As nurses, our ability to heal others is innately holistic in its approach. Aside from our medical expertise, we also use intuition. Who doesn’t know the nurse who just "knows" when someone is about to pass? Or the concerned nurse who calls the physician even though the labs look OK? Or what about when we simply know what to bring the patient before the patient asks? These and many other anecdotal tales are part of nursing lore. It’s who we are.
That’s why Reiki fits in so well with our profession. It uses that intuition on a deeper level, teaching nurses how to read the subtleties of energy. Although most nurses are familiar with healing touch, or laying of the hands, not many know about its older cousin, Reiki. Reiki is a healing technique that harnesses energy to help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
The word Reiki literally means “universal energy.” The idea is that all sentient beings have energy flowing through them, but when we are stressed or ill, that energy becomes unbalanced. Reiki seeks to restore order to the body, mind, and spirit.
As nurses, we're in a prime position to offer Reiki to our patients. Unlike massage, there is no need to touch the body, let alone manipulate it. Hands simply hover over certain areas of the fully clothed client. A typical Reiki session can last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. While many patients report feeling warmth from the practitioner's hands, others feel a sense of peace, and most just fall asleep.
Since there is no manipulation of the body and no touching, the legal issues that may arise from acupuncture or massage do not apply to Reiki.
As a Reiki Master and an oncology nurse, I have seen Reiki relieve unrelenting nausea. When one patient, who was feeling so much anxiety that another nurse ran to get some Ativan, allowed me to give her some Reiki, she ended up falling asleep before the other nurse arrived with the drug.
Reiki is not only useful for patients, it's also a vital tool for nurses, since we are known for our lack of self-care. Reiki is a gentle, non-invasive way to connect to your colleagues by giving and receiving. The best part about Reiki, in my opinion, is giving it to yourself. I have yet to finish giving myself Reiki before I fall asleep.
Training traditionally consists of knowledge being handed down from Master to Student, although today there are organizations that certify. It takes three to four levels -- depending on where you study -— to become a Reiki Master. Each level, up to the third, can be done in two days, but students must wait at least three months in between levels in order to continue advancing.
The Master level can take anywhere from six months to over a year before the student has enough case studies and rigorous practice. It took me two and a half years to become a Reiki Master.
Dr. Usui, the founder of Reiki practice, adopted these five principles as the Reiki principles:
- Just for today, do not anger
- Just for today, do not worry
- Just for today, be grateful for your blessings
- Just for today, work hard and meditate
- Just for today, be kind to others and honor your elders
In terms of research, there is still mostly anecdotal information. The few studies out there are either small or pilot studies, but they have shown promise in the realm of pain, nausea, and anxiety management.
About 15 percent of hospitals nationwide -- including the Cleveland Clinic, Children's Hospital in Boston, and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore -- provide Reiki. For example, Reiki is used in George Washington University Hospital's Cardiac Catheterization Lab to assist patient relaxation prior to this diagnostic procedure.
Reiki is the perfect element to blend into a hospital as it is considered safe, non-invasive, does not manipulate tissues or joints, and does not counteract with treatment.
Does your cancer center offer Reiki therapy? If so, are cancer patients experiencing benefits from this type of therapy?