Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Ailing patients suffer not only from pain, injury or disease, but also from emotional distress. One of the best ways nurses can provide quality care is to reach patients on a personal level with a holistic, individually-focused practice. Typically, newly licensed RNs or experienced nurses returning for advanced training learn about this kind of holistic care through an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program.

What Is Holism?

The premise of holism is that living organisms are made up of interconnected parts. In medicine, holism is a theory or method that is applied to the delivery of patient care. Nurses view patients as an entire entity, as opposed to just a diagnosis or disease.

What Is Holistic Nursing?

According to the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), holistic care is “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.” The practice of holistic nursing considers all of the elements that form an individual so that nurses can provide personalized care. These are factors that nurses think about when providing holistic care:

  • Body.
  • Mind.
  • Spirit.
  • Emotions.
  • Lifestyle.
  • Socioeconomic position.
  • Cultural background.
  • Community.

Holistic nursing does not shun traditional medicine. Instead the practice is a blend of conventional patient care and alternative methods. Nurses incorporate many kinds of approaches such as medication, communication, education, and self-help. The alternative or complementary therapies used may include:

  • Acupuncture.
  • Aromatherapy.
  • Art therapy.
  • Hydrotherapy.
  • Music therapy.
  • Nutritional supplements.
  • Therapeutic touch.

Why Is Holistic Assessment Important?

All fields of nursing use assessment as a starting point for patient care. Holistic assessment goes beyond nurses documenting a patient’s vital signs, symptoms and physical aliments. A holistic assessment pinpoints a patient’s needs and recommends the type of care that will work best for them. The holistic assessment may include the following:

  • Patient’s self-assessment.
  • Patient history.
  • Patient’s ability to communicate.
  • Patient’s preference for the delivery of care.
  • Cultural and religious beliefs.
  • Language and need for an interpreter.

How Does Holistic Care Improve Relationships with Patients?

When nurses take the time to talk with patients, learn about who they are and listen to their concerns, they create a nurturing and compassionate environment. Patients who are comfortable with their nurses tend to be more forthcoming about their discomfort and open to discussions about treatment options. Nurses can promote good communication by:

  • Learning the patient’s name.
  • Maintaining eye contact.
  • Asking patients how they are feeling.
  • Responding to questions.
  • Monitoring a patient’s anxiety or pain.

How Can You Become a Holistic Nurse?

To work as a holistic nurse, you first have to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse (RN). Once you are an RN, you can contact the American Holistic Nurse Certification Corporation (AHNCC) about its certification program.

Many nursing schools, like Nevada State College, offer courses in holistic medicine. Our Holistic Health Assessment course examines the theory and practice of holistic health assessment for patients of all ages. Case studies introduce students to a developmental model and theory of human caring.

The practice of holistic care began with Florence Nightingale who believed that patients could benefit from healing interventions such as touch, light, music, aromatics and quiet reflection. By the 20th century, nursing became an established profession that adopted the use of Western medicine. Today nurses understand the importance of both medical practices. New technology and medical procedures save lives, and combined with holistic nursing care, BSN-trained professionals can provide patients even greater chances of survival and complete recovery.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


PracticalNursing.org: The Importance of Holistic Nursing Care: How to Completely Care for Your Patients

The Free Dictionary: Holistic Assessment

Discover Nursing: Holistic Nurse

Nursing Theory: Holistic Nursing

Heal Dove: What Is Holistic Nursing Care?

Merriam-Webster: Holism

American Nurse Today: Holistic Nursing: Focusing on the Whole Person

ResearchGate: The Importance of Holistic Assessment – A Nursing Student Perspective

American Nurses Association: The Nursing Process

Indian Journal of Palliative Care: Effective Factors in Providing Holistic Care: A Qualitative Study

American Holistic Nurses Association: What Is Holistic Nursing?

American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation: Exam Development and Outcomes