italy. Following her return from South Africa in November, Ms Jones will be lecturing in London and in Spain, Belgium and Holland. 
Outside work, Ms Jones is kept busy by three young daughters whose sports interests include football, judo and swimming. She jokingly describes herself as ‘an unpaid taxi service’ as she ferries them around. She is a keen Stoke City fan and feels all physios can learn something from last season’s surprise Premier League champions, Leicester City. 
‘When you are part of a team that pulls together and has a strong leader, it is possible to exceed all expectations,’ says Ms Jones. ‘We have a great team here and we’re all very supportive of one another. I come into work each day knowing that I’m valued by the team and that makes such a difference. It’s a great team to work in.’ fl
Val Jones an upper limb specialist and lead physiotherapist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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