What is Holistic Nursing?

Holistic Nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (American Holistic Nurses’ Association, 1998). Florence Nightingale, who is considered to be the founder of Holistic Nursing, taught nurses to focus on the principles of holism: unity, wellness and the interrelationship of human beings and their environment.

Today, Holistic Nursing is recognized as a specialty practice by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The Holistic Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice specifies the who, what, where, when, why and how of holistic nursing practice through 16 standards by which all holistic nurses are held accountable.

Yet Holistic Nursing is not merely something we do. It is also an attitude, a philosophy and a way of being that requires nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives. This often leads the nurse to greater awareness of the interconnectedness of self, others, nature, spirit and relationship with the global community.

Nursing certifications distinguish nurses as experts in nursing practice, education and research. Certifications in Holistic Nursing and Nurse Coaching are available through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) which is a separate organization from the AHNA. These certification examinations are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification [ABSNC] and are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center [ANCC] Magnet Program. Holistic nursing is unique in that it can be practiced within all other nursing specialties by applying the principles of holism to client care.

What Is a Holistic Nurse?

Holistic nurses are legally licensed nurses who use nursing knowledge, theories, expertise and intuition to recognize and care for the totality of the human being within the scope and standards of their state and the Holistic Nursing specialty. 

Holistic nurses nurture wholeness, peace and healing by valuing each person’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental strengths and challenges and honoring each person’s values, health beliefs and health experience. The condition of the whole person is taken into account during the nurse’s assessment, diagnosis, planning, intervention and evaluation of the results.

Holistic nurses use holistic principles and modalities in their daily life and in clinical practice to remove the barriers to the healing process and create a space within and around themselves that allow them to be instruments of healing as they share their authenticity, caring presence and nursing skills to facilitate the birth, growth, recovery or end-of-life transition with all people who need their care.

Holistic nurses work in all healthcare settings including hospitals, universities and private practices. They bring a holistic, complementary and integrative focus to their work, practice what they preach and understand that failure to care for themselves reduces their ability to care for others.

Holistic nurses help individuals and groups access their greatest healing potential across mainstream and complementary systems. Many holistic nurses specialize in one or more complementary, alternative or integrative healing modalities and maintain qualifications to practice these modalities in their state in conjunction with practicing holistic nursing.

Also see
Holistic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice
Holistic Modalities
AHNA Specialty Status
Holistic Nursing: A Way of Being, a Way of Living, a Way of Practice Article by Lucia Thornton RN, MSN, AHN-BC



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