Statewide recognition for Reiki in Hospice in New Jersey
By Heather Alexander, Contributing Editor
|Bill Stevens holds his award|
|JoAnne Reifsnyder, NJHPCO Awards Committee, and Bill Stevens|
|Bill and colleagues from the New Jersey Visiting Nurse Association|
For the first time in its history, the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has included Reiki in its annual awards ceremony. Practitioner and teacher Bill Stevens was listed as Reiki Practitioner of the Year, his name appearing alongside Nurse of the Year and Social Worker of the Year in a list of 25 winners. It’s fantastic recognition for his work and shows the huge impact the system of Reiki is having within the hospice community. President of the NJHPCO, Don Pendley, says they’ve found Reiki treatments can make an enormous difference, “Bill has become one of the foremost practitioners of Reiki in hospice, virtually a third of the patients request his services.”
Bill Stevens has been working in hospice in New Jersey for 6 years starting as a Chaplain for the Visiting Nurses Association and then moving over to being a salaried Reiki practitioner. When he got the job as Chaplain, the program manager hadn’t even heard of the system of Reiki, now his services are so popular that they’ve had to hire two more Reiki practitioners. He travels sometimes 100 miles a day visiting people who have been told they have less than 6 months to live. They ask for Reiki treatments via their visiting nurse and when Bill gets there, often close family members receive sessions as well as the patient themselves.
The results can be quite profound. Bill says as well as relaxation and a reduction in anxiety, the treatments seem to help people let go. “One guy was a rough edged contractor type, he just sort of put up with me at first but the next day he told the nurse he had never had such a spiritual experience,” says Bill, “there was a real change in his resistance and acceptance.” Another patient reconciled with his son, “he had a wonderful acceptance of death and was able to be with his family at the end. Reiki helps in so many cases and you don’t even have to know the story.”
And there are many stories, a Jewish woman whose family called Bill ‘Dr Voodoo,’ was totally distraught about having cancer. She told Bill the treatments took her to another place. A 14 year old boy who has a rare genetic disorder falls peacefully asleep in his mother’s arms during sessions. These shifts are one of the main reasons why the NJHPCO is so supportive of Reiki practitioners like Bill according to President Don Pendley, “people come to grips with things that they may not have wanted to discuss before, for example unfinished business with families, they reunite in a way that wasn’t possible when anxiety was setting up all that static.”
Bill and his nurse colleagues have so many of these experiences they could talk for hours, they share in people’s tragedies everyday and yet still remain calm and supportive of those they look after. Bill attributes this to his own Reiki practice, specifically daily meditation. He has now started to teach nurses so they can look after themselves as well. He taught long time nurse Pam Heckart who says she uses Reiki techniques on herself in the car before going in to see difficult patients, “I do chanting of CKR and SHK. It changes me I think, then I can handle whatever is in front of me, visits go better.”
As well as treating patients and teaching nurses, Bill also teaches the administrative staff at the Visiting Nurses Association and some of the volunteers. His work is just one example of successful use of the system of Reiki in hospice all around the country. Much of this comes down to a difference in outlook in this setting. Going back to Don Pendley, it is clear why. He says, “Hospice focuses on patient comfort, hospitals focus on cure.” In other words, they are not so hung up on what the scientifically proven results are, it’s enough for the patient to say they feel better. They also embrace other complementary therapies such as art and music therapy.
For Bill Stevens his award for Reiki Practitioner of the Year is an important boost for the practice, “I look upon it as giving Reiki some recognition as a complementary therapy. It’s important for people to get used to it being there even if they don’t necessarily understand what it is.” He credits others as going a long way to help with this too - Pamela Miles who has written extensively about Reiki in Medicine, and network TV coverage from Dr. Oz. He has also seen how important it is to partner with regular healthcare, “when a social worker or nurse says something is a good idea, people don’t question it so much.”
There is little in what Bill says about the award which is related to himself and his own achievement in winning. As anyone who has met him through his work in hospice or with animals at SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association) events will agree, he is the embodiment of the precept “be humble.” Others, though, are happy to champion what he has been doing in New Jersey. Vice President of Hospice and Palliative Care at the Visiting Nurses Association, Loretta Spoltore says, “Bill has made a tremendous difference in our hospice program, he provides an unparalleled level of peace for those who may be afraid of dying.” Bill’s current teacher, Frans Stiene, of the International House of Reiki says, "Bill is a real saint, always working hard to help others in their healing progress. Since I met Bill I have seen a tremendous growth in him spiritually, which means for me he is walking his talk, I cannot recommend him highly enough."