Holistic nurses know that it is important to become a therapeutic partner with their patients, and that they cannot necessarily promote a patient’s optimal potential to heal physically when he/she is psychologically or spiritually distressed. Therefore, holistic nursing care is defined as a practice that focuses on healing the whole person through the unity of body, mind, emotion, spirit and environment. This concept of healing the person as a whole being is one that goes back more than a century to nurses such as Florence Nightingale who argued that the nurse’s role was to create the optimal conditions for healing.
Interest in holistic nursing practice has grown along with our advances in our knowledge of bio-behavioral health and psycho-immunology. In addition, current research in health and healing, and the need to reduce healthcare expenditures, have accelerated the need to address healthcare issues in the United States. Integrative health centers are popping up around the country, and some hospitals are seeing the benefits of incorporating complementary and alternative therapies into services provided. For the nurses who practice in these facilities, utilization of a holistic approach is not only possible, but encouraged.
But what about nurses who practice within the community or in institutions that do not wholly embrace holistic nursing practices? How can these nurses create holistic interactions in their workspace to accomplish the goal of providing care that is mind/body/spirit focused?
I would like to offer some examples of approaches that nurses can use, no matter where they work, to create a healing interaction and environment. If you are thinking, “Where will I find the time to do one more thing?”, please remember that providing holistic nursing care is not about how much time you spend with the patient, but rather how that time is used. With a small tweek in your perspective, approach and communication, you will find that your relationship with the patient will change, healing will be enhanced, and you may even find a greater sense of joy and purpose in your work.
When caring for your patients:
When talking to a patient:
Make eye contact
Say their name;
Ask how they are feeling;
Smile and use laughter when appropriate to help your patient feel relaxed;
Help patients see themselves as sacred beings that deserve dignity;
Help your patients learn how to take responsibility for their own care;
For patients about to undergo surgery:
Teach relaxation techniques or suggest that your patient bring music to play during the operation;
After surgery, find out whether they want aromatherapy or a massage;
Use music and breathing exercises prior to an injection or procedure if your patient is anxious and/or afraid.
When caring for yourself:
Instead of wondering how to get through the next 12 hours, realize that the people you’ll encounter will have things to offer you;
Look at your own life and identify what you need to change;
Make sure that you eat healthy food, exercise, and have strategies for dealing with toxic people;
Learn new CAM approaches to healing that you can use with patients or yourself;
Take a few moments to breathe and center yourself prior to speaking to a patient or family member;
Incorporate de-stressing techniques into your life such as Yoga, journaling and deep breathing to relax and clarify your experience as a nurse.
Being able to practice holistic nursing does not require that you work in a hospital setting, nor that you work with “sick” people. You can practice in a factory, doctor’s office, your own private office, school, college campus, nursing home or home health agency, on the telephone as a coach, or in a variety of other settings. You can work with people who have illnesses and/or those who are well. Holistic nursing is not about how much time you spend doing something, or where you do it. Holistic nursing is about an attitude of consciousness, being present, and setting an intention to care for mind/body/spirit. If each nurse sets an intention to have just one holistic interaction each day, imagine how healthcare would change and the healing that could take place! Make a commitment today to make just one change in how you interact with your patients, your environment, other healthcare professionals, and yourself!