What Is Holistic Nursing Care?
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 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 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
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
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
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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Sources & Further Information
- Nursing practice and peer-reviewed clinical research for all nurses
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