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60-seconds interview with Garry Cooper, Macmillan lymphoedema nurse specialist

18th February 2014

Garry Cooper, Macmillan lymphoedema nurse specialist at Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

Q. When did you first become interested in lymphoedema?

My interest first began when I was a community staff nurse in South Birmingham Primary Care Trust. At the time, I was dealing with a number of patients who suffered with lymphoedema. The exposure to these patients highlighted the impact of the condition, but also my own lack of knowledge in the area. This made me want to know more and led me on my path towards to the specialism. I have not regretted that choice ever since.

Q. Who has impressed you most since working in this field — your lymphoedema hero?

A number of people have provided inspiration, and it is hard to select just one person. However I would say my lymphoedema hero would be Jayne Cave-Senior who is the clinical lead at Walsall Healthcare and Care NHS Trust. Jayne gave me my first position as Macmillan lymphoedema nurse specialist in Walsall. Jayne has always pushed boundaries and is not afraid to innovate or instigate change, and yet always remains focused on the central importance of excellent patient care. She continues to inspire me today with her knowledge, wisdom and drive for effective and evolving patient care within lymphoedema.

Q. If you could change one thing in lymphoedema, what would it be?

To give lymphoedema a national focus for both the government and public. Other parts of the UK have developed strategies to ensure that patients have access to a lymphoedema services, for example Wales and Northern Ireland. England has yet to address this inequity in both policy and service provision. Until this is resolved, patients will continue to be mis-diagnosed and mismanaged with all the resultant complications.

Q Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?

I hope to continue to be part of the ever-growing voice of lymphoedema. At the current time I am on the British Lymphology Society committee and undertaking my master’s in Lymphoedema Care at Compton Hospice in Wolverhampton. Both of these allow me to expand my knowledge, experiences and contacts within lymphoedema. It may mean that one day I can become a nurse consultant within the specialism.

Q. What annoys you most in wound care?

The current ignorance about lymphoedema from other healthcare professionals as well as its absence from a number a curriculums. This is despite information and research being more readily available, plus the development courses to address these gaps in knowledge. This may continue to be a problem unless it is drawn to the attention of those who can make national changes.

Q. What one technique or intervention do you find the most useful in your practice?

As the primary method of managing lymphoedema is compression, the most useful aspect is the variety of compression therapy methods available. Fortunately, compression garments have progressed to a stage where the medical need meets the aesthetic requirements of patients. Also the availability of compression wraps (FarrowWrap [Haddenham Healthcare]; Juxta-Fit [medi]) have provided greater access to alternative means of oedema management.

Q. Do you feel that industry and clinicians should work together more and, if so, how?

Fortunately, both industry and clinicians do collaborate and there are some great examples of this working, such as the research that went into the Coban (3M) compression bandaging system. Also, industry continues to support clinicians both individually and as a whole through the work of the British Lymphology Society. I hope that that this continues as it has provided many benefits to both clinicians and patients.

Q. What advice would you give a young nurse or practitioner starting out in this industry?

To grab opportunities wherever they may present themselves and to engage in educational activities, either formally or informally. Also, try not to be too hard on yourself if you have yet to gain the knowledge and skills of those who are more experienced. It is always easy to judge yourself against people who inspire you, but you should never forget how far you have come since you began your nursing journey and how hard you have worked just to reach the point where you are now!

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