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Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing Launches Integrative Health and Medicine Specialization on Coursera

April 17, 2019

The University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing recently launched a Specialization and courses in Integrative Health and Medicine through Coursera, a global online learning leader.

The Specialization is made up of five courses through which healthcare professionals will explore the use of integrative healing techniques. Learners will gain the skills to assess if a therapy is appropriate, to educate patients or clients about the benefits and risks of a therapy, to administer or advise on the use of a therapy, and to evaluate if the therapy was useful.

“Integrative practices positively impact patient outcomes,” says Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Center’s director. “The courses are designed for healthcare professionals, but because of the way the Coursera platform works, other people may certainly take courses and I think that will benefit them.”

Coursera is an optimal platform for this Specialization because of its reach and accessibility, says Louise Delagran, MA, MEd, the lead for the Center’s Learning Resources Group. The Coursera platform is available to learners across the globe, and it makes courses accessible to those who may not have the luxury of receiving a traditional university education.

Kreitzer says she is also excited about the Coursera platform for its broad accessibility. “The biggest motivation is to educate people beyond the walls of the Center, to extend our influence. I think we see Coursera as a fabulous way to reach people around the world who are interested in education and might not have access to it,” she says.

The Specialization is self-paced, so learners complete the course in their own time. Students learn through short videos, online discussions, and hands-on applications of the content.

“The courses are designed with a working learner in mind. They're designed for people who have really full, busy lives,” says Delagran. “Everything is designed to maximize engagement and motivation, and help people actually complete the courses.”

The classes included in this Center’s Specialization are: Introduction to Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices, Guided Imagery, Herbal Medicine, Aromatherapy: Clinical Use of Essential Oils, and Mindfulness in Integrative Healthcare. After taking these courses, healthcare providers will be able to partner with patients on developing a plan of integrative care that best fits their needs and preferences.

Introduction to Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices will provide a framework for incorporating integrative therapies into a learner’s work with clients or patients. This course lays the groundwork for the rest of the courses in the Specialization, speaking to all of the topics covered in the other courses at a broader level.

“We really want students to be able to assess which integrative therapies are good options in certain situations and then be able to educate patients and colleagues about the benefits and risks,” says Teri Verner, DNP, RN, AHN-BC, who helped create and design the course.

Verner says more and more patients are asking for integrative therapies, and this course will help providers feel prepared to answer patients’ questions, as well as be able to provide patients with the guidance they need to make a good decision.

“Personally, I think it really helps you to be grounded,” says Robin Austin, DNP, DC, RN-BC, who also helped design the course. “We have huge numbers of caregiver burnout, but it can give you examples that you can apply to your own health and well-being. I think there's a dual aspect--not only are you learning more about your own health and well-being, but also how you can apply it to your patients.”

“If health providers can take some tools away that can help them be a little less stressed out, then they can give better care as well,” adds Verner.

Austin also notes that integrative health practices are a great way to deal with pain non-pharmacologically, especially with the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the country.

In the Guided Imagery course, healthcare professionals learn how to use imagery and imagery interventions to help with symptom management and healing, as well as to enhance overall health and wellbeing.

“Guided imagery involves all of the senses, not just visual. It is experienced throughout the entire body. It is a form of meditation and a way to guide people to a particular thing, such as pain or anxiety relief. There are so many layers of things it can do,” says Susan Thompson, DNP, MBA, RN, who teaches the course. “It has also been validated by a lot of research that has demonstrated its impact on health.”

Learners will be able to put their skills into action right away after this course. They will know how to assess if guided imagery is appropriate in specific situations and will be comfortable creating their own imagery intervention for a specific patient or group of patients.

The Herbal Medicine course provides the necessary background for providers to begin to incorporate herbal medicine into their practice, particularly in regards to their therapeutic properties, efficacy, and safety concerns, including quality control and potential adverse effects. Students will also learn how herbal medicines work and methods for creating botanical preparations.

“Millions of people in the United States and worldwide take some form of herbal therapy. To help our patients achieve the best health outcomes, health care providers need to be well-informed as to which herbal medicines have a body of scientific evidence to support their use,” says Amy Taylor, MD, MPH, who designed the course. “This course emphasizes evidence-based herbal therapies for various medical conditions.”

The Aromatherapy: Clinical Use of Essential Oils course provides an overview of essential oil therapy and current aromatherapy practices in clinical settings. It also provides evidence for the effectiveness of essential oils, as well as teaching students how they can use essential oils for self-care.

“This course is very advantageous for healthcare providers to take since essential oil use has exploded with promotion by large companies and social media,” says Janet Tomaino, DNP, who teaches the course. “Patients have many questions about adding essential oils for self-care and for symptom management.”

Those who take the course will be able to explain what essential oils are and how they work, assess if an essential oil might be beneficial to a patient, and suggest a protocol for use in a clinical setting.

Learners who complete the Mindfulness in Integrative Healthcare course should feel that they can assess when mindfulness may be helpful for patients or clients, educate patients or clients about the potential benefits and risks of mindfulness, and be able to refer patients or clients to mindfulness programs and resources.

“We want healthcare providers to understand what mindfulness is and isn't, because there's so much hype around it these days,” says Delagran, who helped to design this course. “They should come away with a good sense of the research base, and they should also be able to assess if it's a good fit for a particular patient or client. They will also get a taste of mindfulness themselves, which we try to do because it's not just about reading about it, it’s experiencing it.”

Alex Haley, JD, MBA, who also helped create and design this course, says healthcare providers who are interested in developing integrative care practices for their patients should take this course. “If they are personally interested and want to learn more, or they have been getting a lot of questions from patients about integrative care practices and want to be able to better partner with their patients around this practice,” he says.

All the courses in the Specialization, while targeted at healthcare providers, can be taken by anyone who wants to improve their own personal health and wellbeing.

Coursera Specializations are composed of a series of courses that are designed to help students master a skill. Students can enroll in the Specialization directly, or they can complete only certain courses within the Specialization. Every Specialization includes a hands-on project that must be completed in order to receive a Certificate.

“People can be confident that what they're getting with these courses is evidence-based, and they are created by healthcare professionals. They're really valid, the information can be trusted,” says Delagran. “I think that's one of the things that I would say really makes these courses valuable.”

Anyone can access all courses in the Specialization through a 7-day free trial. In order to receive a certificate for one or more courses, students can subscribe to the Specialization for $39/month. Continuing education credit is available for each course.

Explore the Specialization

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Mandala is a biannual magazine produced by Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing. It captures the core aspects of the Center: reflection, transformation, spirituality, creation, and the ongoing journey that continues to shape what we are to become.

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The Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing blog covers a range of integrative health and wellbeing topics. For more information about our blog, contact us at csh@umn.edu