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A Day in the Life of Claire Jenkinson, HHWC Senior Complementary Therapist
I co-ordinate the complementary therapy service at Hospice at Home West Cumbria and see patients, family members and those bereaved in a variety of settings across West Cumbria. I am based at Workington Community Hospital but spend most of my time out in the community. I work with adults of all ages, the majority of whom have a palliative cancer diagnosis. I also work with patients who have Motor Neurone Disease.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy seeing clients in their own homes and believe this is an extremely valuable service for those too unwell to travel to a therapy centre. I feel it’s a privilege to be welcomed into a person’s home to do this work.
I also welcome the opportunity to bring reiki and other complementary therapies to people from across the socio-economic spectrum; people who wouldn’t ordinarily access these services. For me, this is the most powerful part of the work and is very different from working in private practice. In many cases our patients haven’t heard of reiki or reflexology. Therapies are provided free of charge and, as all Hospice at Home services, rely on the generosity of the West Cumbrian public to continue. Feedback assures me that both patients and their families see the value in this important hospice service.
I am also grateful to be able to work alongside our gifted and committed volunteer therapists, who I have great admiration for. They add such value to our service and allow us to help many more clients. The therapy volunteers are well-qualified and bring a wealth of experience and insight to the role. They provide a range of complementary therapies from our Resource Centre on Finkle Street, Workington. Hospice at Home West Cumbria could not meet the demand for therapies if it wasn’t for the volunteers. Additionally, our team includes two members of ‘bank’ staff who have many years’ experience with Hospice at Home West Cumbria and make a valuable contribution. Altogether the team offers reiki, mindfulness, breathing and relaxation, therapeutic massage and reflexology.
Another aspect that I value is the positive feedback that we receive from patients, family members and other professionals. This is always heartfelt and sometimes deeply moving. It’s fantastic to hear the impact that the therapies and therapists have on people’s well-being and ability to cope with a palliative diagnosis and disease progression.
A challenging part of the role is limiting the number of sessions that we can offer an individual. With limited funding and resources, we have to ration sessions available to people. Often, on-going support over months is what is needed but with limited appointments available, this often isn’t possible. This is particularly difficult if a patient is receiving great benefit from the therapy in terms of improved sleep, pain-relief, ability to cope etc.
I was drawn to this work because I wanted to put my skills, experience and personal qualities to good use in palliative care with those experiencing the most challenging time of their life. It is incredibly special work and I feel it’s a great honour to support individuals through the palliative care journey and for family members through bereavement.
What qualifications are needed?
Recognised qualifications to Diploma / practitioner level in the therapies offered with significant experience of delivering these. Specialist courses about adapting complementary therapies for use in palliative care are also available. Experience of palliative care and/or bereavement is ideal. What is crucial is that a therapist has the right personal qualities, compassion, and very importantly, emotional resilience and the ability to self-care. Death and dying typically aren’t talked about in our culture; it’s crucial that therapists can manage these discussions sensitively.
Any advice on people wanting to get into your profession?
Yes- work on yourself. By this I mean invest in your own personal development. This is challenging work and it is crucial to have a healthy approach to death and bereavement whilst maintaining an open- heart and a genuine desire to help those who are suffering. Therapy qualifications are a pre-requisite but it is what a therapist brings beyond these that make the difference: who and ‘how’ we are when we step-up to help someone.
Senior complementary therapist: Typical Day
• Arrive at Hospice at Home West Cumbria’s Therapy, Resource and Information Centre, Workington.
• Domestics; prepare the room.
• Prepare to deliver reiki session
• Appointment #1 with bereaved client. Reiki session.
• Clear room, check supplies for other therapists, eg paperwork, massage oils, clean bedding.
• Walk back to the car park
• Drive to Egremont
• Appointment #2. Reiki session with patient who has cancer.
• Phone the office
• Eat lunch in the car
• Drive to West Cumberland Hospital
• Liaise with palliative care staff on the Loweswater Suite about patient
• Appointment #3 with patient on Loweswater Suite
• Talk to family member afterward to ask how they are coping & offer support
• Drive to Cockermouth
• Appointment #4 with patient
• Drive to HHWC clinical office in Workington Community Hospital
• Input data about sessions onto electronic system
• Check emails, liaise with team, manager, colleagues and Clinical Nurse Specialists in Palliative Care, check new referrals, phone patients, distribute referrals as necessary, phone therapists to pass on referrals.
Claire Jenkinson, Senior Complementary Therapist, Hospice at Home West Cumbria – September 2017