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Photo of candles and two bottles of aromatherapy essence.

The U's School of Nursing and Center for Spirituality & Healing are working together to meet consumer needs for health care that integrates alternative therapies, like meditation and essential oils.

Body, mind, spirit

School of Nursing's collaboration with the Center for Spirituality and Healing is reshaping care delivery

By Mary King Hoff

For many people, good health care is synonymous with curing illness or fixing what's broken. But nurses understand that good health care is more than that. It nurtures the health of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Good health care supports a healthy lifestyle, promotes health, provides healthful and healing environments, honors multiple traditions, and strives to prevent illness and injury.

This holistic philosophy is the basis for the decade-long collaboration between the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing (SoN) and the Center for Spirituality & Healing (CSH). "Our partnership with the Center is a core partnership of the School," says Connie Delaney, School of Nursing dean. "We understand that integrative health practices are essential to the full experience of health and the treatment of illness for patients, families, and communities."

In 1999, Mariah Snyder, professor emeritus, and the center's first director of graduate studies, launched a graduate minor in complementary therapies and healing practices. The minor has been very popular with master's and doctoral students in nursing. Ten SoN faculty currently hold appointments in the Center, and many teach in its graduate program.

In 2000, the center received a $1.6 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health. The grant supported an initiative to integrate complementary therapies into the curricula of the SoN and the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy. The grant also supported the development of online learning for health professionals.

According to Linda Halc?n, associate professor of nursing, the initiative has helped health care education meet consumers' growing expectations for a more multidimensional, whole-person approach to health.

"The public is already there," says Halc?n, who also serves as CSH director of graduate studies. "If we're going to be credible, we have to be there, too."

CSH has also launched a Web site for consumers (www.takingcharge.csh .umn.edu) that offers overviews of complementary therapies such as aromatherapy and traditional Chinese medicine, many of which were authored by the U's nursing faculty. Visitors to the site will also find an interactive personal health planner that will help them create and track personal health goals.

DNP with a difference

When planning began for the School of Nursing's new doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, many faculty wanted to incorporate integrative health and healing into one of the program's specialties. During a discussion about which specialty would be the best fit, someone asked: Would any DNP graduate not need the knowledge?

"The answer was, 'no,'" says Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the Center for Spirituality & Healing.

As a result, the DNP program, implemented in spring 2007, incorporates complementary and alternative therapies in all specialties. Beginning in fall 2009, a post-baccalaureate DNP specialty in integrative health and healing will also be available for those wishing a primary focus on this area of nursing. Learn more about the program.

Spreading the word

Last June, SoN and CSH, in collaboration with Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, Minnesota, offered a five-day professional development program for nurses, nursing faculty, and other health care providers. Participants came from all over the United States as well as from Korea, Germany, Japan, and England.

The goal of the program, which was based at Woodwinds, was to prepare participants to teach about integrative and holistic health and healing and to integrate complementary therapies and healing practices into various health care settings.

On the practice front, Georgia Nygaard, a clinical assistant professor, is helping to ensure a range of complementary therapies are available to residents of the Powderhorn and Central neighborhoods of south Minneapolis.

The Pillsbury House Integrated Health Clinic, which opened in November 2007, brings together medical, nursing, complementary, and alternative medicine practitioners. Under Nygaard's supervision, University nursing students team up with students from a wide variety of disciplines including medicine, chiropractic, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, massage therapy, and psychology. Working together, students and patients determine which treatments will be most effective in supporting optimal health.

Creating a new model

Recently, the Academic Health Center administration asked the School of Nursing and the Center for Spirituality & Healing to lead the development of a "person-centric" care delivery model as an alternative to the current system.

"The [current] system is broken," Halc?n says. "There's a sense among health professionals at every level that this is really a mess."

The new model is based on a systems approach to care. It would take into account the individual's family, health profile, and environmental context. The model emphasizes personal responsibility for health and personal participation in choices for healing.

The goal is "better outcomes at lower cost," says Kreitzer. "We envision a health care commons, a portal where people could access seamless, personalized, and holistic care." In other words, a "one-stop shop" where people could gather information about treatment options and coordinate their health care services.

Halc?n believes that the University of Minnesota is the perfect place to create this new model.

"Things are opening up quickly [at our School of Nursing]--the right people are in place in leadership positions and faculty members feel permission to be creative," she says. "There's a lot going on here."