Holistic Opportunities Abound in U.S. Hospitals: New Integrative Programs Offer Opportunities for Patients & Practitioners Alike

By Pacific College - March 22, 2015

The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently published a report that 42 percent of responding hospitals offer one or more Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies, up from 37 percent in 2007, and 26 percent in 2005.  This shows that the positive trend-lines are steady and that CAM is growing in popularity and acceptance.

Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety at AHA Nancy Foster said, “Hospitals have long known that what they do to treat and heal involves more than just medications and procedures. It is about using all of the art and science of medicine to restore the patient as fully as possible.”

The Role of Chinese Medicine in Modern Healthcare

One of the fundamental principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is self-care. The importance of diet, exercise, and an awareness of the body’s comforts, discomforts, and what may be out of balance is paramount. Modern Western healthcare is catching up to the ancient mindset of preventative medicine.

To put in perspective the power of preventative care, The INTERHEART study, published in September 2004 in The Lancet, followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease. A diverse, fresh diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting frequent exercise is an important part of the larger picture. Self-care puts patients in the driver’s seat of their own health. It promotes responsibility as well as awareness.

“There is growing demand for economically feasible and compassionate health options grounded in holistic ideals,” said Dr. Carla Mariano, past-president of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). “Consumers and even insurers are seeking out and expecting healthcare professionals who can focus on the whole person and incorporate an array of conventional and holistic therapies to enhance healing and cultivate wellness.”

Holistic nurses, in particular, help promote self-care practices. A holistic nurse has a background in both traditional Western nursing as well as Oriental medicine, and even some Asian bodywork techniques. A holistic nurse can guide a patient in eating habits, self-massage tips for injury recovery, attitude outlook, tailored exercises, and other extra tidbits that the patient can take home and use for healing long after a hospital stay. In addition to incorporating holistic nurses and massage therapists into their teams, many hospitals are now hiring acupuncturists, Reiki practitioners, chiropractors, and Tai Chi and Qi Gong teachers.

The Benefits of Complementary Therapies in Hospital Care

Another example of how CAM is used in hospitals is that many programs are incorporating massage therapists into teams of doctors and health professionals. For example, many therapists are getting the training they need to be able to work on patients recovering from cancer. In hospice settings, holistic healthcare practitioners are providing comfort to terminally ill patients and their families. In particular, massage therapists are sought in hospitals for oncology massage. Researchers are beginning to explore the relationship between massage and cancer patients. Massage not only relieves stress, but can improve mood, mobility, reduce scar tissue, and energize internal organs.

How does integrative medicine add to contemporary healthcare? As the June 2010 Bravewell Collaborative Report on the effectiveness of integrative medicine describes it, “While integrative lifestyle change programs offer nutritional counseling, they also include stress reduction interventions, moderate exercise, mind-body training, environmental assessments and social support. It is the combined effort that produces lasting behavior change.”

Health Centers such as the Alliance Institute for Integrative Medicine in Ohio set a leading example of full coverage care. Combining the best of conventional medicine, cutting-
edge diagnosis and treatment, and holistic alternative therapies like acupuncture, the Alliance Institute works in partnership with the patient. Their physician-led teams of compassionate healers for a multi-disciplinary approach in order to restore health on all levels – body, mind and spirit appeals to patients on many levels, and other hospitals are now striving to emulate this integrative approach.

Examples of Hospitals Embracing Integrative Medicine

Some examples of hospitals that are incorporating integrative medicine and complementary alternative medicine (CAM) include:

  • Stanford Hospital and Clinics, California

Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine: Clinical Services for Mind and Body:  Since 1998, the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine (SCIM) is committed to evidence-based practices. This center offers a multi-disciplinary team composed of highly qualified physicians, psychologists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and class instructors.


  • Montefiore Medical Center, New York

At the Montefiore Medical Center, patients treated for cancer are provided with alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, yoga and martial arts. The alternative therapies given to children undergoing chemotherapy and radiation are offered through the hospital’s Integrative Medicine and Palliative Care Team.


  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

MD Anderson Cancer Center offers more than 75 complementary therapies including art, music and humor sessions; guided imagery and stress management; yoga, tai chi and flexibility classes; aromatherapy; nutrition, diet and healthy cooking demonstrations; counseling and support groups; and journaling.


As Western healthcare continues to merge with integrative medicine practices in hospitals, there is an abundance of opportunity for holistic healers to make a difference.

Integrative medicine is now an established element of United States healthcare. As the Bravewell Report points out, “The data from the survey reveals that integrative medicine centers embrace a group of core values that inform and radiate through their practice and interactions with their patients. Integrative care is, in practice, patient-centered care and is a fundamentally collaborative enterprise fostering cooperation between patients and practitioners, and among the practitioners themselves.”

Pacific College’s Role in Training Healthcare Professionals for Integrative Medicine

From the beginning, Pacific College has focused on teaching practitioners about patient-centered care and fostering the core values of compassion and prevention. Pacific College offers degrees in acupuncture and massage, and now our New York campus offers a bachelor’s degree in holistic nursing (BS). The BS degree allows registered nurses to add extra abilities to their tool belts, providing graduates with a background in Oriental medicine and Asian bodywork techniques that they can incorporate into their one-on-one work with patients. There is no better time than the present as modern healthcare options continue to expand with natural solutions.


ABC News: Hospitals, Medical Centers Offer Meditation and More: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/world-news-hospitals-medical-centers-offering-meditation-integrative/story?id=13573736&;page=3#.T8e23BzIxnQ

Guarneri, Erminia; Horrigan, Bonnie; and Pechura, Constance. The Efficacy and Cost Effectiveness of Integrative Medicine: A Review of Medical and Corporate Literature. A Bravewell Collaborative Report. June, 2010

Lifestyle changes and heart disease. The Lancet, Volume 336, Issue 8717, 22 September 1990, Pages 741-742.

Massage Magazine: Hospitals that incorporate massage: http://www.massagemag.com/Magazine/2000/issue84/realworld.php

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