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Integrating CAM Into the Curricula

Hands Pressing on AbdomenHands Pressing on AbdomenNursing Faculty Join Medical Students at Bastyr University to Study Complementary and Alternative Medicine School of Nursing faculty enrolled in the University of Washington's first Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) "Summer Camp" won't need sleeping bags or bug repellant, but they will need an open mind as they spend a month learning about herbal and nutritional medicine, healthy cooking and other alternative approaches to health care. The monthlong camp is a project of the nursing school's innovative Complementary and Alternative Medicine grant called Integrating CAM-Nursing Emphasis.

Developed in partnership with Bastyr University and funded by a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) educational enhancement grant, the project brings medical students from across the country and UW School of Nursing faculty together with Bastyr's naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists and nutritionists to learn about alternative medicine practices.

Keeping Up With Consumer Demand

"Consumers are demanding health professionals who are knowledgeable about alternative therapies," explains Margaret Heitkemper, Professor and Chair of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems and co-author of the CAM grant. As a result, schools of nursing nationwide have responded by incorporating holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative medicine into their curricula.

A loosely defined field that includes acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal treatments, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, meditation and naturopathy as well as many other types of care, CAM, Heitkemper believes, complements the broad-based, holistic, supportive role of nurses and their concern for the health of individuals and families. Clinical nurse specialist Mary Fearon agrees.

"This is the side of medicine we nurses take care of," she comments, recalling a time when she was an operating room nurse at UW Medical Center, and a patient was accompanied into surgery by a "coach" who used music, meditation and massage to help her remain calm, positive and relaxed.

Integrating CAM Into the Curricula

Designed to educate nursing school faculty who will then transfer CAM concepts to nursing students, the CAM Camp will inform participants about complementary and alternative therapies (especially about the safety of herbals and supplements) and help them to communicate more effectively about alternatives to traditional Western medicine. The camp will also provide participants with the knowledge and attitude to interface effectively with CAM providers.

UW faculty will integrate the new material into curricula at both graduate and undergraduate levels. Plans are also in place to develop a CAM elective for graduate-level nurses in the Nurse Practitioner Program and for Ph.D. candidates focusing on research.

Popularity Problems

Still in its first year of funding, the CAM initiative is facing the difficult but exciting challenge of coping with more applicants than available openings. This summer six nursing faculty members will be selected to participate. A waiting list for next year's camp is already filling up.

The fortunate School of Nursing faculty in this summer's program will not only study alternative medicine but will learn in a completely different environment. They'll receive clinical experiences with various CAM practitioners and exposure to the CAM practices of the region's diverse communities, such as traditional Chinese medicine. They'll use Bastyr's Whole Foods Kitchen to learn practical skills for healthy eating, tour Bastyr's botanical garden and don hiking boots to take field trips into the mountains to identify medicinal plants.