Anne Limon Duparcmeur is the Caius College Nurse, available to all students, staff and academics for confidential consultations and advice.
‘Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others’ is a phrase endorsed by the Master, Dr Pippa Rogerson, and Anne Limon Duparcmeur, the College Nurse.
It is not being selfish: in paying attention to your own self and needs, you can be in a better position to support others.
“It’s important to self care,” says Anne, who practises meditation and mindfulness, and is a qualified yoga teacher.
“Looking after me is the best thing I can do, so I can look after other people. If I’ve had a tough day, I need to acknowledge it, and do something to relax me to try to switch off and wind down – like do some exercise or have a bath and read.
“It’s OK to have a bad day – we all have bad days – but when we have more bad days than good, talk to someone.”
Another quote which inspires Anne is from ‘The Art of Living’, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist, renowned for his teachings on mindfulness. For Anne, it has particular resonance, because it reminds her of the unexpected death of her father, last year.
“If today you can produce a thought of compassion, of love, of forgiveness, then that positive thought has the power to transform the negative thought of yesterday and to guarantee a more beautiful tomorrow,” Thich Nhat Hanh says.
Anne began her role as Caius College Nurse in November 2020 in the midst of a pandemic which began when she was volunteering in Nepal, while on annual leave from her previous job as a health visitor.
She joined Volunteers Initiative Nepal which looks to improve health inequality, educate and empower communities, but the duration of the trip meant she was unable to volunteer as a healthcare worker, so she taught yoga instead. The pandemic saw the trip curtailed and she managed to get a seat on the last flight out of Kathmandu, but the experience whetted her appetite.
In recent weeks, Anne has been working at a Cambridge vaccination centre at weekends with the support of the College, and she has enjoyed being part of a collective effort.
These experiences stem from a desire to help others, and that is her motivation at Caius.
Anne and Assistant College Nurse Victoria Mee, who started this week and is pictured above right, are available to the Caius community for their non-urgent health and wellbeing.
Consultations, currently booked online on The Venn (the College intranet) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are available no matter how big or small your issue. Relationship advice, sexual health and contraception, management of illnesses, counselling and support are all things which Anne can help with in confidential discussions, with the possibility of medical referrals if necessary.
She has arranged yoga classes in Harvey Court gardens in Easter Term – physical activity sessions could follow, watch this space – and she wants to restore Health Centre drop-in sessions, when Covid restrictions ease sufficiently.
Anne wants to continue to break the stigma around mental health, an issue which has affected us all throughout the pandemic.
“When you talk to your friend and get something off your chest, the moment you share it, a weight lifts,” she adds.
“What we do is just listening, not fixing. It’s a safe space to share without any judgement or comment, when someone’s ready to do it.
“It’s much better to come, ask a question and be told it’s nothing to worry about, than to not come and for that worry to get bigger.”
Anne stumbled upon the opportunity at Caius by chance when supporting her son’s job search. She is a mother of two – her son is 21 and daughter 18 – who moved to Cambridge aged 17, coming of age in the city, like many students do.
She grew up in the outskirts of Paris and took a year off from school to spend nine months in Cambridge learning English.
“I was in an international school meeting people from all around the world. It was amazing, opening a whole new world,” she says. “I’ve been here ever since.”
She became a healthcare assistant, working with the elderly, before working in maternity services, working night shifts and studying during the day.
Community work had more of an appeal than hospital jobs, because it was more possible to develop relationships with people, and work holistically.
I want to encourage people to develop healthy habits for life
She spent six years as a health visitor before joining Caius. Entering people’s homes and talking and listening to people from all areas of society was about supporting them in a non-judgemental and compassionate way, which Anne has carried throughout her career.
“It’s an honour to hear people’s stories and be part of people’s lives,” she says.
“When nursing, you’re used to dealing with disease and illness already present. As a health visitor, it’s about prevention, education, empowering and using evidence and research to help people make choices for their future. It’s the same with students.”
The pandemic has brought a heightened period of stress for us all, and Anne wants to support students to develop their own individual coping mechanisms to help them.
She adds: “I want to encourage people to develop healthy habits for life. We will experience stress and challenges, and difficult situations. We can’t avoid them. It’s about learning to develop the skills to cope, to be confident in challenging situations, and to have balance.”
Should you wish to arrange a consultation, please visit The Venn (College intranet; Raven password needed).