This week is Lymphoedema Awareness Week, which aims to shine a light on the condition, the people it affects and why physical activity is so crucial for its management. By creating more awareness we can help reduce its impact and harm through recognising the signs and working to minimise its effects.
Here, we meet Jan Bell, a Lymphoedema Therapist at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. Jan is a qualified nurse and has worked at the hospice for 23 years, initially in the inpatient unit before moving to the Lyphoedema service, which provides specialist care and support to help people manage their symptoms. In this blog, she talks us through a day in her life.
The day begins
I start work at 10.00am and finish at 6.00pm, giving the opportunity for some patients to have later appointments, which reduces the impact on their work life. I work five days a week - three at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading and on the other two days I manage the lymphoedema clinic at Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub Berkshire in Newbury.
Generally the first thing I do when I get to work is check the answerphone for any messages, meet with my colleagues to plan the day and discuss any priorities, before making sure my clinic is organised for the day.
“Lymphoedema is not curable, but can generally be controlled and symptoms managed”
Lymphoedema is a long-term condition of swelling in the body’s tissues caused by the lymphatic system not working properly. It is not curable, but can generally be controlled and symptoms managed. At our clinic, we care for people with secondary lymphoedema, for example, as a result of cancer or cancer treatments.
I base my appointments around the four cornerstones of lymphoedema management: compression, lymphatic drainage, skin care and exercise. If the swelling is well managed this reduces the risk of cellulitis (an infection which can worsen swelling), so we help patients lessen their risk of ending up in hospital on antibiotics.
“Lymphoedema has different effects on different people, so we look at treatment that is suitable to that patient’s specific needs”
Psychological support is also a big part of our role. Lymphoedema is a chronic condition which people can suffer with for the rest of their lives, so it's really important they engage and learn to self-manage with support from us.
Lymphoedema is not generally painful, but it can have a big impact on daily activities such as getting appropriate clothing and/or shoes to fit, functional problems which interfere with work/home/social life, and the visual appearance of swelling or wearing garments. Lymphoedema has different effects on different people, so we take a holistic approach and look at treatment that is suitable to that patient’s specific needs.
No working day is ever the same. My day is usually a mix of follow-up appointments, new patient assessments, ordering specialist hosiery, checking emails and keeping up-to-date with mandatory training or changes within the Lymphoedema speciality. We’ll also take phone calls from patients, family members or medical professionals who want advice or have questions.
I love working at the hospice - I think the fact that I have been here for 23 years says it all! The support you receive in a hospice environment, even as a healthcare professional, is amazing. I travel sometimes up to an hour to work every day and I wouldn’t put that effort in if it wasn’t for the love of my job and the place I work - and of course my amazing colleagues. It’s the people that make the place.
“The best thing about my job is having undisturbed quality time with patients so we can work together as a team”
The best thing about my job is having undisturbed quality time with patients so we can work together as a team to draw up a plan that will work for them. It’s also exciting being creative to try something different that might work for them.
I generally try to leave work at 6.00pm. My evenings are usually busy - I started to play the ukulele last year and I'm now part of a community band. It's great fun, great learning and great for mood boosting. It's a bit like ‘School of Rock’ for grown ups, but even better!
Find out more information about Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, their specialist Lymphoedema clinic and the ways you can support them to continue to be there when it matters.
Lymphoedema Therapist at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice
Jan Bell is a Lymphoedema Therapist at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. Jan is a qualified nurse and has worked at the hospice for 23 years, initially in the inpatient unit before moving to the Lyphoedema service, which provides specialist care and support to help people manage their symptoms.