FMH offering Reiki touch to patients

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FARMINGTON – A gentle, loving human touch now channels energy from one to another for stress and pain management at Franklin Memorial Hospital.

The ancient Japanese technique of Reiki, using a gentle touch or nearness to prompt relaxation and challenge healing energy from the universe, has been offered since November to patients, staff and their families, said Meredith Kendall, RN, the hospital’s Reiki team leader.

It doesn’t require massage, just human touch, Kendall said. Even when a patient doesn’t know much about Reiki or believes that it works, they can still experience relaxation and feel better.

“Sometimes, patients will say they feel relaxed or good and report less pain and stress,” she said. “Sometimes they sleep during the 20-30 minute session, and others have reported seeing colors.”

The energy goes where it needs to go, Kendall said, as she explained that they usually start at the top of the head and work down the body, although it’s also done with a few inches of space between her hands and the patient’s body.

Lending her energy along with Kendall’s while she quickly treats FMH employee Shelly Howard Tuesday, Pam Ernst, chief nursing officer, said she could feel the energy just holding on to Howard’s arm.

“So many hospital procedures, while not intentional, are uncomfortable,” Kendall said. “But, this is just a gentle loving touch. I feel so honored, so lucky, to have this bonding time with a patient.”

There was a lot of interest among the staff and the community, she said, for projects that would integrate different types of treatments.

“During the project’s initial eight weeks, 39 Reiki sessions were provided with more than half of the recipients requesting Reiki due to anxiety, stress or pain,” she said. “They reported a 72 percent decrease in stress levels and 60 percent less pain after receiving Reiki. The last quarter has shown an 87 percent reduction in stress and 55 percent less pain.”

With healing energy from the universe, people have sought Reiki treatments to improve immunity, to speed healing and to promote relaxation and sleep, she said.

“Patients have been telling us that they are feeling help in these areas and are very pleased with the treatment,” she said.

Sessions are offered at no charge to patients by Reiki volunteers, some of whom, she said, have been practicing the technique for years, and others, on the hospital staff, who are learning the practice.

Reiki was chosen because of the local expertise available as well as its simplicity and effectiveness, she said. The committee also explored options such as aroma therapy, music therapy, massage, hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques.

Patients are given a handout describing the program, she said, and they then can ask for a Reiki session or nurses refer them to Kendall. If the patient stays at the hospital for a few days, they can receive more than one treatment and are also given names of area Reiki practitioners in case they want to pursue it when they leave the hospital.

The pilot Reiki program was modeled after programs at Maine Medical Center and at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

Kendall also wrote an article on the program that was published in the March 2007 issue of “Advance for Nurses,” a regional nursing magazine that has stimulated interest in the project from other nurses and hospitals who want more information, she said.

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