New Ulm Medical Center Offers Holistic Options

NEW ULM - The New Ulm Medical Center celebrated its new partnership with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing on Thursday, with Penny George assisting Mayor Robert Beussman in cutting a ribbon in the hospital lobby.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing was founded in 2003 and has been connected with Allina Health. It is a national leader in holistic care, integrating a variety of therapies with traditional medicine to focus on the mind, body and spirit.

George said her interest in the holistic approach to medicine began when she was diagnosed with cancer.

"I had wonderful care at Abbot Northwestern through the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute. I had no complaints, I had perfect care, except that back then, they only looked at me as a body part, as a disease" George said. "I knew we could do better than that, and that individuals could be partnered with more effectively so that they could have better quality of life, and possibly even influence whether the disease returns or not."

Dr. Courtney Baechler, vice president and leader of the institute, said the institute's approach combines "the ancient wisdom of healing with cutting edge technology." When combined with modern treatments, therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage and meditation can help patients manage pain and nausea, relieve stress, and help bring the mind and spirit into play in the treatment.

New Ulm is adding an acupuncturist, Joseph Bickle, to its staff. It is offering mindfulness training, a four-week program that helps participants learn to manage stress. New mothers have the option of receiving massage therapy, and nurses are receiving Transformative Nursing training, which trains nurses to help patients manage stress through massage, aromatherapy, relaxation, breathing and guided imagery.

George said the various therapies, individually, may not be helpful to every patient, but the program as a whole has been shown to help patients receive better outcomes.

Baechler said that to her knowledge, New Ulm is the first rural hospital in the nation with an integrative medicine program. She said that was not surprising, given the work New Ulm has done with the Heart of New Ulm program. New Ulm's experience and findings could lead to other rural hospitals adding integrative, holistic services.

"As we look forward to the future of New Ulm Medical Center, we're going to be in a better place to serve the community and the region, and really be able to do that from a perspective of better health," said Toby Freier, president of New Ulm Medical Center.