19 November 2018
Adrian Martins, a CNHC registered Massage Therapist, writes about his experience working at the Terrence Higgins Trust as their Complementary Therapy Coordinator...
As a young and fresh-faced Massage Therapy graduate (15 years ago, eek!) I always knew I wanted to support people living with HIV. I grew up in a part of Canada with little exposure to people living with HIV. As a young teenager, I heard the stories of how HIV and AIDS was affecting the gay community and always thought to myself ‘what could I do to help make a positive difference in their lives?’.
As I grew older and eventually became part of the LGBTQ community, I have met many good friends and acquaintances living with HIV. I saw first hand how they were being affected by the harsh medications of the time. In response to this I decided to volunteer as a Massage Therapist with The AIDS Committee of Toronto in the hope of helping others integrate complementary therapies into their care regime. I wanted to help and support them to maintain their health in ways that go beyond addressing only the physical impact of living with HIV. Little did I know how the positive impact of volunteering at the AIDS Committee of Toronto would propel me into a career in the HIV sector as a Complementary Therapist.
In 2017, I moved to London where I was lucky enough to get a position as the Complementary Therapies Coordinator and Massage Therapist at Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity. I am extremely lucky to work with a team of staff and volunteers that put their heart and soul into every bit of work they do there.
In my role at Terrence Higgins Trust, I coordinate the provision of high quality, caring, and professional complementary therapy services for people living with HIV. I also treat service users as a certified and CNHC registered Massage Therapist, and prefer for new therapists we employ to be registered with CNHC.
The charity offers a range of therapies provided by fully certified and insured volunteer therapists including Massage Therapy, Hypnotherapy and Shiatsu Therapy both at a low-cost fee, and free for those experiencing financial hardships.
Today, although HIV can be managed effectively with medication and regular check-ups, many people living with HIV seek out complementary therapies in their efforts to stay healthy, boost their immune system, prevent illness, and delay the onset of HIV-related conditions. They can also help with relaxation and ease tensions that are emotional as well as physical. Many complementary therapies have an immediate appeal because they emphasise a holistic approach to health, and provide wellness regimens that aren’t offered as a part of standard HIV treatment protocol.
Click here for more information about the Complementary therapy service at Terrence Higgins Trust
22 October 2018
Garry Coles, a CNHC registered Hypnotherapist and member of the CNHC Profession Specific Board (PSB) for Hypnotherapy, writes about his experience working in an NHS Oncology Unit...
I’ve being working with the Foundation Centre charity, volunteering once a week in an NHS Oncology Unit at the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Trust for over thirteen years. I started volunteering when I was new to hypnotherapy in order to gain experience – and I have never left! Helping patients through their cancer journey is not for everyone however. The environment can be tough, especially when you lose patients you have built relationships with, but it can also be very rewarding.
While working on the NHS Oncology Unit, I get to support the patient through all aspects of their cancer journey - from diagnosis, to fears, phobias and anxieties, pre and post-surgery, treatment side effects, their recovery and much more. I am also involved with patients who are going through palliative elements and end of life care.
To me, over the years, this was just ‘something I did, to give something back, because I could’. I am a hypnotherapist with a scientific and academic background so can’t say I believe in concepts such as karma, but then again….?
Over the years I have learned a lot about cancer and cancer treatments as the hospital enrolled me on many specialist courses. The courses covered aspects of the full cancer patient journey, including overviews of cancer development and treatments, oncology emergencies, survivorship and life after treatment. While studying for an MSc in Clinical Hypnotherapy, I was fortunate enough to become embedded in the Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Team, enabling me to carry out research into the use of presurgical hypnosis.
The Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Team is a specialist team at the NHS Oncology Unit consisting of surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists, radiographer, chemotherapy and breast care nurses. Collectively, they look at test results and formulate treatment plans for each patient. I was invited to join the team as part of my research and attended clinical discussions to ascertain patients who would be suitable for my hypnotherapy research.
My research focused on ‘Presurgical hypnosis and its effects in the recovery quality in wide area excision breast cancer operations’. It consisted of patients completing a gold standard psychological profiling questionnaire (SF-36) on the morning of surgery. Software scoring was then used to formulate a psychological profile and compare against the ‘population norm’. When patients were deduced psychologically as being ‘borderline’ depressive, an intervention group were given scripted hypnosis right before surgery. This hypnotic session gave suggestions for relaxation, pain control, healing, wellbeing amongst other things.
Seven days after surgery the patients completed the same SF-36 profiling questionnaire. They also completed a pain scoring profile with some additional questions. The results were processed with the same scoring software and were subject to additional statistical analysis. The intervention group was compared to a control group and also to previous research carried out around the world. The control group were still scoring psychologically as ‘borderline’ depressive, whereas the hypnosis intervention group had improved compared to ‘population norm’ in most psychological categories. Additionally, the hypnotherapy group indicated that they were perceiving less pain. Further research indicated that in addition to patients perceiving less pain, the intervention group were generally prescribed lower dosages of pain relief medication.
From my research and experience I was able to devise treatment protocols, hypnotherapy scripts and techniques that were best suited to working with cancer patients. Since my research concluded, I have been invited to present masterclasses on my protocols and techniques and speak at conferences and speaking engagements around the world to share my knowledge of working with cancer patients.
This volunteer role has given me so much and makes me question - does karma exist? Is this it in action? I have absolutely no idea, all I know is that ‘just giving something back’ has had profound positive consequences for me!
18 September 2018
Tracey Taylor, a CNHC registered Massage Therapist, writes about Charity Treatments for Cancer Clients in their Own Homes...
Circle of Comfort is a registered Scottish charity which offers complementary therapies to people in Fife and Perthshire who have been diagnosed with cancer or another life limiting illness. Clients are given massage, aromatherapy or reflexology treatments in their own home, or in hospital, free of charge, by one of the fully qualified therapists, of which I was one. Any Healthcare provider can refer a patient for this unique care and patients can also self-refer.
The Charity has proven to be successful with all patients who have used the service as they felt it beneficial to them. As part of her private practice, Roseann Haig treated clients with various cancer diagnoses and was also a volunteer therapist at the hospice in the Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline. During her time there, she saw first-hand the benefits that complementary therapies can provide to cancer patients. Roseann was deeply inspired by what she experienced, so she established Circle of Comfort in 2007.
There are several therapists throughout Fife and Perthshire offering treatments to clients who have reached out to the charity since its inception. It has been a humbling but rewarding experience as I heard about people’s lives before, during and after treatment. This experience opened my eyes to the many benefits of massage therapy and it reminded me of why I chose this line of work.
Patients with cancer may feel many benefits after a massage treatment, which could include:
- Deep relaxation
- Improved sleep
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Less nausea
- Reduced pain
- Feel more alert and have more mental clarity
I have been so inspired to learn much more about this kind of care, that I enrolled in the Start with Touch Oncology Massage Course. I am pleased to say that I have passed Levels 1 & 2 and am commencing the case studies for Level 3 now. Soon I will be a fully qualified Cancer Massage therapist - and I am so excited!
13 August 2018
Shuna Watkinson, a CNHC registered Healing Practitioner, writes about providing Healing within the NHS...
I feel very fortunate to be a paid Healer in the NHS for the past 8 years. I am the Complementary Therapy Coordinator at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which covers three hospitals - one large general hospital in Stevenage and two smaller hospitals which are mainly for outpatients and diagnostics.
How I found myself here is a long story, but the Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust played a key role throughout. Back in 2008 I completed their "Healing in Hospitals" course which directly led to an opportunity at the Trust. Since this NHS post was set up, the Charity has been a constant support both financially and with wisdom!
I am now funded by the Respiratory and Endoscopy departments at The Trust, holding a part-time post fully integrated within the clinical team. I am extremely grateful to my colleagues, especially Patricia Swann the Lung Cancer Nurse, who has done and continues to do so much to promote the service. To quote Patricia: "if it's good for our patients, we want it"!
Our complementary therapy team is made up of four excellent volunteer therapists. This allows us to cover a large number of areas and departments within the Trust while offering therapy to patients, carers and staff. We can be found in clinics, wards, the Macmillan chemotherapy centre and in endoscopy.
We often work on a "first aid" basis - catching people when they're at their most vulnerable, offering our services to people as needed in wards and clinics, and through staff referrals. It's wonderful being a trusted part of the team, with all of us working together for the best possible outcome.
A consultant once mentioned to me "it's made a huge difference to the level of anxiety of my patient". It is delightful to hear outcomes like this, and it encourages consultants and other staff to actively promote the service. When patients are more relaxed it is more pleasant for staff too - everyone's happy!
Patients who have received complementary therapy services say things like "I haven't been that relaxed since my diagnosis" or "since I saw you my pain has virtually gone" or just a slightly surprised but heartfelt "thank you!". Hearing feedback like this is incredible and I am so thankful to be able to provide these services to patients within the NHS.
Shuna Watkinson (second from the right) and the Endoscopy Team at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
26 July 2018
Fiona Hutchinson, a CNHC registered Massage Therapist and CNHC Local Champion, writes about what she learned after relocating her practice across the country...
In the summer of 2016 I relocated to Harrogate, Yorkshire from North London. This was not only a big move for my family, but for my practice as well - and I knew nobody there! Normally word of mouth is an excellent way of getting new clients, but it doesn’t work if you don’t know a single person in your town…so I quickly realised I had to get out there and market myself effectively.
I don’t have a marketing background, so I focused on learning tactics I could implement without much training. I tried various strategies and found that networking was an easy, low-cost way to build connections, get new clients, referrals and to even make friends! I recommend trying a few different groups to find the right one for you. There are various sites you can use to find local networking groups and events such as MeetUp and Eventbrite.
I also wanted to build up my online presence, so I had a go at trialing Facebook adverts. The adverts eventually did drive new clients, but before I really saw traction I needed to figure out my target audience / client base, so I could effectively target my ads.
Being active on social media is great for awareness, although it can take a lot of time. To have the most impact I suggest you pick one or two platforms you enjoy using, rather than diluting your efforts between many of them. There are also services you can use like Hootsuite to manage, follow and post across several social media platforms for free.
As I started to grow my client base, I wanted to make use of their positive testimonials, so I started asking them for reviews. Online reviews help drive traffic to your website and are now a standard part of the customer decision journey. Google reviews are great for helping with website visibility, plus they help improve organic SEO rankings.
Below are some resources I found particularly helpful:
- CNHC and Massage Training Institute for advice and support
- Canva for free graphics software
- Local business enterprise centres
I’m still learning about marketing, but it’s turned from a chore to an enjoyable part of my job. I hope you find these tips useful, especially if you are thinking about or are in the process of moving yourself.
Fiona presenting at a Women in Business networking event
5 June 2018
Mariella Stewart, a CNHC registered Hypnotherapist, writes about her work with diabetic patients and the important role that complementary practitioners play in influencing the nation’s health...
The challenges facing the nation’s health today remain deep rooted and severe, and improving it is going to be essential to reducing the burden on our healthcare system. According to Public Health England, if current trends continue, 1 in 3 people will be obese and 1 in 10 will develop Type 2 Diabetes by 2034. Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes accounts for nearly 9% of the annual NHS budget, which accounts for £8.8 million a year. As complementary health practitioners, we are well placed to have healthy conversations with our clients and positively influence their health and wellbeing – as highlighted in the RSPH / PSA report ‘Untapped Resources: Accredited Registers in the Wider Workforce’.
In my work as a Hypnotherapist, I have come across many clients with persistent health problems, including Type 2 Diabetes. I have held many important conversations about overall health and wellbeing over the years, but there is more that can be done. By taking the time to encourage our clients to consider positive changes to their lifestyle and health overall, we can all play a larger role in helping improve the health of the nation.
When discussing the management of diabetes or other long-term conditions, you must always liaise with the patient’s GP, diabetic nurse or other health professional, to ensure properly integrated treatment and care for the patient.
Many people with Type 2 Diabetes are able to manage their condition through a variety of methods such as reducing excess weight, changing their diet, embarking on daily exercise, managing stress and minimising alcohol intake. Hypnotherapy may help with these positive changes in a variety of ways, including learning the art of deep relaxation or teaching someone self –hypnosis, which enables them to reach a calm, relaxed state relatively quickly. Recordings of the ‘live’ hypnotherapy sessions given to the client to relax with at home have proven very popular and extremely helpful.
For patients looking to make changes to their amount of physical activity, a personalised targeted treatment plan is important to help someone embark on an exercise regime when they haven’t exercised for years. For many clients, boosting their confidence and self-belief can help them feel they want to help themselves, and understand that they have the most to gain when investing time and effort into their health. Finding the motivation and feeling the motivation one needs to make those changes is very important and feeling positive with an increased sense of confidence and self -belief is a recipe for success.
Comments such as: “I feel pleasantly surprised at how calm and comfortable I feel, making the changes I needed to make to improve my health” are frequently heard. The fact the client is feeling positive with an increased sense of confidence and self -belief is a recipe for success.
Mariella Stewart, CNHC registered Hypnotherapist
9 May 2018
Anne-Lise Miller, a CNHC registrant, writes about the journey of adding a new therapy onto the CNHC Register...
Many of you may have been wondering what steps to take in order to add a new therapy onto the CNHC register. This blog covers the work done by CNHC, the Colon Hydrotherapy industry, myself and many others who worked tirelessly over the last two years to get Colon Hydrotherapy added as a new category on the CNHC register.
For those who are unfamiliar with Colonic Irrigation, it is a procedure with a long history of established traditions – like many other complementary therapies. Dating back to the 3rd century AD, the Colon has been regarded traditionally as both an organ that benefits from regular purging and a gateway for heightened awareness. Despite its long history, Colonic Hydrotherapy as we know it today is a relatively new therapy. It developed into an established complementary health practice in the UK largely through the work of The Association and Register of Colon Hydrotherapy (ARCH).
ARCH aims to promote colonic hydrotherapy as a safe therapeutic process, not just a bowel cleansing procedure. Prior to Colon Hydrotherapy being added to the CNHC register is its own right, it was incorporated on the register under Naturopathy. Following discussions between CNHC and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, CNHC agreed to start the process of adding Colon Hydrotherapy as a new category on the CNHC register.
If you have enquired about how you go about getting a new category onto the CNHC register, you will know there is a rigorous process and certain criteria that must be met before consideration. Most importantly, that each category must have specific National Occupational Standards (NOS) that are developed in conjunction with the Sector Skills Council, Skills for Health. At the start, Colon Hydrotherapy did not have a distinct set of National Occupational Standards, so this required a significant financial investment from the industry to fund the necessary involvement of Skills for Health, and time commitment from CNHC and the Colon Hydrotherapy PSB members.
Once the NOS were established, CNHC then required a Core Curriculum. This is separate and distinct from a detailed course syllabus, in that it specifies, for example, the ratio of theory and practice and the number of hours of face to face teaching and assessment needed to ensure the safety of the public. The work for the Colon Hydrotherapy Core Curriculum was structured by the CNHC and then consulted with and approved by the Professional Board Specific (PSB) appointed representatives - Angela Beasor, Linda Ternent, Victoria Cooper and myself - after thorough consultation with the rest of the industry.
Overall, the process took over two years with a considerable investment in time and money. Achieving a specific entry on the CNHC register means that Colonic Hydrotherapy exists on its own merit. This will undoubtedly raise the profile and awareness of the treatment, and it will also give it a nourishing space from which to grow and develop in tune with research and the needs of health care providers.Anne-Lise Miller, CNHC registrant and Colon Hydrotherapy Profession Specific Board (PSB) Member
4 April 2018
Janice Barclay, a CNHC registered Hypnotherapist, writes about the Kool to be Kind Initiative in Primary Schools...
Kids participating in the Kool to be Kind Initiative
I have been practising Hypnotherapy since 2015 and Meditation for over 10 years, but it wasn’t until May 2017 that I started offering classes in my local village hall, which led to a wonderful opportunity to help school children in the local community. Following one of my classes, I was contacted by the local radio station Moray Firth Radio on behalf of their charity Cash for Kids. They asked if I would be interested in going around to schools to support a new programme called ‘Kool to be Kind’. This initiative was designed to help children learn coping strategies if they got angry or frustrated at home or at school.
For the Kool to be Kind initiative we visited 3 local primary schools who were willing and eager to participate. We scheduled dates to visit and had a full day at one of the schools, working with 5 groups of children in their classrooms for 20 minute sessions. To engage with the children, I started by asking them what they would do to be kind to someone, and while answering they got to cuddle a Care Bear. I then taught them about hypnotic anchors, so that if they ever felt insecure all they needed to do was take a deep breath and blow out their frustrations and the lovely feeling of calm would return to them. The sessions were a great success and I received many positive responses from the children and their teachers.
I felt it was important to work on the Kool to be Kind initiative, so these children may be less likely to get angry or stressed as they grew up, which is why I offered my services free of charge. Whilst my time was on a voluntary basis initially, my involvement in Kool to be Kind has led to paid opportunities and new clients.
Following the Easter holidays, I will start working with Central Primary School where I am leading a case study of a group of 6 children and a teacher. It will be a group activity which will aim to see how effective different meditation styles work on the children, and we will be encouraging them to help and support each other. Their teacher and I will then record and discuss any change in their attitude before and after. My fees have been funded by a local business man who donated money to the school. And just recently Moray Firth Radio Station has contacted me about collaborating with them again, and this time funding would be offered to me through their charity Cash For Kids.
My registration with CNHC gave confidence to the charity, teachers and radio station for these initiatives, and I very much look forward to working on more activities like these for the community.
8 March 2018
Vidhi Sodhi, a CNHC registered Yoga Therapist and Yoga Therapy Profession Specific Board member, writes about the Yoga Therapy Service Evaluation at the London North West NHS Trust...
Vidhi, centre, with Imperial Medical students involved in the study
I recently collaborated with a leading Rheumatologist to design a service evaluation of Yoga-Therapy for patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at the Central Middlesex Hospital, part of the London North West NHS Foundation Trust. This was a very exciting undertaking, as from my understanding, this was the first time that a one-to-one Yoga Therapy was delivered in an NHS hospital setting. My registration with CNHC gave confidence to the Rheumatologist, Rheumatology staff, and patients to participate in this service evaluation.
The study examined the impact of Yoga Therapy on improving a patient’s quality of life, through management of stress and other comorbidities such as anxiety & depression. We developed the objectives for the study based on feedback from a patient support group at Central Middlesex Hospital. These patients expressed a need for Mind-Body interventions in the management of their long-term conditions (LTC), such as Yoga Therapy.
Yoga Therapy sessions were funded by the NHS and held in the Rheumatology department of the Central Middlesex Hospital. Patients received one-to-one sessions on a weekly basis initially, and then on a bi-weekly basis. Each session comprised of tools that are offered within yoga and are applied and tailored to the needs of each participant.
The results have been outstanding with improvements in all the study objectives. Verbal feedback in the form of semi-structured interviews is captured by the researchers at the University of Westminster and is being currently analysed for a full report. A post study meeting with the CMH patient group was held where the results were discussed and further need of this service to be an integral part of our healthcare system was discussed.
The success of this pilot service evaluation can offer a holistic, integrated form of treatment that matches with the NHS’s Five Year Forward View and I hope it can offer a guide for secondary rollout to other clinics responsible for management of LTCs.
Feedback from a patient involved in the study:
“Since starting yoga therapy in May, my overall health is a lot better compared to before the yoga therapy. My pain levels have improved, being from regular pain to minimal pain. Over the course of the yoga therapy the movement in right wrist is far more than what it was before. The exercises that she tailored to suit me have been really good and easy to follow. She has always been accommodating with regards to times of the sessions and has worked around me. Yoga Therapy has helped me relax and remain calmer; my mind is less active and doesn't feel overworked. I feel Yoga Therapy should be an integrated service offered to assist patients as it has been beneficial to me.”
Vidhi after receiving second place in the ‘Inspiration Award’ from Holistic Therapist Magazine
1 February 2018
Mike Murphy, CNHC registrant, tells us about training he provided to Therapists at the Merlin Multiple Sclerosis Centre in Cornwall...
I was recently approached by a private client, Melissa King, a high performance Triathlete and the Lead Neurological Physiotherapist at the Merlin MS Centre, about a training opportunity. Melissa was looking to collaborate with a local therapist with specialist skills to provide further training for the Centre’s therapists.
A wide range of patients visit the Centre on a regular basis, many with Multiple Sclerosis and other long-term conditions. Many have limited mobility and Melissa wanted the Centre to be able to provide more support to these clients. I devised a programme including a mix of theoretical and practical ‘hands-on’ training to specifically aid those with mobility limitations.
On 7th December 2017, I delivered a full day of training to a group of 6 staff including a Neurological Physiotherapist, Melissa King, and several Therapy Assistants including Ash Smith, Sam Williams, Jackie Baigent, Kerry Barrett and Ali Lochri. I taught safety considerations and contraindications to treatments. I then focused on Manual Therapy and Massage approaches to address musculoskeletal imbalances caused through incorrect posture for MS and post-stroke patients. Knowing that many patients are often in wheelchairs, I also included methods for adapting these treatments for seated patients.
(The photo above shows me observing taught techniques)
It was a real pleasure to be able to offer advice on the beneficial effects and the differing approaches to massage/manual therapies for these patients. Melissa and her team were excited following the training and said they couldn’t wait to start putting the new skills they learned into practice.
When we all work together, we can share knowledge to benefit patients and the public. I am so pleased that the skills and approaches used for Sports Massage and Sports Therapy can be used to support other healthcare therapists and professionals in different areas of expertise, and it demonstrates how those with different core training can complement each other in providing care and support to individuals with long-term conditions.
My registration with CNHC demonstrates that I have met a set of standards and agreed to a code of conduct, ethics and performance, which was a strong consideration when Mel approached me for support. I am very keen to continue my efforts and I hope to be able to offer similar training to other organisations in the future.
Mike Murphy, CNHC registrant and Sports Therapy Profession Specific Board (PSB) Member
12 December 2017
Rosemary Pharo, a CNHC registered Aromatherapist, writes about her experience supporting Grenfell Tower residents by providing Aromatherapy...
It is another day in North Kensington after the Grenfell Tower fire.
Another local resident is sitting talking to the Complementary Support Teams UK (CST-UK) therapists. The resident is talking about an inability to sleep, memories of helplessly watching the tower burn, the anxiety, having to be signed off work, the difficulties with accommodation. “Overwhelm” is taking over.
Yet less than an hour later this resident is calm and beginning to have more control over their thoughts. Their body language is calmer. Their breathing has changed.
So what happened? The first step was to offer specific essential oils in a particular order to inhale. Essential oils are already being routinely offered via inhalation in some cancer centres as a way of combatting side effects of treatment and as anti-anxiety measures. Once calmer, the resident could be offered a one-to-one treatment by one of the multi-skilled team. Dignity, choice and respect are key words for local residents.
Mention aromatherapy and most people will probably think of a massage with candles in a pleasantly dark room. However professional aromatherapists are taught to use a wider variety of methods to deliver the benefits.
This is why the survivors and residents of North Kensington who are taking up the services provided by CST-UK’s experienced therapists are finding the aromatherapy offered so helpful.
It doesn't require talking, which can potentially trigger painful memories. It does act directly on the body’s primitive fear response systems, which can loop into an unending nightmare.
Some of the local volunteers who are working tirelessly to support residents have been given standard, pre-made trauma support inhaler sticks. They can now hand out what is a helpful first aid response to residents who are struggling to get through the dark days and nights. The inhalers or ‘sniffy sticks’ are a low cost (£2-3 each) and empowering self-help tool that we would love to be able to get out to even more people.
It was through one of my friends that I got involved with helping people around Grenfell who had been affected. There is so much work to do. Our vision as a group is to offer a multi-disciplinary complementary therapy service with trauma specialists of many kinds working as an integrated team and referring to a wide variety of therapies, depending on what is appropriate to the residents around Grenfell as their needs change. Because the after-effects of the worst peacetime disaster in recent times are not going to go away any time soon. That’s why our wish is to have a dedicated base where local residents can receive therapies they choose any day of the week from a team of experienced professional therapists.
Rosemary Pharo, CNHC registrant and Aromatherapy Profession Specific Board (PSB) Member
4 December 2017
Karen Shields, a CNHC registered nutritional therapist, writes about how she teaches healthy eating life skills to a class of learning disabled individuals in Hertfordshire...
Me on the left and with Liz McElroy, horticultural therapist
I qualified as a nutritional therapist in 2012 and joined CNHC that year and began practising at my own clinic. In June 2016 I started volunteering (in my capacity as a nutritional therapist) at the Triangle Community Garden in Hitchin.
Their Growing Health group is a guided-support group set up to help its learning disabled members to lead healthier, more active lives. Activities include walking, sport, cooking and learning about healthy eating. The group meets every Tuesday morning for three hours at the pavilion at Ransom's recreation ground.
Many of the members suffer with obesity or conditions such as type 2 diabetes, so every week we try to help them understand what sort of foods they should include in their diets that will help them balance their blood sugar levels. We also discuss nutrition related news such as the sugar tax or low fat versus high fat diets, and we look at food labelling and educate them about products that are not as healthy as they seem.
Initially, our kitchen equipment was sparse and so when demonstrating how to cook we were limited in our range of menus as we only had a kettle and a microwave. Luckily we were awarded some funding - £450 - and have been able to buy a variety of kitchen equipment, namely two induction hobs, chopping boards, knives, pots and pans.
We also bring in education in health and safety in the kitchen, as well as food hygiene. This has helped our participants learn how to read food labels and the relevance of best before and sell by dates on packaging, including how to store foods correctly.
Our three hour group consists of about 10 gardeners - we split the group into two with half going off to the allotment to tend to the crops with our gardener and support worker, and the other half in the kitchen with myself and the horticultural therapist to prepare lunch according to the seasonal recipe that we have planned the week before.
Ingredients: spring onions, cucumber, feta, cherry tomatoes, carrots, basil and lemon and cauliflower
We have taught the group how to use tools safely for preparing and cooking - something that we may take for granted but is actually quite a challenge for them. The group has made a range of meals from chickpea and chilli cakes, cottage pie with lentils and sweet potato, stir fry vegetables with noodles, tomato and basil bruschetta with homemade pesto, salad Niçoise, parsnip and carrot rösti served with poached eggs, and falafels made three ways with spinach and feta, chick peas and sweet potato.
Tricolore cauliflower rice salad
The outcome of this programme has been to show the members how to cook and prepare ingredients in order to take control of their own diets. We also discuss a concept known as "from farm to fork" - a direct link between cooking, eating and growing vegetables which helps the group reconnect with where food comes from and helping them to develop a healthier diet. Recognising what and where the ingredients in our food comes from can make us appreciate and enjoy food and will hopefully lead to better, healthier choices when choosing what to eat in the future.
Courgettes growing in the Triangle Community Garden
Every week we ask the members to offer feedback on what they have prepared, cooked and eaten - and each week we have seen positive feedback about foods that they thought they did not like or perhaps have never even tried. A case in point was with our salad Nicoise - everyone enjoyed the flavours - including the anchovies - and they all agreed that when they next visited Pizza Express they would order this as it is a healthier option. This is definitely progress.
Each week the members continue to lose weight and work towards their goals by adopting healthier lifestyles based on what they have learned in the group. We have also experienced a change in mood and behaviour in the individuals themselves - in some cases from a state of anxiety to a state of calm and happiness.
As a nutritional therapist it has been eye opening to see the local community come together to support one another to improve their health. The Triangle Garden is really a superb local community facility and is making a huge difference to people's lives in North Hertfordshire. It has also allowed me to learn new skills, by working with a different demographic and giving me the experience and confidence of working in a group. It has also exposed me to extra training in safeguarding adults, food safety and hygiene.
My only wish would be that the NHS saw our progress with these individuals and made use of it by referring further individuals to the group, which would increase our funding and enable us to provide more facilities to a wider community.
27 September 2017
"Why I love my Job"
Ana M Angarita, CNHC registered
Complementary Therapist- MacMillan Centre
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
“Would I want to work in a hospital?” - That was the first question that crossed my mind when I initially thought about volunteering as a complementary therapist.
I thought long and hard about it and then decided to apply for a volunteering vacancy with the Macmillan Centre in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital which I saw advertised in the CNHC website.
Working as a volunteer is very rewarding. I help the patients live with cancer by trying to improve their quality of life and wellbeing.
There is no typical day as a complementary therapist volunteer. Every day is different. I work with the patients, their family members and their carers. My work is based either in the wards or in the Macmillan Centre therapy room.
Each patient is unique. Each patient is important to me. There are more smiles and laughs than you think!
You get to know the patients and work alongside the medical team. What matters here is seeing the patient as a whole.
Seeing satisfied patients, carers and family is so rewarding! Nice compliments give you the energy and motivation to come back week after week.
Hospitals are not as cold and clinical as some people think. They are full of human stories, they are busy places where there is always something happening.
At the end of a busy day, I leave with a sense of achievement. It’s like when you set yourself a personal goal at the gym and then after a lot of hard work and determination, you see the results.
The experience I’ve gained is invaluable. Each patient has taught me a lot and each patient is an inspiration to me.
Not only do you learn about other people’s life journeys but you learn about yourself.
I also work in the private sector but nothing compares to the sense of fulfilment of helping somebody facing cancer.
I’m a volunteer and I’m not here for money. I am here because I want to be here.
Now, I know that I love hospitals. I love Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and I love volunteering.