Good Medicine: Hospital-based integrative health services enhance well-being and boost the success of conventional medicine.
Feb 07, 2014 08:58PM
● By Susan Bloom
Once known as “alternative” therapies that wereoften viewed asseparate and uncertainpostscripts to conventional medicine in hospitals nationwide, integrative health services such as acupuncture, Reiki, yoga, meditation, massage and more have been found to deliver proven benefits in the way of pain management, stress reduction and energy enhancement—so much so that hospitals are increasingly bringing these services onsite and incorporating them into their mainstream approach to the treatment of a variety of conditions. Professionals from three area hospital systems discuss their growing integrative health services divisions and why these once under-the-radar approaches to health and well-being now play such a pivotal role in a hospital’s comprehensive offering.
The Center for Complementary Medicine at Saint Clare’s Hospital
Established in 1997, the Center for Complementary Medicine at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Dover offers therapeutic massage, acupuncture, clinical aromatherapy, yoga and other group classes, and mind and body therapies such as guided imagery with music.
“We’ve grown tremendously in the past 10 years and have found that not only have patients been requesting these services more and more, but doctors have been increasingly incorporating our specialties into their treatment plans and asking how we can work together,” said Nancy Greuter, R.N., team leader for Complementary Medicine. “Our center is easily accessible, physician-directed and registered nurse-coordinated, and very attuned to each person’s needs. We support people by giving them the tools they need so that they’re able to help themselves.”
A nurse for more than 35 years, Greuter said in addition to practicing and promoting these services to others, she’switnessed their positive effectson her daughter, who suffered from cystic fibrosis. As Greuter recounts, when conventional medicine alone failed to help her ailing child, “I started taking her for massages and acupuncture and she started getting better and better. The doctors couldn’t understand why, but they told me to continue doing whatever we were doing.” She became interested in massage as a way to help her daughter access muscles that would aid her respiratory system, and that interest led Greuter to become a licensed massage therapist in 1985. “We saw the change for ourselves,” Greuter said of her daughter, who was not expected to live past the age of 5 but lived to see her 31st birthday, after becoming a successful graphics playback operator in the broadcast news industry.
According to Greuter, “Patients write us daily, thanking us for the personalized, nurturing care they’ve received at our center,” which has five treatment rooms and is open to the public. “We’re a community-based health facility, but we also provide clinicallyappropriate and comforting services to patients throughout the hospital,” she added, “especially within the oncology and post-natal maternity areas, where patients have experienced reductions in stress, anxiety, and pain.” According to Greuter, the center is also in the process of conducting clinical-based, physician-directed research to help quantify the effectiveness of integrative health services and hopes to publish the results in a medical journal this fall. “These services are increasingly gaining acceptance, but they need to be publicized more so that people are aware of their options,” she explained.
“We’re named the Center for Complementary Medicine because we’re an adjunct to, not in place of, conventional medicine,” Greuter concluded. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
The Center for Complementary Medicine at Saint Clare’s Hospital is located at 400 West Blackwell Street in Dover (Parking Lot F offers free parking) and can be reached at 973-989-3607 or by visiting Saintclares.org/massage.
Atlantic Health Integrative Medicine’s Center for Well Being
Originally called the Mind Body Medical Institute when it opened in 1993, Atlantic Health’s growing integrative health services practice moved into Morristown Medical Center in 2006, where it was renamed the Center for Well Being. Today, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, holistic assessments, wellness coaching, relaxation techniques, hypnosis, and guided imagery are among the many approaches that the ever-expanding practice offers to reduce pain and anxiety, enhance healing, speed recovery, and promote feelings of peace and relaxation.
As the center’s clinical manager, Carole Reifsnyder, R.N., HNB-BC, notes, “We also offer a variety of yoga, tai chi, and specialty classes, such as those featuring Himalayan singing bowl meditation and the emotional freedom technique (EFT), have a strong Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, and offer cooking classes and demonstrations twice a month through our own onsite nutritionist and partnership with Whole Foods.”
In addition to locations in Montville, Summit, and atMorristown Medical Center, the center will open a 20,000-square-foot facility on South Street in Morristown this May. The facility will feature 15 treatment rooms,10 integrative physician exam rooms, specialized space for cardiac rehabilitation, a well-appointed LYFE kitchen, and a wellness retail store offering, among other things, nutraceuticals (food-based nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, and other items that help restore the body’s balance). “Our medical practice, currently located at 101 Madison Avenue in Morristown, is based on a functional medicine model that aims to treat the root cause of a patient’s condition and provide a customized approach for each patient,” Reifsnyder said. The Center for Well Being has recently begun offering a unique new 12-week Trim& Fit Program designed to help attendees detox, shed excess weight, and live a healthier lifestyle. The centeralso offers monthly Grand Round and webinar lectures by the country’s leading specialists in integrative medicine as a means of providing the opportunity to explore new options for the prevention and treatment of disease.
“I went into holistic nursing 10 years ago and have enjoyed watching our center grow from just 14 people to over 100 trained practitioners,” Reifsnyder said. She adds that, in addition to providing outpatient treatment, the center’s “wonderful and caring” team also provides beneficial massage and energy therapy sessions on an in-patient basis. “We conducted 16,000 patient visits at Morristown Medical Center in 2013,” she shared, noting that patients experienced a 50 percent reduction in stress and anxiety and a 40 percent reduction in pain thanks to the effectiveness of these and other integrative techniques.
“The word integrative says it all,” Reifsnyder explained. “It combines the best of conventional medicine and holistic approaches, so patients don’t have to choose. It’s about channeling energy that was previously focused on worry and stress toward helping the body heal. People want to be touched and cared for and are eager to learn how to care for themselves,” she said. “Patients tell us that these services have been transformational and life-changingfor them and that they feel they’re being heard as patients for the first time.”
Atlantic Health Integrative Medicine’s Centers for Well Being are located in Summit (357 Springfield Avenue, inside Overlook Downtown; 908-598-7997), Montville (137 Main Road, Route 202; 973-299-2133), and Morristown (100 Madison Avenue, inside the Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Medical Center, 973-971-6301; 101 Madison Avenue, 973-971-4686; and the soon-to-be-openedfacility at 435 South Street). For more information, visitAtlanticHealth.org/morristown/our+services/integrative+medicine/.
Barnabas Health’s Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine
Consideredone of the premier integrative health centers in the state, the Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine at Barnabas Health in Livingston made its debut more than 15 years ago, offering such services as acupuncture, nutritional counseling, mind-body psychology, and massage. According to its medical director, Minal Vazirani, M.D., “We’ve since experienced tremendous growth and now also offer such other beneficial services such as Reiki, osteopathic and craniosacral manipulation, herbalism, EFT, exercise and fitness physiology, aromatherapy, guided imagery, meditation, pranayama, yoga, homeopathy, and even Ayurvedic medicine, an over 5,000-year-old science which we’re among the first in the area to provide.” Dr. Vazirani is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Integrative Holistic Medicine.
“On our in-patient side, our holistic nurses and massage therapists offer such services as animal-assisted therapy, guided imagery, acupressure, Reiki, aromatherapy, and therapeutic massage, and patients frequently comment about how the holistic services they received made such a positive difference during their hospitalization,” Vazirani said. “Barnabas Health also recently created a system-wide Interdisciplinary Holistic Council, which is truly transformational for a hospital and is a testament to the entire hospital system’s commitment to holistic medicine and mind-body-spirit wellness, both in the inpatient and outpatient settings.”
From Vazirani’s perspective, the field of integrative health services overall as well as Barnabas Health’s own practice have grown “in part due to the increased evidence base of efficacy of many integrative modalities, but largely because of patient awareness and demand. People are increasingly coming to understand that the answer to good health isn’t refill after refill of pills and that true health goes deeper than that.” She adds, “These integrative techniques are helping people decrease or come off their medication and experience less stress, feel more energetic, and enjoy an improved quality of life. It’s been a lot of word of mouth as patients will come in and experience profound improvement, then tell other family members, neighbors, and friends; eventually, the benefits of their lifestyle changes become obvious, and others are inspired to seek advice on a more holistic way of living.”
Along with Barnabas Health’s commitment to educate the public and the medical community about the profound power of integrative medicine and lifestyle change, conduct original and collaborative research in the area of integrative medicine, and create clinical programs integrating traditional and evidence-based complementary therapies to emphasize wellness, holistic care, and prevention of disease, Vazirani said that the entire field of integrative health is enjoying a newfound appreciation and role in the treatment of a variety of disorders. “Concepts like the anti-inflammatory diet, probiotics, and nutraceuticals have now become mainstream as society has embraced the concept of ‘food as medicine,’” she said. “As wellness becomes even more of a top priority for the medical community in the future, integrative medicine will help fulfill that promise because it focuses on the ‘root cause’ and the ‘whole picture’ of optimizing health as opposed to the conventional ‘pill for an ill’ mentality.”
As another reflection of how much the field of integrative medicine has evolved, she notes, “The previously ‘alternative’ practice of integrative medicine even has its own board specialty certification through the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).” This development has helped to advance the field of integrative medicine to a new level of recognition and credibility within academic medical circles as well as the community at large.
“I feel hopeful about this changing paradigm,” Vazirani said. “It’s inspiring to see people embracing a better way to optimize their healthand not just taking a Band-Aid approach.” In the end, she concluded, “Patient education and self-empowerment are the most powerful medicines of all.”
Barnabas Health’s Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine has locations in Livingston (200 South Orange Avenue; 973-322-7007) and Bedminster (1 Robertson Drive; 908-470-3690). For more information, visit BarnabasHealth.org/Ambulatory-Care/Our-Services/Integrative-Medicine-Siegler-Center-for.aspx.
Freelancer Susan Bloom writes weekly health and food features for New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press and USA Todayand specializes in topics related to nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyles.