Holistic Nursing: Everything You Need to Know

holistic nursing

The term ‘holistic’ is often tied in with connotations of naturopaths and alternative medicines, and we often forget that it’s a type of healing and treatment that can be found in all forms of medicine. Holistic nursing is a very common approach that’s been around for centuries and it’s something that is gaining even more popularity in recent years.

Holistic nursing can be used to describe medical treatment that focuses on the whole person, body, mind, spirit, and soul, rather than just trying to alleviate the symptoms from a particular condition. Though it might be mistaken for someone steeped in ancient eastern medicine, holistic nursing has actually been around as long as the profession itself.

If you’re a nurse and want to learn more about how to heal holistically or just want to understand the difference that holistic nursing offers, this guide can teach you everything you need to know. We’ll look at a holistic nurse’s scope of practice, the benefits it offers, and what training is required to be this type of health practitioner.

What Is Holistic Nursing?

nurse written the words mind, body and soul

Holistic nursing is a style of nursing that views the patient as a whole and aims to heal them this way. These licensed nurses will use their knowledge of healing the mind, body, and soul of a patient in order to improve overall health as well as treat any specific conditions or symptoms they may be experiencing.

The role of a holistic nurse is much like a regular nurse but there are some differences in how they view and treat their patients. They prompt their clients to integrate self-care, spirituality, and alternative treatments to heal and offer a caring and connected relationship while doing everything that a traditional nurse does.

The concept of holistic nursing dates all the way back to the work of Florence Nightingale and during the 20th century when nursing began as a true profession. During teachings of nursing even in the 1970s, the concept of treating patients as a whole person has been prevalent and there’s always been an emphasis on multidimensional and holistic care.

Methods Involved in Holistic Nursing

Holistic nursing has no absolute definition, but it’s seen as more of a philosophy within healthcare. A holistic nurse will do their standard nursing roles which include organization and specific tasks, but they do so with a method of care that’s focused on the patient. Patients of holistic nurses will often refer to them as ‘caring’ when compared to those who are simply running through a checklist of things they need to get done.

Although there is no specific list of the duties and responsibilities of a holistic nurse as it will depend on the setting and patient, there are some things that a holistic nurse may do to assist their patients. These include:

  • Use nonpharmacological methods;
  • Integrate with other alternative treatments including massage and aromatherapy;
  • Be therapeutic with their touch;
  • Show sincerity when speaking with patients and their families;
  • Be sensitive to a patient’s background, religious, or cultural needs;
  • Focus on their emotional needs as well as physical;
  • Calm any feelings of anxiety or worry;
  • Educate patients on the importance of self-care;

The role of a holistic nurse doesn’t just end when a patient leaves the hospital or healthcare facility, as they urge their patients to continue caring for themselves when they leave. This will be with a number of self-care techniques, ongoing alternative therapies, and getting in touch with their spiritual and emotional side.

Alternative Treatments Used With Holistic Nursing

A holistic nurse understands that treating their patient isn’t just about fixing an ailment or making a certain body part feel better, but rather about healing as a whole. Therefore, they often integrate with other natural treatments and therapies including:

  • Massage

There are many forms of massage available that can offer benefits like stress and anxiety reduction, improved blood flow, and pain relief, and they fit within the ideals of holistic nursing.

  • Acupressure

Acupressure massage or acupuncture target specific pressure points on the body that have been shown to heal and treat other areas.

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  • Naturopathy

This is a natural form of health care and medicine that could be useful for someone looking for a holistic approach. Naturopaths also follow a holistic healing process on their patients.

  • Reiki

This traditional Japanese form of healing relies on a light touch to transfer universal energy from the healer to the patient. It can be ideal for those worried about massage or acupressure.

  • Aromatherapy

Various essential oils have been scientifically proven to treat conditions like insomnia, inflammation, headaches, and other pain that may be causing an issue for patients.

Training for Holistic Nursing

teddy bear with an oxygen apparatus

In 2006, the American Nurses Association (ANA) made holistic nursing an officially recognized practice. This means that nurses who study and gain certification will have a special status in the area. With this specialty, nurses can show how they prefer to treat patients, what methods they use, and what type of nursing they are passionate about.

Becoming a registered nurse is the first step that would one take to become a holistic nurse. There are other types of nurses of lower grades but as they don’t hold as much responsibility and autonomy when it comes to care, taking a holistic approach isn’t always a possibility.

The holistic nursing specialty can be taken as part of your nursing degree as a specialty or studied at a later date as a graduate certificate or something similar. It may require both study and practical work experience, depending on the course and what setting you’re working in.

There is a Standard of Practice for holistic nursing as you would find with other specialties, and it’s essential that nurses follow this blueprint. This is the best way to discover what is expected of nurses within this field, how they can further develop their skills, and what research and development are happening within the holistic area of nursing.

Where is Holistic Nursing Used?

nurses doing work

For those wanting to become a holistic nurse or wondering where the profession might lead them, there are countless opportunities. As holistic nursing isn’t defined by any particular type of patient, condition, community, or background, there’s really no limit to where you can practice.

This flexibility makes it an ideal pathway to follow for nurses as it means they will have more freedom as to where they can work. Being a holistic nurse will open many doors for your career and make you able to treat patients of all backgrounds, regardless of the setting.

Holistic nurses must always stay up to date with their practice and depending on where they work and in what setting, there will be even further professional development to be made. This type of nursing is more than just a medical treatment but rather a way of life and many holistic nurses find that even when they’re not at work, their emphasis on self-care and wholeness still remains.

The Future of Holistic Healing

The profession of nursing as a whole is still quite young when compared to others in the medical field, but its development so far has been astounding. Holistic nursing is one specialty that has grown thanks to developments in healthcare and its integration in all kinds of healthcare facilities has grown as well.

Traditional nursing has long been the norm in hospitals and clinics, but these days we are seeing the holistic approach take over. Integrative health that includes the alternative treatments associated with holistic health is now being found within hospitals as well, indicating huge shifts for nursing and healthcare as a whole.

An Approach That Heals the Body and Soul

Holistic healing appears to be the way of the future for many types of traditional medicine thanks to its benefits. Holistic nursing is just one area that seems to be leading the pack, having used this type of treatment for many years.

Becoming a holistic nurse is a great way to advance your career and give you more options for how and where you practice. Not only is holistic nursing beneficial to your patients, but you will likely find that this emphasis on self-care and treating the body, mind, and spirit as a whole becomes part of your everyday life as well.

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