I am currently on placement as a trainee rehabilitation engineer, located at the Posture Mobility Centre in South Wales with the Rehabilitation Engineering Unit. When I was introduced to PMG by my supervisor, I quickly realised that the group deals with issues at the core of the special seating services that we also provide and so didn’t hesitate to join.
The PMG Conference 2016 was my first, and I was not disappointed: it has been the highlight of my placement, if not my training, to date. As a student, I didn't expect to have much to say, so my plan was to observe proceedings and make important contacts where possible. My plan was executed, but there was more. I was wrong about my expectations - from the exhibitors to fellow delegates to the lovely PMG staff and committee members - everyone was interested in knowing my interests as well as sharing with me their own involvement in posture and mobility. This was refreshing and reassuring; it made my experience even more enjoyable.
Ever since starting my training I have been proactive, utilising every opportunity to establish contacts with various organisations and professional bodies that deal with anything related to my speciality. This was partly because of not being sure what I was getting into when I enrolled onto my course and wanting as much information as possible. Today, as I continue to develop professionally and individually, I have no regrets, and the PMG Conference experience played a big part in this journey.
The conference - held at the iconic International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham - was the ultimate melting pot of those pioneering research, education and provision to service users in the UK who require posture and mobility aids. I came to realise that, although services may differ in the way they work, the definitive goal of meeting service users’ needs is at the centre of it all. The conference gave an insight into the services available around the country and I have already made the most of the handy list of delegate and exhibitor contacts, having been invited to the Specialised Ability Centre in Manchester where I live. This opportunity would not have arisen without the networking at the conference.
The remarkable exhibition at the event was also not to be missed: all company staff were so enthusiastic in demonstrating their impressive products and answering the countless questions from delegates. It was here that I no longer felt like a student among professionals, finding myself fully engaged and enjoying every minute of it. The diversity of the wheelchairs and accessories on show was just mind blowing; you could find everything for everyone to suit their personal needs, whether high-tech, low-tech or even no-tech! For me, the event served its purpose of bringing people together to network and share information on how and where to find the right solutions for the very complex postural and/or mobility needs of their clients.
I was also impressed by the quality and content of the presentations at the conference. I am now both challenged and motivated as I continue studying, having witnessed the wonderful work being done by the various professionals up and down the country. Their individual enthusiasm and dedication was evident, but there was also a noticeable benefit reported from collaborative working. One example was the joint venture in London between the Tower Hamlets Wheelchair Service and Barts Health NHS Trust in the provision of combined seating solutions. I believe clients having more than one seating and/or mobility system would benefit from similar arrangements, with service providers saving significant amounts of time and money; other apparent benefits included improved care through the sharing of knowledge and resources, as well as more independence for patients.
Ade Adepitan’s opening and Martin Gough’s plenary session presentations were among those that stood out for me. Mr Gough highlighted the importance of critically reviewing any intervention to ensure it significantly improves the lives of people with complex disabilities, considering their future comfort, and function, not just their body structure. Illustration is of Mr Martin Gough answering questions following his presentation in the plenary session Making life better: postural management & surgery for the child and adult with complex disability. (Photograph courtesy of Suzie Hunt).
Finally, the Aldersea Lecture was an excellent presentation by the Director of Public Affairs at the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA), Ray Hodgkinson MBE. It was a timely reminder of the positive influence of assistive technology in today’s society, highlighting also the cost effectiveness of harnessing technological advances in the delivery of healthcare. It was apparent from the exhibition that posture and wheeled mobility expertise relies heavily on these advances. It was also encouraging to learn that BHTA is committed to working with PMG in mapping out the future through involving those new to the field like myself, as well as addressing the broad range of skills required and the impact of technological advances.
I cannot begin to imagine what I missed in previous PMG conferences, and am already looking forward to next year’s event, which is most convenient as I will still be in Cardiff on my final year placement - the organisers have given me no chance to justify missing it!