I AM A ...
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic , new admissions into rehab have had to isolate . Stewart Bell tells us about his role as isolation support worker at Phoenix Futures ’ Wirral Residential service
My journey towards
this role began in 2017 when I was a resident here . Six months later I moved into Phoenix ’ s supported housing and came back to do peer mentoring once a week at the residential .
I found myself enjoying it more and more , especially building up relationships with the staff team . I took courses in health and social care and mental health awareness , and did everything available for personal and professional development . I began delivering groups and enjoyed it so much it made me want to get more involved , so I became a volunteer worker for three days a week . When the pandemic began having
an effect in March 2020 , I was still volunteering and supporting different parts of our work where needed .
So much of what used to be second nature changed overnight . People had to isolate for 14 days ( now ten ) to make sure they didn ’ t have any symptoms before they joined the main community . I needed to help keep the people in isolation separate and safe , but also keep them engaged . I introduced them to the language of the therapeutic community , getting them started with written work , and looked to increase their comfort by improving the facilities and entertainment available . As the year went on , we heard about more residential services closing their doors , which meant even more people needed our help , so I was offered a full-time contract as isolation worker .
I start the day by administering medication to those in isolation , followed by a morning check-in , including making a list of any essentials they need . After serving breakfast , I attend the staff handover meeting , where I keep up with what ’ s happening in the main house and give an update on people ’ s progress in isolation . Then I do a ‘ feelings check ’ with each individual in isolation , which might take me half an hour on one day and three hours the next , depending on what ’ s come up . The greatest gift you can give to someone is time . After bringing lunch , I make sure people get their afternoon medication on time – especially important for those going through detox withdrawals . Then if there ’ s chance , I like to get the isolated residents out for a ( socially distanced ) walk and discuss what to expect when moving into the main community . A change of scenery and a bit of freedom enables them to open up and have honest conversations . Throughout the day I fit in admin , calls to doctors , logging medication and addressing any other needs , then issue the evening medication before I leave .
There ’ s a lot I enjoy about this job , but delivering groups is my favourite part , as well as chatting to the people in treatment . There ’ s nothing more satisfying than being able to offer someone some advice and see them go on to achieve so much knowing I played a small part . If someone wants to leave during detox and you convince them to stay , then six months later see them complete their programme , it ’ s the most rewarding feeling in the world .
It ’ s frustrating that during COVID people can ’ t have all the usual experiences around rebuilding relationships – home leave and external commitments as people move through the programme are invaluable . We make the best of it and the team here at the Wirral Residential are brilliant , but I sometimes worry for the people coming into rehab that going into isolation could feel like they ’ re stuck in a bubble .
When I came into treatment , I had no intention of going into this work – I wanted to be a nurse . But the two careers aren ’ t so different – the healing process people go
‘ There ’ s a lot I enjoy about this job , but delivering groups is my favourite part , as well as chatting to the people in treatment ... The greatest gift you can give to someone is time .’
through is similar . Whatever you do , you ’ ve got to be passionate about it , and job satisfaction in recovery is massive .
It ’ s thanks to Phoenix I ’ m still here , and that gratitude is the foundation for me being so passionate about this job . This last year has been difficult , but in a strange way it ’ s also been great for my professional development .
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