"Having certification in a variety of bodywork therapy modalities gives me the ability to meet the complex needs of end-of-life care for patients and their families," said Dottie Magee, RN, CHPN, a complementary therapy nurse for Holy Redeemer Hospice.
"Having the skill set of complementary therapy offers a noninvasive approach that brings harmony to the body, as well as an overall sense of well-being that can improve quality of life through the dying process."
Use of complementary care modalities — such as Healing Touch, massage and aromatherapy — is not a new concept in hospice care.
The focus is not just on a patientís physical needs, but also on psychosocial care.
"What makes our program unique is that we use nurses in that role," Mirsch said. "It enables us to take experienced hospice nurses — people who really know hospice care — and give them another tool in their toolbox."
The key to this model of care is the integration of palliative care with alternative therapies.
Holy Redeemer Hospice developed the Complementary Therapy Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse (CTRN) role, which allows nurses with certifications in complementary therapy to provide a wide repertoire of services with less of a need to call in another practitioner to provide alternative therapies.
"It puts them in a unique position," Mirsch said. "They can change hats as need be. They have an ability to address the needs that arise."
"You cannot separate the shared pain between the patient and the loved one," said Hartman, who co-founded the Holy Redeemer Hospice Complementary Therapy Program with Mirsch in 2002.
"As the patient gets closer to death and the last breath, the loved one is growing closer and closer to grief and the loss. Itís a shared experience of grief."
Alternative therapy modalities, such as Healing Touch, can offer relief from the symptoms associated with stress, Hartman said.
In Healing Touch, practitioners use the existing energy surrounding the body to encourage physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
"Itís not magical; itís not mystical," she said. "The goal is for the person to reach "a peaceful, detached, contemplative state."
Hospice care does not end when a patient dies. Nurses continue to help family members after a loss.
"Words cannot express the depth of pain that people are experiencing with fresh grief," Hartman said. "[Complementary therapies] can help people calm down and relax and address their stress level and cope."
Holy Redeemer Hospice cares for patients and families in a variety of settings, including a 14-bed inpatient unit at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pa.
Some patients are referred by skilled nursing or assisted-living facilities, and many others receive care in their own homes. The program serves about 200 families in southeastern Pennsylvania and 250 in New Jersey.
Hartman also is leader of the Allied Therapy section of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Over the past decade, Holy Redeemerís program has grown from having only one CTRN, Hartman, to a team of nurses who provide a variety of complementary therapies.
While the shift to a new care model might seem daunting, Mirsch urges hospice care providers to "start somewhere; do something."
Hartman agreed, noting that certification in complementary therapies is a skill set that is commutable.
"These skills can be used anywhere you practice," she said. "I think thatís what the future holds: integrative therapy modalities."
Susan Hansen is a freelance writer.
To comment, email editorPA@nurse.com or post a comment below.