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Get the holistic picture: Reiki and stress reduction can help quell pain

Thursday March 20, 2014
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Patricia Reilly, RN, MSN, knows she has hit the mark in the field of pain management when she can help a patient who is significantly uncomfortable fall asleep — without the use of additional medication. Reilly, director of caring, healing and integrative care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has witnessed this phenomenon hundreds of times with the use of Reiki. In fact, she was so impressed that she helped to pioneer what has become the largest Reiki hospital volunteer program in the country.

“We will see patients who have not slept for days and cannot receive more pain medication,” Reilly said. “We send in someone to do Reiki, and then they sleep for hours and hours. Reiki channels energy into a patient through touch, and there are several places on the body such as the head, shoulders and arms that allow us to go into that person’s energy field.”

Although holistic methods of pain management such as Reiki are not traditionally taught in nursing school, RNs who integrate these techniques into care for those in pain are convinced that patients benefit. “It is becoming more and more difficult with the fast pace of healthcare to treat patients holistically, but we will never be able to reduce their pain effectively unless we can take time to get to know a patient and understand what is happening on an emotional and spiritual level,” Reilly said.
With the help of coordinator Julie Hahn, MA, BCC, Reilly trained more than 200 nurses in the hospital to perform Reiki and more than 80 volunteers. Nurses can complete a two-day Reiki course at the hospital, and they can see results in patients after as little as five minutes of using this technique, Reilly said.

Volunteers must be certified in Reiki outside the hospital before entering the program; then they complete a four-hour class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to learn specifics such as how to adjust hospital beds, dim the lighting and turn on the care channel, which plays relaxing music. They also participate in between 10 and 20 hours of mentoring before they begin working individually with patients.
At Stanford University Medical Center in California, pain management became a high priority in 2012 when surveys revealed that patients were not satisfied with their level of pain while in the hospital. In response, the facility launched a program in which nursing pain management experts would train designated bedside nurses who volunteered to be the “pain champion” for their units. The pain champions would meet quarterly for the training and then disseminate the information to their peers.

One of the most effective methods of pain management that is often overlooked is stress reduction, explained Theresa Mallick-Searle, RN, APN-BC, MS, an advanced practice nurse at SUMC, who has led pain champion training meetings. “When patients come into the hospital they often feel like they have lost power, and this creates stress and anxiety,” she said. “These patients can have great difficulty with pain management because their perception of pain is amplified due to the added
emotional stress.”

To help patients regain a sense of control, Mallick-Searle encourages nurses to use a white board in the patient’s room to write down the following: treatment team members who can answer patient questions; pain medications and time of administration; and proactive options for symptom management such as simple exercises and relaxation. Nurses also can offer Comfort Cart items, such as eye masks, ear plugs, puzzles, CDs and aromatherapy sachets. Comfort Carts were created in 2012 as another method of complementary pain management. “Many of these techniques are really an attempt to teach patients what they can do to help themselves when it comes to pain management,” she said. “Nursing as a discipline historically appreciates the power of the patient to engage in their own wellness, and it is critical to remember this as we encourage patients to be their own advocates for holistic pain management.”

Nurses interested in CE courses related to holistic pain management can check out:
Complementary and alternative medicine online certificate program
http://ce.nurse.com/course/60141/complementary-and-alternative-medicine-online-certificate-program/

To see what else is trending in pain management, visit www.Nurse.com/Pain-Management.


Heather Stringer is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email specialty@Nurse.com.