Reiki In Healthcare Settings

Introduction: Reiki in healthcare settings


I am writing this blog post today to draw the reader’s awareness to a topic which has been close to my heart for a long time. What I am going to talk about in this article is really important and I want to raise awareness among as many people as possible so, if you are reading this, please share it wide and far among your own network of family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and whoever else you can think of.

This post is about bringing Reiki into our healthcare settings, mostly our hospitals and hospices, and to allow us complementary therapists to work alongside nurses, doctors, and consultants to improve patient experience.

Reiki and the Irish healthcare system


For two and a half years, I was trying to bring Reiki into hospitals in Dublin. All of my emails, phone calls, even letters to the Director of Nursing, the assistant Director of Nursing, the Clinical Managers, the Chaplains and the Psycho Oncologists at these hospitals were met with nothing but silence. I eventually wrote a proposal for a Reiki pilot with the purpose of evaluating the patients’ response to a Reiki session during their visit to the hospitals and offered to conduct it on a voluntary basis. Again I was met with silence. Finally, last week, after I had written yet another email outlining my proposal and emphasizing that I would be willing to conduct the research on a voluntary basis, I received an email from the assistant Director of Nursing from one of the hospitals who informed me that only trained nurses were allowed to practice complementary therapies at Irish hospitals. Even though I had expected that this was the answer I was going to get one day, I felt infuriated. I think there is something so profoundly wrong with this. And frankly, I am fed up with a healthcare system that is not willing to open up to new possibilities – possibilities that, in the US for example, are already common practice. Of course I am very disappointed. I can imagine nothing better than to offer my service as complementary therapist to patients, caregivers, and staff of a busy and hectic hospital environment. But I am more sad on behalf of all the patients, their caregivers, and the overworked hospital staff who will be denied my service because of the system they are a part of; a close-minded system where anything new or different-from-the-way-we-have-always-done-things is perceived as a threat. It is really a shame.

What makes Reiki such a good holistic practice at our hospitals?


  • What is Reiki: Reiki is a natural, holistic, healing practice that is safe and simple to use. Reiki is both non-invasive and non-intrusive and can easily be introduced and offered in many medical settings.
  • What are the benefits of Reiki? The major benefit of Reiki is relaxation which gently moves the recipient from the sympathetic “fight or flight” stress response to the parasympathetic “rest and digest” relaxation response. Reiki helps relax a tense body, calm a busy mind, put the whole being into the best position to experience comfort and heal.
  • How does Reiki help? Reiki can decrease and soften pain and discomfort as part of the relaxation response.  Reiki promotes a calmer mind and reduces feelings of stress, anxiety and tension. Reiki provides a caring presence, quiet time, and gentle and comforting touch for the recipient in an otherwise busy and technical healthcare environment.  
  • What do Reiki practitioners do? Reiki practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the physical body of the recipient in a few basic hand positions. 
  • What is needed to perform Reiki? Reiki can be offered in a seated or lying position and does not require a special environment or equipment.
  • How long does a Reiki session last? Reiki sessions can last from 10 minutes to an hour. 
  • Where does a Reiki session take place? A Reiki session can be given anywhere in the hospital, even in the waiting room if the patient is comfortable with this.

 How has the practice of Reiki in medical institutions developed over the years?


Traditionally a Japanese relaxation technique, Reiki came to the West in the 1980s and has very quickly become one of the most popular complementary therapies. Particularly in the US Reiki is being used in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other care facilities and one could almost go so far as to say that it has become mainstream, part of the existing healthcare system.

In recent years, many hospitals worldwide have been looking at integrative medicine therapies as an option to help improve the experience of their patients, caregivers and staff. The awareness among healthcare professionals worldwide regarding the benefits of integrating Reiki practice into healthcare settings has been growing and as a result Reiki is being offered in care facilities, nursing homes, hospices and hospitals more and more today, with the US being the leader in this field.

In Ireland, we need more complementary therapies – not only at some but at all hospitals – and Reiki in particular because of its calming and relaxing benefits on body and mind and because of its simplicity.

Nurses and Reiki


It is wrong that only nursing staff in Ireland are allowed to practice complementary therapies. If you have been following reports on our extremely busy hospitals particularly over the past two years, you know that our nurses are seriously overworked, stressed and pushed to their limits. Often nurses become sick or drop out of the profession as a result of the ongoing stress and overwhelm and very low pay. To imagine that on top of their very busy shifts or even double-shifts sometimes during which they perform their nursing duties they have to practise complementary therapies as well, or even that they have to use some of their hours during which they should perform their nursing duties for the complementary therapy service, is just infuriating because it is so unnecessary! There are so many complementary therapists around, like myself, who would be more than happy to come in and perform the complementary therapy service – many of them, like myself, would even be happy to do it on a voluntary basis initially – so why can’t we share the work? Why can’t the nurses do what they are trained to do and we work alongside them with what we are trained to do?

The thinking here needs to change. The medical profession has to acknowledge that complementary therapists like myself, even though not medically trained, have a lot to contribute to all healthcare settings and that we all need to work together to guarantee best patient-centred care.

Reiki research


Reiki induces relaxation, lowers pain and discomfort, and promotes well-being. This is what we know from the little research that has been done into the benefits of Reiki. That there is so little research into the efficacy of Reiki is not Our fault or, as some might think, proof that Reiki isn’t really effective and only working in the minds of those who want to believe it, it is because the funding for such research isn’t being made available. So mostly what we have to date is anecdotal evidence: Our patients tell us. This is why I have written my Reiki proposal. This is why I am so keen to find a hospital where I can conduct my research. This is why I will never stop looking for the right hospital – there must be hospitals out there, there must be doctors and consultants, who are eager to conducts such research as much as I am.

Reiki pilot: Evaluation of the benefits of Reiki


In my opinion, the best way to do research into the efficacy of Reiki is via analogue scale. I have been collecting data this way for many years. I let my clients fill in a questionnaire directly before and directly after their Reiki session stating their level of discomfort, their level of pain, their level of stress, and their level of tension. In almost all cases, patients rate themselves lower in all four categories after having received Reiki: less pain, less discomfort, less stress, less anxiety. This was in my own practice. Now let’s imagine I wanted to collect patient data from patients at an outpatient oncology ward. Finding the patients who are willing to take part in this research wouldn’t be difficult. So many have heard of the many benefits of Reiki. I would want to work with 500 patients over the course of six months. Each patient who has volunteered to take part in this research project would have to fill in a questionnaire before and after their Reiki session. The questionnaires would be kept safely locked away. At the end of the six months, an independent team would evaluate the questionnaires. Now imagine: If 480 of the 500 patients rated themselves lower on their second questionnaire, after the receipt of their Reiki session, it would be a very clear result.

Summary: Reiki in our hospitals


Ireland has a long way to go when it comes to integrating more complementary therapies into the hospital system. I feel that particular emphasis should be given to Reiki because of its many benefits and its simplicity. I will keep campaigning by educating nurses and other healthcare professionals on the benefits of Reiki, by talking about it in lectures, on podcasts and wherever else I get the opportunity, and by writing articles and blog posts like these. Then hopefully, over time, the thinking will change. I envision the day when Reiki will be used in every hospital of this country and in every hospital in Europe as the “go to” complementary therapy.

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