First responders using hypnosis?

I ran across this article “Should First Responders Use Acupuncture and Hypnosis During Disasters?” on Science20.com.  The article reviews a paper on whether emergency responders and rescuers should use alternative or complementary types of care. The paper was written by a retired Air Force Colonel who is currently Director of the USAF Acupuncture Center, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Samueli Institute, and coauthors.

You probably already know how I’m going to answer this very good question: Of course first responders should use hypnosis!

First responders are in a unique position to influence how their patients respond to whatever traumatic event they’ve experienced, because these patients are typically already in an altered state, highly focused, and therefore ready to respond positively to suggestions, just as they would in an induced hypnosis state. In this situation, a casual statement has power that an uninformed bystander may not be aware of—for example, a driver saying “we’re not going to make it,” referring to a yellow light, could easily be interpreted as “the patient is not going to live.” So very simple positive statements that will be received as true can have a huge effect on the patient’s progress. I’m thinking of statements like “I can help you,” and “you can just relax now.”

There’s only one study on this subject that I know of (please let me know of any others), a study from 1990, at the University of Kansas. One set of EMTs was trained in hypnotic suggestion, and another matched set received no training. After 6 months, the study compared outcomes for the patients these two groups had brought to the ER. The patients brought in by hypnosis-trained crews had lower mortality rates, shorter hospital stays, and fewer hospital admissions. Let me repeat that:

The patients brought in by hypnosis-trained crews had lower mortality rates, shorter hospital stays, and fewer hospital admissions.

In the case of burns, a little more training can have an even greater effect. Properly set up, a suggestion that the skin is cool and comfortable can interrupt the normal progression of a burn. (There’s a wonderful description of this in “Hypnosis in the Emergency Room,” an article in Roberta Temes’ Medical Hypnosis; An Introduction and Clinical Guide.)

By the way, the authors of the article reviewed on Science20.com emphasized that the opinions and assertions are the authors’ private views “not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the United States Air Force Medical Corps, the Air Force at large, or the Department of Defense” (in case we were in any doubt!).

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