Minnesota Nursing magazine
Leaders in integrative health
As a critical care nurse at Woodwinds Hospital, Annika Blaine, BSN, RN, was nearing the end of options to help an elderly patient cope with migraine pain.
“We had given her all that western medicine could provide, trying to make her comfortable,” said Blaine. So Blaine offered the patient reiki, an energy therapy that involves light touch. “She said it was the first time she felt relaxed in weeks and she was going to try to access it once she got home,” said Blaine.
Blaine learned how to provide reiki as a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program’s integrative health and healing specialty. “As I took more integrative health classes, I found a lot of use for the skills I learned in my own clinical practice as a nurse,” said Blaine, who will graduate next year with dual specialties in integrative health and healing and adult gerontological nurse practitioner. Like others in the integrative health and healing specialty, she is seeking to provide a more holistic approach to wellness.
“The School of Nursing has really demonstrated remarkable leadership to integrate content on integrative health into the curriculum.”
Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, Center for Spirituality and Healing founder
Students learn about integrative therapies, like aromatherapy, acupressure, healing imagery and meditation, in the three-year, full-time DNP program, which includes specialty courses offered through Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing. They also complete more than 1,000 practicum hours at clinical sites, which include hospital, long-term care and clinic settings.
A first nationally
When the school began offering the specialty in 2009, it was the first in the nation to offer it as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. “The School of Nursing has really demonstrated remarkable leadership to integrate content on integrative health into the curriculum,” said Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, who founded the Center for Spirituality and Healing in 1995 and is a professor at the School of Nursing. In 2000, she received a National Institutes of Health grant to look at how to bring concepts of integrative health into required curriculum in schools throughout the University’s Academic Health Center. She also co-edited Integrative Nursing, which has become a preeminent textbook on integrative health. “That’s part of what attracts nurses to the program. They look to Minnesota as the leader,” said Kreitzer.
Prior to offering the DNP specialty here, faculty debated whether to add integrative health content to various specialties within the DNP program or to create a separate specialty in integrative health. The faculty decided to do both. In most of the school’s 12 DNP specialties, students take, at a minimum, an introductory class in integrative therapies and healing practices. In the integrative health and healing specialty, students are being educated to be leaders in the field.
“Our students are influencing health care in their roles as leaders within integrative health. They are going into organizations and they are initiating programs that support an integrative model of care through nursing leadership,” said Clinical Associate Professor Debbie Ringdahl, DNP, APRN, CNM, co-director of the specialty with Kreitzer.
“Our students are influencing health care in their roles as leaders within integrative health. They are going into organizations and they are initiating programs that support an integrative model of care through nursing leadership.”
Debbie Ringdahl, Clinical Associate Professor, DNP, APRN, CNM
Teri Verner, who graduated from the program in 2012 and is now director of integrative services for HealthEast, credits her education at the School of Nursing for giving her the skills needed to see everything within its system and recognize connections. “The program has opened my mind to a different way of thinking,” said Verner. “I feel as though I am more innovative and willing to try more creative approaches to solve problems and improve systems.”
Graduates of the program have taken positions as educators, clinicians and health care administrators in a variety of settings. “Our graduates are a very, very tight group,” said Kreitzer. The center holds nursing salons two or three times a year, which give graduates of the program, students and other practitioners a chance to get to know each other and learn. “It has been incredibly powerful,” said Kreitzer. “We really aspire to grow a community of integrative health nurses.”