What is holistic nursing care, and how can it benefit patients?

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Nursing is one of the most important niches in health and a sector that is key in direct patient care. It is especially true for roles such as a registered nurse, which are focused mainly on providing primary care to patients in a clinical setting. The importance of nursing in healthcare makes this a popular career choice for many people. It is clear to see when you think that there are estimated to be over 4 million RNs in US healthcare and also factor in how many people work in more advanced nursing roles around the country.

But what is it about nursing that makes it a popular career choice? There is no doubt that the high-status nurses have in society is a major draw, as is the superb job satisfaction this role can deliver. Working as a nurse also enables you to become part of a close-knit team and access various job opportunities.

It is also a sector that is always moving forward and advancing. It makes it an exciting industry to operate in and one that is never dull. One development that highlights this is the emergence of holistic nursing care in recent years. But what is holistic nursing care, and what benefits does it bring to patients?

What is holistic nursing care?

Holistic care in nursing is a philosophy that treats the whole person rather than just individual parts when delivering patient care. It understands that each patient has unique characteristics that shape their health outcomes and how these outcomes may be best achieved.

Holistic care in nursing is a departure from more traditional ways of treating patients. This is because traditional approaches to patient care usually focus on treating individual parts in isolation and not always connecting them to be managed collectively as one whole unit.

What does holistic nursing care involve?

Although the above gives a good general overview of what holistic nursing care is about, you may still wonder how it works in practice. The main elements this approach focuses on to deliver a truly joined-up approach to healthcare are:

  • The mind
  • The body
  • The spirit

When embracing a holistic approach to patient care, nurses focus not just on what may be physically wrong with a patient but also on taking time to look after their mental health and provide care that boosts their spirits. By giving this 360-degree package, nurses can treat the patient rather than just one isolated element.

How has holistic care become a major trend in modern nursing?

Anyone who keeps an eye on the contemporary nursing sector will know that more holistic approaches to patient care are a major trend currently. It seems set to continue, which means it is an approach that all nurses need to know about. But why has this way of caring for patients come to the fore lately?

To begin with, it is key to factor in the changing attitudes towards alternative therapies and holistic medicine in society. While many people might have been wary of this type of healthcare in the past, this is no longer the case, and more patients are now open to a more holistic take on treatment.

Some patients may even prefer this type of care to more traditional, non-holistic approaches, and it sees them demanding it from the health system. Access to more information online about holistic care has sparked a real appetite for it in the public and driven them to become more informed about its potential benefits.

In tandem with this, you also have to look at those involved at the highest levels of nursing who help the industry respond to what patients want. These advanced nursing professionals have taken note of the growing trend toward holistic healthcare and carefully looked into the advantages it can offer. As senior nurses at this level are involved with setting health policies on a local or national scale, they have been able to bring more holistic nursing care into the sector in recent years.

How can nursing professionals have this kind of impact on policy and direction in the sector?

The ability to influence the nursing sector around key trends like holistic care is not only quite real for advanced professionals in the industry but also something many nurses looking to move on in their careers admires. But how can nurses operate at the level where real-world influence on policy and thought leadership is in their grasp?

Once you have gained the basic qualifications to work as a registered nurse and picked up a few years of work experience in the sector, studying for more advanced stuff is the best way forward. Gaining this kind of award will help you move into higher-level nursing roles, enabling you to impact emerging trends such as holistic care.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice course at the University of Indianapolis is a popular choice for nurses looking to further their careers. If you are wondering ‘what can you do with a DNP degree‘ from this university, the good news is that it opens up a wide array of higher-level pathways in nursing. Working in roles that see you developing policies around holistic care is a case in point. It shows how this flexible online program delivers high-caliber graduates fully prepared to push the sector forward.

What kind of treatments does holistic nursing practice use?

Just as there are numerous great career tips for anyone looking for a boost professionally, there are lots of options when it comes to holistic nursing in practice. As you may expect from the very nature of this approach, it can often be more flexible and offer more variety in how patients are cared for. As with more traditional methods, nurses will still administer prescribed medication and perform common duties like changing dressings to care for patients’ physical health.

Where this type of care comes into its own are the techniques used for looking after the mind, spirit, and emotions of patients. It can often see an emphasis placed on complementary therapies, such as:

  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Acupuncture

Although the above is only a small flavor of the kinds of complementary therapies a holistic approach to healthcare may include, it gives a good idea of what it focuses on. One of the major features that links these kinds of therapies is the absence of prescribed medication to promote the best health outcomes.

It is because many complementary therapies do not use prescribed medication in their practice and instead focus on making natural, positive changes in the mind, body, and spirit through the work involved in the therapy. Although some complementary therapies may use certain products within them (such as massage oils), they are usually natural and organic.

Wellness is also a key aspect of holistic nursing care

In addition to complementary therapies, which can help treat the whole patient, holistic approaches to care in nursing also tend to focus on wellness. It involves nursing professionals educating patients on how to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy a greater sense of well-being.

It may be done in various ways but could involve talking to patients about taking safe levels of a certain vitamin that could benefit them or changing their diet to make it healthier once they get home. By promoting aspects of wellness in a patient’s life like this, nurses can treat the whole person and positively impact wider aspects of how they live to promote better well-being.

What benefits does holistic nursing care have for patients?

This integrated approach to treating the mind, body, and spirit is a breath of fresh air in patient care terms. But what specific benefits does it have for patients?

Boosts mental, physical, and spiritual health

It is perhaps the most obvious benefit holistic approaches to nursing offer patients, but it must be mentioned. Treating the whole patient rather than just the immediate illness or injury can lead to better outcomes.

This is especially true regarding emotional or spiritual health, where complementary therapies like meditation can positively impact people’s feelings. Alternative therapies like yoga can also positively influence the physical health of patients, be it by improving their balance, strengthening their core, or helping them recover from an injury or operation.

Taking a holistic approach to nursing ensures that the whole patient is cared for and everything that could be causing them problems is dealt with. It leads to much healthier patients overall and care that caters to all their needs.

Puts patients in control of their care

One aspect of a more holistic approach to nursing that benefits patients is the greater control it gives them over their care. It can be especially true regarding wellness, where patients can decide on the changes they will make to their lifestyle to get better or stay healthier. It can also be seen in the control patients have in determining which complementary therapies suit them best and which they might enjoy most.

It is a change of direction from more traditional approaches to care, which gives medical professionals more power in these areas. As patients now expect to have more say in their care, a holistic route meets this demand and gives them more control over their treatment. It can lead to them being more cooperative regarding the treatment plan they agree with and more likely to work with nursing staff to boost their long-term health.

Offers more treatment choices

Another benefit holistic approaches offer in terms of the treatment patients receive is greater flexibility. As this approach is not solely reliant on treating physical or mental symptoms with medication, it can open up new ways to care for patients if this is not an option.

A good example is someone allergic to a medication normally prescribed for their condition. Adopting a holistic approach to nursing enables alternative treatment options to be discussed and may be used instead. It could be acupuncture to help relieve pain or mindfulness for patients who struggle with anxiety.

As modern medicine moves away from prescribed medication being the de facto treatment choice and patients who do not like taking medication look for alternative treatment options, it is a major advantage holistic approaches offer.

Positively impacts recovery times.

Holistic care in nursing has many benefits, and the positive influence it can have on patient recovery times is one. But how can this work in practice? In simple terms, a more holistic approach can help patients feel happier by enabling them to focus on their mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

This increase in happiness can motivate them to recover, interact socially with other patients and nursing staff, and have a better frame of mind to work from when receiving care. All this can help patients get better quickly and leave the hospital in a more positive mental place.

Holistic care in nursing: an overview

As the above shows, holistic nursing care is an approach to patient treatment with real-world benefits. It is a relatively new take on how the health system can care for people and represents an interesting take on delivering the best patient outcomes for nurses.

As the future unfolds, this more integrated take on patient care will likely become more widely seen across nursing. It makes it not only a key concept for nurses providing direct care to people but also one that those operating at more senior levels should become familiar with.