Social work jobs: Supporting people with epilepsy

In the first of a new series of guides to different social work specialisms, we find out what it is like being one of only two part-time social workers based at the Epilepsy Society’s centre in Buckinghamshire.

Name and title: Sally Garrett-Smith, Epilepsy Society social worker

Background to the job: Sally works with people who have been referred to the Epilepsy Society’s Sir William Gowers Centre for the treatment and assessment of their epileptic seizures. The centre’s multidisciplinary team, which includes medical consultants, nursing staff, occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers, aims to provide an accurate diagnosis, improve seizure control and assess people’s future care needs.

Daily tasks: Any member of staff at the centre could refer a case to the social work team, but referrals usually come from one of the weekly multidisciplinary team meetings. Sally then introduces herself to the patient, finds out as much background information as she can and assesses their care needs. People who have suffered epileptic seizures might struggle to find work and live a normal, independent life. On average it takes Sally two hours to go through a full assessment with the patient. She will either work with them at the centre or, less often, visit them at home, to help put the right support systems in place. She also works closely with family and carers, partly because they can describe what happens when the patient has a seizure, but also to help them understand the condition and how it might affect someone’s behaviour.

Experience/Qualities required: Sally works with people who have learning difficulties, physical difficulties and mental health issues and strongly advises building up experience in these areas before specialising in supporting with people with epilepsy. It would also help to spend some time working in a hospital, residential or nursing home setting. Finally, social workers at the Epilepsy Society have an understanding of the seizure types and the effect medication might have on someone; so a general interest in epilepsy would be an advantage.

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