It’s really lovely to see children blossom and grow in to young adults

“It’s really lovely to see children blossom and grow in to young adults, hopefully feeling confident about their scars and able to achieve anything they want to.”Debbie Smith

Debbie is an Allied Health Professional (AHP) who oversees the therapy service provided to children who have suffered burns. This service covers South Yorkshire and the surrounding areas, as well as working with therapists and Multidisciplinary teams across the country.

She started at Sheffield Children’s in 2005 as a rotational physio on rotation, first on the Intensive Care Unit before moving to limb reconstruction. Debbie then moved to the Burns Unit in 2007 and has since worked her way up to be team leader.

Describing her role, Debbie said: “The team physiotherapists and occupational therapists work closely together to support patients to achieve a full range of movement, reacquire function – being able to do all the things you would normally do – and independence, and we give advice on returning to school, sports and activities as soon as it is safe.

“When you get burnt, especially if the burn is on or around a joint then children can get very stiff and they can get skin tightness and joint contracture that stops them moving – as well as being very painful! So it’s really good that we get to build a real relationship with some of the patients and families who we may see from the time of their injury as a toddler until they are 16 and moving to adult services. It’s really lovely to see children blossom and grow in to young adults, hopefully feeling confident about their scars and able to achieve anything they want to.

Alongside her day to day role, Debbie joins other nurses, a psychologist, burns patients and their families from across the north of England for an event called Family Weekend. The event allows the patient and their family to spend valuable time together as a family, while having the support of experts. Debbie takes two families from Sheffield Children’s each year. There’s also a chance for patients to have sessions on scar management, dealing with trauma and meet other families in similar situations.

Debbie said: “The workload is really varied, you meet lots of different people who have different injuries and experiences and need different input and treatment plans.

“We may give advice and exercises to patients. For example they might be started on scar management, have play sessions, perform stretches and massage with patients, or sometimes take them to Weston Park for an active session where they get used to showing their wounds in public.”

Debbie’s team also aims to promote good psychosocial wellbeing and have a psychologist, Charlotte Wright, to support patients with any issues such as anxiety over their body image.

Debbie said: “It’s really nice to work in a friendly, supportive and close knit team in a relatively small hospital where you get to know lots of people.”

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