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NHS Education for Scotland

A skilled and sustainable workforce for a healthier Scotland

Promoting the role of the Healthcare Support Worker in Allied Health Professions

Promoting the role of the Healthcare Support Worker in Allied Health Professions

Promoting the role of the Healthcare Support Worker in Allied Health Professions

Healthcare Support Workers (HCSWs) provide life-changing care across a variety of roles and settings in health and social care. They cover a vast range of roles across many professions, including physiotherapy, podiatry, maternity, speech and language therapy and many more. They’re a vital part of the team. But they’re often overlooked.

If we are going to provide the best care, we need to grow our HCSW workforce. That means raising awareness about what they contribute. We are creating new resources to attract people to these careers. As part of the same drive, we recruited an HCSW, Debbie Orman, to lead a very special project.

Debbie’s project involved collecting video case studies from HCSWs across Scotland in a variety of Allied Health Professional (AHP) roles, to promote awareness of the vital role of the HCSW.

We wanted to:

  • increase awareness of the role of the HCSW in delivering high quality care, in a wide variety of roles
  • establish relationships which we can build on in the future
  • support organisations to grow the AHP HCSW workforce

We spoke with Debbie about her experience leading this project.

Can you tell me about your career journey to date and your role in NHS Lothian?

“Since leaving school, I knew I wanted to work in paediatrics. My background was as a paediatric nursing HCSW. I gained an HND in health and social care … and discovered Occupational Therapy while looking for ways to advance my role. I soon realised that I had found an occupation which really fitted me.
“I now work within the acute paediatric occupational therapy team at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People as a band four assistant practitioner and have been in this role for eight years. The service covers the whole hospital so we see a diverse variety of young people.
“Having been in this role for several years and reaching the top of band four level, I began to feel the desire to develop myself further and take on new challenges.”

Can you tell me about the work you have recently undertaken with NES?

“I saw an advert from NHS Education for Scotland (NES), looking for a HCSW to undertake a project promoting the role of AHP HCSWs. The project would be one day a week for six months so would allow me to remain in my current post while also developing my skills in other areas.
“Reaching out to AHP HSCWs from all over Scotland and asking them to share their stories on film was a big ask and I believe that the request coming from a fellow HCSW really helped people to feel comfortable responding. I was able to chat on a peer-to-peer level, and advise and reassure.
“Some participants were nervous about being filmed and lacked confidence that their story was worth sharing. Supporting them through this was a new skill for me and something I really enjoyed.
“The stories that were returned were fascinating and really reinforced that we should all be proud to be HCSWs - and that it’s a rewarding and valuable career in its own right. The participants all felt equally passionate about highlighting their roles and really showcasing the progression that can be made within these areas.
“In the past, I have often used the phrase… ‘I am only an assistant’… but I never will again.”

What do you think the benefits of this work will be for HCSWs or others? Any insights or observations?

“Through this project, we now have a collection of career stories covering all the allied health professions that can hopefully be used to raise the profile of AHP HCSWs and offer an insight into available careers across the NHS. The videos will be available on the NHS Scotland careers website to sit alongside the many other professions that are highlighted there and show the diverse and wide-ranging roles that are available.
“While I am happy to have completed this project for NES and the positive impact it will hopefully have on promoting the role of AHP HCSWs, I am also taking away many new skills and a confidence that I can achieve more. I would never have thought that facilitating learning would be an area that I could contribute to, but I have a newfound interest and drive to explore this and to use my new skills in this area to develop my own career.
“I feel more able to seek out opportunities and to put myself forward for things that I may have previously felt were beyond me. I feel lucky in my own workplace that I have always felt valued and included however I have a newfound awareness of the importance of raising the profile of HCSW across all areas and the contribution that we can make across the NHS.”

Joanne Gibson, Senior Educator, NHS Education for Scotland:

“Having an HCSW voice to contribute to this piece of work was extremely valuable. Debbie’s perspectives, experience and views allowed us to progress this work positively and in collaboration with the HCSW workforce across Scotland. The peer-to-peer engagement, support and guidance that Debbie was able to offer was vital in progressing this work positively.
“Debbie was also able to connect with the HCSW workforce across many boards in Scotland in an effective and collaborative way. She used her own personal experiences and communication skills to make new connections. She was able to engage in a way which meant HCSWs felt confident and valued sharing their personal career stories.”

You can find the videos Debbie created, along with many more NHS Scotland career stories on the NHS Scotland Careers website.

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This case study is of part of our Year in Review 2021.

May, 17 2022