by Debra Reis, MSN, RN, HNC

In healthcare, especially in outpatient oncology settings, the need for holistic approaches to patient care has become increasingly recognized. Beyond medical interventions, there’s a growing acknowledgment of the importance of incorporating practices that address patients’ physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Ageless Grace and other holistic modalities offer a unique avenue for enhancing the healthcare experience for patients and staff in outpatient oncology settings.

Using Integrative Therapies

We use a variety of supportive therapies in our outpatient oncology centers. We have two part-time and one per diem practitioner dedicated to our integrative program called Healing Care. This team delivers services such as relaxation techniques (visualization, guided imagery, Healing Touch), aromatherapy, and gentle movement therapies (Ageless Grace and Nia) as part of a plan to assist others who are coping with a cancer diagnosis and/or treatment side effects. 

Our integrative therapy services are provided under Relaxation and Stress Management. We often blend modalities together, such as Healing Touch with visualization—Ageless Grace, and aromatherapy. We assess and discuss options with the patient based on their interest and concerns. 

We had over 1500 encounters in 2023 in eight outpatient centers. Patients, as well as their support person, can receive therapies that are covered under the services of the oncology center. Most encounters are in person, but we have started to expand our virtual visits. Virtual visits are beneficial when the person has travel challenges or lives far from a center. 

One practitioner also provides therapies at our community center, which provides free services to those with a cancer diagnosis. Movement classes, such as Ageless Grace and Nia, are shared. These classes have become popular as participants share their experiences and benefits with others.

Integrative Therapies offer many benefits for patients navigating the challenges of cancer treatment. Relaxation therapies provide overall balance and peace. Aromatherapy has been beneficial to reduce anxiety, nausea, and discomfort. Gentle movement therapy like Ageless Grace can be adapted to accommodate varying levels of mobility. Engaging in Ageless Grace or Nia sessions can help alleviate the physical discomfort associated with cancer treatment, such as stiffness, fatigue, and neuropathy. Moreover, the program’s emphasis on cognitive stimulation and mindfulness can give patients a sense of empowerment and control amidst the uncertainty of their diagnosis.

Benefits for Patients

Beyond the physical benefits, integrative therapies foster emotional and spiritual support. Participating in group movement sessions encourages camaraderie and a sense of community among individuals facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences, laughter, and support can be profoundly therapeutic, offering patients a source of strength and resilience throughout their cancer journey.

Staff Wellbeing

In addition to benefiting patients, we use integrative therapies to enhance the well-being of healthcare staff working in outpatient oncology settings. The demands of caring for cancer patients can be emotionally and physically taxing for healthcare professionals. We make rounds and offer aromatherapy on a tissue or breathwork to ease stress and provide comfort. Reactions are positive, and staff feel supported and a sense of caring for their needs and concerns.

Recently, a pilot program was implemented in one of the units with a high turnover rate and low morale. The staff identified a need for greater professional development. The Integrative Therapies for Professional Development program was implemented. This is a 6-week session that includes Relaxation Techniques, Aromatherapy, and Gentle Movement. Sessions were done over their 30-minute lunch with food provided. A 30-minute independent self-care activity enhanced each session. Evaluations were positive, and several members reported that sessions were beneficial to their personal well-being. 

I wasn’t sure how nurses would receive movement programs and incorporate them into their daily routines. To my surprise, they embraced the gentle movements and identified how to use them in their day, especially the Ageless Grace tools of Juicy Joints and Spaghetti Spine. One unit does a “Happy Feet” time at the top of each hour to remind the staff to move. Patients have gotten into the groove, too, with some moving from their chair or standing to stretch. You can hear laughter and big breath sighs – all good for moving and breathing!

Incorporating Ageless Grace and other modalities into staff wellness programs provides an opportunity for caregivers to prioritize their own self-care and stress management. Engaging in the exercises can help alleviate tension, improve mood, and cultivate a sense of mindfulness among staff, ultimately enhancing their ability to provide compassionate care to patients.

Promoting Holistic Healthcare

By integrating supportive therapies into outpatient oncology settings, healthcare providers can embrace a more holistic approach to patient care. This comprehensive approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of physical, emotional, and psychological well-being and recognizes the importance of addressing these aspects in tandem to promote healing and resilience.

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, it’s essential to prioritize practices promoting holistic well-being for patients and staff. Integrative therapies provide valuable tools for enhancing the healthcare experience in outpatient oncology settings, providing patients with physical comfort, emotional support, and a sense of empowerment while supporting healthcare professionals’ well-being. By embracing Ageless Grace and other resources, healthcare providers can foster a culture of compassionate care and resilience, ultimately improving outcomes for all involved in the cancer care journey.