Providing relief in innovative ways

The UF Heath Integrative Medicine Program is an outgrowth of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine, one of the largest arts-in-health-care programs in the nation. AIM uses music, visual arts and performing arts to enhance the hospital experience for patients and families — and for years, it’s provided services such as massage and yoga to our staff.


According to Tina Mullen, AIM director, staff would often ask if the AIM team could offer these services to a broader audience. Three years ago, things fell into place for our staff to begin offering these services to

patients. A certified yoga practitioner with special training joined the team to work with cancer patients. Two sizable donations were made to the program by community members interested in supporting integrative medicine — with others soon to follow.

With support from UF Health leadership and a newly appointed outpatient Integrative Medicine medical director, Irene Estores, M.D., Mullen began building a small team of integrative medicine practitioners and instructors.Intergrated Medicine Meditation

About the team

The inpatient UF Health Integrative Medicine, or ITM, team is composed of a nurse coordinator and six practitioners who provide and teach mind-body therapies, including meditation, massage, yoga, tai chi and qigong to inpatients, family members, staff and the community. When called on by a medical team, Lauren Arce, R.N., M.S.N., C.N.L., O.C.N., ACN-BC, ITM nurse coordinator, provides an integrative medicine assessment to assess a patient’s emotional, mental and social well-being. She develops a treatment plan in collaboration with the patient and their medical team. The recommendations may include mind-body therapies, AIM activities, pet therapy or consults such as pastoral care, palliative care or geriatric medicine. For interested patients, the team provides information about outpatient services, including health services and wellness classes, courses and workshops.

A typical day

At the start of each shift, practitioners check the electronic medical record for patients with ITM orders, review charts and meet to coordinate care. They collaborate with the patient and care team to set session goals, educate patients about the benefits of mind-body therapies and start the integrative care process to help meet those goals. Sessions are structured to individual patient needs and limitations, and patients are encouraged to use learned tools between sessions and after they leave the hospital.

Dottie Price, R.Y.T., ITM yoga practitioner, enjoys connecting with patients to help them without a sense of urgency. “Once we are in with one patient, it unfolds from there and all of our focus can be on one patient as long as needed,” she said.

Practitioners move between units to provide services and adapt interventions across these populations, whether the patient is 8 or 80, mobile or on bed rest.

Teamwork in action

The ITM practitioners have the ability to treat a patient together using different interventions in a single, collaborative session. The team meets to exchange information each morning, and shares messages about patient care in EPIC throughout the day.

“Each practitioner provides a unique service,” said Arce. “We have the advantage of being a multidisciplinary team within a single program.”

What motivates you?

“It’s empowering people,” said Chaya Sharon Heller, C.A.P., I.Y.T., L.M.T., E-RYT-500, ITM holistic nutritionist, massage therapist and yoga practitioner. “People, when they’re sick, tend to identify with their illnesses. Showing them parts of themselves separate from whatever they’re dealing with brings them balance.”

For a list of UF Health Integrative Medicine inpatient and outpatient services and practitioners, and for more information, visit N&N