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Neuro rehab insights

Meet the therapist: John Pope, North Star Rehab



In this edition of Meet the Therapist, NR Times speaks to John Pope – Specialist Neurological Occupational Therapist and Clinical Director of North Star Rehab

The team provides personalised rehabilitation for people in Tyne & Wear, Teesside, Durham, Northumberland, North Cumbria and the Scottish borders.

What does success look like in your therapy discipline?

That’s an interesting question. 

With the nature of Occupational Therapy within neuro-rehab, success is very much down to where the individual is on their journey, where they would like to go and how we are going to work to get there.

We develop person-centred outcomes and goals at the start of our treatment.

These are based on evidence-based outcomes and assessments which enable us to ensure high quality and effective treatment plans.

We use goals which are scaled, which enables our clients to progress within their treatment.

Success for one client may be to be able to attend their appointments whilst for another it may be to be able to get back into work.

Are there any standout elements of your approach that are perhaps unusual or set you apart from the general ‘norm’? 

When developing North Star Rehab, we spent time carefully considering the approach we could take for our neuro-rehab clients and for our referrers.

Both myself, and Jill (Clinical Director) know many of the clients we treat have never needed intensive rehabilitation before in their lives.

We want our clients to feel engaged, involved and most of all, comfortable with the rehabilitation they are receiving.

For case managers and those who purchase our services, we want them to see the value of the rehabilitation they are investing in.

To achieve this, we work on providing high quality, evidence-based treatment. At every stage of rehabilitation, we carefully consider and document our clinical reasoning to our clients and those who refer to our services. 

 John with business partner Jill Kings

Occupational Therapy is interested in ensuring people can live their lives to the fullest, in the way they would like to, in the places they would like to live.

To support this, our approach is to invest fully into the therapeutic relationship with our client and those close to them within their own environments.

We want to be able to use our clinical skills alongside the person’s lived experiences to arrive at the best destinations.

We strongly believe neuro-rehabilitation needs to be clinically meaningful to be able to offer our clients the best possible opportunities.

This means we are often with our clients for two-three sessions per week for, on average, two hours per session.

Using this approach, we can provide problem-solving treatment by identifying and removing potential barriers to independence in a way traditional “therapy” delivery may not.

What’s great about North Star Rehab is the different approaches we can bring to our Occupational Therapy programmes.

Jill and I have complimentary OT skills backed with years of unique clinical experiences. We meet each month to provide peer supervision of cases and critically analyse the treatments we are providing.

This is beneficial in ensuring we continue to provide the best therapy we can to our neuro-clients.

Can you please provide an example of a patient case which typifies the importance of the interventions you deliver? 

We make sure we can work alongside all our neuro-rehab clients to identify the goals which work best for their situation.

Rather than one example, I thought it would be good to showcase a variety of what we do;

  • Supporting a young gentleman following a brain injury to develop his independent living skills ready to move into their own home.
  • Providing practical strategies to develop new community activities based on previous interests.
  • Education sessions and practical strategies relating to fatigue and sleep management.
  • Supporting students at university who are juggling academic life with developing living skills for the first time.

How do you approach new clients in terms of assessing their needs and planning their therapy journey?

We know that during the neuro-rehabilitation journey, people are often assessed by many different professionals and we do not want to just add another therapy to their lists.

We want our clients to feel supported and able to communicate with us openly.

We spend time at the start of any new client work ensuring they have opportunities to ask about Occupational Therapy, what we can achieve and how we will support them do to this.

This is why each new client’s views are fully integrated into our assessment and goal development.  

Depending on the individual needs and circumstances, we will review key areas in the assessment process including;

  • 24 hour routine including any equipment being used or that is needed.
  • Identify what the client’s strengths are and where they would like to improve.
  • Identify what short- and long-term goals for the future are.

With the client’s permission, we will spend time with those close to the client to give us an insight into the journey so far.

This is really important to allow us to understand the dynamics which influence our client’s daily living.

Do you work closely with other members of multi-disciplinary teams? What are the key factors to consider in ensuring these interactions play out in the best interests of the client?

Working with Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDT) are a critical part of our role to ensure that the client receives the holistic treatment they need and deserve.

In my experiences, the most effective multi-disciplinary teams can challenge each other appropriately and all have the same end goal of ensuring the client’s rehabilitation is the centre point of all decision making.

Communication is vital as often there are many moving pieces on the chess board at the same time.

Great MDT’s recognise this and develop methods to be able to share information and relate this back to the client. 

Ensuring the client’s wants, wishes and needs are integrated into multi-disciplinary team working is crucial to ensure we work in a client’s best interests.

The beauty of an MDT is the unique perspective each discipline can bring to the conversation. When that is combined with the client’s outlook you can see some fantastic rehabilitation outcomes.

Within our Occupational Therapy work, we gain valuable insights into our client’s daily living performance which can support the work of other disciplines.

How would you describe your approach to family members of your brain / spinal clients? Is it important to involve them in your work? 

In over 15 years of experience, being able to have open and honest communication with family members is one of the most important aspects of rehabilitation.

Family members are also experiencing changes in their lives which need to be respected and understood.

I always make a starting point of being able to ensure the family can relate to North Star and know that I am with them on the journey.

We want to be able to have open and sometimes, difficult conversations, the trusting connection is critical in allowing this to happen. 

Family members can often bring you a different perspective on the experiences of the rehabilitation journey.

Their unique insight can provide information which can change your clinical reasoning process or give you a glimpse into an area which you can integrate into your treatment plans.

Are there any new or emerging technologies / innovations which are changing the way you work? 

Wearable devices such as smart watches and fitness bands are changing the way we can work with our clients in so many ways.

For clients who are finding fatigue and sleep a concern, we can use this technology to be able to reflect with our clients on real-time data and provide strategies which are designed specifically around their needs.

Another example is linking a wearable smart watch to a client’s digital calendar so they can recall any upcoming appointments and tasks they might need to complete. 

Technology in this area is evolving rapidly however the way it can compliment therapy and develop independence is positive!

Find out more about North Star Rehab at northstarrehab.co.uk

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