Hi, I’m Hannah Ives - Assistant Practitioner for the Children’s Hospice at Home Team at ellenor. I manage the respite team and have been working at ellenor for eight years now. I previously worked at a special needs school and it was there I realised that I really wanted a career helping children with special needs. I love the fact that I can have more of an impact and help with their development in sometimes what can be considered really small ways; for example, to make a child smile or just lift a finger - this might seem minor, but for a child with special needs this can be huge.
A typical day
There is no such thing as a normal day in this job. You can plan your week but it can all change depending on the needs of the families, and with so many of the children having such complex needs, situations can develop quickly. After our team meetings, I will plan the respite rota for the week and speak with the families who have requested respite. Some families have regular planned respite, while others may need a one off session to help to cover a particular situation that they face or for some it can simply be that they are overwhelmed and just need a break.
This definitely isn’t a standard 9 - 5 job, as it’s so important that we work flexibly to suit the families. With the older children we will do things like go shopping or bowling as they often like to do more sociable activities. Being older and having built up a relationship, they will often want to talk through things, concerns they may have about their health, operations or treatment. It is good for them to have someone that they can talk to who understands, but who isn’t mum or dad – although they know that we can’t keep things confidential. So if things like this do come up, we then encourage and support them to talk to their parents about it.
When a child dies
You can’t help but be affected by the job as we can often work with a family for many years. We recently had a child die that I had looked after for four years. During that time I had a lot of contact and built up a relationship with the child and family. It was really tough when he died. You feel you know them very well and have built a connection, which is a positive. The children we look after make us who we are; they are part of our lives. I learn from each and every experience and they make me a better person for the next child I look after. During the sad times you have to think of all the positive things we have done with them. I always say to my team, if we can look back and know we have done the very best we could, giving them the very best life they can have, then we have done a good job.
I was thrilled to be given the opportunity by ellenor to progress my career and complete the Level 5 City and Guilds course to become an Assistant Practitioner – I also won ‘Best Apprentice’, despite struggling with my own health during that time. There are lots of great highlights working with the children. I have worked with Ciara for eight years since she was just four. She has a condition that makes her very fragile but she really wanted to go to a theme park and go on rides. I spoke with her parents who were happy for her to do it. Ciara realised that if we went ahead that she would, without any doubt, be left is great pain afterwards – but she was determined! I needed to work with the staff at the park to make the experience as safe as possible for her. We managed to pull it off and she had a fantastic time, experiencing things other children her age take for granted. It was fantastic! We have built a real bond over the year, she trusts me, she will talk to me, be open; it’s nice to have that relationship and know that I make a difference.
- Hannah Ives, Assistant Practitioner for our Children's Team