The holistic approach to nursing care, otherwise known as holistic care in nursing or holistic nursing care, is a highly upheld nursing concept. But what exactly does it mean, and how do nurses promote patient health through the holistic approach? This article provides a comprehensive answer to what holistic nursing is and outlines procedures nurses utilize for providing holistic care.
What is holistic care in nursing?
One of the things to note as a nursing practitioner is that there are recognized approaches to healthcare delivery, and holistic care is one of them. It utilizes a value-based approach that factors in the lifestyle of patients and aims to promote dignity and respect in the administration of health care.
Specifically, holistic care in nursing is a unique approach to patient care that identifies the patient as a whole person with physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Holistic care, therefore, does not focus on the physical symptoms of the disease alone. Instead, it seeks to address all these dimensions of a person to offer integrative healthcare and promote holistic healing and well-being.
To achieve the goals of holistic care, the nursing practitioner works closely with the patient to identify health needs that should be met in all dimensions of their life. The nurse then develops a care plan that considers every one of these unique needs. Sometimes, the patient’s needs could include a preference for a particular lifestyle, such as a diet plan or sexual orientation. Therefore, holistic care can be very inclusive, integrating other healthcare methods like traditional medicine, lifestyle changes, and complementary therapies.
History of holistic care in nursing
The concept of holistic care has long existed and takes deep roots in different traditional healing practices worldwide. However, it seemed Asian cultures, such as that of the Chinese and Indians, had been most intentional about upholding, providing standard rules, and recording holistic care practices.
Since traditional healing practices paved the way for what we now know as modern healthcare techniques, holistic care has always been subtly incorporated into modern healthcare. It can be traced back to the early nursing profession procedures, where nurses were trained to care for a patient’s physical and emotional needs.
Since then, the concept of holistic care has evolved and has been influenced by various factors, such as Eastern cultures, advances in healthcare, technology, and recent herbal discoveries. Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, is believed to have played a vital role in the history of holistic care in nursing and might have even introduced it to nursing practice as a concept. She felt nursing goes beyond providing medical care to caring for the whole person and all their dimensional needs. Her ideas about holistic care became influential, shaping the nursing profession as we know it today.
Principles of holistic care
As a value-based approach, some core values and principles guide healthcare administration in the practice of holistic care. These core principles, as outlined by The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), are:
- “Holistic medicine is relationship-centered care”
- “Prevention is the best intervention”
- “Integration of healing systems is effective”
- “Care should be individualized”
- “Teach by example”
- “Healing powers are innate”
- “All experiences are learning opportunities”
- “Embrace the healing power of love”
- “Optimal health is the primary goal”
Breaking down each principle will further help in understanding holistic care.
Holistic medicine is relationship-centered care
Holistic care believes building a strong relationship with the patient can be very therapeutic and aids the healing process. The nurse and the patient must consider themselves members of the same team, working together to achieve a common goal. To accomplish this, nurses should help patients realize they are on their side. They must be relatable, empathetic, and able to see through the patient’s lens.
Prevention is the best intervention
While nurses mainly aim to help people who are already sick recover from their poor health state, they must never forget that prevention is the best intervention. Therefore, the nurse must support practices that prevent disease. When administering healthcare, the nurse should also guide the patient on maintaining a lifestyle that shuns unhealthy practices. Not only that, but the nurse should also enlighten patients on routines they can incorporate into their lifestyles to maintain quality health and a sound mind.
Integration of healing systems is effective
Holistic care believes that all effective healing systems must be embraced, whether they require the administration of medicine or not. As a nurse practicing holistic care, you should not shy away from advising patients on all healthcare options available, including traditional healthcare and alternative therapies, if they will prove effective for the patient’s condition.
In the same light, all healthcare providers should work together openly and warmly, embracing diversity, and should not limit themselves to just the knowledge in their field.
Care should be individualized
Holistic care is patient-centered and is tailored to meet each patient’s needs. Although nurses must continue to follow standard health practices while utilizing known care measures, holistic care believes that no two patients should be treated the same way. Healthcare must be administered uniquely to match each patient’s peculiar needs.
Also, holistic care must be respectful of a patient’s autonomy and dignity, thereby permitting patients to ultimately make decisions on preferred healthcare measures and to decline healthcare measures if they so wish. The nurse exposes the patient to the essence of each healthcare measure, outlines all available options, and gives the patient the ability to make a pick or decline specific actions altogether.
Teach by example
This principle is self-explanatory. It implies that nurses who are holistic caregivers must live by what they teach. While they help patients maintain holistic health, the same must also be evident in their lives. They must maintain integrity by standing for the lifestyles they aim to promote in their patients. They should not live double-standard lives.
Healing powers are innate
Holistic care supposes that the human body can heal itself and that the nurse’s role is to facilitate this healing process. The nursing practitioner does this by providing as much supportive care as necessary. This care must, however, encompass all the patient’s physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
All experiences are learning opportunities
The principle means that every experience the nurse encounters is a significant learning opportunity. The recoveries, the losses, the heartbreaks, and the procedures involved in treating patients and interacting with them, as well as other health practitioners, are all experiences to learn from.
Since holistic health embraces all healing systems, nurses must also be willing to learn from other effective healing procedures that may appear not to sit well with modern medicine. For example, nurses should consider traditional healing techniques that have proved effective over time and strive to learn from them.
Embrace the healing power of love
Nurses must be empathetic beings who interact with the human side of their patients and show continual love. The nurse must factor in the emotional needs of patients when delivering healthcare. They must be compassionate and should show genuine love throughout attending to patients. This show of love is powerful and can aid the patient’s healing process.
Optimal health is the primary goal
The principle implies that the nurse should not just seek the healing of the patient’s physical state but should instead strive to help the patient achieve wholesome health characterized by a balanced physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and even environmental state. In all the dimensions, a patient must experience sound health. Only then is wholeness considered complete.
How can you practice holistic care as a nurse?
Having understood the principles of holistic care, it is also important to figure out how to begin practicing holistic care as a nurse. In the next part of this article, we will outline the steps and best procedures for nurses to practice holistic care.
Listening to patients
You will agree that quite a few of the principles upheld in holistic care require nurses to be able to listen to their patients. Listening helps you understand your patient’s concerns, unique needs, preferences, and perspectives. This will, in turn, guide you in deciding what healthcare applications will achieve the best results for them.
There are no two ways to listen; you just have to listen. However, as a nurse, you can do more to understand your patient by asking open-ended questions and paying attention to more than what is being said, including facial expressions, cultural and family background, and previous lifestyle.
See your patients beyond the physical
This is not a recommendation to become spooky. It only means that you should be able to see your patient beyond their physical state and apparent health condition. As a nurse, consider yourself to be a practitioner who offers more than just improving physical health and is also tasked with promoting patients’ emotional, social, and spiritual health.
Your care should be tailored to meet all these needs, even though they will not always require medical attention like administering drugs. An excellent way to achieve this is by providing clients with adequate education on the importance of a healthy diet or helping patients to understand how volunteering and meditation can help to promote a healthier state of mind.
Provide compassionate care
It is unethical for nurses to be grumpy toward their patients and a patient’s family members. It is also against the principles of holistic care. Patients should be treated with respect, kindness, and an understanding of their whole being. Most importantly, healthcare must be patient-centered, putting the patient first and not incorporating the selfish ambitions of the nurse or hospital.
Integrate alternative medicine and complementary therapies
A couple of decades ago, it was noble to consider modern medicine the best form of healthcare available. However, holistic care identifies and admits that alternative medicine and complementary therapies can effectively treat conditions and meet patient needs. Alternative medicine does not always have to be traditional, where herbal mixtures are administered to patients. It also includes non-medication procedures like meditation, exercise, massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and counseling.
Encourage self-care and empowerment
Promoting holistic care involves empowering patients to play an active role in promoting their wholesome health. As a nurse, you must encourage patients to practice self-care and open them up to practices that can help to promote overall well-being. Nurses can also create structures that will help patients develop healthy habits over time, especially if they have been exposed to and addicted to unhealthy lifestyles.
If you like to extract the big picture, Marymount University online nursing programs will equip you with all you need to begin practicing holistic nursing care. The University features up to eight advanced learning nursing programs you can enroll in using your previously honed Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Meanwhile, the online learning structure offers an excellent way to further your studies as a nurse while still being able to focus on your current nursing job.
In conclusion, holistic care is an approach in healthcare that focuses on addressing the wholesomeness of patients to provide effective and wholesome healthcare. Holistic care practitioners believe that care should be comprehensive and that its primary goal is helping patients achieve optimal health by addressing the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of their lives.