The use of Usui Reiki Ryoho in healthcare has come a long way since I first began offering sessions in a hospital setting. Usui Reiki Ryoho, a hands-on healing method, originated in Japan in 1922 and came to the U.S. in the '70s. Little known in 1999, I received more sideways glances and snickers than support when I was hired as an independent RN/Reiki provider at the North Shore Medical Center, Salem, Mass.
But my first Reiki session in 1998 resulted in such profound relaxation, I asked the nurse, "Why aren't we using this in hospitals?" Although I knew nothing about "energy" at the time, I realized the possible benefits of Reiki if used in mainstream healthcare for patients and staff.
Art & Science
Evidence-based practice, the partnership between hard scientific evidence, clinical expertise and individual patient needs and choices, drives healthcare.1 With "biofield energy" not scientifically validated and with little high-quality evidence in the literature,2 I quietly persevered to work with Reiki in mainstream healthcare, driven by my personal experience and the positive feedback from patients. Eventually, colleagues began to report patients having Reiki sessions seemed calmer, more comfortable and had better outcomes, especially in pre- and postoperative units.
A 2009 literature review found that "while 9 of 12 trials detected a significant therapeutic effect of the Reiki intervention, 11 of the 12 studies ranked "poor" using the Jadad quality score." They concluded that "high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to address the effectiveness of Reiki over placebo."3 Despite the lack of definitive evidence, there is enough belief in this approach that I am currently employed as the RN/Reiki provider at Mass General Cancer Center, HOPES program. HOPES Program at the Mass General Cancer Center focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of patients with cancer, their families and friends through free wellness services and education/support workshops.
Preop Calm: Karen Pischke, BSN, RN, (left) provides Reiki to a patient before surgery to increase comfort and calm. courtesy Karen Pischke
A Day in the Life
Arriving at the medical oncology infusion unit a little before 9 a.m., my beeper goes off. The page from an oncology nurse notes a patient waiting for an IV start is anxious and could use some Reiki. Despite an already full schedule, I assist with this acutely anxious patient, knowing that the vasodilatation offered by the relaxation response can potentiate an easier IV insertion and a more comfortable experience. The next IV attempt goes smoothly; the patient is now smiling, cheeks flushed from relaxation.
A nurse then asks if I could see a gentleman in pain. This patient had some immediate pain relief as well as a somatic experience of warmth and flow. Since this first encounter, he now receives Reiki sessions during his bimonthly chemotherapy treatments and reports pain relief, clearer thinking and improved mood.
Back at my computer, I see an email from a regular community client who has been admitted postoperatively. The continuity of care I experience extends from the community to MGH Danvers and Boston and between inpatient and outpatient units, allowing for greater relationship building.
Part of Holistic Team
Working for the Mass General Cancer Center, I feel very fortunate to be employed by the HOPES Program as part of a kind, caring, compassionate team of healthcare professionals offering comprehensive, adjunctive, holistic care for patients. Session referrals come from anywhere along the continuum of care, and staff is supportive and knowledgeable about identifying patients who would benefit from these services. The focus is on supportive, compassionate care and high-quality, positive outcomes.
I hear from patients describing their sessions as "soothing, nurturing, balancing, comforting, supportive, calming and healing." The collaborative efforts and combined therapies can be especially beneficial during a time when patients feel particularly scared of the unknown, vulnerable to both their diagnosis and their treatment. Patients are able to choose from a variety of supportive, adjunctive therapies while undergoing treatment, allowing them a greater sense of comfort and control.
Besides being added support, the HOPES integrative medicine therapies offer a variety of therapeutic benefits, including reduction in chemotherapy and radiation side effects. Patients often report relief of pain and anxiety and a general sense of relaxation, comfort, calm, inner peace and well-being.
I am grateful to be able to offer Reiki as my holistic nursing practice in a major academic center as an integral member of the professional team. Reiki has come a long way in healthcare since the sideways glances I first received in 1999, and now most hospitals around the country offer Reiki in some form. A woman with metastatic cancer recently summed up her experience as, "Massage helps me more physically, Reiki helps me more emotionally. After a Reiki session, I feel calmer, more energized and whole again."
1. Mazurek Melnyk B, et al. Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing & Healthcare: A Guide to Best Practice. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011.
2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Reiki: An Introduction. 2012. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/introduction.htm
3. VanderVaart S, et al. A systematic review of the therapeutic effects of Reiki. J Altern Complement Med. 2009; (11):1157-1169.
4. So PS, et al. Touch therapies for pain relief in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008; (4):CD006535. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006535.pub2.
5. Miles P, et al. Reiki: Review of a biofield therapy: History, theory, practice, and research. Alternative Therapies. 2003; 9(2):62-72.
Karen Pischke is a nationally certified clinical hypnotherapist, Reiki master teacher, tobacco treatment specialist, research nurse, consultant, writer, poet and entrepreneur. Contact her at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.