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Julie Hahn, left, and volunteer Paula Jarema plan their schedule for the morning.
Many patients faced with hospitalization are under a great deal of stress, but thanks to the Department of Nursing’s Integrative Care Reiki Volunteer Program, these patients—and their families—have a way to relax.
Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) therapy is a form of energy healing that helps the body use its own ability to balance itself. It involves light touch at certain points along the body, and is designed to promote stress reduction, relaxation and healing.
The program began as a pilot in July 2009, with volunteers trained to provide Reiki in nine designated units in the hospital. Now, with 60 volunteers and 25 candidates currently undergoing training, the program has provided 6,500 20-minute sessions in 30 units of the hospital including oncology, cardiology, medical surgical and neurology.
“It’s a young program, but the response has been tremendous,” said Julie Hahn, coordinator of the Reiki Volunteer Program. “It’s a wonderful way to support people who are in a very stressful environment.”
Heart transplant recipient Matt McCabe and his wife, Gayle, both benefited from Reiki sessions throughout McCabe’s four-month stay at the hospital at the end of 2010.
“When you’re a transplant candidate, you’re just sitting there waiting for that call,” said McCabe, who is now home in Jordan, New York, after leaving BWH in December with a new heart. “It was very stressful for both my wife and me, but the Reiki sessions helped us relax and kind of let things go.”
Eileen Molina, RN, MS, nursing director of Tower 5AB, agrees that Reiki treatments are invaluable for many of the patients on her floor.
“It’s amazing to watch what a difference it makes for patients,” Molina said. “At the end of the session, they have less nausea and pain, and many of them sleep better. After a Reiki session, they have a better day.”
Hahn says the support the program gets from nursing directors and other staff on the floor is essential for the success of the program. Every day, she works with nurses throughout the hospital to identify patients who could benefit from treatment. She then schedules the sessions and ensures that a volunteer will be available for each patient who is interested—not an easy feat considering many of the patients are in and out of their rooms throughout the day for a number of reasons, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
But, Hahn says, after seeing the benefit Reiki has on their patients, many nurses and physicians are now requesting this intervention for their patients.
“On any given Wednesday, after the Reiki volunteers do their rounds, there’s a different feeling in the unit,” said Suzanne Silvernail, RN, nursing director on Tower 15D. “Many patients are sleeping or just lying there, relaxed. It’s very nice.”
The Center for Nursing Excellence’s Integrative Care Program also offers Reiki certification for nurses. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Watch Julie Hahn in action.