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Posted on Nov 6 2023 by Fiona Bailey

Staff and patients have praised a service that has been in existence for more than 35 years and yet tends to slip under the radar across the charity.

Vicky Kelly, who is part of the Community Partnerships team, provides a unique type of therapy which involves valuable self-care and holistic treatments that complement all the other approaches being used at St Andrew’s Healthcare.MicrosoftTeams image 20

Vicky, who has been a self-care therapist at the charity for nearly 16 years, said: “The service has always offered our patients free at the point of need, therapy services”.

“The treatments we provide support the recognised therapeutic modalities and clinical interventions which are more conventional practices that are provided for patients recovering in hospital settings.”

Vicky’s therapy specifically aims to improve people’s self-esteem, self-worth, and self-care and are all centred around using therapeutic touch that Vicky says is offered in a “sensitive, professional and clinical manner”.

Self-care therapy is inclusive of all patient groups and has been proven, through both patient and staff testimonials, to have had a huge impact on patient recovery. 

The demand for self-care therapy has grown alongside the expansion of the hospital over recent years, and it is up to Vicky to try and service as many patients and wards as she can.

At the moment she works regularly on 40 out of 50 wards and in 2022, Vicky facilitated more than 300 sessions, individually treating 1,451 patients.

Vicky’s hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed though, as one transgender patient, who currently resides on Marsh Ward, said: “Being on an all-male ward has been difficult as a transgender woman and has sometimes been the cause of me feeling low. 

“I have found it difficult to feel ok in my body, but the care that Vicky put in to treatments such as body waxing, has helped me through this. I would have otherwise felt depressed and ugly and even feel suicidal about my situation. 

“Vicky has brought me joy and a smile to my face. Her services have helped me through and have played its part in me now being able to progress from medium secure ward to a new low secure ward.”

Another transgender patient from Pritchard Ward added: “These sessions are important to me because they are teaching me the skills that I need to continue to live my life as a woman. Since I have had these sessions I have become more confident and my self-harm levels have reduced a lot.”

A female patient, who has personality disorder and is on Hereward Wake Ward, said: “As part of my illness, I had pulled out a significant chunk of my hair. More than half of my head was bald, but now I have an Indian head massage whenever I can and my hair has started to grow back.

“It is thicker than before and longer than it has ever been. Being so unwell for such a long time, I didn’t want to ever look pretty, I wanted to be invisible. Now, I am so much more confident. I enjoy people complimenting me on my appearance and I no longer hide behind a bandana. I really value the time Vicky has given me to help me learn to respect and appreciate myself.”

A Willow Ward patient said Vicky’s treatments have helped boost her self-esteem and it is nice to “get away from the noise on the ward”.

Staff too have noticed the significant difference Vicky’s work is having on patients.

Occupational Therapist Gemma Thornton, from the women’s brain injury units Elgar and Fenwick said: “With the drive to document and evidence Meaningful Activity growing ever more, Vicky’s input provides the patients with exactly that, ‘meaningful engagement’. 

“So many things are often overlooked, like building self-esteem and promoting a positive body image, but these are the forgotten elements that you provide to us. We want to say a huge thank you for all your input on our wards.  You have no idea of the value and care your service provides to our ladies.  We get so many comments from staff and patients asking if we can have you more.”

Joanne Fawdon, Senior Staff Nurse on Elm ward said: “Always good to see Vicky on the ward and giving such valued care to our patients.”

As demand has become so high, Vicky regularly offers staff massage training courses so they too can learn about how to administer therapeutic touch.

The courses are available to healthcare assistants, nurses, educators, occupational therapists, technical instructors and psychology staff. 

So far this year, Vicky has trained more than 30 members of staff in hand, foot, and Indian Head Massage techniques. This means that patients will be benefitting from more therapeutic massage from a wider source other than the self-care therapy department.

 Here are a few examples of how different patient groups benefit from self-care therapies:

  • Female patients – for body image and self esteem
  • Dementia – for therapeutic massage to improve quality of life and self-awareness
  • Transgender community – to offer treatments to support body dysmorphic ideation whilst awaiting clinical transition.
  • Adolescent services – to model appropriate touch and experience a safe, nurturing environment for self-care
  • Brain injury service users – to assist in self-care where physical constraints prevent a person to be independent to do so.
  • Eating disordered patients – to improve body image, self-acceptance and improve self-worth during recovery.
  • Personality disorder – to encourage social interaction and motivate self-care practices when this has lapsed.
  • Autistic service users – to offer sensory interventions to those individuals that are sensory seeking and help fill the need for appropriate touch as therapy.
  • Male patients – to offer appropriate therapeutic touch and maintain good foot health.
  • Diabetics and Obese patient groups – maintain good foot health and refer to podiatry or physical health services as necessary
  • Learning Disability groups – to model and teach good self-care practices through education and treatments.
  • Self-Harmers – to offer advice on scar care and provide specialist skin camouflage as an option if patients request it.

What is offered by the self-care therapy department?

Sensory treatments – Indian head massage, hand massage, foot massage, back massage, facial massage.

Self-care treatments – waxing, manicures, pedicures and skin care.

Cosmetic Skin Camouflage – the use of highly pigmented skin creams to effectively mask skin differences such as scarring, birthmarks or tattoos.

Bra measuring service – introduced because many of the female patients were wearing the wrong size bra.

Self-care education sessions – group or individual education on over 20 self-care subjects including oral hygiene, personal hygiene, feminine hygiene, sleep health, the importance of self-care and looking after the diabetic foot, to name a few.  (Educational leaflets to support the sessions were created by Vicky during the COVID 19 lockdown period and distributed to the wards for patients to read while hands-on therapy with restricted).

AQA Unit awards in beauty therapy for patients interested in gaining experience in the field of beauty therapy.

Staff massage training – hand, foot and Indian head massage skills are taught to staff so that they can support the patients more frequently at the point of need.

Ex Forces Veteran Therapeutic massage – introduced recently into ‘Community Partnerships’ to compliment talking therapies offered for ex-forces veterans suffering from trauma and PTSD.