A new organization in Lancaster, Pa., that promotes holistic health practices through education and networking has many nurses and other health providers feeling more empowered.
The Lancaster chapter of the American Holistic Nurses Association has created a buzz for its diverse appeal, strong attendance and varied presentations on monthly topics such as acupuncture, Chinese medicine, clinical aromatherapy and naturopathy.
The Lancaster chapter, which started last October, not only provides educational opportunities that allow practitioners of alternative and complementary health practices to learn from each other, but also offers a venue for the community to better understand what holistic nurses do.
“I want to have community interface so they can see we’re credible,” said Ann Reid, MA, RN, chapter leader, and a Reiki practitioner. Reiki is a Japanese technique that involves placing hands on or above a client to facilitate what is called “healing energy.”
“We’re nurses and all kinds of people with real credible training and accreditations, and we have an interesting and different and complementary approach to regular medical treatment,” Reid said. “We do it because we are passionate about [holistic medicine] because it helps tremendously.”
As chapter leader, she said one of her top goals is “to initiate the conversation between all of the different holistic people in this area.” Chapter activities include offering a series of workshops, book discussions and community health outreach activities. Meetings are held at the Morgan Lecture Hall at the Manheim Township Public Library in Lancaster.
Founded in 1981, the AHNA serves as a bridge between conventional medicine and complementary alternative healthcare and healing practices.
“One of the wonderful things about the AHNA is it’s inclusiveness,” Reid said. “Anyone interested in a body, mind and spirit approach to health and wellness can join. You don’t have to be a nurse or even a licensed healthcare provider. Anyone who shares the vision and interests of the AHNA is encouraged to join.”
Nurses make up half of the attendees at the Lancaster chapter meetings. Others attending include chiropractors, acupuncturists, energy healers, licensed nutritionists, herbalists, naturopaths, social workers and psychotherapists and interested citizens, Reid said.
Meetings include speakers who are RNs and other holistic professionals.
“It’s a great community of people and there are a lot of nurses who do all sorts of interesting alternative things like Reiki and massage and all sorts of practices,” said Mary Ellen Francescani, BSN, RN, CRNP-BC, who spoke on the topic of integrative medicine at a meeting.
A holistic RN practitioner working in the PCP practice at General Internal Medicine of Lancaster, she talked about her own path to integrative medicine.
Francescani hopes the chapter improves “cohesiveness, communication and networking,” and “as it grows it can become more visible and do more education in the community about what these things are, because a lot of people don’t understand some of these modalities and treatment.”
Many years ago, Francescani became interested in integrative medicine, which takes account the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle such as health and wellness. “I was really looking to incorporate it in my outpatient practice and I wanted to focus on prevention, so I competed a two year fellowship in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona,” she said.
“Now I utilize it in my own outpatient practice, and I also run integrative medicine wellness programs in the community,” Francescani said.
For Deb Gallagher, RN, whose goal is to become certified as a holistic nurse, joining the chapter allows her to learn from other practitioners, discover more resources and educate the community.
“I met some fabulous people doing wonderful things. It’s exciting,” said Gallagher, an RN at LGH and an Eden Energy Medicine Certified Practitioner. Gallagher became interested in holistic nursing after acupuncture “changed her life” while dealing with depression.
Group leaders said the chapter dispels misconceptions about holistic health practices, which include questions about their effectiveness.
“Most of these modalities you try you will come out feeling at least relaxed and peaceful at that moment, and for [people] to learn that can become a permanent thing, I think it may seem unbelievable,” Gallagher said.
At the chapter’s second meeting, Gallagher was delighted when a prominent doctor advised her patients to see some holistic practitioners. “This woman is high in the medical world,” she said. “I was so happy to hear her recommend practitioners that can help.”