Holistic nursing care is a concept that moves away from viewing a patient as merely a 'diagnosis'; rather, the patient is viewed and treated as a whole person. In other words, holistic nursing will involve care and support of the person's physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social and environmental needs. In many cases, holistic nursing may also include alternative therapies that may be seen as beneficial, with the patient's consent. This is not a new concept—even Florence Nightingale advocated holistic nursing:
"Florence Nightingale recognized the importance of caring for the whole person and encouraged interventions that enhanced individuals' abilities to draw upon their own healing powers. She considered touch, light, aromatics, empathetic listening, music, quiet reflection, and similar healing measures as essential ingredients to good nursing care."
- American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), Position Statements, 2004
One of the most important aspects of holistic care is the involvement of the patient in making their own decisions, always being allowed to consent or deny a route of care, and a focus on self-care where ever possible. Holistic nursing not only involves those patients with curable illness but for terminal illness as well. Take any factor within holistic care—physical, psychological and emotional, spiritual and environmental aspects of life—each individual aspect has an effect on the mental and physical health of a patient. They are all interconnected and related to the person as whole. Where one area is not understood or assisted then true healing or care can't take place.A holistic assessment is one that not only identifies the care required for health requirements but the impact that other areas of the patient's life may be impacting on the path of treatment and/or cure.
Holistic nursing assessments are an excellent way to identify the true needs of a patient because they:
Holistic Nursing Care and Alternative Therapies
Nurses who have received the proper training often incorporate alternative therapies into treatments along with conventional medicine. There are a huge variety of alternative treatments available today - not all suitable for all patients. Therefore during the holistic nursing assessment it may become clear what alternative therapies might be available if the patient is in agreement about trying them.
The table below highlights some of the main therapies and the broad reasons why they are used.
So what exactly is Holistic Nursing Care?
I hope that this short article has given you a better idea of what holistic care should be about. More importantly I hope that you have realised that, if you ever need health care, you do have a right to make choices, make decisions and be involved every step of the way when it's your health and your life that's involved. Nurses and patients shouldn't be on different sides of the fence. It should be a partnership. A partnership based on mutual trust, respect and honesty.
It has been many years since I stepped foot onto my first surgical ward during my nurse training. The first words I heard were spoken by a trained nurse in front of the patient and his family, speaking to another nurse, she nodded towards the patient and said "Could you admit this 'appendectomy' now". I couldn't help but think at that moment how I would feel if I was addressed as a mere condition to be admitted, sorted and then thrown out. Thankfully, with an holistic nursing care approach this kind of off-hand thinking has no place.
author - Helen Murphy Howell