Holistic Nursing: Focusing on the Whole Person

By Klebanoff, Nina A.; Hess, Darlene | American Nurse Today, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Holistic Nursing: Focusing on the Whole Person


Klebanoff, Nina A., Hess, Darlene, American Nurse Today


Expand your knowledge of holistic nursing by reading the answers to commonly asked questions.

What is holistic nursing?

Holistic nursing is generally defined as all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal. A holistic nurse is a licensed nurse who takes a "mind-body-spirit-emotion-environment" approach to the practice of traditional nursing. Holistic nursing is based on a philosophy of living and being that is grounded in caring, relationship, and interconnectedness. A holistic nurse recognizes and integrates the principles and modalities of holistic healing into daily life and clinical practice. Holistic nursing encourages nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives.

What is the history of holistic nursing?

Present-day holistic nursing is based on the work of Florence Nightingale. It was not until the mid-20th century that nursing began to emerge as a profession and became linked to developments in western medicine. Since 1970, many nurse scholars have described nursing as being concerned with the whole person. Dossey developed a theory of nursing that includes an integral worldview that builds upon a solid holistic, integrated, and multidimensional theoretical nursing foundation. Unlike previous theories of nursing, this theory serves to explain the function of the inner world of the nurse as a vital component of nursing practice.

These and other influences, such as research linking the mind and body and an emphasis on patient-centered care, have affected the development of holistic nursing. The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) was founded in 1980 to serve as a voice for holistic nurses and to promote the education of nurses and others in the philosophy, practice, and research of holistic caring and healing. The American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC) was founded in 1997 to credential holistic nurses. AHNCC has a collaborative relationship with AHNA to advance the role of holistic nursing and to provide educational opportunities in holistic nursing.

Is holistic nursing a specialty practice?

The American Nurses Association (ANA) officially recognized holistic nursing as a specialty area of nursing practice in 2006. Specialty status provides holistic nurses with a foundation for practice. It provides a clear depiction of who we are to the rest of the world of nursing, other healthcare professionals, and the public.

What are standards and scope of practice for holistic nursing practice?

The AHNA and the ANA co-published Holistic Nursing Scope & Standards of Practice. The standards are aligned with the definition, values, assumptions, and other standards of nursing as outlined by the ANA.

Standards of Practice reveals the unique intricacies of the specialty's scope of practice, and describes the standards of practice and professional performance of holistic nursing. It defines holistic nursing, provides an overview and history of holistic nursing, and describes the following regarding holistic nursing: principles, core values, responsibilities, educational preparation (basic, advanced, and continuing education), certification, information about complementary/alternative modalities (CAM), and position statements.

Standards of Practice also shines a light on the philosophy, values, knowledge, and skills on which holistic care, health, and healing are based, and shows the relationship of CAM to the standards. Five core values integrate the art and science of nursing and capture the essence of holistic nursing:

* Holistic philosophy, theories, and ethics

* Holistic caring process

* Holistic communication, therapeutic environment, and cultural diversity

* Holistic education and research

* Holistic self-care.

Do the Standards apply to all nurses in all settings?

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