I am about to enter into a nursing program and so have been taking an introductory course on it.  For this course we had to attend presentations made by senior nursing majors that were essentially designs for research projects based on peer-reviewed articles but not actually carrying the research out in the real world.  This is the senior project and it places an emphasis on "evidence-based practice," which has been important in elevating nursing as a profession.

While looking at these presentations, I decided to go over to the one that talked about Therapeutic Touch (TT).  I thought at first that it was talking about the effects of a hands on approach to nursing that was examining the effects of touch on patients.

Nope.  It was actually about TT as a way to manipulate some sort of energy field that somehow extends beyond the human body yet isn't one of the fundamental physical forces or anything else that is recognized by science.  I held my tongue since his evaluator was listening at the time and the presenter noted that the evaluator knew all about it.  I was staring at them because it was so odd to see an open display of belief in something with, as far as I know, no evidence to support it (apart from religion).

I remember watching an episode of Penn & Teller Bullshit that dealt with new age medicine and such.  In the episode, they have a girl on who has/had the Guiness world record as the youngest person to have research published in a medical journal.  At age 9 she showed that 21 practitioners of TT did worse than chance at being able to blindly guess whether her hand was over their right or left hand.  They only guessed correctly 4.1/10 times on average.  That happened in '98.  Yet studies continue to be done on the effects of TT while still making the claim that practitioners can sense a universal human energy field or something and then make a patient better by manipulating it.

This seems like a horribly unscientific thing to do for a profession that is trying to back up its practices with evidence-based research.  It's false and gives patients false hope.  If the benefit of it is the placebo effect, then it should be taught in such a way that practitioners know this and understand how to use it without teaching a lie to a patient.  However, it appears that proponents of it are still making miracle claims.

So I suppose I'm nervous that I'm going to have to fight against bullshit like this while learning and while practicing.  I want to be able to call "bullshit" when I see something like this, but I think that it would ruffle to many feathers.

Does anyone here work in nursing (or medicine) and see anything like this?  What are your thoughts on TT or other "alternative" or "new age" "medicines"?  Have you ever dealt with nurses or doctors who insist on wasting your time with these things?

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Both [Reiki and Therapeutic Touch] used actual physical touch - thus the Therapeutic Touch. Both claimed energy field effects, but your statement proves my point

Your point was that Johns Hopkins medical staff are recommending energy therapy treatments to patients. My statement does not prove that.

So who is recommending energy therapy at Johns Hopkins, Barry? The guy who emptied your bedpan?

Therapeutic Touch: "an ancient laying-on of hands technique in which the practitioner alters the patient's energy field through an energy transfer that moves from the hands of the practitioner to the patient."

My statement was that therapeutic massage has temporary health benefits. These benefits are derived from deep tissue massage, not from magical energy. But good luck finding a medical doctor who recommends frequent massages over a healthy diet, frequent exercise, and 20 mg of lisinopril.

Your wife can laugh all she wants, maybe she'll laugh at you too.

Wrong again, Barry. My wife went to one of the best medical schools in the world. She only laughs at hucksters who sell snake oil. People like you-- people foolish or desperate enough to buy it-- she pities.

Most of these folk medicine or New Agey folks who talk about "energy" have no fucking idea what energy is.

As an internist in practice for twenty one years , I can state emphatically that unscientific , non evidence based quackery is rife within the medical community . This is true not just with "alternative" practitioners , but also allopathic physicians . A few months ago , I was participating in a discussion with six other physicians , and the topic of "alternative" medicine ( chelation therapy , bioidentical hormone therapy , vitamin infusion therapy , et al ) , came up . I opined that as educated , learned individuals , it was our duty to educate and warn patients about the futility of this non scientific , non evidence based nonsense , as well as about their potential hazards . I was shocked , but unsurprised , when my " scientifically literate" colleagues , more or less in unison , proceeded to explain to me that I needed to have an , "open mind" . I then asked them , if we should be as open minded and flexible with other things in medicine . Things like serum acid-base chemistry , the value of the normal partial pressure of oxygen in an arterial blood gas analysis , interpretation of electrocardiograms , etc. . They became quite silent after that .

Thanks for letting me know.  I have a feeling that this will be more prevalent in nursing because of the caring aspect of it that encourages respect for patients' belief systems.  But I think that point you made will be useful in explaining my resistance to this stuff.

Luckily we get to have a discussion about these presentations as part of our "final exam" for this course.  I'm going to bring it up as it specifically relates to the model of evidence-based practice, ethics, and the image of nursing.  I think that will actually provide the best topic for a constructive discussion that can involve multiple aspects of nursing that we've talked about.  Plus, it will give me a venting opportunity. haha

I suspect that if the truth were known, it goes back to the biblical, "laying on of hands," that was supposed to have supernatural healing powers.

I was actually thinking about this the other day.  It seems very reminiscent

I'm glad to hear you will be doing this. Perhaps some of your classmates will be immune to the woo after some exposure. Very weak pun intended.

They became quite silent after that .

They're full of shit... and they know it.

Vitamin infusion therapy doesn't sound too woo-ey... sounds like a strong tea made from vitamin tablets.

Whenever I'm forced to watch Dr. Oz (when visiting a relative) or, worse, Deepak Chopra, I feel I need a barf bag. Oz may be a decent brain surgeon, but he's a bit too open minded about folk medicine and very dodgy-sounding remedies to my taste. Chopra blends a small amount of medical truth with a whole lot of syncretist religious horseshit.

Also, I always like to say that one mustn't slip from having an open mind to having a hole in the head.

Cameron, are you actually paying for these courses? Can you choose not to take that one and still have the credits you need?

I'm not in the program yet.  I am going to ask my sister if this stuff is taught and if its necessary to take it, since she did the same program.  I am currently at school in northeast Missouri, near the birthplace of Osteopathic Medicine, so this stuff seems to be very prevalent around here in all medical disciplines.

I'm going back up to Iowa once I graduate, but there is a school of medicine in the area that is also related to the medical school here in Missouri.  I wouldn't be surprised if I run into it there.

What's interesting , Cameron , is that in the past twenty years or so , Osteopathic Medicine has evolved into a clone of Allopathic Medicine . There is much less emphasis on manipulation , and the rest of the BS typically associated with it . The vast majority of osteopathic physicians today practice pretty much solid , evidence based , scientific medicine , sans woo.



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