Woodbury's Woodwinds Health Campus Celebrates 10th Anniversary
The award-winning facility has become known for its alternative care options.
Today, Mae Walden is cancer free.
Yet it didn't come without chemotherapy sessions, numerous doctor visits and a "healing touch."
The 74-year-old has taken advantage of the alternative medicine options at Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The philosophy of offering services such as acupuncture, music therapy and healing touch (placing hands on or over the body to alleviate pain), has been a hallmark of the Woodbury facility since its founding a decade ago.
As Woodwinds was being created, administrators reached out to the community to see what they wanted from a hospital, said Dr. Craig Svendsen, who was Woodwinds' medical director from 1998-2008. That feedback led to the holistic practices at the health campus "that hadn't been done before," he said.
"That's what the community of Woodbury was looking for, not create a dime-a-dozen hospital," he said. "Treating mind, body and spirit as a triad."
The founders of Woodwinds, part of the HealthEast system, established "care partnerships" with Northwest Health Services University and the University of Minnesota Center for Healing and Spirituality to create alternative therapy options for patients, Svendsen said. The idea wasn't to replace traditional Western medicine, he said, but rather utilize acupressure, essential oils treatments and music therapy (among others) to treat patients' symptoms.
"It's adjunct to managing the patients' pain, anxiety, nausea and anything else they may encounter," said Svendsen, who lives in Woodbury.
For example, Walden said the side effects of chemotherapy were severe. At times, she experienced pain and numbness in her extremities and occasionally wouldn't be able to feel her tongue. Her acupuncture and healing touch sessions changed all that.
"I wouldn't be standing up without it," she said.
Walden didn't have any trepidation about the different healing methods. She was the first volunteer at Woodwinds, one of 404 today, and was familiar with the benefits.
"I honestly don't think I'd have the quality of life without it," Walden said. "Alternative therapies have just been great."
In addition to being a patient and volunteering at Woodwinds, Walden also sits on an advisory board that provides suggestions and ideas for the health group's administration and doctors. Those ideas are often implemented, she said.
"The doctors sometimes actually learn from the patients," Walden said. "It works like a shotgun blast—a lot of people are helped because of my experience here."
Other medical outlets, such as Regions Hospital, have also learned from Woodwinds. Svendsen said Woodwinds often hosts site visits for doctors elsewhere, and at other HealthEast care facilities patients have begun to request some of those therapies "spontaneously." The holistic approach is slowly gaining traction at other hospitals, as well, he said.
Ten years ago, when physicians were first starting out at Woodwinds, some were skeptical of the holistic vision, Svendsen said. They've gone from being accepting of the alternative therapies to encouraging them.
"It's not universal," he said of doctors' views on Woodwinds' methods. "But it's been kind of a sea change in attitude."
Val Lincoln, Ph.D., RN, the head of holistic nursing at Woodwinds, said many of the hospital's doctors didn't have experience with "healing-arts therapies" when they were hired. Over the years, however, doctors have seen the benefits, she said.
"Now that we see it, we believe it," Lincoln said.
While Svendsen said he was trained exclusively in Western medicine, after his own back surgery Svendsen took advantage of the hospital's massage therapy, acupressure and essential oils. "It's been a very good experience."
The health campus has become internationally known for its holistic methods, Svendsen said. The Minnesota Hospital Association named Woodwinds the best Minnesota Hospital Workplace in 2009 for its holistic care model.
Woodwinds continues to refine its practices to see what works, and doesn't. The hospital takes a close look at "clinical outcomes," Lincoln said, and has found that three out of four patients experience some improvement as a result of the therapies, and one of four shows "remarkable" improvement.
"It's been successful beyond imagination," Svendsen said. "There's always room to get better, but it has advanced holistic health care significantly."