by Ron Eslinger, RN, CRNA
In her book, Notes on Nursing, published in 1859, Florence Nightingale said, “Volumes are now written and spoken upon the effect of the mind upon the body.” She discussed in detail how nurses should help patients vary their thoughts. Florence Nightingale was more in tune with complementary therapy in 1859 than most nurses and physicians are today. She spoke at length in her book on the benefits of music, color, aroma, physical activity, fresh air, and exercise. She understood the power of words and how using hypnosis to help patients change their thoughts helped them heal.
Another nurse, Alice Magaw, a pioneer in nurse anesthesia wrote an article in 1906 titled, A Review of Over Fourteen Thousand Surgical Anesthesias. When patients were told what to expect and how to respond, the amount of stress was decreased to such an extent that she was able to use only 10% of the normal anesthetic dose. Still today many anesthesiologists and thousands of nurse anesthetists use hypnosis as a part of their anesthesia. Most nurse anesthetists who practice hypnosis are taught clinical hypnosis in Oak Ridge by Ron Eslinger.
Blue Shield of California reported in a research study that patients listening to guided imagery and hypnosis CDs prior to surgery saved Blue Shield an average of $2000 for each surgical patient. The patients had less nausea and vomiting, less pain, and recovered faster. Few hospitals even consider something so simple let along trying it. However hospitals will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new piece of equipment on the grounds that the patients will have less pain, get better sooner and go home faster. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. Patients entering hospitals, clinics or physician’s offices for procedures are in an altered state, which makes them more susceptible to suggestions by health care workers. No health care worker spends more time with the patient than the nurse; therefore, it makes sense that hypnosis and nursing are a perfect combination.
You probably know someone who was told they had three months to live, or someone with pain being told they would have to endure it. Perhaps you’ve heard of a patient getting an MRI, being told it is dark, loud and scary in there, or when getting an injection being told to hold still, this is going to hurt. There are thousands of small comments that can greatly affect a patient’s response. That response will be either positive or negative. It is the nurse’s responsibility to know the difference between negative toxic language and hypnotic positive language.
Every thought we have affects some organ or gland in our body. Imagine you are eating a lemon and you experience the salivation and the tart tanginess in your parotid gland. In the same way negative thoughts (worry) can make us sick and positive thoughts can make us well. Florence Nightingale directed nurses to use words to help patients to change their thoughts. Words are still the most powerful tool a nurse has.