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Cliona is currently in her final year of BSc (Hons) Psychology here at Bournemouth University. In this guest blog she talks about her experiences working with Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust during her placement year.

From September 2021-July 2022, I worked within Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust for my placement year. My role was an Honorary Assistant Psychologist within the Adult Learning Disability Team. The placement year was an invaluable experience through which I developed both personally and professionally. I would highly recommend a placement year to everyone.

During my placement, I had many vital experiences which have equipped me with the skills required for a future career within psychology. I participated in indirect clinical activity through business and governance meetings, working parties, projects, and supporting qualified psychologists clinically. For direct clinical activity I contributed to referral meetings, triaging, high-risk meetings, transition meetings, file reviews, shadowing, and Healthy Dementia Measure Assessments. Also, I was involved in professional development activities such as supervision, academic reading, training, psychology meetings, and multi-disciplinary meetings. There were opportunities to shadow various professionals within the multi-disciplinary team such as nurses, speech/language therapists, and clinical psychologists. Additionally, numerous training opportunities were provided for me such as a Makaton sign language course.

My main role within the team was to provide Healthy Measure of Memory and Skills assessments to people with Down Syndrome living in Cornwall. This is a dementia baseline screening offered to everyone with Down syndrome. This population is at greater risk of developing dementia and at earlier-onset than the general population. Leading on this programme meant I held clinical responsibility and a caseload. I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility. By the end of my placement, I was able to independently carry out visits and conduct assessments, rather than purely shadowing other professionals. The Adult Learning Disability Team also greatly benefited from my work, as the healthy measure project was previously stagnant due to staffing pressures and demands. I was able to take on this project and offer the last remaining individuals aged over 30 the opportunity to participate in a dementia baseline screening. The psychologists and wider multidisciplinary team really appreciated me and my contribution to the service. The Healthy Measure of Memory and Skills program is an amazing proactive project which I was honoured to be able to work on.

One of the most significant aspects of my placement year was that it helped me to clarify my career goals.  Before the placement my main goal was to become a clinical psychologist. Having had an enjoyable placement experience, this has confirmed that I still wish to pursue this career.

After graduating I am aiming to work within the NHS in a psychological role such as an Assistant Psychologist, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, or a Clinical Associate Psychologist. This will then give me the relevant experience to apply for Clinical Psychology Doctorate courses. Another key aspect that I have learnt through my placement experience is that I am more than able to achieve this role. For example, I never considered I would be able to complete clinical assessments independently at an undergraduate level, but I was able to effectively do this. Taking a placement year has also been indispensable to my final year of university. I have gained extensive skills and knowledge which I am able to apply to my final year modules and my dissertation. Overall, my expectations for my placement year were met and exceeded.

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