Welcome to our newest blog series, “Five Questions With…” In this series, we will highlight the unsung heroes that make healthcare work. From guest services to the phlebotomist, the pet therapy volunteer, and the environmental services workers. These individuals enhance our experiences when we are getting care and highlight human connection and support. Thank you for all you do!
Today, we feature Sharon Edelman. Sharon has been part of the Reiki volunteer program at Penn Medicine for nearly 13 years.
How long have you been in this position?
I began in September 2009. I was on-site as a practitioner and mentor to new Reiki volunteers for the first few years and then, additionally, took on the responsibilities of Team Leader after that until the present day. I have not been offering sessions on-site since Covid, but I continue to coordinate and oversee the group remotely.
Tell us more about what you do to support patients.
I coordinate the practitioners at two Penn Medicine sites for Reiki services offered on the infusion floors, inpatient oncology floors, and Radiation Oncology. We offer 20-minute Reiki sessions to as many patients, caregivers, and staff members as we can who would like to receive. If someone finds the service supportive, they are free to request as many follow-up appointments as they can coordinate with their practitioner.
Is there one particular story that sticks out in your head about a patient you can share?
I would say, as an overarching experience, I have felt tremendous gratitude for being given the privilege of holding space for others and bearing witness to responses people have had, which include physical relief, restfulness, emotional release, reflection, and rejuvenation. Every encounter touches my heart so deeply.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
As Team Leader, it is recruiting, vetting, and mentoring Reiki practitioners who have availability and an ability to effectively communicate in a health system setting, so we can offer consistency with our services and an opportunity to educate people about the Reiki practice. As a Reiki practitioner, I always want to stay within our scope of practice and never neglect our self-care. It is important to keep ourselves healthy and balanced while serving in an environment that can be emotionally and physically taxing, so we can continue to serve the oncology community with care and awareness.
What is the thing you love the most about your job?
As a Reiki practitioner, it is the very nature of the service we provide that I love the most. For me, there is nothing about which I am more passionate than the opportunity to create a safe space for someone where they can give themselves permission to be present and restful and give their nervous system a chance to regulate itself. As Team Leader, in my current remote capacity, I am happy to help support the success of the team and program by acting as a liaison in administrative matters so we can continue to provide our services for as long as possible!
What is a job accomplishment that you are proud of?
When I started in 2009, I remember going from door to door in the Cancer Center to introduce myself and offer my Reiki services and having most people look at me like I had nine heads. They had never heard the word “Reiki,” and they certainly had never heard of the practice. We wanted people to not get hung up on words but get to the experience. The educational component, the thoughtfully chosen language we used, became so important.
As the years have gone by, I have been given the opportunity to present on Reiki for many different classes and groups–in and out of the health system. What I have noticed over these years in these presentations is that when I ask who has heard of Reiki, the number of people who put up their hands has continually increased. Most people, if not all, in any given room have at least heard of the word “Reiki.” Usually, fewer have had a personal experience with the practice, but the fact that it now seems to be more widely embedded in our collective consciousness gives me tremendous joy and gratitude. More people are open to the idea of incorporating it into their wellness regimen, and I am no longer a nine-headed person.
Do you want to nominate a staff member, volunteer, co-worker, or friend for us to feature in “Five Questions With…” Go to oncolink.org/feedback and let us know!