Each month we will publish a 'day in the life' of a member of staff to showcase some of the many different roles across the hospital. This month; Sue Lyons, Complementary Therapist...
What made you want to become a Therapist?
I think it chose me actually - it seemed to find me. I’d been managing a music department at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge but was made redundant after five years. I took six months off and had some time to myself, before deciding I needed to go back to work. Becoming a therapist came to me like a flash of inspiration, I suddenly knew what I should be doing. So I booked myself on to a Massage Therapy course which took about a year, and then I got a job shortly after qualifying.
How did you end up in your specialty?
Shortly after qualifying I bumped into the brother of a friend of mine who was a nurse in a psychiatric hospital in London, who mentioned that the hospital was looking for a therapist. I applied, got the job, and spent the next 25 years working with patients suffering with conditions such as anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol addictions.
The hospital also had a stress unit at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, so my time was split between here and the other hospital until 2011, when I decided to become permanent at Bupa Cromwell. At this time complementary therapy was introduced as part of the package for oncology patients, so I spent most of my time seeing patients from the chemotherapy day unit, oncology ward or radiotherapy.
What kind of patients do you see?
I see everyone in the hospital who would like a massage, but mainly oncology patients as they have 4 complimentary sessions included in their treatment plan.
Complementary therapy at Bupa Cromwell Hospital involves many different kinds of massage. Patients from the chemotherapy day unit mainly want foot, neck and shoulder massages, so I go to the department for this. Patients on the oncology ward are normally treated in their rooms, and radiotherapy patients usually come to the therapy room for a variety of treatments. I work on the emotional side of therapy as well as the physical. I talk to the patients, find out how they are feeling and then create a therapy plan which I think will help them most effectively. Everyone is so different, yet almost all experience some anxiety or depression which I try to help them with. Emotions and feelings become somatised within the physical body so it is extremely important to locate where these blocks are and then use different techniques to help the release on an emotional level, which in turn will create more harmony within the physical body.
What is the best thing about your job?
Making a difference to how someone is feeling is the most important thing for me. For example, if someone comes in terrified of having a portacath inserted so they can start chemotherapy, and I can chat to them, and help take their minds off what they are going through, that is incredibly rewarding. A combination of massage and talking works very well.
People are so nervous when they get a cancer diagnosis, so being able to support people when they are going through such an awful time, and undergoing treatments that make them feel ill, is a lovely thing to do and creates a harmony between patient and therapist.
What is the hardest thing about your job?
Nothing. I honestly find it totally stress free.
What is an average day like for you?
My working hours are from 9 to 5.30 usually. When I first arrive I check my emails and sort out any admin. I then head to the oncology ward for the handover of both the ward and the chemotherapy day unit. I am given a list of all the patients for that day, and decide who I will see. I also see outpatients from radiotherapy, so am between departments quite a lot.
I also put some time aside for research and for CPD. I visit two therapy sites a year to learn new practices and procedures being carried out elsewhere, to see if there are any changes we could make to improve our service.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
This job is completely about the patient not about yourself. It’s about treating people with love, kindness, compassion, and empathy. Helping someone to release fear and anxiety, and encouraging them to talk openly about their feelings and emotions when they are going through such a difficult time. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.