3rd August 2020 | News Archive

CNHC Registrant Marie Duggan is based in the North East of England. She is a practitioner and also provides workshops and accessible accredited CPD e-Learning courses. In this article Marie shares the innovative approach she has developed which involves an exchange of skills that benefits complementary therapists, hospices and cancer centres, and patients going through cancer:


As I developed an eLearning course ‘Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care for Massage, Reflexology and Reiki’, I realised that some therapists would welcome the opportunity to gain clinical practice. I therefore came up with the concept of a ‘mutually respectful exchange of skills’.

The principle is that in exchange for the therapist giving 20 hours voluntary complementary therapy treatments, and submitting case studies, the Clinical or Complementary Therapy Lead will sign off a record of achievement and the therapist will receive a 'Clinical Practice' certificate from the hospice or cancer centre.  Patients will benefit from the much-needed relaxation and stress relief, hospices and cancer centres receive additional support, while therapists gain skills to meet ‘clinical standards’ from established healthcare providers. This in turn improves the therapists’ skills set and employment prospects within the healthcare market and aligns training standards. As I am committed to educating therapists to work within cancer and palliative care, I created the process documentation which is free to any centre providing clinical observation to therapists. 

Putting this into practice, my eLearning course was launched in February 2019 and Alison Hughes from Edinburgh became our first therapist enrolled for reflexology. In the May I connected with Lisa Spalding, the Complementary Therapy Lead at St Columba’s Hospice Care in Edinburgh. Lisa has a passion and vision to expand services at St Columba’s Hospice Care along with support from the clinical team at the hospice. I shared with her the processing forms and information about Alison. After several meetings and conversations, we all agreed this should be a case study and trial. Alison started her clinical practice under the wing of Lisa in September 2019. 

This is pioneering work, so throughout the clinical practice we all liaised and discussed changing parts of the case studies criteria and timescales. This helped Alison to achieve her required 20 hours and allowed her further experience treating patients with other life limiting conditions. 

The clinical practice trial was a success and Alison received her certificate from St Columba’s Hospice Care for achieving Clinical Practice in Reflexology in February 2020. 

I am delighted and so incredibly grateful to both Alison and Lisa for their willingness, trust and vision to trial this initiative. Below they talk about their own experiences of getting involved with the trial.

Lisa Spalding, Complementary Therapy Lead at St Columba’s Hospice Care, Edinburgh: 

I was initially drawn to Marie’s work through connections we both had on LinkedIn. I had not seen an e-learning course in cancer care before and I was curious to find out more about it. Since this first point of contact, it became apparent very quickly that we both had a passion for not only the same therapies we have trained in, but also providing a platform where therapists could gain knowledge and an understanding of delivering therapies safely in a clinical setting, within cancer and palliative care. 

Marie explained her vision to me and how she was looking for hospitals or hospices to provide a clinical placement to her students who had successfully completed her e-learning course, in exchange for 20 hours of therapy services. At the same time I was developing the Complementary Therapy Service at St Columba’s Hospice Care  and had just completed the recruitment processes and induction involved for implementing student practice placements into the team, along with processes on how they would be supported and observed through practice. 

I therefore had a clear idea of how this could fit within our team and the Hospice at this time. It was a win, win situation! Our service would be supported by an additional therapist, our patients would benefit from receiving complementary therapies practised safely, and the therapist would gain the knowledge and experience to develop their skills within a clinical setting. 

The first steps were for Alison to come along to the hospice to meet both myself and Maggie Young, Deputy Manager from Volunteering Services, who oversees the recruitment of our volunteers. Alison was so passionate about being involved in the first placement with Marie’s work and about supporting the Hospice. With PVG checks and references in place, Alison joined the team. 

Alison’s induction included shadowing my colleague and I within our Day Therapies complementary therapy clinics. We then observed Alison providing short adapted reflexology sessions to patients attending the clinic. Alison also delivered sessions to our carers. At the end of the sessions, observation feedback was given, and Alison had the opportunity to ask questions share how she was feeling about the session. As I had also completed Marie’s e-learning course, I could refer to the content with Alison, consolidating her learning.  

Alison has now successfully completed her placement and received her certificate and we are delighted that she has decided to continue volunteering with us, supporting the Hospice, the Complementary Therapy team, and our patients and carers.

The support provided from Marie made the whole process and experience a pleasure to be a part of and it is so rewarding to see Marie’s vision unfold with the successful implementation of her first placement here at St Columba’s Hospice Care. I look forward to continuing to work with Marie and being able to provide a platform to support her students to practice their therapies confidently to our patients and carers receiving complementary therapies here at the Hospice, as part of their care.   

Alison Hughes, Holistic Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Trainee Mindfulness Teacher: 

Being given the opportunity to make a positive impact on the quality of life for patients going through cancer through complementary therapies means a lot to me. I am one of many to lose loved ones to cancer, even at the tender age of 20 and throughout other periods of my life. I have known many others including relatives and friends who have lost cherished loved ones. Many have spoken so highly about the support their loved ones received at St Columba’s Hospice Care. I was offered the chance of a clinical placement here a few months after my course. 

I cannot tell you what a place this is, it touches you as soon as your feet step onto the ground. It felt unreal but I know it is very real. The care and compassion hit you right away, everyone who passes you in the corridor smiles and says hello. So much is given in volunteer and paid hours and so much is provided holistically. Being a part of this place will touch me for life. 

I have been supported by the Complementary Team at St Columba’s Hospice Care in Edinburgh and also on a 1:1 level by Lisa Spalding, the Complementary Therapy Lead. It is great being part of the team. The support continues and I have learnt so much from Lisa and the team. 

I felt part of the team right away and knew I had a part to play. Working with them so closely helped my confidence, and the place just feels full of love for anyone who passes through the doors. Therapies are given to carers, patients with cancer, motor neurone disease (MND), lung condition and other neurological illnesses. The team have therapies for inpatients, outpatients, and a day therapy service. 

I have continued to grow and develop my skills and have learned to adapt my touch with a much lighter pressure for patients and carers. Holding the feet, pausing with lighter pressure and going so much slower than how I would normally, can really allow the sense of time to slow down, with moments of stillness, as if somehow time stood still and all the systems of the body can be supported with this gentle soothing therapy. 

The support from touch is so invaluable and patients benefit in so many ways. They often express how soothing, relaxing, stress relieving it can be, some saying how it helps with their pain levels, how this has lessened or how they feel they are going to float out of the room. It felt like they were walking on air. 

Everything on this journey, for me, has been so rewarding and so much can be learned from the care and compassion in this setting about people, relationships, and life itself.