We are delighted to welcome our third-funded Advanced MS Champion, Leanne Walters, to the MS team at Morriston Hospital, Swansea. Leanne’s background as a physiotherapist will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to her role in supporting and improving the quality of life for people with advanced MS and their families. We caught up with Leanne to hear more about what attracted her to this role, what she loves most about working in healthcare, and her love for Rugby Union!
What was it about the Advanced MS Champion role that made you want to apply?
The Advanced MS Champion role is an excellent opportunity to use my unique skills to benefit people with advanced MS and challenge me in terms of my career development. I have worked with people with MS since the start of my career in physiotherapy as a physiotherapy assistant in 2001. My mix of experience within healthcare ranges from people with continuing health care and palliative care needs to, at the opposite end of the scale, people in the reablement setting. My last post working for the Community Resource Team provided me with a great knowledge base and links with community, 3rd sector services as well as working jointly with social workers. My role also included screening and co-ordinating discharges out of the acute hospitals, thus freeing up beds in a timelier manner and preventing admissions. The MS Champion role will give me an excellent opportunity to put my knowledge base, skill set and mix of experience together to represent and provide input for people with advanced MS in South West Wales. I look forward to the challenge of being the first MS Champion for Wales.
How will this role make a difference for people with advanced MS in Swansea?
Advancements in disease modifying treatments for people with relapsing MS has put a strain on resources within the MS team in South West Wales. This has led to people with advanced MS missing annual reviews and caused a direct increase in admissions to hospital. My role within the team will ensure that people with advanced MS get the necessary professional input. I will help people with advanced MS link into their community services, addressing all aspects of their care and help to prevent regular hospital admissions.
I feel I could represent people with advanced MS as a true Champion should!
What are you looking forward to most about becoming an Advanced MS Champion?
I look forward to joining a well-established team that already provides such a high level of care to a large number of patients in South West Wales (more than 1900).
I am also looking forward to establishing the MS Champion role. I like the fact that because this is a new role I can identify what is needed and what is perhaps missing, for people with advanced MS. I want to create a role that truly meets their needs.
Because I have a chronic health condition myself, I am able to sympathise and empathise with people with MS. My health problems over the years has provided me with personal insight into both the physical and emotional rollercoaster that comes with it and thus I feel I could represent people with advanced MS as a true Champion should!
What made you want to become a physiotherapist?
From a young age I knew I wanted to work within the healthcare sector. I think my love for the game of Rugby Union helped me to decide on the physiotherapy profession. Unfortunately educationally this was not straight forward. When I was just 11 years old I was diagnosed with Brittle controlled Type I Diabetes. This resulted in me being admitted to hospital on a regular basis throughout my school years. I left school with very few GCSE’s. As I am a strong and determined character I was not satisfied with this and so I worked within healthcare in the daytime and in the evenings went to night school. I was then able to go to university as a mature student to study physiotherapy. I love the physiotherapy profession and love the NHS! I am so proud to be able to say that I made it! I am a physiotherapist!
What do you love most about working in this field?
I love being able to make a difference to people’s lives. Whether it be a straight forward muscular-skeletal problem or people with complex needs. I believe that it doesn’t matter what mental or physical status a person is at, or how big or small a person’s goal is (as long as it is a realistic one) it is important that I always do my very best to help the person to achieve it.
One of many examples that stands out for me that makes me love being a physiotherapist was when a palliative patient who was bed-bound had a dying wish to go to her local pub with her immediate family to have a drink and a nice meal. I ensured her pain was managed, arranged for portable ramps to be in place and co-ordinated the staff to transfer the patient out into her wheelchair and then out of the property, into a wheelchair taxi and into the pub and back. The smile and the joy on the patient and her family’s faces made me so proud and reminded me why I love my profession. I now look forward to representing and helping people with advanced MS achieve their personal goals.
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Our Advanced MS Champions programme funds specialists to provide guidance and coordinated care for some of the UK's 40,000 people with advanced MS – who too often miss out on specialist MS care.
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