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Thoughts On The Use Of Therapeutic Touch In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

By Maureen Smith, Hospital Volunteer

I am centered before I walk through the hospital main doors but because I'm going into what can be a chaotic, emotionally charged and highly stressed environment, I always re-check and deepen my center before entering. At first, it took practice. I've done it for so long now that I do this automatically.My intent is to offer a sense of peace, well-being and wholeness to 'whom-ever'. I visualize myself surrounded by radiant, white light that, as the prism shows, contains all colours. I offer this to any of the staff members, patients or family members that I encounter or pass and it is available to use in any amount, in any way and any where that it might be needed by them, if their fields choose to use it.I never think that I've wasted my time when a patient refuses Therapeutic Touch because in a hospital situation, a patient can refuse very little and can quickly feel powerless. When they refuse a treatment, I simply look at it as an opportunity for them to feel empowered, which I consider a form of healing. Besides, all the time that I am talking to them, remember that I am centered and my intentionality is one of offering peace, well-being and wholeness, if their field is open to accepting it.I usually will not wake a patient that is sleeping because I feel that if they are able to sleep they are healing. Sleep is hard to come by in this unit or any hospital unit for that matter. I will wake them only if there has been a specific request and they have already been 'missed' once before. In some cases, I will do Therapeutic Touch if they are sleeping and not disturb them, though it is not my preferred choice.

I constantly 'energize' towels, flannelette sheets or anything cotton to help with local pain, agitation or coughing, to give just a few examples. At first, Jodi Cole, my supervisor, was worried that she would be getting negative feedback from some of the staff, because I did this. I have found that it aids in anything that might benefit from having additional vital energy support. I also will energize drinking water and I.V fluids as a further source of potential support to a critically ill patient.

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Thoughts On The Use Of Therapeutic Touch In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)


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The first time that I went to ICU, I treated only two patients that day but I energized a number of flannelette sheets in both the surgical and critical care units of ICU. Fortunately, in both the units, there were nurses on that afternoon, who were familiar with the many uses of energized cotton and promptly hid the sheets for later use or took them to patients that they felt might benefit from their immediate use. I consider it such an important Therapeutic Touch tool that I continue to use without hesitation.

Because there can be many IVs and various apparatus in the room, getting to all of the patient can be difficult and therefore, being able to do a lot of visualization along with non-linear forms of Therapeutic Touch can be the best approach. Just a short time ago, one of the nurses made the comment that she loves to come into the patient's room when TT'rs are there because it feels so peaceful.

I do not enter an 'isolation' room to treat patients. I will however, stand outside the closed door of the room and offer support with distance healing. I have such a short time available and correct isolation technique takes a long time to do and it would significantly reduce the number of other patients that I could treat. However, even with excellent technique, the risk of spreading infection to other patients is too great!

Therapeutic Touch is very good for loosening congestion in the lungs. Consequently, a patient who has a tracheotomy and/or is intubated will need help easing the congestion during the session. If the patient is conscious, I explain this to them prior to treatment. I will even explain it to them if they are not fully conscious, very aware that they are able to hear. I also explain TT to any family member who might be present. If the patient appears to be congested I will ask the nurse to clear it before the session.

I find that in many patients who are deeply unconscious and seemingly non-responsive, their response can be gauged by how tightly they grip my hand at the start and when and if their hand relaxes during the session. It usually does change in some way. When I hold their hand, the strength of their grip may be surprising and I sense their anxiety or discomfort level. Sending thoughts of peace while holding their hand helps immensely.

Regardless of the depth of unconsciousness, a person can hear and therefore it is important to identify yourself and explain what it is you are going to do and who gave you permission if they have not been able to give it themselves. I also let them know if their family is there with them and that I have spoken with them.

I teach the Hand-Heart Connection© to family members of critically ill or dying patients on a regular basis. It gives great comfort to both the family members and the patient.

On occasion, if it is appropriate, I will suggest homework, such as imagery or affirmations that they might do on their own. I have found that not every one can relate to a favourite imaginary place, during a crisis, but are able to visualize being with, and petting their pet/s. By using this connection with the pets, it helps them mentally disconnect and benefit more fully from the Therapeutic Touch session.

I'm careful about what colours I wear when I go to the hospital to do TT. I tend to choose blues, greens or shades of purple. I tend to wear slacks so I don't have to worry about what position I might get into when I'm treating someone. I give it a quick check about a neckline gap when I lean forward to treat someone.

Sometimes I will find that even though I am centered and grounded, the 'frequency' (as I think of it) can seem very hot, to the point that I will start to perspire. I've found two techniques that help alleviate this.

1) While continuing the flow to the healee, I imagine myself, very briefly, in a snow storm, sometimes in a bathing suit, sometimes not. This was suggested to me by a fellow TT practitioner at a Practice Group. It seems to work, without effecting the flow to the healee.

2) While continuing the flow to the healee, imagine yourself expanding as if your are a conduit pipe through which 'Hot Flow' sensation is moving. This one seems to work very well too. I learned this from my mentor, Maria Arrington this past summer at Pumpkin Hollow.

When someone is in a great deal of discomfort, you can start your hand, quite far away from their body. Ask them, to tell you when they begin to feel the change or discomfort, and return to the comfortable position. In one particular instance I did the entire treatment over two feet from the body, becuse it felt uncomfortable at eighteen. When I finished, the healee had fallen asleep.

Using a gentle mist of healing blue is my first choice for most conditions of discomfort. It works beautifully.

My experiences using Therapeutic Touch over the past two and half years as a volunteer at the Toronto East General Hospital, have taught me so much. I consider myself very privileged to have this opportunity and look forward every week to my time there Maureen Smith RP, of Toronto, is a hospital volunteer.

Feedback for this article may be directed to: clive@idirect.ca


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