A day in the life of…Jennifer Whitaker, Clinical Lead

Jennifer has been with ECL for four years. She joined as ECL’s Speech and Language Therapist a position she held for two years, before becoming Clinical Lead. Here she tells us about her role…

Jennifer is ECL’s Clinical Lead and in this role she line manages five (soon to be six) therapists who work across ECL Day Services. Jennifer offers clinical supervision support to the extended clinical team across ECL’s Reablement services which consists of 11 therapists and 11 therapy assistants.

Jennifer is a qualified Speech and Language Therapist and in her team, she has Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, a Positive Behavioural Support Advisor, a Speech and Language Therapist and a Speech and Language Therapy Apprentice. Over the last year, Jennifer has been building the team up so that ECL has a range of specialists covering all the different therapy disciplines

Tell us about the role of a Clinical Lead:

“My job is to line manage our therapists and to ensure that the day to day referrals that come into us for help and therapy for our customers at ECL are responded to appropriately as well as to make sure that we have right systems in place to do this successfully.

I also get involved in writing policies around clinical matters such as how we manage diagnosed conditions like diabetes, enteral care and epilepsy. This ensures that all of our care plans are following the right clinical advice from the appropriate clinicians including external partners in the NHS and adult social care.

As a team we all come together regularly both on Teams and face to face. I lead group professional support meetings once every two months to enable all our clinical staff to benefit from Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities. At these sessions we look at lessons learned and share case studies and information which is hugely beneficial to the service we provide as well as to our individual professional development.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“A typical day would be to travel - I travel between all of the different day services across the whole of Essex. I usually start the day attending a planned meeting or scheduled customer review related to speech and language therapy. For example, to observe a mealtime for someone who is receiving speech and language therapy assistance with a condition called dysphagia, which is a swallowing disorder, or to review how staff at one of our centres are adapting their communication in accordance with the speech and language therapy plan. I might also be needed at a planned multidisciplinary team meeting, where clinical and social care professionals as well the customer and their families come together with ECL managers to review that individual’s day service needs and plan the delivery of care.

I take part in a lot of meetings too; customer focused meetings with ECL service leads to check progress on therapies recommended as well as meetings with other allied health professionals. For example, I recently took part in an Allied Health Professionals Strategic Planning day with the Mid and South Essex NHS Integrated Care Board. This networking helps ensure the ECL Clinical Team is supported through knowledge and understanding of NHS direction and focus.

A large part of my day is also working through emails, responding to clinical needs that come up across the organisation. These can vary from moving and handling and safety queries to complex behavioural or communication advice.”

What do you love most about your role?

“With my speech therapy hat on I would say the communication. Communication is a true love of mine, and I am working hard all of the time with all departments at ECL to maximise accessible and inclusive communication with our customers, ensuring we are communicating in a way that is meaningful to them.

I am a huge advocate of promoting independence through improved accessibility with communication. My aim for ECL would be for us to have even more communication methods available and staff trained to use them with customers. For example, wider use of Makaton sign language, accessible visual timetables, Intensive Interaction and devices enabling Alternative Augmentative Communication. My biggest success was getting someone into Inclusive Employment through the use of adapted communication aids, it was so wonderful to see him progress into employment and later into supported living using his new digital voice output device.

I also take great pride in delivering days of staff training on Communication Awareness where staff learn about how to adapt their communication style and the environment in order to meet customer specific cognitive and language levels associated with various conditions such as dementia, learning disabilities and/or autism. I also deliver specialist training on dysphagia which is a swallowing condition that can put customers at increased risk of choking and aspiration. I have trained over 600 ECL staff since I started at the company and am very proud of this service to help ECL deliver great care, reduced choking risks and maximising customer accessibility to inclusive communication.”

I’d always encourage people to become clinicians, it’s an extremely rewarding job.

-Jennifer Whitaker, Clinical Lead, ECL

Advice to those wishing to join the clinical team:

“I’d always encourage people to become clinicians, it’s an extremely rewarding job. To anyone looking at studying or wanting to do an apprenticeship in clinical services I’d say it’s best to shadow a number of practising professionals as it will help you make your mind up about what discipline you would like to focus on. I will always afford someone the time to offer advice and guidance on career paths within the clinical team and always encourage people to contact me if they would like to discuss their options.”

Jennifer Whitaker, ECL Clinical Lead
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