Jess Miller worked for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) for three and a half years before answering her “calling” and becoming a lecturer in physiotherapy at Anglia Ruskin University. However, she returns as a bank physio once a month.
“The team and support is fantastic and it’s an organisation that puts a heavy emphasis on professional development,” said the 31-year-old, who worked for EACH from March 2019 until December 2022.
“The hydrotherapy is particularly special and, from a personal point of view, I have nothing but happy memories. It was a great time but when I first went for the job, I didn’t expect to get it.
“Although I’d worked with paediatric patients before, I wasn’t a specialist. I’d never worked in palliative care, either, and, although there were elements of the job I’d done previously, it was certainly very different.
“However, I distinctly remember being told that although I didn’t have the exact experience they were looking for, I was the right person and they would support me. EACH was very good at putting me on courses to develop me, too.
“I did a couple of hydrotherapy ones and also moving and handling, which is key for physiotherapy. I also shadowed one of the bank physios and had respiratory study days at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge. It was brilliant, helped build my confidence and gave me a different perspective.
“I was encouraged to draw on my experience and expertise and, from a recruitment point of view, EACH doesn’t underestimate the value of bringing in people from other areas.”
Jess started as a Band 6 physio, in a senior development role, but developed into a Band 7 specialist. By meeting certain competencies, and with support from the team, she achieved that over the course of 18 months.
“I’d always wanted to work with kids and then happened to see the job at EACH,” she said.
“It was perfect because, at the time, I lived just down the road from Milton. I went in, had a chat and they showed me the pool and around the hospice. It sounded interesting so I applied and, thankfully, got the job.
“One of the things I was particularly passionate about was hydro – not just routine sessions but also being involved in end-of-life swims. It’s a very special opportunity and incredible experience, because a family has specifically expressed a wish to do that.
“You’re in a position to help make their dream come true and, for some families, it’s one of their over-riding memories from spending time at the hospice. It’s precious time together for the families and, from a physio’s point of view, a very positive thing to do.
“Another thing I loved was having the unique experience of working alongside so many specialist professions, like music therapists, art therapists and play specialists. It was a very valuable experience and I worked particularly closely with the music therapist.
“We did sessions together, working in collaboration to try and get a child moving a little more. We brought together our different areas of expertise and that’s different to other places I’ve seen and worked in.
“It’s very much a multi-disciplinary team and approach and linking in with specialist nurses is always really helpful, too. There’s just so much scope to be helpful, which is such a lovely position to be in.”
Before joining EACH, Jess, who lives in Papworth, gained an undergraduate physiotherapy degree at King’s College, London. She had spells working privately, as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist, and within a social enterprise.
“Musculoskeletal physio is very much a case of treating patients in blocks of appointments,” she said.
“You see them for half an hour and they come in with their back pain or knee injury, for example, but you never get to spend much time with them. It just turned into a bit of a cogwheel exercise, whereby you’re effectively trying to get people in and out again as quickly as possible.
“It was very intense and I wanted to do something different, which is when I saw the job at EACH. As I say, I loved it and the only reason I moved on was just because teaching is my calling.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and then Anglia Ruskin started a physiotherapy degree, which began last January. I had the opportunity to become a lecturer and that’s why I left, rather than having any problem or not enjoying it.
“In fact, the complete opposite applied and the beauty of working at the hospice is that you aren’t limited by appointment time constraints. You feel you can make a real difference.”
Published in March 2023