Published: 14/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5927 Page 34

Calderstones trust behavioural therapy nurse Lizzie Pearson

What is your professional background?

I trained as a learning disability nurse in the early 1980s.Calderstones then was a large institution for people with learning disabilities. It is now more of a modern housing estate.

I started work on a ward and then worked in the community when services for people with learning disabilities moved that way in the late 1980s.

I went back on the ward in a role that evolved with the service.We worked with smaller groups of individuals, providing treatment rather than just caring for them.We mainly help to rehabilitate young people.

What attracted you to your new job?

It is very interesting and diverse.We work with complex client groups.The focus is on treatment and outcomes.From day one when someone is admitted, we are involved.

What does it involve?

The hospital is the last port of call for distressed young people whose behaviour can't be treated in the community.They can be at risk from self-harm or drugs and alcohol abuse; they might even have committed arson. We work with them to reduce their risk-taking behaviour and develop coping strategies to get them back into the community.

Our role has changed from looking after older people for long periods to mostly helping younger people, who stay in for shorter lengths of time.We devise individual care pathways in a multidisciplinary team including psychologists and provide cognitive behaviour therapy and group psychotherapy.We are unusual - there are very few medium-secure hospitals for people with learning disabilities in the country.

What do you enjoy most?

Working in a small team with diverse clients.We work to get them better and it is good to see the results.The process of building coping strategies is slow, but when we rehabilitate someone and put them back into the community, they stay there.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Trying to understand the clients and why they are behaving the way they are.Some are not able to tell us how they feel, so we work it out with their help.