An Alternative to Burnout
Nurse are using mind-body practices to relieve stress
When Rumi Hashimoto, RN, MSN, was 30 years old, she juggled the various challenges of raising two kids, studying full time and caring for critically ill patients, but there was one thing she didn’t know how to do: take care of herself. “I didn’t know it was an option,” says Hashimoto, a nurse practitioner with over 36 years of nursing experience. Her attitude was, “I take care of someone else.”
Nursing burnout led Hashimoto to leave the bedside for a less-demanding educator position, but what initially seemed like a straightforward case of job-related malaise proved to be a more serious problem. “I had a neurological condition that was never fully diagnosed,” she says. “I had numbness, headaches and neurological pain.” Her condition ultimately became so severe that she was unable to work for six months.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Hashimoto was not alone in feeling incapacitated. According to the American Nursing Association’s 2011 survey of nurses, stress and overwork are among the top health and safety concerns for nurses.
“Nursing self-care is essential in preventing nurse burnout,” says Glenda Christiaens, Ph.D., RN, AHN-BC, the president of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). “Nurses cannot care for people appropriately if they are not caring for themselves. They role-model self-care to their clients, so they must practice self-care.”
Christiaens says there are many forms of self-care, some as simple as pausing periodically to take deep breaths. Others involve what are known as alternative medicine modalities or integrated healing, from aromatherapy to Reiki, PSYCH-K (which attempts to improve overall well-being by changing subconscious beliefs) and even prayer.
The AHNA does not necessarily endorse all of these modalities and the effectiveness of some of these techniques is disputed. However, Christiaens believes that practices that are considered to be mind/body in nature, such as positive thinking, relaxation, meditation, guided imagery and visualization, can be very effective in relieving stress.
Hashimoto explored many alternative health modalities to help reduce her pain and regain a sense of well-being without medication. She ultimately turned to the Healing Touch Program, a modality that, according to practitioners, uses touch to control the flow of energy around the human body and restore physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance.
The Healing Touch Program was created in 1989 by Janet Mentgen and a certificate program was rolled out the following year. Hashimoto says she was initially skeptical of the program’s theories of energy manipulation. “I didn’t believe in any of these things,” she chuckles. “However, I was told all you need is your hands and a healing heart. I thought, ‘Well, I have those.’”
She says the program ultimately helped her gain self-respect and a renewed sense of control. “It was a good wake-up call,” she says. “If I kept the way it was, I probably wouldn’t be alive at the age of 40, so I slowly changed how I ate, exercised and how I looked at my life.”
BECOMING A BELIEVER
Hashimoto is now a certified practitioner in the practice of energy healing, a faculty member at Golden West Community College and cofounder of the Hashiba Institute, an educational company intended to help nurses and others better care for themselves. “We have to heal ourselves to stay healthy,” she says.
Hashiba Institute cofounder Katrina Shibata, MPH, CHES, had her first experience with the Healing Touch Program when she was studying ways to help people with chronic pain. “I didn’t think it was for me,” she laughs. “This energy business was out there.”
She became a believer after attending a two-day course and seeing the impact it had on other participants. Shibata now coordinates and assists with courses. “There is such a shift when nurses leave the course,” she says. “They leave with a different brightness in their face and eyes. You can see a change in their posture and how they walk and interact with people. You can hear it in their voice.”
The Hashiba Institute is currently partnering with hospitals in Los Angeles and Japan to offer Healing Touch and other courses to nurses.
Irma Najera Patrick, RN, MSN, PCCN, nursing house supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, has also turned to holistic self-care programs to help manage her work and life stress. “I was working long hours, going to school for my master’s degree and planning a wedding at the same time, and felt depleted,” she says. “I was also frustrated from watching family members not improve their health conditions by traditional Western medicine.”
Patrick now attends meditation class about once a week and plans to start yoga soon. “I find that it is very helpful in keeping me centered,” she says. “Ideally, it would be great to meditate daily, but I am not there yet.” She also receives a massage and spinal manipulation once or twice a month from a chiropractor, but says she obtains the most effective mental relaxation through energy therapy.
“I think the focus on self-care is very important, as nurses do not do this well,” Patrick says, “Many get burnt out as a result of giving too much and not taking care of themselves.”
A RANGE OF OPTIONS
Nicole Panzich, an emergency nurse at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro, sought out the Healing Touch Program at the advice of Hashimoto, her nursing instructor.
“I was becoming disillusioned with my job as a nurse,” Panzich says. Working with alternative modalities helped her to be a better nurse and a “better me.” Like Hashimoto, Panzich subsequently became a certified practitioner and now recommends the class to other nurses.
She explains that the certification process requires trying different types of integrative healing modalities. She experimented with massage, acupuncture, PSYCH-K, essential oils, polarity therapy, Reiki and the Bowen Technique, eventually concluding that their effectiveness “is more about the practitioner’s healing presence, intention and professional ethics than the technique or type of modality presented.”
At one time or another, nearly every nurse has probably left his or her shift and gone home without fully decompressing or letting go of workplace and patient baggage. Even if you’re skeptical about or uncomfortable with the more “out there” alternative health modalities, emphasizing self-care in your own life is an empowering and creative way to combat nursing burnout.
“The workplace is inherently stressful, so nurses do need help remembering to care for themselves,” Christiaens says. She believes workplaces that offer opportunities for nurses to self-care create a win-win situation by decreasing attrition and increasing job satisfaction — most likely resulting in better patient outcomes.
The American Holistic Nurses Association
The Healing Touch Program
This article is from workingnurse.com.