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Nurse's Corner

Posted by on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nurse Finds that Reiki May Help Soothe Mesothelioma Patients When Other Attempts Fail

As all mesothelioma symptoms are individual, so too is everyone’s journey – the patient, the family, caregiver – when dealing with the disease. Recently, while taking care of a mesothelioma patient whose fears and anxiety were consuming him, I was struggling to help him cope. He could not ‘shut his head off.’ He knew that he was safe and on the road to recovery, but it wasn’t enough at this point to calm his emotions.

I listened closely to his concerns, offered him words of comfort, and I tried to help him refocus his energies. Regardless of what I said it soon became clear that it was not enough, and this man was distressed. He needed something more. Believing that what he was feeling was truly overwhelming, a complementary practice came to mind: Reiki. In many hospitals, including where I work, Reiki is performed by volunteers, who are certified Reiki practitioners. The service is offered as requested by patients and their families who may be in the waiting room or are patients in the hospital and are tense and anxious.

Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe they are transferring universal energy in the form of qi through the palms which they believe allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.

The concept remains unproven in scientific literature. A 2008 systematic review of randomized clinical trials concluded that, “The evidence is insufficient to suggest that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition.” The American Cancer Society and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have also found that there is no clinical or scientific evidence supporting claims that Reiki is effective in the treatment of any illness.

However, Reiki adherents believe that Reiki is a holistic therapy that brings about healing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. The belief is that the energy will flow through the practitioner’s hands whenever the hands are placed on, or held near, a potential recipient and that it promotes stress reduction, relaxation and healing. Some teachings stress the importance of the practitioner’s intention or presence in this process, while others claim that the energy is drawn by the recipient’s injury to activate or enhance the natural healing processes. There’s also the belief that the energy knows where to heal even if the practitioner’s hands are not on that specific area.

According to an article in the February 2011 Brigham and Women’s Hospital Bulletin, its Department of Nursing’s Integrative Care Reiki Volunteer Program is offering a new way for patients and their families to relax.

Both nurses and patients agree that Reiki sessions are “invaluable for many of the patients.” In fact, Eileen Molina, RN, MS, nursing director of Tower 5AB, 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.” Molina said that many nurses and physicians are now requesting this intervention for their patients after seeing the positive results.

For the mesothelioma patient who could not relax, I got his approval for a Reiki session.  Skeptics of Reiki could not dispute that on this day for this patient the therapy helped calm and reassure him to the point that he fell asleep. Reiki had done what pain medication or sleeping medication had not accomplished. The patient was comfortable, physically and mentally, and stronger to continue on his journey.

If you have questions about Reiki therapy, or just want to ask a question regarding your mesothelioma care, feel free to email me at LHyde-Barrett@mesotheliomahelp.net.

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Lisa Hyde-Barrett has been a thoracic surgery nurse for nearly 25 years, and has the skill and knowledge to care for and support mesothelioma patients. Through her work, she has helped ease the stress of patients and their families by offering a comforting hand. She is passionate about helping the mesothelioma community.