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CAM Therapy in Nursing: What Are the Benefits?

  • What is CAM therapy? Does it work and what are the benefits?
  • I am sure you’ve asked yourself these questions before; I know I have.
  • Check out Nursing CE Central to learn more on the benefits of CAM therapy and the many ways you can incorporate into both your professional and personal life!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

August 20, 2021
Simmons University

You may hear about the use of aromatherapy and massage in daily conversation, but did you know these are considered forms of calming, complementary alternative medicine (CAM) and are used to help patients in healthcare?  

CAM is a holistic approach to providing care and is exponentially growing in popularity every year but what is it exactly? 

What is CAM Therapy?

CAM therapy covers a variety of components and areas within healthcare, including: Mind-Body therapies, biologically based outlets, manipulative and body-based practices, biofield therapy, and whole medical systems! 

Oftentimes, these forms of therapy are suggested by providers to those who are seeking various forms of pain management upon receiving a cancer diagnosis.  

They can also be utilized in ICUs and other high-stress environments.  

The National Cancer Institute highlights some of the most common types of CAM therapy treatment and the areas they fall under. Check it out! 

Mind-Body Therapy 

  • Meditation 
  • Biofeedback 
  • Hypnosis 
  • Yoga 
  • Tai Chi 
  • Imagery 
  • Creative outlets (dance, art, or music) 

Biologically Based Practices 

  • Vitamins and dietary supplements 
  • Herbs and spices 
  • Special foods or diets 

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices 

  • Massage 
  • Chiropractic and osteopathic treatments 
  • Reflexology 

Biofield Therapy 

  • Reiki 
  • Therapeutic touch 

Whole Medical Systems 

  • Homeopathy 
  • Naturopathic medicine 
  • Acupuncture 

What Are the Benefits of CAM Therapy in Nursing?

Of course, we could dive into the individual benefits of the various treatments and therapies listed above, but let’s evaluate the benefits of CAM therapy overall.  

The Journal of Complementary Medicine and Alternative Healthcare states that the utilization of CAM therapy in modern nursing care not only aligns with the foundational values of Florence Nightingale, but it allows an opportunity for the nurse to strengthen their relationship with the patient on an all-encompassing scale.  

By evaluating the interests of your patient in terms of available treatments, CAM therapy and its holistic approach allows the provider to create a care plan that is completely tailored to the wants and desires of the patient, which may not require a typical prescription.  

Following, Denver, Colorado’s Downtown’s Healthcare, identifies several other benefits of incorporating this form of holistic care into your nursing practice. Take a look: 

  • Improved patient habits and lifestyle changes; 
  • An improvement of the natural healing abilities of the body; 
  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels; 
  • Trust in provider 
  • A good combination of both eastern and western medicine 

How Can I Incorporate CAM Therapy into My Nursing Practice?

As the acceptance and utilization of CAM therapy become more prominent throughout the U.S. each year, it is vital that we cover just a few simple ways that you can begin promoting subtle, holistic approaches in your nursing practice. offers just a few simple ways you can begin strengthening your relationship with patients and providing them CAM therapy suggestions that fit both their needs and lifestyles. These include: 

    1. Make eye contact and say their name when speaking to them.  
    2. Ask how they are feeling, both in and outside of the clinical setting.  
    3. Educate them on the importance of self-care. 
    4. Ask them how you, as the provider, can help to reduce their pain or anxiety. 
    5. Use non-pharmacological methods of pain management such as imagery, relaxation, and breathing techniques. 
    6. Encourage them to explore alternative treatment modalities (such as some of the examples we listed previously). 

CAM therapyIf you are interested in other ways you can incorporate this form of care into your practice, check with your facility and see if they offer any training programs!  


The Use of CAM Therapy to Decrease Stress in Nursing 

CAM therapy isn’t limited to a provider’s advice to patients.  

A 2016 Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing examined the effects of CAM therapy on nurses who were experiencing high stress levels. 

Through the utilization of aromatherapy, guided imagery, and several other types of CAM therapies, the study showcased a significant difference in pulse rate and stress scores. 

You do not have to be involved in a fancy study to use CAM; it can be used as a self-management tool for nurses. 

I myself utilize homeopathy, naturopathic medicine techniques, massage, aromatherapy and chiropractic in my daily life.  

Do you utilize any of these treatments on yourself? 

If you are interested in learning more about the role of a nurse in holistic care, check out our “Holistic Care in Nursing: What is It? Does It Work?” blog! 

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about the author

Morgan serves as the Course Curriculum Executive Editor and Content Manager at Her extensive background in a Level I Trauma Hospital setting provides vast clinical insight into high octane clinical care, along with a deep understanding of specialized areas of nursing such as heart and lung transplants, ECMO, and cardiac surgery recovery.

Morgan’s professional versatility also extends into the highly sought-after field of aesthetic nursing, with comprehensive experience in the Plastic Surgery field; including nurse leadership in PACU, PERI-OP, and OR departments.

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