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Historical Overview and Philosophy
Holistic nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.” Holistic nursing originated from Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who believed in care that focused on unity, wellness, and the interrelationship of human beings, events, and environment. Holistic nursing is an official specialty area within the discipline of nursing with a defined scope and standards of practice. It is founded on five core values:
- Philosophy, Theory, Ethics
- Holistic Caring Process
- Holistic Communication, Therapeutic Healing Environment, and Cultural Diversity
- Holistic Education and Research
- Holistic Nurse Self-Reflection and Self-Care
Holistic Nursing incorporates a philosophy, a body of knowledge, and an advanced set of nursing skills that recognize the totality of the human being and the interconnectedness of body, mind, emotion, spirit, energy, society, culture, relationships, context, and environment. It is a worldview, a way of being in the world, not just a modality. This philosophy honors the unique humanness of all people regardless of who and what they are and focuses on incorporating healing approaches, creating healing environments, partnering with and empowering individuals. Holistic nursing care is healing oriented and centered on the relationship with the person in contrast to an orientation toward diseases and their cures. The practice of holistic nursing requires nurses to integrate self-care and self-responsibility into their own lives and to serve as role models for others
Holistic nursing practice draws on nursing knowledge, theories of wholeness, research, evidence-based practice, expertise, caring, and intuition incorporating the roles of clinician, educator, consultant, coach, partner, role model, and advocate. Holistic nurses focus on protecting, promoting, and optimizing health and wellness; preventing illness and injury; alleviating suffering; becoming therapeutic partners with people to facilitate their healing process and achieve wholeness; and supporting people to find peace, comfort, harmony, and balance through the diagnosis and treatment of human response.
Holistic nurses incorporate in practice both conventional nursing interventions and holistic alternative/complementary/integrative (CAM) modalities including, for example, relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, breath work, biofeedback, aroma and music therapies, touch therapies, acupressure, herbal remedies and natural supplements, homeopathy, reflexology, Reiki, journaling, exercise, stress management, nutrition, self-care processes, and prayer. They conduct holistic assessments of physical, functional, psychosocial, emotional, mental, sexual, cultural, age-related, spiritual, beliefs/values/preferences, family issues, lifestyle patterns, environmental, and energy field status and select appropriate interventions to alleviate clients’ signs and symptoms in the context of the client’s total needs.
Holistic nurses provide comprehensive health counseling and education, health promotion, disease prevention, and risk reduction and guide clients/families between the conventional allopathic medical system and complementary/alternative therapies and systems. They collaborate and refer to other healthcare providers/resources as necessary
Holistic nurses assist clients to explore self-awareness, spirituality, growth, and personal transformation in healing while empowering clients to access their own natural healing capacities and understand the underlying meanings of symptoms.
Holistic nurses advocate to provide access to and equitable distribution of healthcare resources, and to transform the healthcare system to a more caring culture. They also participate in building an ecosystem that sustains the well-being of the environment and the health of people, communities, and the planet
Holistic nurses are Registered Nurses who are educationally prepared for practice from an approved school of nursing and are licensed to practice in their individual state, commonwealth, or territory. The Holistic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2007) identifies the scope of practice of holistic nursing and the specific standards and competencies of holistic nurses at both the basic and advanced levels. A registered nurse may prepare for the specialty of holistic nursing in a variety of ways. Educational offerings range from associate degree, baccalaureate and graduate courses and programs, to continuing education programs and workshops with extensive contact hours.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
A state Registered Nurse license is required for all practicing nurses including holistic nurses. Competency mechanisms for evaluating holistic nursing practice as a specialty exist through a national certification/recertification process overseen by the American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC). The AHNCC certifies at the basic level (HN-BC), which requires a diploma or associate degree in nursing; HNB-BC, which requires a baccalaureate degree in nursing; and the advanced practice level (AHN-BC), which requires a graduate degree in nursing. Further, the AHNCC provides endorsement for schools of nursing meeting the specifications put forth in the Holistic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2007). Eligibility criteria for all candidates include: an unrestricted and current U.S. RN license from an academically accredited School of Nursing; active practice as a Holistic Nurse for a minimum of one (1) year full-time or 2,000 hours within the last five (5) years part-time; and completion of a minimum of 48 contact hours of continuing education in Holistic Nursing within a two (2) year period preceding application. Additionally, holistic nurses often are certified in specific CAM modalities such as imagery, Reiki, aromatherapy, therapeutic or healing touch, biofeedback, and Reflexology.
The advancement of holistic nursing as a discipline is led by two groups: a non-profit member association, the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), and a non-profit certifying entity, the American Holistic Nurses’ Certification Corporation (AHNCC). AHNA, the definitive voice for holistic nursing, promotes the education and collaboration of nurses, other healthcare professionals, and the public in all aspects of holistic caring and healing. AHNA’s mission is to advance holistic nursing through community building, advocacy, research, and education. AHNCC is responsible for the development, administration and maintenance of the Holistic Nurses' Certification and School Endorsement Programs.
Sessions with a Holistic Nurse can range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. The first sessions is generally a longer consultation session. On average, an hourly session will be $75-$100.