HeartUnions case study: the Health and Safety rep

Ask not what your union can do for you, but what you can do with your union.

Paula Wheeler a physiotherapy technical instructor discusses how the society has helped her and what inspired her to become a CSP Health and Safety representative.

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Paula Wheeler

 Paula Wheeler is a Band 5 physiotherapy technical instructor who works in neuro/complex rehab wards, treating stoke patients and people recovering from cardiovascular surgery, at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Trust.

She works with a senior Band 7 and a Band 3 therapy assistant within the complex rehab team, along with five occupational therapists.

‘I provide treatment for people who’ve had stroke, mainly within a critical care setting , but I also treat long stay patients on the intensive treatment unit (ITU) and follow complex rehab patients as they go from critical care out to other wards,’ Paula says.

‘From a neuro point of view, it tends to be stroke patients, but it varies from those who’ve had multiple cardiovascular operations to people  who’ve had a single cardiovascular procedure.'

 Why did you join CSP?

‘I became a CSP member 19 years ago. I joined up after having a conversation with one of my colleagues, who was a CSP rep at the time, because I was going through a re-banding.

‘When I first joined the therapy department I belonged to another union, but my colleagues suggested I speak to the physiotherapy rep because they didn’t think the other union had a good understanding of my role.

‘After speaking with my local rep I agreed and decided that CSP would be best able to meet my needs as they had a greater understanding of the therapy assistant role .

 Were you aware you were eligible for membership before you found out that you could join?

 ‘No. Before I’d spoken to my colleague and the rep, I’d assumed CSP membership was only for registered physiotherapists.’

 What membership benefit do you most value?

 ‘For me, the main benefit is being supported and represented by a professional body that understands your role.

‘CSP understands the role of therapy assistants and that helped us when we recently went through an organisational change, which was really very daunting. The support we received from our local CSP rep really helped and reassured us that all the correct policies and procedures were being followed.’

 Are there any member benefits you weren’t initially aware of?

 ‘Yes. Since joining, I’ve learnt that members can apply for charitable grants for academic and accredited courses like NVQs and BTECs and through the CSP Plus scheme there are other extra benefits like discounts for spa days and health centres.’

 Would you encourage other unregistered therapy assistants to join CSP or another union?

 Yes. Because sometimes, as an unregistered member within a department, you can feel like the work you carry out doesn’t feel as valued or important.

 ‘But being a member of CSP can offer non-registered therapists the same benefits as a registered therapist. It also makes you feel part of a wider workforce, which views your job as a career and values and understands your role within the therapy setting.

‘Being part of the CSP has also given me the confidence to become a health and safety rep and I am currently in my fifth year in this role.’