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#What25MeansToMe – KAOS

July 28th, 2021

KAOS (Kings Adolescent Outreach Service) is a unique service that provides support to young people as inpatients. KAOS youth workers work with the clinical team at Kings to ensure young people in hospital are receiving holistic support. We spoke to the team behind it for our next What 25 Means to Me blog….

When did KAOS begin and why?

KAOS was formed in 2018 in response to the rising need of support for young people on adult wards whilst in hospital. From the age of 16 (and sometimes younger), young people can be placed on adult wards which can be overwhelming due to the change in environment when compared to children’s wards. KAOS youth workers are able to add a different dimension to their care by focussing on social, physical and mental wellbeing alongside the medical care that is being received. KAOS focusses primarily on 16-21 year olds on adult wards, but will support anyone up to 25 on adult wards and can take referrals for 13 and up on paediatric wards.

What does a typical day of a KAOS youth worker look like?

As a team, we start the day by going through an automated mailing list that gets sent to the whole team of every 16–21-year-old currently admitted on any adult ward. We then triage the list – going through the notes of all those young people to determine who is eligible for our service. Sometimes we immediately refer to the Redthread YVIP team, or we’ll liaise with teams who are already involved (i.e., psychiatric liaison or medical teams) to decide if our support is needed.

Once we’ve triaged the list, we assign cases to individual youth workers and head off to visit the young people – one of the best parts of our jobs. When talking to young people we deploy a conversational, person-centred approach. We use a questionnaire that was designed by Dr Steph Lamb at the Well Centre to guide it. The You and Your Health questionnaire covers topics ranging from sexual activity to mental health and employment; it allows us to begin planning what kind of intervention and support the young person may need.

When we talk about supporting young people, it takes on a variety of forms. It can be general health advice related to things that have been disclosed during our conversation or their admission. But it can also be providing them with outpatient support in the form of community visits, and during the pandemic, phone calls to be sure they stay engaged with their health care. We also act as an advocate for young people when communicating with medical personnel. Often young people will make disclosures about things whilst talking to us, so with their consent we will complete referrals to other teams who may be better placed to support them. These can be community teams, but may also be hospital-based teams.

How do you work alongside the clinical team at King’s College Hospital?

KAOS was created and developed by Dr Simon Chapman and Dr Hannah Baynes, two children’s doctors with a particular interest in adolescent health. As a service we are very lucky to have the expertise of a whole team of clinicians who volunteer their time to us during the year. Everyday there is a member of the clinical team who is on call with us to discuss cases and any concerns that come up during the day. Each of the clinicians has a speciality and our team is vast in the support they can provide. Ranging from neurosurgeons to clinical nurse specialists, everyone brings something slightly different that is invaluable in its own right.
We also do direct work with ward staff and nurses who are crucial to our team. Nurses are able to provide us with an insight into how young people are coping on the ward as they tend to spend the most time with them. We have begun developing a team of link nurses on wards who takes on the role of referring straight to us.

‘Chris and Zahra in the KAOS team reach out to vulnerable young people with compassion, patience and miles of common sense, delivering their special brand of peer support which has helped countless of our patients to find support, community and concrete advice at times of health or social difficulty.’ – Lucy Pickard Sullivan MPH MRCPCH, Consultant paediatrician

‘It has been incredibly reassuring and comforting being able to speak to someone…through these tough times. Thank you so much, it has been invaluable’ Young person, aged 19

What’s your favourite thing about being a KAOS youth worker?

As KAOS youth workers we meet young people at points of crisis and vulnerability, as such we reach them at a key moment which can be instrumental in their outcomes. We get to work with them to support them in making choices that are the best. That is the best part of our jobs, getting to see young people thrive with our support. We get to go home every day with a sense of fulfilment having supported young people through a difficult period with the end goal of taking steps forward in different aspects of life.

This is part of our ‘What 25 Means to Me’ campaign. To celebrate Redthread’s 25th year, our blog series provides different perspectives on the eclectic experience on ‘growing up’ and how society can better support young people going through this transition. 

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