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Therapeutically Touching Nurses

On the most recent episode of 5×5, we discussed a study involving the effects of therapeutic touch on certain types of cells. The authors of the study concluded that therapeutic touch promoted cell growth.

Near the end of the episode I asked what criteria the authors used to determine the credentials of the theraupeutic touch practitioners. To my surprise Steve replied that there is formal training in therapeutic touch within the nursing profession. And that one can get certificates and complete approved and accredited training programs.

I guess Evan must have edited out my “wow”. Because that’s what I remember saying (or maybe I just thought it). I had no idea that this type of course or program was offered through legitimate nursing schools and departments.

My wife is a nurse, I met her when she was in her first year into becoming a nurse. I don’t remember her talking about any courses or classes dealing with this type of stuff. Although back then (about 9 years ago) I wasn’t as stong a skeptic as I am now. I would let things roll and go with the flow without questioning much. Perhaps she did mention it and I didn’t think much of it.

So yesterday I decided to look at our provincial nurses association website. The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) sets requirements to enter the nursing profession, establishes and enforces standards of nursing practice, and assures the quality of practice of the profession and the continuing competence of nurses.

I found their Compendium of Standards of Practice for Nurses in Ontario (2nd ed.). Under Section IV – Practice Guidelines is a sub-section entitled “Complimentary Therapies“. It starts:

Complementary health-related therapies are enjoying growing popularity among the general public. An increasing number of nurses have been asking the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) whether it is appropriate for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) to provide complementary therapies, and what criteria exist to guide nurses in their use of these therapies.

And continues:

Nurses respect the ethical values of client choice and well-being. Clients have the right to make their own decisions regarding care and treatment. Nurses are partners in the decision making process and are responsible for ensuring that clients have the appropriate information to make an informed choice.

So it seems that nurses here in Ontario are briefly taught about so-called complimentary therapies in order to help their patients make the decision on their own. The document also goes into wether a nurse can perform these therapies and in the end it is left at the discretion of the nurse.

After reviewing the University of Ottawa’s School of Nursing website, I could find no course offered that even deals with CAM. Save for one elevtive called “Selected Topics” which states:

A multidisciplinary evaluation of health issues to be studied in the context of a review, group discussion and seminar session. Special topics to be considered may include: 1. Plagues and quarantines, 2. Women and health, 3. Vulnerable populations, 4. Complementary and alternative medicine and other topics suggested by the students. Contents may vary from year to year.

But there are workshops and courses out there that offer therapeutic touch to nursing students for continuing education credits. Yep. That’s very disheartening to hear when nursing students could be acquiring those credits in a much more productive way.

So last night I asked my wife if she remembers taking these types of courses. The only thing she mentioned was that they had a course on how herbal remedies interact with medication. But when I mentioned therapeutic touch, her lit up and said “yes, we did that every semester.” Imagine my shock. I asked her about the course and she said it was part of a course on patient interaction, how to make the patient feel more comfortable by touching them, holding their hand, etc. I then explained to her what therapeutic touch was, she looked at me with a stange look, like I was from another planet and simplay said, “oh no, nothing like that”. Phew.

3 comments to Therapeutically Touching Nurses

  • irishjazz

    This reminds me of the story of when we thought our housepainters let the dog out. It turned out he was just lounging under the bed in the guest room.

    Hey, you’re Canadian- very beautiful, very polite country, wonderful people, great public spaces. All that niceness doesn’t come for free. And at least the worthless courses are keeping the nurses off the street where they could be hanging out with hockey players, learning the odd rules of Canadian football, and stepping from doughnut shop to doughnut shop without ever touching foot on unglazed, un-powdered, un-jelly-filled earth.

  • Alan Sokal has a good section on Therapeutic Touch in his recent book, Beyond the Hoax. He goes into the history of the pseudoscience and fisks the stolen-from-physics jargon used to “justify” its claims. It’s the sort of thing which would be quite funny, if you didn’t keep thinking, “Somebody could die because their medical caregiver believes this crap.”

  • While BS like naturopathy and chiropractic are rampant in Canada, it does seem that provincial health care keeps these crap treatments out of hospitals. The stance of the CNO seems to be a bit too wishy-washy, though. It’s basically saying to stay out of it, but I guess that’s all you could expect.

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