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The Holistic Nursing Taboo

The Holistic Nursing Taboo

Amy Drouin, RN, BSN | Scrubs Magazine

Should healthcare providers start talking more about the “woo woo” specialty?

As a hospital nurse, holistic nursing always seemed so separate from what I did. It was a taboo subject among my coworkers, not to be taken seriously by conventional healthcare.

But holistic nursing goes much deeper than complementary nursing modalities such as aromatherapy, therapeutic touch or guided imagery. In fact, it may just be the thing to stave off burnout and improve the care I give in my nursing practice. And because holistic nursing is a supportive specialty, it can be used in a variety of settings: hospital, home care, ambulatory center and private practice.*

What is holistic nursing?

According to the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) website (, the American Nurses Association officially recognized holistic nursing as a nursing specialty in 2006 because of “its scope and defined set of standards that distinguishes it from other nursing practices.”

Holistic nursing embraces the concept of holism. It encompasses the entire nurse-patient-family relationship because it takes into account the journey through illness for everyone involved, while using the holistic nursing process.

The holistic nursing process is no different than the traditional nursing process (assessment, nursing diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation), but it has the potential to offer a wide range of support to patients and families through a long list of complementary modalities backed by evidence-based practices and nursing research. It’s not uncommon for nurses to say holistic nursing is a way of life for them.

Benefits for the nurse

Holistic nursing strengthens my practice of nursing because it supports my own sense of self-care. I may take a few moments to breathe and center myself prior to speaking to a patient or family member. Breathing techniques diminish stress and allow me to focus and be present for the patient or family. Sometimes I do yoga as a source of renewal between my nursing shifts or write in a journal to help clarify my experiences as a nurse.

Since self-reflection is an encouraged practice in holistic nursing, I can better address any feelings of burnout and take action to lessen stressors in my life. Listening to music or watching comedic YouTube clips are also beneficial during work breaks. Holistic nursing advocates a “take-care-of-yourself-as-you-would-your-patients” attitude.

Benefits for the patient

As a nurse who embraces the concept of holistic nursing, I ultimately hope for patients to be as active in his or her own healthcare as possible. I see myself as a guide for the patient through the journey of health and illness while recognizing that each person’s journey may be completely different.

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