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What is Holistic Nursing?


Holistic Nursing is at the Heart of Ameritech's RN-BSN Program

Holistic nursing is a progressive approach to care that’s recognized by the American Nurses Association as a nursing specialty with a defined scope of practice and specific standards. Ameritech’s curriculum is modeled after the recommendations in The Future of Nursing report and the standards from the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) because study after study has shown the connection between overall well-being and physical health. Since we place so much value on holistic nursing practices, we wanted to dive deeper into what holistic nursing is so you can see why we use these standards to guide our decisions in and out of the classroom.

Related resource: 8 Benefits of a Holistic Nursing Education

An inspired history of holistic nursing

The AHNA was founded in 1980, but the practice is based on a proud, longer history. The British nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) was an advocate for nurses as well as patient and human rights. She raised the standard of care for patients, beginning with veterans of the Crimean War in 1853. Throughout her life, she used math and science to bring care to all members of society, sending nurses into workhouses so even the poorest might have access to medical care. She was the first woman to be awarded the British Order of Merit in 1907. Florence Nightingale’s advocacy, high standard of care, and consideration of the whole person continue to inspire the mission of holistic nursing.

Related resource: Important Nursing Leaders You May Have Never Heard Of

AHNA’s position statements

The AHNA defines holistic nursing as follows:

The holistic nurse is an instrument of healing and a facilitator in the healing process. Holistic nurses honor the individual’s subjective experience about health, health beliefs, and values. To become therapeutic partners with individuals, families, and communities, holistic nurses draw on nursing knowledge, theories, research, expertise, intuition, and creativity. Holistic nursing practice encourages peer review of professional practice in various clinical settings and integrates knowledge of current professional standards, law, and regulations governing nursing practice.

Practicing holistic nursing requires nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives. … This awareness may further enhance the nurse’s understanding of all individuals and their relationships to the human and global community, and permits nurses to use this awareness to facilitate the healing process.

The AHNA outlines six main tenets that describe holistic nursing.

1. A body of knowledge

The holistic nursing knowledge base is based on formal academic education and conventional healthcare, as well as Complementary and Alternative Modalities (CAM). Research, practice guidelines, and expertise are all part of the knowledge base. But rather than being strictly physical and physiological, holistic nursing also considers the client’s personal values and beliefs.

2. Evidence-based research

The AHNA supports quantitative nursing research in support of scientific knowledge.

Because many conditions are still not well understood, holistic nurses believe exploratory research is the best way to expand our body of knowledge. Quantitative research is the best way to maintain a high standard. As holistic medicine becomes more and more common, it is very important that we research and evaluate alternative approaches. Holistic nursing is both an art and a science, and as such, quantitative research and analysis are critical.

Related resource: The Future of Nursing Report: The Progress We’ve Made, and the Work We Still Need to Do

3. Sophisticated skills

Holistic nurses integrate both traditional Western medicine as well as CAM. Integrative healthcare supports a combined approach to care for maximum healing. Traditional nursing skills include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Critical thinking and assessment.
  2. Clinical care.
  3. Charting and communication.

CAM skills emphasize effectiveness, coordination of services, and preventive care — a strong foundation in lifestyle change

4. Defined standards of practice

The standards of holistic nursing are based on five core values of practice. Nursing World’s white paper summarizes the standards of practice this way:

  • Holistic philosophy and education.
  • Holistic ethics, theories, and research.
  • Holistic nurse self-care.
  • Holistic communication, therapeutic environment, and cultural competence.
  • Holistic caring process.

5. A diversity of modalities from a broad range of health practices

In addition to the prescriptions and procedures of Western medicine, holistic nursing incorporates other traditions of care. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health points to traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine, which includes practices such as dietary therapy, meditation, and acupuncture. Cultures around the world, such as Ayurveda and Native American traditions, have proven methods of treating people, and holistic nursing considers these.

6. A philosophy of living and being

Holistic nurses care for more than just the body. Our nursing philosophies are grounded in caring and the interconnectedness of the mind, body, spirit, social/cultural, emotions, relationships, context, and environment. All of these aspects combine to create a person; in order to heal the whole person, a holistic nurse looks at all aspects and how they can affect the patient’s health.

At Ameritech, we hold the groundbreaking work of Florence Nightingale as an example for ourselves and our students, and we’re proud of our holistic nursing education.

If you’re considering a career in nursing, check out our associate degree in nursing from our Draper, Utah, campus. Our accredited RN-BSN degree is entirely online, and based on a holistic philosophy as well. If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!