In 2015 I was successful in securing a post for the Myeloma (blood cancer) Complementary Therapist, funded by Nottingham Hospitals Charity and based at the Hayward House Specialist Palliative Care Unit. The role was originally for six months but it soon became obvious that this service was very much needed and now, over five years on, I am able to provide complementary therapies to blood cancer, Sickle Cell Anaemia and other haematology patients.
Over that time my role has developed and embedded with the haematology service by working alongside clinical professionals to offer patients the additional support of complementary therapies. I also attend patient support, rehabilitation groups and staff educational training days to talk about the benefits of complementary therapies – the response is always amazing.
Part of my training was to attend the Dying to Communicate Course run by the Palliative Care Consultants at Hayward House, which has helped me to better communicate with patients receiving end of life care.
Continuing Professional Development in Cancer & Palliative Care Reflexology and Cancer Care & Aromatherapy has also enhanced my knowledge and confidence when working with patients.
A range of therapies such as aromatherapy, reflexology, massage, Reiki, and Indian head massage are offered with the aim of promoting relaxation and a sense of wellbeing, either at our purpose-built therapy unit for outpatients or at the bedside for inpatients.
The complementary therapy unit is a warm, relaxed, self-contained environment that looks like a log cabin – to provide the necessary peace and tranquillity for patients in a non-clinical environment.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis we had to adapt the way in which we worked so that we can continue to provide a service. Telephone support has been increasingly popular as not everyone wants, or can have, hands-on treatment due to shielding, isolating, transport and costs. Prior to a patient’s visit a telephone consultation is carried out which includes a MYCAW (measure yourself concerns and wellbeing) questionnaire. This is most important as it will evaluate the needs, concerns and quantitative data for supportive care.
I feel that I’m constantly learning, especially due to the many different types of blood cancers, blood disorders and stages I see patients with. This includes the Watch and Wait stage where treatment may not be needed straight away, and some patients may never need it. This can be very stressful due to the uncertainty it presents
Patients I see on the haematology wards can be recently diagnosed, undergoing chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, neutropenic, having complications, receiving palliative care or having a Sickle Cell crisis.
At this point emotionally, physically, and psychologically they are in need of support. Complementary therapies are most welcomed at this time of vulnerability and using a holistic approach I’m able to evaluate a patient’s needs by listening and providing reassurance. Sometimes just a chat and showing empathy may release any built-up emotions and I often find a secure gentle touch of the hand can be comforting and may be all that is needed at this time.
Reflexology and aromatherapy are the most popular treatments I provide. Before deciding on the treatment, I carefully look at the patient’s diagnosis, lifestyle, and consider the support that may be needed. Essential oils can evoke a very immediate emotional reaction and aromastick nasal inhalers provide a quick response in anxious or nauseous patients when used in conjunction with breathing techniques.
In these uncertain times our complementary team have pulled together and supported each other, giving me the confidence to work in an environment that is constantly changing. It’s a privilege to work with patients knowing I am able to make a difference by providing a treatment. It is my hope that complementary therapy will one day be more available and recognised within the NHS.