Dr Williams has worked as a nurse for over 40 years in Scotland and London. She currently juggles a variety of positions including nursing lecturer at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, independent lymphoedema nurse consultant and lymphoedema self-management facilitator with The Haven Centres, a third sector health organisation in Lanarkshire.
Dr Williams started her career as a student nurse at North Lothian College of Nursing and Midwifery in 1977, qualifying in 1980. She secured a position as a staff nurse with NHS Lothian before moving to undertake a cancer nursing course at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London in 1983. She was keen to work in the community so undertook a district nursing course in London which led to a post as District Nursing Sister in Hammersmith, London.
Dr Williams explained: “In these early days there were no breast care nurses, so as a District Nurse I was asked by GPs to work with women undergoing breast cancer treatment. Many of these women experienced lymphoedema and this sparked, what would become, a life-long interest in the health conditions relating to the lymphatic system.”
Dr Williams moved into nurse education, qualifying as a nurse educator in 1989 and establishing a post-registration cancer nursing course at Riverside College of Nursing, London. After five years, she was keen to return to practice and moved to Meadow House Hospice where she worked as a palliative care nurse. With the support of Maria Brennan MBE, Innovative Manager of Meadow House Hospice, Anne set up one of the first community based lymphoedema services in the UK. She saw many people with all types of lymphoedema – both cancer and non-cancer related. She also worked alongside the leg ulcer services supporting the team to manage poorly healing ulcers relating to chronic oedema. A highlight, during this period, was the early development of nurse-led care such as the lymphoedema and leg ulcer services, which provided person-centred, community based services to people with long term conditions.
She explained: “This was a significant period in my career. I also recognised the need to develop a comprehensive approach to lymphoedema care, so I travelled to Canada and Austria to qualify as a Vodder Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Therapist. On my return we were able to integrate MLD into the treatment plans for people with lymphoedema, and I still practice MLD today.”
Dr Williams developed a reputation as an expert in lymphoedema and was offered a research position at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London where she ran a randomised controlled trial of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) in women with lymphoedema following breast cancer.
Having started a family, Dr Williams returned to Scotland to work with Marie Curie Cancer Care as a lecturer. Such was her reputation as a lymphoedema specialist, that she was selected to help establish the first graduate diploma in chronic oedema management in Scotland at the University of Glasgow. The course still runs today.
In 2006, Dr Williams was then delighted to embark on a three year funded PhD working as a cancer nursing research fellow, and later, as a lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University. She completed her PhD entitled ‘A qualitative study of self-care in women with lymphoedema after breast cancer’ in 2011.
“During my time with the University I had also established Esklymphology to provide care, support and education for people with lymphoedema and healthcare professionals. I took this leap into self-employment and, following completion of my PhD, I worked on a freelance basis with NHS Highland, private healthcare providers and third sector organisations. Today, I continue to offer specialist lymphoedema healthcare services via organisations such as BUPA, and the third sector”.
Now based at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh within the Division of Nursing, Dr Williams enjoys her time teaching and inspiring undergraduate students on the BSc (Hons) Nursing. She is also a research supervisor for a number of postgraduate and PhD students. As part of her role at QMU, Anne is also supported to continue in practice with The Haven.
Dr Williams has recently co-chaired a best practice document on lipoedema for the UK which is due to be published by Wounds UK in April 2017. She explained: “Since 2015 I have been a trustee for Talk Lipoedema, a support organisation for women who have a type of fat disorder called lipoedema, which can lead to lymphoedema. I am also delighted that, within Queen Margaret University, I am part of cross-disciplinary research collaborations that focus on self- management in people with lipoedema. Ultimately, this research will help to improve the lives of women living with lipoedema, and will provide more evidence about this poorly understood, but relatively common, condition.”
During March 2017, Anne’s excellent work in supporting people with lymphoedema and lipoedema has been recognised by the Journal of Wound Care Awards. She is winner of the Patient Wellbeing category in the 2017 awards.
Professor Brendan McCormack, Head of the Division of Nursing at Queen Margaret University, concluded: “I am delighted that, this year, the Journal of Wound Care awards has acknowledged Dr Williams’ excellent work. As a core part of its strategic development, QMU’s Division of Nursing is a ‘Clinical Academy’ whereby all academic staff have clinical practice positions, and expert clinical nurses share teaching responsibilities with academics. Currently we are about 80% of the way towards achieving that vision through a variety of joint appointments and roles. Dr Williams’ role and work is an excellent example of what we are trying to achieve. It demonstrates how we are integrating practice expertise into our teaching and learning and ensuring that our practice is current and relevant. We are excited by the potential of this way of working and the potential it holds for real partnership working with a variety of statutory, voluntary and independent sector providers.”
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