Reflexology enhances patient care


“I’ve always been interested in alternative medicine,” says Mary Buchanan, a nurse at Misericordia Health Centre who recently decided to pursue certification in reflexology. “I’ve had reflexology treatments myself. They were relaxing and relieved stress.”

Reflexology is a holistic, non-invasive approach to working with patients. Reflexes in our feet, hands and ears have referral areas that correspond to every gland, organ and area in our bodies. Through touching or stimulating these reflexes and paying attention to sensitivities, a practitioner can help promote the natural function of the related areas without any adverse side effects. Reflexology treatments typically relieve tension, improve circulation and promote better health. While some people are ticklish or don’t like having their feet touched, often getting beyond the initial awkwardness of a treatment puts people at ease.

One of the benefits of reflexology is that it puts the patient in a state of relaxation to allow the body to heal itself. “Once they’re relaxed, we work together to help them achieve an optimal level of health and wellness,” says Buchanan, who has been a registered nurse for 40 years.

A typical treatment takes 45 minutes to an hour; during that time a practitioner will manipulate areas of the foot to help stimulate different systems or organs of the body. People with specific health concerns may initially benefit from several treatments a week, and can then cut back to weekly treatments. Buchanan suggests monthly treatments to maintain optimum health.

To learn these reflexology skills, Buchanan combined classroom and practical learning. She also dedicated many hours of home study before writing her exam. Buchanan then had one year to provide treatment to 60 pairs of feet while documenting each patient’s history and treatment.

After successfully completing her training and related exams, Buchanan received her certification in reflexology from the Reflexology Association of Canada, and brought her new skills to Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg.

Interim Care, where the average resident age is over 80, is a very busy geriatric unit. That means an hour-long reflexology treatment to every resident isn’t a realistic goal given Mary’s other responsibilities. “Reflexology is an adjunctive therapy that doesn’t replace traditional medicine,” explains resident care manager Eileen Coates. “Considering the time restraints related to Mary’s general nurse obligations, if there is a special situation where she can fit in a treatment for a resident, it enhances the care she provides.”

One specific opportunity did recently present itself for Buchanan to offer a reflexology treatment to a dying resident. Along with chronic pain, the woman was also experiencing anxiety and restlessness. The woman was initially resistant to reflexology because she didn’t like having her feet touched, but agreed to the treatment. Mary’s manipulation of the woman’s feet stimulated the brain to release endorphins that helped ease her anxiety. Moreover, the intimate, one-on-one treatment provided the woman with a unique level of support during a significant transition. “Misericordia’s core values are caring, respect and trust. Mary cared about the resident’s anxiety and pain and took the time to do the treatment,” says Coates. “You only do that if you care.”

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