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Promoting Excellence In Psychological Health & Wellbeing

A day in the life with Hannah Jell, Higher Level Assistant Psychologist

01 Feb 22

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Hi Hannah, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Hannah Jell. I am a Senior Assistant Psychologist in a Learning Disability Community Forensic Team. Since graduating, I have worked in a number of jobs supporting people. Prior to my current role, I have worked as a drug and alcohol worker in a Magistrates Court and community centre (10 months), a support worker in a women’s centre working in partnership an NHS psychology trauma service (17 months) and an assistant psychologist in a secure mental health hospital (2 years).


Thanks Hannah- What does a typical day look like for you?

No day is the same in my area of work. My role is split so that approximately 50% of the time I am completing work to support service users, and 50% of time I am completing project work for the team.

Project work could include research and audit work such as: audits of our annual team outcomes, completing a survey with our service users or 3rd party care providers to gather anonymous feedback for the service, or auditing the quality of the Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) plans that the team produce for our service users.

My work to support service users is quite mixed. This could involve direct individual work with a client, where I support them to achieve their goals in psychology sessions on a variety of topics such as: understanding relationships, staying safe risk plans, understanding psychosis, anger management, bereavement counselling, problem solving skills, learning how to use the internet safely or creating a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) plan. This direct work will involve an initial assessment phase, where I would complete measures with a client to gain an idea of their current understanding of a topic, and get them to set goals for the work. I would then formulate their presenting problem with my supervisor before starting an intervention phase.

Supporting service users also involves indirect work: this could be training 3rd party care providers on a service user’s history, formulation and support strategies, so that they are better able to help a service user. It could also be supporting the development of PBS plans by analysing incident forms from a care provider and interviewing staff who work with the service user. I also spend time adapting information/worksheets for clients into an easy read format – this involves simplifying the language and adding symbols so that the information is easier to process for our service users who have a learning disability.

Due to Covid-19, I am currently hybrid working. I work approximately half of my week at home and half of my week at a Trust Community Base or completing home visits.

Home working:

My typical working from home day starts at 8am with breakfast and a cup of tea to get me ready for the day, before starting work at 9am.

I will spend the first half an hour checking emails, doing admin and writing a ‘To Do’ list of tasks to get done. I manage my own diary and so this helps me stay organised and balance client work, admin and project work. I will then spend an hour completing either some indirect client work or project work for the service.

After this, I will then join a virtual Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting. Here we discuss any ongoing operational issues, updates about work we are doing with service users and updates about any risk issues with service users. I am responsible for updating our risk database, where we rate each service user’s risk on how severe the consequence is and how likely it is to happen. This way, if we rate a risk as high, we will then discuss how to manage that risk behaviour to keep both the service user and the public safe.

I then break for a half an hour lunch break, at the same time as my partner who is also working from home. We often try to have a quick walk to get some fresh air & have a break from screens!

For the afternoons, I would then either complete some indirect client work or project work for the service.

Working at base:

When working in the office, my day starts a bit earlier at 7.30am to give me time to have breakfast and a cup of tea before commuting.

When I’m in the office, set up time is a bit longer, finding an available office and wiping it all down (because of Covid) before I start work. I then check emails and prepare for clinical supervision. I have supervision weekly with a Clinical Psychologist in the team. This is a space for me to reflect on my caseload – what is going well in sessions, if there are any difficulties, how I am feeling when facilitating the work and if I need any support in planning sessions. I can also bring personal difficulties/stressors that may be affecting my work at the time. It is also a space to learn about new psychological models/approaches that I could use in my clinical work.

After this, I may then join a professional meeting with my colleagues and staff from a clients’ accommodation provider to discuss ongoing care plans for the service user.

I will then spend some time preparing for a service user sessions in the afternoon. I would generate a plan for the sessions and prepare any worksheets/handouts needed for the appointments.

After lunch, I would then travel across the city to another NHS trust base. We support service users from all over Birmingham, so we sometimes have to travel to other offices that are easier for our service users to access. I have two appointments at this base, back to back. One of the service users I see on their own, supporting them to e.g. manage their emotions. The session lasts about an hour. I then see my next service user; they are accompanied by their accommodation support workers, so that their staff can support them with the coping skills outside of sessions. After the sessions, I then spend some time writing up some summary notes of the sessions on our records system RiO, before commuting home.


You mentioned hybrid working- which type of work do you prefer?

I think I prefer a mix! In my last job I worked completely face-to-face in the office, even during the first covid lockdown! I have to say it was draining, particularly with the added stress from Covid, and so I really enjoyed being able to work partly from home when I started this job in 2021. Hybrid working allows me to have a good work life balance, where I can use breaks during the day (where I would usually be chatting to colleagues) to put a wash on or do a quick bit of tidying, so that I have more time in the evenings to do things I enjoy! Working from home on some days also gives me some time to focus on my research/project work, writing a service user report or getting admin jobs done – if I was in the office, I would definitely get more distracted from these tasks and they would take me longer.

At the same time, if I was fully working from home, I think I would miss the connection with my team. I started this job remotely and it definitely took more time than usual to build up working relationships with my colleagues. Since going back into the office part time, it has helped me feel more connected to my team. I also much prefer facilitating service user sessions face-to-face rather than remotely, so being able to go into an office for service user sessions is much better for me!


What is your favourite part about your work?

My favourite part of the work is definitely direct work with service users! I love seeing a service user make connections with their past and their current difficulty or learning a new coping skill that works really well for them.


How would you describe your work-life balance?

As I said above, hybrid working definitely helps my work life balance. Having time working from home helps me to tick off reports/research/admin from my ‘To do’ list, as I am less distracted, which helps reduce the stress when I finish work. On WFH days I also tend to use my breaks to do chores at home, so that I have more time to relax/do hobbies in the evenings/weekends (e.g. watching TV, doing craft activities, meeting friends/family).


Thank you Hannah for sharing your interesting insight as an Assistant Psychologist.

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