Elise Brenner and Carol Ryan
This month, it was raining Reiki inside as six presenters shared their research and direct experience about integrating Reiki into conventional medicine with “Reiki Therapy and Conventional Medicine: An Integrative and Comprehensive Approach.” With a wealth of knowledge among them, the speakers focused on five distinct areas.
Patricia Arcari, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, Program Manager for Meditation & Mindfulness at the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), highlighted for the audience some of the research studies being done with Reiki. While evidence-based research studies are invaluable for promoting Reiki in medical settings, Dr. Arcari speaks also for the primacy of Reiki experiences from the perspective of patients’ own direct healing experiences.
As DFCI launches its campaign to bring integrative approaches to patient care, Reiki was selected as the practice of choice. Dr. Arcari outlined some of the reasons:
- Reiki fits seamlessly with nursing care priorities for person-centered, relationship-based, non-invasive practices that facilitate the patients’ own innate healing.
- Reiki is beneficial for its approach of “Intentional Presence”—‘being with’ the patient.
- It is known that physical touch facilitates deep relaxation.
- Reiki benefits nurses as a self-care resource as well as caring for their patients.
Dr. Arcari noted that the current state of research into the science of Reiki is weak, yet there is a strong emerging approach in the recent literature from Biofield Science
What is the Biofield?
Biofield is the field of energy and information that reflects and guides
homeodynamic regulation of a living system, and as such influences,
and is influenced by, consciousness” (Jain et. al. 2015)
Included here are clinical biofields such as the electrical and magnetic fields generated by arrays of heart cells detected by EKG, NCG, EEG, and MEG.
The cutting edge for Reiki practice in all of this is the field of psycho-neuro-immunology, as well as the consciousness-and-healing initiative.
While citing a series of Reiki studies from the peer-reviewed journal Pain Management Nursing, most of which showed Reiki to have a statistically significant benefit to patients with depression, anxiety, and pain, Dr. Arcari also pointed out some problems in Reiki research to date:
- Studies included a small sample size
- Challenges in determining “dose”
- Whether the timing of the Reiki treatment makes a difference (for example, how long before surgery a treatment was offered to the patient)
- Practitioner selection
The capstone of Dr. Arcari’s presentation was that it is the patient experience that can and should drive the process until methodological issues for conducting research are addressed.
History - Reiki at Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Outpatient Oncology Facility
Bambi P. Mathay, LMT, NCTMB, RMT, lead oncology massage therapist and Reiki Master Teacher at the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies DFCI, shared the history of Reiki at DFCI's outpatient oncology facility. Treated there for multiple myeloma, Lenny Zakim found “comfort and renewal” by combining Reiki and other integrative therapies with chemotherapy and radiation. Before his passing in 1999, he worked to make these therapies “available and affordable to all Dana-Farber patients.” So the next time you drive over the Zakim Bridge, you might offer a thought of gratitude to Lenny for helping to spread Reiki as a part of patient care!
When the Zakim Center opened in 2000, Reiki was offered from the start. But there was only one nurse practicing Reiki from 2000-2009. During that time, licensed massage therapists also were offering hand massage to patients in infusion chairs, in a program called Hands On Care. In 2010, LMTs who were Reiki trained could offer Reiki as well as massage; this was followed by the R & R Project, which gave patients the choice of Reiki or Reflexology. 2015 saw the first Reiki training for nurses, and in 2016, a Reiki Volunteer Program was established. The program is already well received and looking toward a thriving future of patient care and support when it launches in January, 2017.
Reiki Support for Rehabilitation at Spaulding
Many of you may be familiar with Judith Frazier, RN, M. Ed, RMT, a long-time supporter of the Celebration of Reiki, Inc. Judith was research nurse coordinator / manager for traumatic brain injury at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She also worked to develop and implement the hospital’s Reiki volunteer program, which was fully implemented in 2014 by Spaulding’s Integrative Medicine Task Force. Upon her retirement, Judith became the Integrative Medicine Coordinator at Spaulding, and a member of the DFCI Reiki Volunteer Program Thinktank.
Judith has found ICU nurses very supportive of Reiki at Spaulding; patients consistently report benefits of improved sleep, reduced pain and reduced anxiety, and feelings of comfort. She strongly feels that the touch aspect of Reiki has a huge impact and is to be valued as a vehicle of patient empowerment. Rehabilitation is all about empowering patients, and it is a critical component of physical therapy.
Spaulding began training staff in Reiki in 2012. Currently 80 staff members are trained, with ongoing efforts to educate staff all along the way. Like Patricia Arcari, Judith Frazier advocates quality scientific research into Reiki, while also valuing the direct patient experience of Reiki.
Nurses’ Central Role in Fueling Reiki in Hospitals
Libby Barnett, MSW, keynote speaker at the 2016 Celebration of Reiki Conference and the longest practicing Reiki Master Teacher on the East Coast, has "taught Reiki to over 980 nurses" in hospitals and medical centers throughout the Northeast. During the Grand Rounds talk, Libby noted that nurses sought Reiki training in order to facilitate pain relief, relaxation, comfort, and support for their patients. Patients receiving Reiki treatments reported feeling less anxious during chemotherapy infusion; they worried less, and they tolerated medical procedures better.
And, of course, the nurses found that Reiki also benefited their own well-being!
Libby offered some quotes from both nurses and patients:
“Reiki helps the kids muster up their courage,” reported a pediatric nurse.
“Doing Reiki is my in-breath time,” a nurse reported.
“Reiki does not always ease my pain," a patient at Spaulding reported during physical therapy rehabilitation, "but it always soothes my heart.”
The Human Touch – Through Hands and Heart
A deeply moving part of the Grand Rounds was a presentation by Kathy Guimond, BSN, RN, CCRN, Bone Marrow Transplant Nurse at BWH and her transplant patient, Dan. Some of you may have met Kathy as an attendee of the 2016 Celebration of Reiki Conference. She is also the recipient of the Integrative Nursing Practice Award, 2014-2015.
Kathy noted that the typical inpatient stay for bone marrow transplant is 3-4 weeks and some patients do not survive. In a setting fraught with grave concerns and stressors, Kathy wanted to make a difference with Reiki, in the body, mind, and spirit of her patients. She came in to the hospital for 4 hours on Saturdays, volunteering to provide Reiki treatments to patients and their family members. Kathy collected pre- and post-Reiki treatment data from her patients, who consistently reported decreased pain and increased relaxation.
Dan joined Kathy at the podium and described his diagnosis with A.L.L. (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) at the age of 62. He was treated with radiation and a stem cell transplant. Weeks leading up to the transplant brought countless hours of worry and sleepless nights. Dan talked about trying to put on a brave face for his family, and was determined to fight his cancer. His family knew about Reiki and supported his belief that the spirit is very powerful in healing. It so happened that his attending nurse was Reiki trained, and, of course, the nurse was Kathy. Dan described sensing the spiritual energy, and feeling calm and relaxed with the Reiki sessions.
He eloquently summed up his experience in this way:
“Reiki helped me through a difficult and uncertain period in my life … and I left the hospital a lighter man due to Reiki.”
And, due to Reiki, to the presenters and sponsors of the Integrative Medicine Grand Rounds, attendees also left feeling lighter – educated about where the practice of Reiki has been and is, as a part of medical care, and inspired and encouraged about where it may go in the future.