The Trust offers psychologists real opportunities to develop their own practice; to work flexibly and innovatively. BIRT is part of The Disabilities Trust, founded 40 years ago and now one of the UK’s leading provider of services to people with a brain injury. BIRT was set up by neuropsychologists in the 1990s – and is still informed and led by neuropsychology to get the best clinical outcomes for the people we support in a number of settings. We work in two hospitals and 14 assessment and rehabilitation centres in England and Wales, working with people with brain injuries to help them regain the skills they have lost through neurorehabilitation.
Brain injury affects a number of areas, such as emotional states and executive functioning, and this can make rehabilitation difficult for people. BIRT was originally set up to address this, working with people who find it hard to engage in rehabilitation: this successful transdisciplinary approach is still embedded today. A collective approach from, among others, nurses, neuropsychiatrists, neuropsychologists, physiotherapists, and occupational and speech and language therapists secures important outcomes. For instance, during 2019-2020 73 per cent of people supported were discharged to a more independent setting, around 58 per cent of people supported improved their participation in social activities and 13 per cent of people we supported were discharged back into education, employment or vocational training. We were really proud of this as a team.
We start with an in-depth assessment, then set goals which are then addressed through a very structured rehabilitation process. We continually evaluate the effectiveness of what we’re doing. Goals relate very firmly to real life – that’s one of the distinctive features of what we do: a client might work over a period on kitchen skills, for instance. It’s not just the clinical team who work with the clients on these goals: rehabilitation support workers also help to deliver the programme. It’s really 24/7 rehabilitation using a neurobehavioral plus model.
Our clinical psychologists are usually working towards their Qualification in Clinical Neuropsychology (QICN) and BIRT supports them in this. Different jobs will require different levels of experience. Some are aimed at newly qualified staff, some with more experience. An interest in our client group is essential.
We also focus on research, which has helped to build our reputation for creating leading edge and innovative approaches. Over the last 10 years we have undertaken a number of UK first research studies exploring brain injury within the adult prison population. This research has informed and influenced Government policy as well as supported the development of screening tools and interventions.
We strongly support CPD… our interconnectedness, added to the size of our organisation, allows people to grow in their roles. I worked in the NHS for many years. That requires a more structured way of working than the flexible one we have here.
Innovation and flexibility have been necessary during the COVID outbreak. Our rehabilitation work can’t be done online as some sorts of therapy are, so we’ve had to adapt our working practices quickly and intelligently. We’re also seeing clients who have respiratory problems in addition to brain damage.
To work here you must be a people person. You’ll have to communicate with many different people – other professionals, support staff, significant others, external organisations and, of course, clients. And obviously you must be committed to the rehabilitation of your clients.
This is a culture that encourages you to innovate, improve and develop different ways to help our clients. It’s a working environment for self-starters who want to push the boundaries of clinical expertise.
More information on the role can be found here