Alana Taverner is an Occupational Therapist at Chase Farm Hospital and regularly refers patients staying at the hospital to Providence Row to take part in their trainee schemes and learning activities on a day-release basis. There they train in our professional kitchen with trained chefs, gain qualifications and can get involved with a range of learning and wellbeing activities.
When we caught up with Alana recently, she told us a bit more about why Providence Row is a great place for her patients…
“At Chase Farm Hospital we have two services, a general mental health service where people can come in and out getting treated quite quickly, and a forensic mental health service for people who are sectioned under The Mental Health Act (1983), some of whom have criminal convictions. I work in the forensic unit as an occupational therapist. We work with these patients for much longer than in the general service, anything from 6 weeks to many years. We have some patients who have been with us for more than twenty years.
My work varies from patient to patient but my main objective is to help people develop their independent life skills to get them ready to move back into the community. I work on a rehab ward which runs activities including cooking skills, but in addition to this we take them back out into the community to find services they can work with as well as work experience placement opportunities such as Providence Row. We support them as they build up new social networks and their confidence for when they’re out of hospital.
Providence Row is excellent at helping patients build up their skills and confidence in a safe, welcoming space. Their schemes give patients the opportunity to get off the ward and do a ‘structured activity’ away from the hospital. It helps them feel as though they are independent in the community and this is really important for them. It’s a gradual process and takes time. Giving them the autonomy to go to Providence Row on their own not only builds their confidence and helps them develop a lot of transferable skills, it also helps them start to think about what they’re going to do when they leave hospital. A lot of patients want to do paid work, but it might not be appropriate for them yet and Providence Row is a great starting point for them.
It’s important for trainees to learn practical skills in the kitchen that they can go on to use in their future careers, but Providence Row go a step further than this, taking the time to work closely with the trainees to help them find other options for further development. I have a patient that has completed their food hygiene training which is a really good thing to have on the CV, but then went on to do IT classes and CV workshops too. The CV workshops are brilliant and are really useful because many of the patients don’t understand the processes behind getting a paid job.
It also helps that Providence Row is a warm, welcoming and positive space which is adapted to the needs of people with mental health problems. Before one patient started at Providence Row he’d had a really bad time at another work experience placement. They weren’t understanding of his situation, despite knowing he was there on a mental health programme. They didn’t take the time to get to know him or understand him. On top of this he also received abusive comments from someone there, so after this his confidence and self-esteem hit rock bottom. When he started working with Asia at Providence Row, he saw that not all places were like his previous work experience placement. Now he’s got so much confidence and he is excited about the future and wants to try new things. He feels valued as a trainee at Providence Row. Soon he’s going to be discharged from hospital and that will be a big change for him, but being involved with Providence Row will give him some continuity after he leaves hospital. He’ll have somewhere familiar to go to and people he can trust to talk to as he adapts to his new life.
I would absolutely recommend Providence Row to other people working in this field and have already done so. It’s hard to find free work placement options, especially covering interesting topics for patients while supporting them properly with their mental health problems. There’s a lot of places that say they’re mental-health-friendly but when we assess them they’re not. But at Providence Row they support our patients properly. They are part of a tight, supportive community. It’s a place where they can feel normal again.”