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Student Futures

Organisation case studies

Heather Carabine

I am an Assistant Psychologist with a local NHS mental health Trust, supporting patients and their families, and delivering therapeutic interventions in group and individual settings.

Heather Carabine

Volunteering was essential for this role as it meant I could answer the questions at the job interview about working with patients and within the NHS. A working knowledge of what was expected of me as an assistant psychologist was also really important.

While at Teesside University, I worked as a Therapeutic Care Volunteer at James Cook University Hospital. I received the mandatory training for working within the NHS, and specialist training for working therapeutically with patients. I volunteered for two years and then was seconded to Neuropsychology (still as a Therapeutic Care Volunteer) within the Medical Psychology department.

The thing I enjoyed the most was how happy the patients were to have some support, even just a chat at the bedside. They would thank me for my help but I would say that I learnt from them, and they helped me. It made us both feel good!

I was very nervous at the beginning but soon discovered how rewarding the work is, and what a difference we as volunteers were making. I began to see the potential for me to become highly skilled and qualified, knowing that I could continue to make a difference to patients. This gave me the confidence to plan a future as a psychologist. The most important thing I learnt was how to work with people. Even the most highly qualified psychologist will sit down with a patient over a cup of tea. Everything is built on the therapeutic relationship so it is important to get it right.

To anyone thinking of volunteering, I would say take it seriously and treat it as you would any other job. Turn up when you are meant to and let the staff know if you can’t go in for any reason. Commit to the role and do the very best job you can.

I was gaining a lot of valuable experience with Neuropsychology. I realised that I was dyslexic and with the right support I would cope better with the academic work. It was too close to the end of the course for me to get a full dyslexia assessment, but some support for me was now in place and my grades started to improve. I discovered I have Developmental Prosopagnosia, which can make social contact more difficult. I have started on the route to have this properly recognised. The wonderful patients I worked with taught me I could overcome that as well. With certain adjustments I can do as good a job as anyone else. University gave me so much more than a degree; it equipped me for a really bright, exciting future.