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Holistic Nursing: More Than Symptom Diagnosis



What does holistic nursing involve? While generally focused around promoting complementary care and remedies, holistic nursing can be understood as being more about diagnosing potential symptoms and involves a comprehensive approach to mind, body, and spiritual problems and solutions for patients. It’s worth looking at some of these areas in more detail while understanding some of the training options available for nurses, as well as the specialist areas in which it is possible to practice. Understanding the role of a holistic nurse can consequently lead us to appreciate the positive effect they can have on patients.

Holistic nursing can be viewed as a form of complementary therapy that treats a wide range of different areas for patients. When used with medical treatments, holistic care can involve catering to the spiritual issues of a patient, as well as their general mental well being. A holistic nurse looks towards healing the person and improving their recovery rate, or their ability to cope with an illness, by applying different theories and methodologies. These methodologies might include everything from whole medical systems that use homeopathic medicine, through to more specialist approaches that use traditions from different cultures.

Biological forms of holistic nursing tend to involve a focus on vitamins and good nutrition, as well as therapies that are based around massaging the body. Others might include focusing on energy medicine like Reiki, whereby therapeutic touches aim to improve the balance of the body. This approach might cover neonatal therapy, as well as patients’ efforts to deal with stress and anxieties surrounding their illnesses. These approaches can also use herbs and homeopathic treatments alongside surgery and medicine to try to aid recovery.

In terms of training, many holistic nurses have a foundational nursing license, which they then develop into qualification as a holistic practitioner. Oftentimes they have achieved additional certifications through a graduate nursing degree program. Groups like the American Association of Holistic Nurses aim to establish benchmarks for holistic practitioners, who can gain accreditation. A holistic nursing course works to specialize theories and practical skills learned during nursing degrees, with the expectation that holistic nurses may set up their own practice, and focus on a specific area like massage or homeopathy. These treatments are generally therapeutic or counseling based, rather than surgical.

A holistic nurse might, then, use everything from yoga to aromatherapy, through to particular practices like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, to help a patient. At the same time, holistic nurses might use cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, prayer, or art therapy in order to work with specific patients. Holistic nursing can consequently be understood as a broad term for a subset of nursing practice, and one that works both within and outside contemporary nursing skills and medical training. Practitioners might work alone, or as part of a team dedicated to a particular kind of homeopathic medicine, and are subject to licensing requirements over the level of care that they can provide. A holistic nurse might also be brought into a hospital or a nursing home to offer additional support if the patient requests it.