What Is Holistic Nursing Care?

Updated on March 10, 2017
Seeker7 profile image

Helen is from Fife, Scotland. She was a registered nurse for many years before becoming a care manager and trainer for health workers.

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What is holistic nursing care?

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.

Holistic Nursing is about the whole person, not just focusing on a diagnosis.
Holistic Nursing is about the whole person, not just focusing on a diagnosis. | Source
Holistic nursing care is supporting the whole person, including their social and physical environment.
Holistic nursing care is supporting the whole person, including their social and physical environment. | Source

Holistic Nursing Assessments

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:

  • Offer an opportunity for an individual to think about and have a say about what their care needs are and work in partnership with their health support team in making a plan to achieve realistic goals.
  • It allows people to self care as far as possible - this gives control back to the individual and helps to raise confidence and self esteem.
  • It also helps the health care team to focus support much more efficiently as their decisions are based on more informed information about the patient and their needs and wishes.
  • When used properly an holistic assessment focuses on the needs and wishes of the patient not what the health care team assumes the patient's needs are.
  • Because it is a team approach working with the one plan, no point of care or support is neglected or left out.
  • It encourages consideration of the mind-body aspect of care and also the spiritual aspect. In addition, the patient's social and environmental conditions are also looked at.
  • Holistic assessment not only focuses on treating illness but on promoting health and fitness.

Holistic nursing care doesn't focus only on what the nurse feels the patient needs. The patient also has a say in the care and support they receive.
Holistic nursing care doesn't focus only on what the nurse feels the patient needs. The patient also has a say in the care and support they receive. | Source

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.

Examples of alternative therapies that might be used

Kind
Use
Examples
Energy Therapy
manipulating electromagnetic fields that surround the body
therapeutic touch, reiki
Biologically Based Therapies
these make use of elements found in nature
nutritional supplements, vitamins, aromatherapy
Mind-Body Interventions
This makes use of the knowledge that mind can affect the body. it uses positive therapy techniques to help improve over all health
art therapy, yoga, music/sound therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, dance
Alternative Medical Systems
each of these therapies stand on their own as a complete health system
homeopathy, osteopathy,
Manipulative and Body-Based Methods
by gentle movement or manipulation of the body in certain therapeutic ways promotes healing and general health
Acupressure, Alexander technique, reflexology

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.

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    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Kitty - lovely as always to hear from you. I think the better nursing training facilites are advocating an holistic approach and yes, I love the idea as well of patients getting looked after by looking at the bigger picture and not just a diagnosis.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      6 years ago from Summerland

      Loved this! The nursing program that I am in is actually teaching us holistic nursing care...that is their premise for teaching. I thoroughly love the idea...caring for a person as a whole and not just their physical symptoms!

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Alwyas lovely to hear from you Nell and many thanks for the lovely comment. Glad that you enjoyed it and that you found the info useful!

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      I agree with you Catgypsy, doctors, nurses who ever, should only get respect when they earn it - but something it's their automatic right no matter how crap they are at their job.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Great information on Holistic Nursing Care. Thank goodness these days this has been incorporated or is an option, as you mentioned back in the old days the patient was just a specific illness such as apendectomy, great info and really readable points, voted up and shared! nell

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 

      6 years ago from the South

      Seeker, I'm so glad to hear he was torn into about this. What a sad story and what kind of mind is that? I can't understand people with no feelings for others and, yes, I'm afraid this is fairly common in the medical business. I know I couldn't work in that field because I couldn't stand seeing this kind of behavior.

      I respect doctors, but only when they earn it, just like anyone else! We can only hope things change for the better in the future, I guess.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Alastar - I moan about the NHS at times but I'm still grateful to have this institution here in the UK - we would be a lot worse off without it! I have read with real dismay about the insurance/govt take over, I think it's a horrible situation for the American people to be in - you guys deserve better!! Our Tory Government would love to get rid of the NHS, despite their lies about putting more funding in. It wouldn't worry them to have a 3 tier system of care in this country - the ones who can afford it, the ones who can't but spend the rest of their lives paying for it by selling their house etc to pay for it, and the rest who will get nothing! I honestly think sometimes Alastar that this planet - well the powers that be - are taking as back the way instead of progressing into more enlightened times or maybe I'm just niaeve and hope for things that in reality are impossible!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Righteous reply Helen. Pray or meditate for us over here with the new govt/insurance co. take-over-- yea, the insurance cos. were howling loud against it when in fact they wrote most of it!

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi toknowinfo, many thanks for your visit and glad that you enjoyed the hub!

      LOL!! That chart was a pain! I don't know how many times I fiddled and changed it until I felt I had just enough information and not too much or too little!

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi catgyspsy - I'm so sorry about your Mum! I honestly wish I could say that your story is a rare occurrence but sadly it isn't! I don't know what the hell they teach in medical school and for that matter some nursing schools now, but it sure isn't how to treat patients with respect and compassion!

      A number of years ago, I took one elderly patient, who had dementia, over to Accident & Emergency from the ward she was in, to get a small wound stitched. The twat of a doctor was about to start when I said, wait a minute you haven't given her any local anasthetic or pain relief. He looked at me and said -"come on now nurse" - and nodded towards the patient who had dementia - "no brain, no pain". OMG! I don't know how I stopped myself from punching his smug face in! My old patient burst into tears - like your Mum, she had good days when her awareness was okay! At any rate the Night Duty Sister for the Hospital walked in and had heard what this ignorant pig of a doctor said, well she just about blew him away!! He was actually shaking with nerves before she had finished with him and put him on report. I stayed in the NHS two more years after that, but that night I'm sure it was then that I knew I had to get out of at least the acute side of nursing.

      Good for you as well to have it out with the doctor. There are too many people who put doctors and nurses on pedastils they don't deserve and should be made to answer for their attitude and mistakes like anyone else in any other profession.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Alastar, many thanks for your lovely comment and of course your insights into so many subjects - I always love to hear your side!

      It doesn't take much to think before we act, especially when in a caring/nursing environment - unfortunately the culture of seeing and treating patients as their physical or mental health diagnosis only can be a deep rooted one in some establishments. Sure short staffing levels and poor working conditions don't ever help, but there's no excuse to treat someone like they are brain dead or worse that they are just another chore to be completed. I've worked in both kinds of places and not only are the negative attitude places more tiring to work in, you tend to take excess emotional baggage home with you as well and then drag it all back into work with you the next day - it doesn't take long for some to end up with burn out! The thing is, they're always talking about saving money in the NHS etc. It has been proven time and time again that where the nursing and medical staff are givent he resources and staff levels to carry out their job properly - in a holistic manner - then long-term it does acutally save money. More importantly the recovery rate for patients is far quicker and more complete. In addition re-admissions into hospital are not common. Unlike today where, in particular our elderly people, are discharged when it's obvious they are not ready (they are considered to be 'bed blocking' by idiots going around with clip boards and a pen who have never taken care of anyone apart from themselves), within 24 hours you can guarantee that these elderly people are back in again usually with the same condition or another condition that wasn't spotted at the time - it is ludicrous to put patients through this and at the same time if they want to harp on about money, this is a gross waste of national resources and money. Anyway, that's my rant over for another day!!

      You will always get the bad within the medical/nursing profession, but somehow it always seems worse to me if a patient has been, as you say, 'ripped off' by a profession that is supposed to care and support! Itmakes me sick when I hear about folks like yourself who have been treated badly by medics/nursing staff. To be honest I'm glad I'm out of it all and if I had my time again Alastar I don't think I would choose nursing as my profession.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      Great hub! I am totally in favor of holistic medicine. I think it can compliment traditional medicine and add to better care for all. You bring out a lot of important points in this well done article. I also really enjoyed the chart. It summarizes and explains the different treatments so well. Voted up all the way!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 

      6 years ago from the South

      Seeker7, this happened when my mom broke her hip. She had dementia and the doctor would constantly refer to my mother as demented, right in front of her. It made me so mad and I felt so bad for my poor mom. Sometimes she didn't grasp what was being said, but they have their good days and bad days, and on the good days, I think she understood. I eventually told the doctor I wanted another doctor to take over...she and I had it out, as this was not the only problem I had had with this doctor. It's so sad to see this kind of behavior.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      It has given me a better idea of what holistic therapy should be Helen-excellent subject you've written on here. We humans hold healing energies within us is what I believe. And a compassionate, interactive approach is surely best. Learned to research and speak up for myself in medical situations as otherwise was ripped off by the medical profession and I don't mean in only a monetary sense.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi teaches 12345, it is very comforting. When my Mum was dying most of the nurses - one of whom I had trained with - were excellent and had an holistic approach with all their patients, what a difference it made. Only one nurse was the bad apple in the barrel - and you could tell a mile away when visiting Mum if this particular nurse had been on shift, as Mum always looked uncomfortable and unkempt. It's sad that we, as a family, spoke and remembered more about that one 'bad apple' than we did about the other wonderful nurses. But it's a warning to professionals about just how much attitude and lack of caring is noted so intensly by families and the patients.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi VirginiaLynne - I feel so sad that your story is one that is fairly common and not rare and I'm glad that you were there to advocate for them. In particular I think the response to and lack of insight towards our elderly people is shocking - they're treated almost like an alien race in some settings. Not only holistic nursing, but any form of care has to be geared specifically towards an individual. Even if you have two patients the same age, same sex, same diganosis, their plan of care and therapy will be, Or should be, very different from each other. You can't have one system and then squeeze everyone into this regime. I've also noticed - and not with a little anger - how the decisions about elderly people's lives are often taken for them as if, because they have reached a certain age, they're not capable of making choices! There are many professions, nurses and doctors included, who need to be re-educated about the rights and real needs of our elderly people. When you have an holistic approach, as you say with the listening, touching and responding it makes such a huge difference. I think as well when we do 'listen' we should strive to ensure that we are really hearing what the patient is saying.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi catgypsy, as always it's a pleasure to hear from you. The 'appendectomy' was the first one I heard but unfortunately I've heard a lot worse than that! I guess it's the same in any profession, you get the good with the bad, but at the same time, there is no reason at all why any patient should be referred to by using their diagnosis - it's appalling and does nothing to helpt his poor patient who is likely in pain, feeling quite scared and vulnerable and then some twat of a nurse or doctor causally calls him either by a body part or illness!!

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      hi old albion - always a pleasure to hear from you and glad that you enjoyed the hub. Yes, you're right. When the patient knows that all their issues are being looked at and when they have a say in what treatment they get, this makes such a lot of difference to their well-being and self esteem.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      This is new to me. I think the idea of having a holistic nurse is comforting. If a patient has a say in his healing process, I guess that would help the body to restoration quicker.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      After spending many, many hours in doctor's offices and the emergency room with relatives with Alzheimer's, I can certainly attest to the idea that much of our modern medical care is not holistic. If I had not been there to advocate for my in-laws and explain the whole history of their situation, they would often have been given medical care they did not need or want. My husband and I visted a Chinese traditional medical hospital in Xian, China. I do not believe all of their therapies are effective, but I definitely saw that they had a holistic view of the patient which led to them listening, touching and responding in a way which gave the patient emotional support which is such an important part of healing and pain management. Voted up and useful!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 

      6 years ago from the South

      Seeker7, what a wonderful hub! I have always believed that you have to address both the physical and mental aspect of an illness. Your example about being referred to as an "appendectomy" is classic! Thanks for an important hub. I hope a lot of doctors and nurses read it!

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      6 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Seeker7. An interesting thought provoking hub. I do think you are right here. The patient feels better when all circumstances have been addressed. Thank you.

      Voted up / Interesting.

      Graham.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Mazio, many thanks for stopping by. I'm really glad that your nursing team was one that gave the holistic approach - it does make so much difference to the patient and healing is so much quicker and less traumatic.

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Mr Happy, as always it's a sheer pleasure to hear from you and get your take on things. Thank you for the insightful comments on the hub and once again our thoughts are both in sync!

      I agree with you about the profits side - however, this comment occurred in the NHS UK where profits don't figure in the equation. Personally I think it's a culture that sets in within some care settings, a culture that disregards patient's feelings, evironment and so on and only see them as a some part of the body or system to be put together. I don't think, no matter how hard worked you are, that there is any need or reason for referring to people in this manner. It shows a complete lack of caring and understanding, so I then ask myself - why are you in nursing?

    • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Kissayer, many thanks for the lovely compliment and glad that you enjoyed the quiz!

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 

      6 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      I have great admiration for those who go into the nursing profession. Theirs is not an easy road but can be highly rewarding, as my sister (nurse) has stated. Your hub outlines great strategies that can be incorporated into general practice. I underwent a shoulder reconstruction last year and found the nursing staff approached their work in an holistic manner. Shared with my followers.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "encouraged interventions that enhanced individuals' abilities to draw upon their own healing powers" - Now, that is what I like to hear! We can all heal ourselves but most people either lack the knowledge or the faith in themselves. They just do not believe that it is possible - that makes Mr. Happy a little sad ...

      "Where one area is not understood or assisted then true healing or care can't take place." - I also believe this to be very true.

      lol I scored perfect and did not finish the article yet ... hmm ... Gotta make it harder next time lol - back to reading ...

      "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." For the most part, the health care system revolves around profits. A family doctor for example makes money depending on how many appointments he/she makes and on prescriptions as well. They do not make money depending on how many people they heal or how successful they are in healing people. This is a rotten system in my opinion. I have not visited a doctor's office in about eight years and I feel great!

      Thank You for putting this piece of writing together. I shall share it!

      Cheers.

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I love that you included a quiz in this hub, great idea! Excellent info as well, voted up :)

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