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October 2021

Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1997 Aug; 3(4): 92-9.

Therapies in practice: a survey assessing nurses' use of complementary therapies.

Rankin-Box D.

De Montfort University, Cheshire, UK.

This paper reports the findings of an informal survey to assess nurses' use of complementary therapies within the health care setting. Increasing interest amongst the general public and health care professionals appears to have resulted in an assumption that there is currently widespread use of therapies such as massage, homoeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology and acupuncture within the health care setting. However, to date there have been no national research studies undertaken to substantiate this assumption. This study attempted to identify the range of practices and magnitude of use by nurses who are members of the Royal College of Nursing Complementary Therapy Forum (RCNCTF) UK. A convenience sample was used and a semi-structured questionnaire was inserted into the group's bi-annual newsletter and sent to all members of the RCNCTF (n = 1662). A total of 178 subjects completed and returned the questionnaire, representing a 9.3% response rate. Given the informal nature of this survey, and the fact that it was an insert in a newsletter, a relatively low response was anticipated. Contrary to expectation, findings indicated that the majority of respondents were aged between 41 and 50 years. The six principal therapies practised were (in order of use) massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, relaxation, visualization and acupuncture. The three most common areas of practice, both in the NHS and private sector, were in the community, palliative care and oncology. Findings also indicated that complementary therapies were more commonly practised in the private sector as part of formal working practice. This was in contrast to nurses working in the NHS, where complementary therapies appeared to form less than 20% of their formal nursing care and respondents indicated that, when used, it was often in addition to daily nursing care. Results indicate that nurses are practising complementary therapies less than has been assumed. Those therapies commonly practised form a broader mantle than therapies commonly presented as the primary therapies in complementary medicine, namely homoeopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, chiropractic and osteopathy. This survey represents a single snapshot of nurses' use of complementary therapies. The convenience sample focused upon a self-selected group of people who were members of the RCNCTF and this has to be borne in mind when considering the results. The intention is to report the findings and no attempt is made to generalize upon the results. However, there is clearly a need to identify national utilization of complementary therapies within the health care sector.

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