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Holistic Nurses are skilled professionals who demonstrate their expertise in a variety of roles and activities. They regard nursing as an art and science that has a primary purpose to nurture others through service toward an inherent wholeness. They view disease and distress as opportunities for increased awareness of the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit. They encourage people to assume personal responsibility for wellness in a way that honors that connection. Holistic Nurses believe holistic therapies and the healing arts provide support and options in healing, but are not the essence of holism and health.
The American Holistic Nurses’ Association (AHNA) was founded in 1980 to bring the concepts of holism to all areas of the nursing practice. The Five Core Values Embodied in the Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice identified by AHNA are:
- Holistic Caring Process
- Holistic Philosophy / Education
- Holistic Nurse Self-Care
- Holistic Ethics / Theories / Research
- Holistic Communication / Therapeutic Environment / Cultural Diversity
The AHNA has published – the Core Curriculum for Holistic Nursing and co-authored Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice – as well as promoted continuing education and conferences to further the holistic mission.
Holistic Nurses envision a broader range of the nursing practice, incorporating both “doing” and “being” therapies into their care models. Most people are aware of their “doing” role – passing out medication, monitoring wounds and teaching how diet plays a role in healthcare. Some Holistic Nurses do Massage, Acupuncture, Healing Touch or other healing modalities. The “being” therapies do not use things, but employ states of consciousness, such as imagery, prayer, meditation and quiet contemplation.
Holistic Nurses are encouraged to enhance their own journey toward wholeness as they serve humanity. Acknowledging the power of the psyche, Holistic Nurses skillfully use their presence and intention in a therapeutic way to positively affect the patient.
Certification in Holistic Nursing
Although many excellent nurses incorporate Holistic Nursing Philosophy and Standards of Practice into their nursing activities, Certification in Holistic Nursing reflects the highest commitment to these ideals. It tells the public the Nurse has followed particular guidelines and met certain criteria established by the Holistic Nursing Community. It is a valuable indicator of competence, reflecting many years of study, a financial commitment to one’s nursing beliefs and a completed practicum developed specifically by the nurse for her patient or community.
Certification is earned through The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Courses are offered by Seeds and Bridges Center for Holistic Education, the original and longest-running national program in holistic nursing education, that is committed to heart-centered integrity, quality programs and service to the community. All NPs follow the Nurse Practice Act of the state in which they are licensed.
A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical experience including Post-Master and/or Master level coursework. They generally choose a specialty such as Family Practice, Pediatrics, Neonatology, Nurse-Midwifery, School Health, Women’s Health, Mental Health, Adult Health, Geriatrics or Acute Care. NPs focus largely on health maintenance, disease prevention, counseling and patient education in a wide variety of settings. NPs provide high quality care that includes diagnostics, prescriptive privileges as well as disease prevention and management, and have generally formed some collaboration with a licensed physician.
NPs provide care previously offered only by physicians. Research shows that their unique approach to healthcare results in a high level of patient satisfaction that is cost-effective and individualized for the patient’s special needs.
An NP with a Complementary Healthcare practice may include:
- Natural Hormone Replacement with bio-identical hormones
- Functional Medicine Assessments such as gastrointestinal, immune, endocrine and metabolic function
- Herbal/Nutritional Therapies for menopause, arthritis, skin care
- Stress Management with meditation, movement therapies, massage
- Disease Management and Prevention
Nurse Massage Therapists
Historically, Nursing care was synonymous with hands-on care of the patient. An integral part of that treatment included time allocated for holding hands, wiping brows and being present for patients and their families during illness and often at times of death. A growing number of nurses today augment these skills as part of their desire to practice as Holistic Nurses. Completion of a 500 plus hour course in Massage Therapy leading to state licensure is one avenue.
A Nurse Massage Therapist may be considered a link between the Registered Nurse (RN) and the Nurse Practitioner (NP). Like an NP, a Nurse Massage Therapist can have a private practice, although without prescriptive and some diagnostic privileges. Typically the Nurse Massage Therapist will spend more
time during the initial intake process gathering information about the client’s history and current condition before formulating a plan of care. This often includes recommendations for nutrition, exercise, meditation and other suggestions to address a holistic self care approach. The client is also encouraged and
supported to work toward personal health.
Knowledge of pathophysiology, nutrition and other Holistic Nursing skills expand the abilities of the RN, LMT to work with a variety of client complaints. They may integrate advanced nursing skills with bodywork skills to address the needs of their patients including:
- Therapeutic Touch / Healing Touch / Reiki
- Swedish Massage
- Neuromuscular / Deep Tissue Massage / Trigger Point Therapy
- Imagery / Relaxation Techniques
Nurse Massage Therapists frequently work as part of a multidiscipline treatment team with other healthcare professionals such as physicians, psychotherapists, nutritionists and others to coordinate and complement the goal of well-being for each client.
Sources: AHNA – Come Home to the Heart of Nursing; Melanie Moffat, RN, LMT, Covington LA; Julie Nelson, RN, CHN, Slidell LA; and Pat Wren, MN, RN, CS, NP-C, Northshore LA.