My placement year as a student in the NHS Chronic Pain and Fatigue Service

Hi, I’m Abby and I’m a psychology student currently working as part of the Pain and Fatigue service for Solent NHS Trust.  

It was the second placement I applied for after a few of weeks of looking on Surrey Pathfinder and was delighted to be offered the opportunity after a string of online interviews. I was so excited to start my placement back home and somewhere familiar, whilst also being independent in my new role. I’ve now completed eight weeks and its flown by!!!  

My first week on placement: 

I was nervous to start my placement, as this role was different to anything that my psychology course had covered so far, and I didn’t know what to expect. However, the first week was extremely relaxed, completing online learning/training, applying for a DBS check, and picking up a laptop and NHS security card.  

I met most of the team in the following days and liaised with my supervisor so she could help me out with some of the training and get to know what different aspects of the service my role would cover.  

What I’ve learnt so far: 

My role involves sitting in on patient appointments, shadowing different team members e.g., medics, psychologists, physiotherapists, and nurses. In these instances, I have learnt the balance between showing empathy and staying professional in the workplace. It is a necessary tool, so the patient feels relaxed and opens up about their pain, however, professionalism reminds myself that I am only there to take notes and discuss their case in team meetings.  

My experience of doing a literature review 

I have also learnt how to carry out an extensive literature review; using different databases to collect journal articles, websites, and documents to help the clinicians be more informed on aspects of ‘pain’.  

For example, my supervisor was curious to see whether there was a questionnaire to determine whether patients are ready for pain-based therapy. Across my literature review, I collated literature from three different relevant questionnaires, and analysed their validity and reliability, and whether they were appropriate for our pain service.  

Using these complex databases provided by the NHS, I can now use my refined search strategy to gather evidence for essays in the future of my course.  

Some more skills I have picked up so far: 

  • Producing service evaluations 
  • Creating patient handbooks  
  • Integrating psychology within different teams- Physio, Long-Covid and Chronic Fatigue 
  • Mediating a 10-week Pain Management Programme, and helping present it to a group of patients within our service  

Learning about myself 

I have already learnt a lot about myself in the process, after coming into placement year unsure about my future in psychology. However, from this placement, I have learnt that there are many aspects of psychology that overlap with other roles/ responsibilities, and I do not need to refine myself.  

Experiencing a 5-day work week within the NHS has shown me what a career in psychology would entail, and after talking with high-level psychologists I am excited to learn as much as possible along the way.