The Heart of BIDMC
Helping with Healing
Annie Banks has been a social worker with the Palliative Care Consultation Service at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since 2005. Ask her how she got here and she’ll tell you an interesting story.
“I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in anthropology,” she says. “Through college and after, I worked in theater. From there, I went on to fundraising for several years.”
Though she knew she was raising money for good causes, Annie missed working with people in a more direct way and enrolled at Simmons College for a degree in social work. That was almost 25 years ago.
Every day, Annie helps patients with life-threatening illnesses and those who are bereaved. In addition to this full-time, demanding job, she does something more — she volunteers to do Reiki with patients at BIDMC’s Cancer Center.
“My wonderful father died of cancer when I was 27,” she says, “so volunteering with people who have cancer is deeply personal.”
Reiki is a Japanese healing and relaxation technique involving light touch. According to the The International Center for Reiki Training, Reiki is “based on the idea that an unseen 'life force energy' flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.” If our "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to feel stressed or unwell; if it is high, we are more capable of experiencing happiness or well-being.
Annie got into Reiki more than 10 years ago to help center herself and clear her head. She even used it with her young son when he had trouble sleeping, which “worked like a charm.” But she wanted to do more with Reiki.
As a social worker, Annie usually assists patients through listening and therapeutic conversation; but, there were patients who couldn’t talk or weren’t inclined to speak. Annie thought Reiki might be one way to help these patients.
“The premise of Reiki is, there is life energy around us and through us,” says Annie, “and a practitioner of Reiki is a conduit to balancing that energy.”
At first, Annie began doing Reiki with some patients receiving palliative care consultation who were in pain, anxious, or depressed. When staff in the hospital heard about Annie volunteering her time for Reiki, they started asking her to see other patients, too.
Since patients and staff were asking for Reiki, in September 2012, Marsha Maurer, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at BIDMC, endorsed a pilot program to offer Reiki sessions to interested inpatients on three floors.
All staff volunteers, the Reiki practitioners provided nearly 500 Reiki sessions during the first year of the program. The program continues for Cancer Center inpatients and has now started providing the service to outpatients, thanks to a generous donation by Leon V. and Marilyn L. Rosenberg.
Annie volunteers every Wednesday in the Hematology Clinic.
“Sometimes people are asleep, sometimes they just rest when I do Reiki,” she says. “I feel meditative, no matter the surroundings. I am very present when I do Reiki. It’s me and it’s the patient. That’s it.”
Patients are very appreciative and feel cared for.
“This is one time when absolutely nothing is asked of a patient,” Annie explains. “This is when we are just together. They don’t even have to believe in the value of Reiki.”
Annie describes Reiki sessions as ”the calm in the middle of the storm,” because patients have so much going on. Some patients say they feel warm or tingly during a session. Others say they feel deeply relaxed.
“Many patients tell me that this is the best thing that happens to them all week and they look forward to the Reiki sessions,” Annie says. “That is a gift for both of us.”
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted January 2014