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Therapeutic Touch

Feb 23, 2015

In the very early days of my nursing training, one of our classes was on “holistic” concepts of healing.   We had just experienced the Love, Peace and Freedom movement of the 1960s and ‘70s – a lot of my instructors were what we would now call “old hippies.”   Back in those days, we did a lot of “touchy feely” things – one of which was the benefits of therapeutic touch (TT).  There were variety of research studies validating the practice of TT in nursing published in the late 1970s – early ’80s.  Several of my colleagues during that time worked with the healing energy effects of touch for patients going to surgery or in pain – primarily in an effort to decrease the use of pain meds and/or to quicken the healing process.   

With the advent of computers and more “hard” science, the practice of TT has been withering away.   Recent studies from the early 2000s were unable to substantiate any hard scientific facts for diagnosing or healing using therapeutic touch.   We now have much more sophisticated means of caring for patients – MRIs, CAT and PET scans to look into the human body; computer based algorithms to help us with determining patient risk of disease; guidelines on how to manage patient care; and agencies providing oversight to the healthcare professional as to how, when and what to do in the most cost effective manner.
But the fact remains that we are dealing with human beings – people with opinions, feelings, wants, needs and desires.  I think that is where we as CDEs come into play. 

Occasionally my docs will refer a particularly difficult patient to me to do my “hand holding thing.”  I tend to be touchy feely – I went into nursing because of my inner need to help others.   Often it takes just a few minutes of sitting next to a person, looking them in the eyes, asking a few key questions and really listening to what they are saying.  Many of my patients are overwhelmed with life – working several jobs, caring for elderly parents, caring for grandchildren, living in sub-standard conditions. Yet we ask them spend precious time at the grocery stores looking for healthy foods, coming home to prepare these foods, cleaning up after cooking, checking blood sugars several times a day, carrying medications and equipment with them to work and to play, etc. etc., etc.    I can understand the allure of ordering a pizza for $7 to feed the family.

Articles state that the average patient visit with their healthcare provider is less than 10 minutes.  I have heard from my patients that they are told during their appointments “You have 10 minutes. What is your most pressing issue today? Please make another appointment for any other problems.”  I understand the pressures of doing as much as you can for as many as you can in the least amount of time.

But somewhere in that time frame, we need to remember to stop and hold someone’s hand.  It might be the most significant thing you do that day.

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