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Holistic Care in Nursing: What Is It? Does It Work?

  • Although the practices of traditional medicine are tried, true, and necessary in patient care, it seems like it can fall short of the big picture sometimes.
  • Holistic Care is a newer nursing specialty that encompasses the patient as a whole (mind, body, and spirit) and allows them to have control over their treatment plan.
  • Skeptical? That’s okay, Nursing CE Central has given you the in’s and out’s of holistic care in nursing, below!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

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

April 22, 2021
Simmons University

I am incredibly passionate about this nursing topic! I have worked in several nursing specialties, and have seen the good, bad, and ugly. I have watched traditional medicine heal and save lives, but I have also seen the opposite.  

Many chronic illness and disease diagnoses stem from dieting habits, environmental toxins, pathogens, and parasites. Traditional medicine attempts to treat these conditions with pharmaceutical medications, but the holistic approach encompasses so much more. Holistic care in nursing enables patients to have some control over their healthcare and the treatment process, which is why it continues to grow in popularity each year.  

Not convinced yet? Let’s keep going!  

Imagine holistic care in nursing as a form of seeing the bigger picture, rather than just a patient displaying symptoms that can be healed with medication 

What is Holistic Care in Nursing? 

Holistic care in nursing is a newer specialty that is categorized as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and is defined by the American Holistic Nurses’ Association as, “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal. 

Although Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was the first to practice holistic care and believed that a patient’s environment had an impact on their overall health, the American Nurses Association (ANA) did not declare it a specialty until 2006. 

Despite it being new to the world of nursing, a recently published Alternative and Complementary Therapies journal projects that the Holistic Care specialty will grow 20% by 2022, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping there! 

When used in conjunction with traditional evidence-based practice, holistic care in nursing can transform the quality of care and experience for your patients. You, as the nurse, must be the advocate for your patient when providing holistic care by considering their body, mind, spirit, culture, socioeconomic background, and environment.  

Imagine holistic care in nursing as a form of seeing the bigger picture, rather than just a patient displaying symptoms that can be healed with medication 

holistic care in nursing can be massages

Who are Holistic Nurses? What Do They Do? 

A holistic nurse is a board-certified RN who utilizes their expertise, theories, and intuition to recognize and care for a patient within the scope and standards of their practice and the Holistic Nursing specialty.  

Holistic nurses mostly use alternative medicine to treat patients, and in some cases, they can also practice forms of CAM. To get a better understanding, check out some examples of what holistic care in nursing might look like below: 

Examples of Holistic Nursing Practice  

  • Acupuncture 
  • Aromatherapy 
  • Eastern Medicine 
  • Hydrotherapy 
  • Hypnosis 
  • Massage 
  • Wellness Coaching 

 Some of these examples might appear quite familiar to you, and that’s not a coincidence! A study from a reliable online resource for up-to-date health information, Verywell Health, determined that roughly 36% of adults in the U.S. use or are open to practicing some form of CAM, which is a wonderful opportunity for holistic care in nursing!  

I‘m sure at this point you’re thinking, “This is all sounds promising, but we still need traditional practices, right?”  

You’re absolutely right! The Holistic Nursing specialty is not meant to replace traditional or modern medicine techniques, it simply offers a different approach that may be more inviting to some patients. Let’s break it down some more. 

Patients build trust with their providers when they feel like they are being heard.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Medicine and Holistic Nursing?  

Holistic care in nursing suggests nurses listen to their patient’s suggestions and preferences on how to proceed with treatment options. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with a certain disease, holistic nurses might aim to focus on non-medicinal healing treatments rather than the condition itself. Some of the common treatment recommendations within holistic care nursing can include:  

holistic care in nursing includes encouraging exercise

  • Biofeedback  
  • Dietary changes 
  • Exercise 
  • Guided imagery 
  • Herbs 
  • Homeopathy 
  • Mediation 
  • Reflexology 

Coming from my background in the nursing field and my personal health journey experiences, it is important to note that the success of these holistic treatments is not always as fast as traditional techniques, which include medical equipment and drug therapies. However, as the Holistic Nursing specialty becomes more common in healthcare settings, nurses can combine CAM methods with traditional medicine approaches to further enhance patient care. 

The Most Important Question: How Can Holistic Nursing Improve Patient Care? 

Patients build trust with their providers when they feel like they are being heard. Whether it’s related to setting health goals, having a say in a treatment plan, or outlining protocol boundaries, this is a key aspect of holistic care in nursing.  

Those who are looking to pursue holistic care in nursing must first gain knowledge regarding various disease types, as well as their physical and emotional effects, before they can adequately educate and manage treatments that will improve patient outcomes.  

By offering this form of individualized care, we are allowing patients to make their own lifestyle modifications based on their personal beliefs and provider recommendations. This approach utilizes the personal, close-knit relationships that nurses have created with their patients and allows them to offer support through the healing process (coping, adapting, recovering, etc.) so they are able to enjoy life again. 

As nurses, we are in the business of caring for others. I encourage you to consider Holistic Nursing so that you can be a better advocate for your patients

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