Reiki as a Complementary Therapy in Irish Hospitals

The awareness among healthcare professionals worldwide of the benefits of integrating Reiki practice into conventional healthcare is growing and today Reiki is used in care facilities, nursing homes, hospices and hospitals all over the world – and in some hospitals in the US Reiki has even found its way into operating theatres.

Reiki is a complementary therapy that originated in Japan and was brought to the West in the 1980s where it has become one of the best-known complementary therapies in recent years.

Reiki is a Japanese word which means “Universal Life Energy”. It is a healing energy which, when channeled through the hands of the Reiki Practitioner to a client, activates the client’s natural ability to heal themselves. The energy helps to release blocked energies and encourages the body to release toxins and return to a state of balance. Reiki is a simple, natural and safe way to enhance and maintain physical, emotional and mental well-being. Reiki practitioners have been trained professionally to channel the Reiki energy and not their own energy when working with patients.

According to Reiki Federation Ireland, the reported benefits of Reiki which would make it an ideal complementary therapy for our hospitals are that Reiki:

  • Complements conventional treatments and therapies.
  • Benefits chronic and acute medical conditions.
  • Decreases side-effects from medication such as Chemotherapy
  • Reduces Stress, anxiety and tension.
  • Supports and accelerates the healing process after injuries and surgery.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Balances and harmonises body, mind and spirit.

Furthermore, many studies over the years have shown how therapeutic gentle touch is, something for which the staff working on a ward in a busy hospital (nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors) simply do not have the time and energy.  For example, a study conducted by Dr. James A. Coan, Dr. Hillary Schaefer and Dr. Richard J. Davidson from the University of Virginia has shown that the brain’s response in women who anticipated pain through mild electric shocks was dramatically reduced when someone held their hand; they were able to cope with the pain and discomfort better because of the gentle and comforting human touch.

Because of its calming, relaxing and comforting effects I can see Reiki becoming particularly important in palliative and end-of-life care. In her wonderful book “Extreme Measures” Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter writes: “Palliative care is an interdisciplinary approach to managing suffering in the context of medical illness whether physical, emotional, familial or spiritual. Social workers, chaplains, nurses and physicians work collaboratively to attend to the needs of the whole patient…” Dr. Kathryn Mannix, retired palliative care physician in the UK, and author of the well-known book “With The End In Mind”, stated in a recent interview that palliative care is “symptom control in seriously ill patients on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level offered by experts from a variety of disciplines”. These definitions of the term “palliative care” resonate very much with me because it confirms my belief that the best care for seriously ill patients is one where professionals from as many disciplines as possible come together to give the patients access to the best medical treatments available and a wide range of complementary therapies, including Reiki, to choose from to support them on their journey.

We already have some complementary therapies on offer in our hospitals. But I believe Ireland still has a long way to go when it comes to developing an openness to integrating more complementary therapies into the hospital care – and not because they have been scientifically proven to work but because the anecdotal evidence from our patients is strong. The care for our patients has to be a holistic one, taking into account the individual’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and I am certain the inclusion of Reiki would help support and promote this practice in Irish hospitals.

It is unfortunate that we have the situation in Ireland that only nursing staff are allowed to perform complementary therapies in hospitals. That does not make sense when the nurses are already extremely busy and there is simply no need for them to become the complementary therapists as well when we have so many well-trained complementary therapists in the country many of whom would be delighted to work in a hospital setting and many of whom, like myself, would be willing even to offer their expertise and time on a voluntary basis.

I am a qualified Reiki practitioner, Reiki teacher, Aroma Touch Technique practitioner and Mindfulness Meditation instructor with almost 20 years’ experience in working with patients of all age groups and from all walks of life and with a particular interest in palliative and end-of-life care. I am currently training to become an end-of-life doula with Living Well Dying Well in the UK. I am a member of Reiki Federation Ireland with my own complementary therapy practice called “Healing Well” in Dublin as well as being a volunteer with Medical Reiki Ireland and a passionate campaigner for the implementation of Reiki into our hospitals.

I am fully aware that there is a lot of skepticism among our healthcare professionals regarding the effectiveness of complementary therapies such as Reiki but I also know that the only way to find out how effective these therapies actually are for our patients is to offer them to groups of patients and evaluate the response. This is why I would love to work with a hospital on a Reiki trial. I need to emphasise at this point that my interest when evaluating the efficacy of Reiki differs from the interest of doctors and consultants in so far as that I am not so concerned about finding scientific evidence for the usefulness of Reiki but rather about the patient’s own sense of their well-being and state of health, which, as we all are aware, is influenced by far more than just the medication they are taking and the procedures they are undergoing. The evidence of their own sense of well-being is something that cannot be shown in scan and test results.

I am confident that eventually Reiki will become an integral part of the complementary therapies on offer in our hospitals as it is already in so many other countries in Europe and overseas.

Melanie Leamy

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