Using Rhythmical Einreibung within a Hospice Environment

Monday, 18 March 2019 Fiona Sim discusses her experience using Rhythmical Einreibung in her professional work with patients at the Marie Curie Hospice where she works.

Rhythmical Einreibung (RE) is a method of gentle, therapeutic touch developed by anthroposophic nurses. One of the enormous benefits of RE is that it can be used by health care professionals in many situations where traditional forms of massage cannot be used: with acutely ill patients or patients with chronic conditions; with women who are in labour; with cancer patients who have undergone extensive treatment, and with end of life patients who would be too frail for traditional massage. There are also many ways that RE can be used outside of a traditional health care environment, for example by parents and by those caring for people with special needs.

Over the last three years, along with two other nurses, I have been exploring how complementary treatments can be used in a hospice environment to help provide end of life care. I spend eight hours per week delivering complementary therapies to in-patients, which include both RE and ‘M’ Technique, two types of ‘therapeutic touch’ techniques developed by nurses. They are both very low risk, being gentle and following a set sequence, and can be used by professionals and non-professionals in certain circumstances. 

My background is in nursing, and I have always been interested in the benefits that can be seen though integrating mainstream nursing with an anthroposophical approach. After qualifying as a registered nurse I discovered Park Attwood Clinic, an anthroposophic in-patient and out-patient clinic in Worcestershire where I worked for 21 years. 

When the clinic closed in 2010 I began work at Marie Curie Hospice West Midlands. Initially I worked on the in-patient Unit (IPU) as a staff nurse and largely had to put aside my complementary skills. But in 2016, supported by a new nursing manager and some of the ward sisters, we began to introduce ‘M’ Technique and some RE.

Born out of anthroposophic medicine, and developed from Rhythmical Massage, RE supports health and relaxation through its warming, calming and harmonising qualities. It addresses the physical body, the soul/emotional life and the individuality/spirituality of each person. Unlike other massage techniques which are contraindicated, RE can be used for people with active cancers at all stages and can be particularly helpful to support those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. With anthroposophic cancer treatment Whole Body RE is a valuable adjuvant to mistletoe treatment, supporting the warming, reintegrating gesture of the mistletoe.

Using RE in the hospice

The feedback from patients, relatives and staff has been positive. The majority of patients are older and have never experienced any kind of massage; they are mostly open to the idea and enjoy being “pampered”, as they put it. More than that, they are grateful to be touched in a respectful, gentle way at a difficult time in their lives. They have usually been through some unpleasant, invasive procedures by the time they are admitted to the hospice, and they appreciate being able to sit back and receive safe, comforting touch. Patients and relatives realise that these treatments are going beyond the basic necessities of care. They appreciate the feeling that they are valued and that you have gone the extra mile for them. Some comments include: “I feel much less anxious afterwards”, “It has really helped my pain”, and “I can’t believe I can have something so nice here”.

Nursing staff have also commented that the patients are much more relaxed following a treatment, and the doctors are very open to the complementary approach, being only too aware that there are limitations to the amount of difference drugs can make to some symptoms, particularly extreme anxiety.

Fiona Sim currently leads training programmes in RE at Emerson College; they are Crossfields Institute Quality Mark Courses at Level 4. A new one-year Foundation Course will begin in October 2019. Please contact Fiona for the unabridged version of the above article which explains the specifics of RE in more detail. E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For those who would like to find out more about RE see Handbook for Rhythmical Einreibung according to Wegman/Hauschka edited by Monica Layer and published by Temple Lodge. If you would like to learn more about RE trainings please visit: www.emerson.org.uk/rhythmical-einreibung