What is integrative health? Treating more than an illness

Specific techniques and practices can help ease patients' stress and discomfort.

Close up of woman practicing mudra meditation

When you enter the hospital as a patient, you come with much more than the medical condition that placed you there. You may bring along pain, worry, stress and fear.

But those feelings don’t have to stay with you in the room. Integrative health techniques can help ease the tensions of a hospital stay in a variety of ways — and you can choose the way that feels right to you.

Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, offers patients a place dedicated to their healing and recovery. This includes patient rooms with adjustable lighting, space and furniture for loved ones, and TV channels that can play sounds from nature or relaxing melodies.

It also includes the individualized approach to care through integrative health, an area of medicine targeting treatment and symptom management to a patient’s specific needs and lifestyle. Evidence-based practices consider the whole person.

“Every day in health care, we get to make a difficult time in the lives of our patients just a little bit less stressful,” said RN program specialist Priscilla Jurkovich. “A whole team is working with and for patients from the moment they enter our care to after they go home.”

The whole person approach

“Integrative medicine considers all factors that influence health, wellness and disease,” Jurkovich said. “Rather than simply medicating or putting a mask over the symptom, the care team may use natural or less-invasive interventions to support the mind, body and spirit.”

She continued, “By looking at the whole person, we can pinpoint the cause and find the best options that can be incorporated to resolve the issue.”

Typically, integrative health techniques are used by patients with cancer, in post-surgery rehabilitation or at the hospital for symptom management. However, the service is available for all inpatients at Sanford USD Medical Center.

Integrative medicine tries to meet each patient where he or she is at in life, as well as find everyday practices to help minimize symptoms and overcome pain. This can include services such as:

  • Acupressure: A noninvasive therapy, similar to acupuncture, that applies physical pressure to specific body points to effectively relieve stress-related ailments
  • Aromatherapy: The aroma of essential oils to improve emotional and physical well-being and to alleviate symptoms
  • Deep breathing exercises: A technique bringing the body into deep relaxation
  • Guided imagery and meditation: Bringing the mind to a place of deep quiet and stillness to release worry and anxiety through guided imagery and meditation providers
  • Healing arts: Relief from stress, distraction from fear and an avenue of expression through various forms of art
  • Massage: Physical touch to relieve the body of stress and tension and to increase circulation to the area
  • Music therapy: The use of music to promote mental, physical or emotional health
  • Reiki and Healing Touch: Hands-on or hands-off energy healing techniques to promote a natural flow of energy for relaxation, pain and stress reduction

The mind, body and spirit

“Every patient is different and has different mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Spiritual doesn’t have to mean going to church or being religious. It means you have a daily practice. For example, you may do yoga, meditate, pray or go walk out in nature as part of your spiritual practice,” Jurkovich said.

“It is about looking beyond the symptoms. There is always a reason for a symptom. It could be the patient has a tumor, and the pain is related to that. Is there something pressing on the patient’s mind that is causing him or her to have that headache? Emotions can affect a person physically. Or is inflammation the problem?”

All Sanford USD Medical Center nurses are trained to offer integrative health techniques. During their daily interactions with patients, they can determine if patients could benefit from certain integrative health options.

“Nurses work so closely with patients that we can tell when a patient is feeling a little down or hurting,” Jurkovich said. “When doing the nursing assessment, we determine the best options based on the symptom. We are there to help overcome symptoms, anxiety or whatever the patient is feeling in any way we can. That is all part of what a nurse can do for patients.”

To learn more

Join Sanford Health for Ethics in Action on May 15 and the Sanford Integrative Health Symposium on May 15–17 to learn more about integrative health and hear about compassion in care from Billy Rosa.

More stories

Posted In Cancer Treatments, Healthy Living, Internal Medicine, Symptom Management

Leave A Reply