Holistic care in nursing

Holistic Approaches to Nursing: Mind, Body and Spirit in Patient Care

It’s safe to say that when it comes to treating patients suffering from illness or injury, there is more to providing compassionate nursing care than meets the eye. Nurses must consider a wide range of factors to deliver the best possible care to patients in need. Factors such as an individual’s psychological state, culture, and social background – are all important elements that can impact patient outcomes if they are not carefully considered during medical interactions and treatment.

This holistic approach to patient care is not new and was introduced by renowned caregiver and founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale as far back as the 1800’s. Holistic care is the concept of care that focuses on treating the whole person from more than just an illness or injury perspective. The American Holistic Nurses Association defines holistic nursing as: “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.” By seeking to understand the connection between the mind, body and spirit, holistic nursing also emphasizes self-responsibility, self-care and spirituality in the healing process.

An apt description of a holistic nursing approach can be found in a quote from Aristotle — “The whole is greater than the sum of parts.” Keeping this in mind, the holistic approach in nursing takes into consideration the whole person and provides care for not just their physical needs, but also their psychological needs as well.

Principles of Holistic Nursing

According to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), some of the key principles of holistic nursing are as follows:

  • “Prevention is the best intervention”
  • “Integration of healing systems is effective”
  • “Holistic medicine is relationship-centered care”
  • “Care should be individualized”
  • “Teach by example”
  • “Healing powers are innate”
  • “All experiences are learning opportunities”
  • “Embrace the healing power of love”
  • “Optimal health is the primary goal

This patient-centered care is a powerful form of treatment that stresses the importance of respect and responsiveness, and factors in the values, ideologies, instructions, needs, physical comfort, and emotional support of each individual. Holistic nursing also strives to achieve balanced communication with the friends and family of the patient. This communication creates trust between the patient and the nurse. Practitioners of this approach have a biopsychosocial view and emphasize the therapeutic alliance.

Forms of Alternative Medicine

There are different ways in which holistic nurses treat their patients. They may incorporate alternative medicine techniques to achieve the best result. Some of these solutions are:

  • Acupuncture – Commonly used to treat pain, manage stress, and balance your energy, acupuncture is an ancient part of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting needle points into specific areas in your body. Some western practitioners of acupuncture believe this stimulates nerves and pressure points and can stimulate your body’s natural painkillers.
  • Aromatherapy – As the name suggests, the aroma of certain plant-based essential oils is used for treatment either by inhaling the smell or by massage.
  • Hypnosis – Used to guide patients into a deep state of relaxation to correct certain behaviors and improve overall health.
  • Massage – Licensed massage therapists rub and knead muscles, tendons and ligaments to relieve pain and / or stress.

The body is a highly complex organism full of intricate mechanisms like the nervous system, skeletal system, etc. Holistic practitioners believe in the powerful connection between the mind and body, and as such, believe that treating the mind is critical to achieving overall health and well-being.

Apart from holistic nursing being a rewarding profession, there are many advantages and benefits for patients as well:

  • It allows people to gain more knowledge and insight into different cultures and religions.
  • Helps remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
  • It allows the practitioners to build their humanity towards others by taking the first step with their patients
  • It brings awareness to economic, social, and political barriers to proper healthcare.
  • It creates trusted between patients and caregivers.
  • Aids with preventive health by promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.

Nursing is a very noble profession where nurses are the connection between the worlds of healthcare, compassion, and patient advocacy. Holistic nursing is more than just practice, it’s a philosophy that redefines healthcare practices and a holistic journey towards wellness. In the holistic approach, the threads of physical, emotional, psychological, and social aspects of the patients are stitched together to create a tapestry of care that promotes a healthy lifestyle with healing and empowerment. To learn more about careers in holistic nursing, please visit: https://www.ahna.org/.


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