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Friday, July 29, 2011

11th Street- The story of the 1st full-time Integrated Therapist in Philadelphia's conventional heatlhcare system

Editor's note: Arlene is a Reiki practitioner, graduate of The Reiki School + Clinic, and an employee at The 11th Family Street Health Center of Drexel University (11th Street). The team at the Reiki School + Clinic, also contributing editors to The Reiki Digest, asked Arlene to share the story of creating a full time (with benefits), salaried position of Integrated Therapy Practitioner at 11th Street. This position, which slowly grew out of an interest in Reiki, turned out to be a valuable resource that answered a wide demand for wellness services in the community. It's a great example of truly integrated cared in conventional medicine.

By Arlene McCullough, contributing editor

Imagine going to your primary care doctor for your annual exam or blood pressure check. At The 11th Family Street Health Center, in Philadelphia, one also has the option of seeing a Integrated Therapist for Reiki treatment. How did this come about? It was facilitated through the skillfulness of Reiki practitioner Jenny Bohrman. In 2007, Bohrman worked at 11th Street as a fitness coordinator along side of the physical therapist. She was also studying to be a Reiki Master Practitioner at The Reiki School + Clinic. Jenny approached 11th Street’s director, Patricia Garrity, with the premise of introducing Reiki to the center.

Garrity agreed, and as Bohrman began working with patients who had high blood pressure, MS and those recovering from strokes, the word got out. Patients desired more knowledge about Reiki, and the staff at 11th Street also began to inquire about receiving sessions. What started as an occasional added service slowly became a daily program. Both patients and staff reported that Reiki helped with stress reduction and relaxation.

Management created time slots for staff to schedule appointments. These sessions enriched the staff; the workplace was calmer and flowed with better teamwork. As a result of these Reiki sessions, committees were established to forge better communications and ideas amongst staff. Jenny, who is now studying to become a physician, reported that it was easy to initiate a Reiki program at 11th Street. She found the staff open and supportive regarding patient wellness.

When Jenny left 11th Street to go to medical school, the administration recruited practitioners to continue the program and hired Tania Alexandra, a former staff member at The Reiki School + Clinic, to perform Reiki and massage, and to offer Yoga classes. Yoga became very popular and patients and staff began requesting more wellness services for 11th Street. When Tania departed for a move out-of-state, Helaina Johnson (also a staff member and Reiki School grad) entered, offering weekly Reiki and massage. Helaina was hired as an interim employee. The desire for wellness services became so paramount that 11th Street created a full-time Complementary Integrated Therapist (CIT) position, complete wit salary and benefits.  As the search for a full-time, paid CIT got underway, Helaina filled-in so services would not lapse.

In 2010, after many months of selective interviews, Kathleen Guidotti was offered the CIT position. Certified in many modalities including massage, reflexology, Reiki, yoga, and meditation, Guidotti had been a practitioner for many years. At 11th Street she works alongside nurse practitioners as well as health/physical therapists. Patients may request her services individually, or as a part of a visit to another health care provider. Some of Kathleen’s services include stress reduction, breathing techniques, massage, Reiki treatment and yoga classes.

Kathleen posts positive affirmations throughout the space, in the restrooms and doors, inviting those who read them to breathe, smile or have a peaceful moment. Staff meetings begin with with meditation or deep breathing. Who knew this would come to pass? When Reiki was introduced at 11th Street Family Health Center, so was the concept of wellness. Reiki created a space for openness to other modalities. It fit with the center’s philosophy of people healing themselves, their community and the planet. From the research I’ve done, it is my understanding that this is the first full-time, paid position for an Integrated Therapies practitioner in any medical or health care setting in Philadelphia.

From my perspective as an employee, the journey of bringing Reiki to 11th Street appeared relatively seamless. At the time, I didn’t know all that was involved. While exploring the evolution of the CIT position for this article, however, I found an appreciation of the hard work and efforts to initiate the Reiki process. The benefits have been enormous. Patients as well as staff have become more educated as well as proactive when participating in community wellness. I have witnessed first hand the transformation in patients' lives. This has made me value working at 11th Street Health Center; my experience of this process has also influenced my own decision to become a Reiki practitioner. After reviewing articles where Reiki is offered in hospitals and clinics, I can see that its influence is becoming definitive. It appears that as time goes on complementary care will be a standard in the future.


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