Health

Reiki In a Hospital Setting

Written by Michele Anderson, Reiki Master Teacher and Practitioner. Posted in Health.

Reiki In a Hospital SettingIf  you’ve watched television or listened to the radio lately, chances are you’ve heard an advertisement for a pharmaceutical product or medical treatment.  We have become a nation accustomed to popping pills for everything from anxiety to arthritis.   And while traditional medicine is a necessary part of combating illness, some individuals are seeking alternate forms of treatment.  One alternative therapy is Reiki, an ancient Japanese technique for relaxation and stress reduction which also promotes healing.  While not intended for diagnosis or treatment of disease, Reiki can be utilized to complement and even augment traditional Western medicine.


What is Reiki?

Word Reiki comes from combining the Japanese words “Rei” meaning universal and “Ki” meaning life force or energy.  Together they translate to “universal life force energy.”  A Reiki practitioner uses this life force energy to help heal stress and negative energy in the body, thereby promoting an overall feeling of well-being, relaxation and centeredness.  Reiki is not a religion, but a method of creating inner peace.

How Does it Work?

Simply stated, Reiki is energy.  Energy is all around us because living things emit their own energetic field.  Just think about a time you’ve entered a room full of people and immediately perceived either a positive or negative feeling.  That initial “gut” feeling is your intuitive ability to read and respond to others’ life force energy.

During a healing session, which typically last 45 to 90 minutes, a Reiki practitioner taps into the universal life force energy and directs it to specific areas of the client’s body.  The practitioner uses techniques such as scanning the client’s energy field to detect disruptions within it. By guiding his or her hands slowly over the client’s clothed body, the practitioner directs Reiki energy to the client, and in doing so, dissolves energy blockages which are often the root of a client’s health issues. Clients often report sensations of warmth, tingling and an overall sense of peace and relaxation during treatment sessions.  

How is Reiki Learned?

Reiki is an easily acquired technique that can be used on oneself or others.  In order to become a practitioner, it is necessary to study with a Reiki Master.  During training sessions, students learn about the history of Reiki, the necessary hand positions used during treatments, as well as more advanced techniques such as using crystals to augment a session. Reiki is less of a “learned” practice than an acquired one.  Reiki energy is passed on from Master to student during a process called “attunement.” After an attunement, the student’s energetic pathways become more open and his vibrational level heightens, allowing Reiki energy to flow freely.  Once attuned, practitioners have the ability to conduct Reiki for life.

Reiki Heals on Many Levels

Mary, a yoga instructor and registered nurse, tried Reiki treatments out of curiosity. After her first session, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that Reiki had the ability to work beyond just the physical level.  “Not only did I feel totally relaxed, but I found for two months after the treatment, my sleeping was better, I had a more positive outlook, and…experienced a reduction in peri-menopausal symptoms,” she says.

Like Mary, clients often report an improvement in physical maladies as well an overall improvement in mood, mental clarity, and stress levels.

When Kate Peterson from Red Hook, NY had her first Reiki session, she was suffering from stress and anxiety coupled with chronic back pain. While she wasn’t sure to expect from the treatment, she soon became relaxed and comfortable.  Within moments, she began to feel a pulsing sensation in her lower back which lasted the duration of the session.  

“After my session,” says Peterson, “I felt great.  But the next morning was the best part.  I got out of bed quickly, forgetting the fact that I normally have to do it slowly or have my husband help me.”  

Reiki Becoming an Accepted Form of Complimentary Wellness Care

As knowledge of the health benefits of Reiki have spread, so too has its availability.  Not only are there more than one million worldwide certified Reiki practitioners, but Reiki is now being offered to patients in local hospitals and treatment centers.  

Northern Westchester Hospital in Westchester, New York has been offering Reiki as part of the Integrative Therapy Program for cancer patients since 2004.  Maria Hale, Vice-President of the Office of Patient and Family Advocacy explains Reiki’s importance as a complementary therapy.  Hale says patients experience great levels of pain and anxiety when undergoing cancer treatments.  Reiki is a tool used by staff members to help patients through the process.

 “Patients need to relax in order to let the healing process begin,” says Hale.  “Reiki is a natural way for that to happen.”

A body in a relaxed state allows medical treatments to work more efficiently and enables the patient to experience faster, more easeful healing. Reiki is often offered to cancer patients as a way to lift the veil of pain associated with the disease and its treatment. With reduced pain, patients are better able to take part in their care plan and redirect their focus on recovery. 

Anne West, Licensed Massage Therapist, Licensed Acupuncturist, Clinical Nurse Specialist of Holistic Nursing and Reiki Practitioner at Northern Westchester Hospital observes a dramatic decrease in patient pain after a Reiki treatment as evidenced by the analog scales used by medical staff. West says, “…the pre-and post- interventions are amazing.  Before a session with the team, they’re registering their pain as six to an eight, or sometimes ten out of ten. Then afterward, a two, or sometimes they’re asleep.  The body is able to get into that deep relaxation, and everything is back in harmony.”

Susan Raskin, Reiki Practitioner, Clinical Nurse in Holistic Nursing and Manager of Holistic Integrative Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital notes how relaxed and peaceful patients feel after a Reiki treatment.  She says that relaxation is the key to allowing the body “…to do what it innately knows how to do in the healing process.”  She also explains that for those skeptical about trying Reiki as part of a treatment plan, “Look at it like a box of chocolate.  If you’ve not tried that one before, try it and see how it is.”

It’s important to stress that Reiki is not intended to use in place of medication, but rather, in conjunction with a patient’s medicinal regime.  Reiki is known to augment Western medicine practices and helps speed the rate at which the body heals.

“The pain medicine is there. It’s not an either or. We use Reiki in concert with the medication for better response in the body,” says Hale.  “What we find on average is that patients will show a three to four-point change in their pain.”

Reiki Empowers

When patients are able to relax, they experience a greater sense of clarity, enabling them to be an active participant in their healing.  They are then able to take part in the decision process and are better able to make their needs and wishes known when it comes to medical treatment.

“From a patient empowerment standpoint, clarity is very important because you want to be a partner in your care,” Hale says, explaining that the patient’s thinking then becomes, ‘“I’m able to be the vertical patient, not the horizontal patient where things are being done to me.”’

Empowerment indeed. Patients who suffer chronically or who are in a state of physical debilitation are those who most need a sense of normalcy and a way to experience some level of their previous physical ability. When patients have a greater sense of control in their medical care, they have a greater ability to have faith in the process and allow themselves to heal.

Rae Wiggins is a Reiki Practitioner at Good Shepherd Community Care in Newton, Massachusetts, one of the most trusted healthcare organizations in Greater Boston focusing on hospice and palliative care. Wiggins says that following a Reiki treatment, a client who had difficulty engaging with others due to illness, came away more alert and awake and was able to “…interact with family in a way that had previously been lost.” For family members, when restoration of their loved one’s ability to be present and alert occurs, it is a gift beyond measure.

Elena Ladas, PhD, Registered Dietitian, Director for Comprehensive Wellness Division of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell transplant at Columbia University Medical Center in New York wants to encourage people to be open to Reiki and all integrative therapies. 

“Patients suffer…Reiki empowers patients. It’s not measurable in the traditional sense, but it’s very real.  You can see it when patients feel empowered,” says Ladas.

A decade ago, Reiki was not widely offered as a complimentary therapy in hospitals, but as more people have become informed of its benefits, the more it has been sought out by patients.  Reiki works on a level that pharmaceuticals cannot; the energetic level.  When disruptions in a person’s energetic field are present, illness can result.  When those disruptions are repaired through the work of a Reiki treatment, people feel more balanced, relaxed, and have lower pain levels.  This fosters a more positive outlook on the future and recovery. 

The Benefits Keep Spreading

It’s not only patients at Northern Westchester Hospital who reap the benefits of Reiki. Reiki practitioners treat other members of the staff to assist with stress management. As a part of Nurse Recognition Week, the Integrative Medicine department sets up sessions  for nurses in one of the modalities which include yoga, acupuncture, exercise and of course, Reiki. 

Hale explains that when staff members have given one another Reiki treatments, the change in mood is palpable on the floor.  She notes that the environment feels lighter and more positive, with more smiling staff members. “It’s a big win when we do this infusion of integrated medicine into the culture,” says Hale. It makes sense.  Relaxed medical staff make better caretakers. Elena Ladas agrees that Reiki benefits other individuals besides the patient. 

“You can train parents in Reiki and they can provide it to their child.  That’s a unique thing about Reiki,” says Ladas. When parents are trained practitioners, they are able to provide Reiki to their child in both the hospital and home settings. The child need not wait for a nurse or other trained staff member to become available in order to receive a treatment. Additionally, parents can use Reiki on themselves as a way to promote relaxation and a sense of calmness while shouldering the burden of having an ill child.   

Freida Hilts, PhD and Reiki Master Practitioner, also notes the benefits of treating a patient’s loved ones. During her work with Hospice patients, family members sometimes requested Reiki treatments as well. According to Hilts, family members felt a need for relaxation and stress management as they tried to cope with the terminal illness of their loved one.  After treatment, Hilts says family members noted a greater sense of relaxation and renewed ability to assist the ill loved one.

Reiki is Restorative

Liz Sauer, physical therapist at Hudson Valley Home Care in Poughkeepsie, NY uses Reiki as part of a treatment plan for her homebound patients, with acute or chronic pain; orthopedic, post-operative, or neurological situations; or who are in palliative care.  Sauer reports using Reiki to help clients relax and to decrease pain levels so that the physical therapy work can begin. 

Sauer became interested in Reiki after experiencing her own long-term pain. She sought the help of a physical therapist while also receiving Reiki treatments. “There was a time I was not able to work and I experienced a lot of overall body pain, which…has decreased tremendously and I am able to work as a physical therapist.”  Sauer now uses this first-hand experience to help her own clients, explaining that after treatment with Reiki, clients “…don’t feel so anxious about their pain. They’re calmer and have increased mobility.”  Additionally, she explains that clients’ moods are lifted and they are more interested in progressing forward.

Melissa Zehr, of Highland, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She sought Reiki treatment prior to undergoing a mastectomy to help alleviate the stress, frequent headaches and lack of sleep she was experiencing since the diagnosis. She was pleased to discover the negative energy her body had been harboring was eliminated after the session.  Her body felt tingly and her headache had virtually vanished. She also notes that since the session she enjoyed more restful sleep and a more positive outlook. “Being a breast cancer survivor, it is a continual process for healing, which means keeping a balance between body and mind. For me, Reiki will help in that process with continuing sessions.”

Reiki is a powerful and effective way to complement western medicine and can be used in a variety of situations. Skeptics are encouraged to give Reiki a try and see how it will work for them. “Have a willingness to suspend the skepticism and allow the energy to work,” says Wiggins.   While still mysterious to some, it is a modality worth trying. 
Michele Anderson was first introduced to Reiki over a decade ago.  The experience was life-changing, prompting her to begin her own study of the ancient technique.   She became a certified Reiki Master through the International Center for Reiki Training.  From there, she established her own practice, Inner Light Reiki, located in Red Hook, NY. In addition to offering treatments, she also teaches classes and workshops so that others may experience the joy of helping others find inner peace and balance.

In addition to being a Reiki practitioner, Michele is also a writer and blogger.  Her work has been featured in The Poughkeepsie Journal; Hudson Valley Parent Magazine; and Celebrations.com, a division of 1-800-Flowers.  Michele puts the spotlight on education and parenting in her blog, Behind the Chalk: Parent-Teacher Talk, drawing from her experience as a special education teacher. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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