Megan Voss, RN, DNP, is on a mission to blend the “high-tech” world of modern medicine with the “high-touch” world of holistic care.
Voss discovered the connections between spirituality, health and wellbeing at a young age by following the examples set by her own mother, who was also a nurse. Now, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is helping instill the principles of integrative and holistic care into the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) program at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Describe your role as an Integrative Therapy Program Manager for the pediatric BMT program at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
There are three facets to my role at the children’s hospital:
Practice: I see all pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant patients during their preparation for a transplant procedure. I then follow up with them after transplant for as long as they choose. These discussions focus on finding creative ways to cope with the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual side effects of a transplant. I offer a variety of integrative therapies, and coordinate others that I personally do not offer.
Education: As part of developing a sustainable program, I introduce staff to educational opportunities so they can learn certain therapies for use. Our goal is to have integrative therapies woven throughout the care that is already provided.
Research: I am partnering with researchers at the University and providers throughout our system to generate new knowledge on the safety and efficacy of the use of these therapies in this patient population. We currently have two studies in the development stage. They will investigate the feasibility and safety of Reiki & Acupoint Therapy.
How do you define holistic or integrative nursing?
Integrative nursing has become a hot topic lately, but the principles of integrative nursing date back to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, and the turn of the last century. Gradually throughout the past century, with the advent of technology in healthcare, nursing practice gave way to “high-tech” and suffered a loss of “high-touch.” Integrative nursing is a way of applying the simple principles our profession was built on to modern day practice. Pediatric patients and parents crave interactive, relationship-based care that involves listening and guiding more than directing, caring and healing along with curing, and alleviating symptoms while working to minimize medications with undesirable side effects. Integrative nursing is about mind/body/spirit wellbeing; it looks at health and healing through a broader lens, one that includes the patient, the family, and the community they are a part of.
You believe that the terms “healing” and “curing” are not necessarily synonymous. Why not?
Healing occurs on many different levels. One can be healed but not cured, and vice versa. As human beings, we experience pain and suffering on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels—not just the physical. Even in modern medicine, cure is sometimes out of reach. I find it comforting to know that caring for and healing patients is always accessible. I’ve worked in oncology long enough to know that even in survivorship, patients still need healing long after curing has occurred. To heal is by definition to make whole, to free, to cleanse and to purify. We can facilitate this type of healing for all patients on emotional and spiritual dimensions with or without finding a cure. Integrative therapies and relationship-based care help to facilitate healing on that level.
Why do you believe it’s important to blend “hospital” medicine with holistic or integrative care? How do they complement one another?
In past decades, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) became infamous for existing outside of the standards of safety and efficacy upheld by the mainstream medical model. Integrative health is a way of bringing the best, most evidence-based elements of CAM into mainstream care. Part of the push for this is consumer demand, part of it is reform of our healthcare system and the most important reason is that it’s just good practice for nurses and doctors to provide holistic, relationship-based care.
I witness the effects of integrative therapies on a daily basis. They truly do complement mainstream medicine. When patients feel better, mentally, physically and emotionally, they are more engaged in their care. They become empowered to do things like participate in physical therapy more easily, gain better control of their anxiety, and play an active role in their own plan of care.
What do you love about the University of Minnesota Health community?
The thing I love most about the University of Minnesota Health is the spirit of innovation. The Center for Spirituality and Healing, founded nearly twenty years ago by my mentor Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, is a worldwide leader in mind/body/spirit health and wellbeing. University of Minnesota Health fosters an environment in which great ideas can become reality with hard work and dedication. The vision for my position began nearly two years ago with the director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant division, John Wagner, MD. Through his partnership with Dr. Kreitzer, that vision became reality and patients are now benefiting from it.