Integrative Medicine: A Mind, Body and Spirit Approach to Healing

By conventional medicine, we refer to healthcare as practiced by physicians with degrees such as MD, medical doctor; or DO, doctor of osteopathy; and licensed health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists and registered nurses. It is no secret that there has long been a distinction between conventional medicine and the diverse medical and healthcare practices and products that make up complementary and alternative medicine. By adapting an integrative approach to medicine, we’re bringing together the best practices of conventional medicine with other evidence-based therapies that are shown to be safe and effective to treat the whole person.

The key phrase is “evidence-based” therapies. Ingham Regional Medical Center formed a multidisciplinary integrative services committee in 2003 to research and recommend evidence-based therapies for its new integrative services program. The staff and physician team collaborate closely in selecting therapies that can be effectively integrated into patients’ overall medical care.

The integrative services committee is currently conducting extensive reviews of emerging clinical research and patient outcomes for a number of integrative medicine therapies that must meet strict criteria before they can be accepted for use in patient care areas at Ingham Regional Medical Center. The committee also includes a review of national guidelines to establish the educational requirements and skill-based competencies that staff must meet to provide the specific approved therapies.
The NCCAM classifies complementary and alternative medicine into five categories, including alternative medical systems, mind-body interventions, biologically based therapies, manipulative and body-based methods, and energy therapies. The integrative services committee is currently reviewing several therapies in three of the categories.

Acupuncture, in the category of alternative medical systems, has been found to be an acceptable treatment option in comprehensive pain management programs. Ingham Regional Medical Center currently has an anesthesiologist who is also credentialed to provide acupuncture to relieve chronic and acute pain. Several other physicians who practice at Ingham Regional are also credentialed to provide acupuncture to patients in a variety of settings.

Aromatherapy, a mind-body intervention, has been cited as a natural way to help patients cope with stress, insomnia, chronic pain and depression. While not a substitute for medical care, aromatherapy is said to produce a feeling of well-being and can offer valuable tools for healthcare providers in healing and stress management. A practitioner with a certificate of Clinical Application for Aromatherapy provides this therapy to patients.

The third category under review by Ingham’s integrative services committee is manipulative and body-based therapy that includes therapeutic massage. In recent years, therapeutic massage has been increasingly recognized for its stress reduction qualities and as an intervention for chronic pain. Like other practitioners of integrative medicine therapies at Ingham, massage therapists must also meet training and competency requirements for their profession.

Integrative medicine is based on a partnership between the patient and his or her practitioner. It allows individuals with chronic or acute health problems to utilize a whole person approach to healthcare and healing, that encompasses the body, mind and spirit. Many patients with chronic health problems, ranging from headaches, back pain and arthritis, to life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, seek to combine conventional medical care with integrative methods to ensure that their emotional, as well as physical, well-being is addressed.

The integrative services program at Ingham Regional Medical Center collectively attempts to reduce symptoms, enhance the ability to control pain and anxiety, better manage stress and improve quality of life. It is our objective to offer our patients the opportunity to participate in treatments involving the mind, body and spirit. We anticipate that integrative medicine will develop a strong presence as a part of the standard of care, as more therapies are proved clinically safe and effective, and eventually adopted into conventional medicine as a best practice in patient care.

 

Maureen Sheppard, RN, BSN, MPA is director of Healthwise University at Ingham Regional Medical Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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