Elaine Cooper can look back on her Walsall NHS career with pride and satisfaction after developing and leading the Specialist Complementary Therapy Service for cancer and palliative care patients that saw her realise a personal dream almost three decades ago.
Elaine, who is Clinical Lead for the service retired from Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust today and whilst she is sad to say goodbye to “amazing colleagues and lovely patients” she feels a huge sense of achievement at the difference the team has made, and is making, to those who use healthcare services.
“Complementary therapy is used to relax people, enhance their wellbeing and help with symptom control and when I was training in complementary therapies it really resonated with me and I felt very passionately about how important it could be as part of integrated healthcare,” she said.
Elaine trained as a nurse at Walsall’s Sister Dora school of nursing in the late 70s and later moved to Bristol for further training and also nursed in Oxford and Norwich.
“When I’d qualified I worked at Compton Hospice for a while then started the Walsall service at Little Bloxwich day hospice where we were part of a six month pilot of complementary therapy. Needless to say that pilot went well and seeing the effect it had on patients just reinforced my belief.”
In 1993 Elaine re-joined Walsall Healthcare where she has been leading and developing the Specialist Complementary Therapy Service for the last 28 years; including teaching a range of therapies and specialising in her passion on clinical aromatherapy writing chapters for various publications and helping the service to gain recognition and awards.
Based at Walsall Palliative Care Centre, the team offers therapies such as reflexology, massage and acupuncture, whilst also teaching relaxation skills including breathing techniques and visualisation which the patients can use into their day-to-day lives.
The service also encourages the use of aromatherapy oils; recommending them for the relief they can provide with ailments such as itching, insomnia and pain. And for those experiencing hot flushes and sweating, a course of auricular acupuncture is available.
“It is difficult to try to put into words all the benefits that we see when offering complementary therapy to cancer and palliative care patients but I think a simple way of expressing this is to say that we see people who have been through so much that it has really taken its toll on them and to be able to concentrate on their holistic wellbeing and to relax them is extremely powerful. It is also rewarding to be able to spend time with them and build up relationships. I think that was what made the COVID-19 pandemic so difficult for our team – I had no idea my career would also see me being involved in such a public health crisis.”
The service has scooped a raft of awards including the Foundation for Integrated Health’s Best Practice award for involving health and wellbeing in 2006 – presented by Prince Charles – and in 2018 was given the accolade for Palliative Care in the national Complementary Therapy Awards.
Elaine enjoys writing articles and will spend her retirement doing more of this as well as enjoying gardening, travelling and spending more time with her friends and family – including her four grandchildren.
Team lead Rachel Clark said: “Elaine is a much-loved member of the team, her passion for complementary therapies and commitment and hard work to the service is something to be celebrated. She will be greatly missed by her team and colleagues but we all wish her a well-deserved relaxing retirement – after years of helping others to relax it’s now her turn!”