From Guardian Professional, 17 May 2013.
Fran Hill travels all over Hampshire for South Coast Fatigue helping clients who are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome
My working day starts around 9am with a quick visit to the office to collect all the client files I need for that day. I spend most of my week travelling around Hampshire visiting clients who are severely affected with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/ME and might be bedbound or housebound. As a specialist occupational therapist it's my job to conduct a comprehensive assessment and then, together with each client, formulate a clear treatment plan that fosters stability and allows progression and re-integration into the community in a sustainable way.
Today I have four visits spread over the county so I make sure I have everything I need – most importantly my sat nav!
My first client is making really good progress. I always start by asking how the week has been. CFS/ME results in good and bad days and it helps me to understand how and where a person's energy has been spent. Today we're doing an activity analysis of a “high-energy” task that's causing this client to “bust”. Later on, with the other clients, I'm doing goal setting, a relaxation practice, and with my last client of the day we're working out some baselines of activity.
Just before the end of my first visit I ask my client to think of three things they will work on this week. They choose to continue using their relaxation CDs in rest times, to increase their walking by another 10% and to download a new audio book. The three things will almost always be related to the treatment plan and are the stepping stones to achieving the larger goals but for another of my clients it might be “to enjoy a Costa coffee that someone brings in for me!” I try to use this beginning, middle and end approach with all my clients.
Each client has different needs and as an occupational therapist I use my dual training; skills in occupational analysis; assessing function; problem solving; and goal setting to support each client in working towards their goals in the way that's right for them.
First visit finished, I check my phone and quickly reply to an email from a GP who wants to know how to refer someone to South Coast Fatigue.
My second client of the day can only tolerate a 15-minute visit. This makes our work a challenge, but really focuses me when I'm doing my treatment planning. We'll keep in touch via email during the week and I may add in a second short visit if required. As we build her levels of activity I'll be able to see her for longer. Today we do a relaxation practice written specifically for her – it goes down really well and I know she'll keep practising it on her own now.
For lunch I grab fruit and a sandwich in between visits and drink plenty of water – talking is thirsty work. The radio is my best friend when I'm driving. It helps me reflect on the visit I've just had and to switch off at the end of the day.
When I get home my time is taken up with my children – helping with homework, getting supper and running them to clubs. I love my job and it's a privilege to be able to walk alongside people as they journey with this illness. I've seen people get back to work, school, volunteering, college, clubs, shopping – and back into life again.