Traditional Nursing Vs. Holistic Nursing

Sandy Darson
January 15, 2013 — 6,481 views  
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As more people are searching for ways to be and stay healthy, there has been a growing interest in holistic treatment methods within the healthcare industry. Especially with conditions such as various cancers or where patients need long-term care. Though the actual results and the benefits are often debated by medical professionals, most admit that when a patient is in a good place emotionally, it only enhances their treatment. Thus, the popularity of holistic treatments is growing and there is an increasing demand for holistic medical professionals. This is especially true in the nursing profession as nurses usually have more interaction with patients.

Holistic nursing is broadly defined as using nursing knowledge and practices in conjunction with other psychological, spiritual, social, interpersonal, and biological skills to treat the whole patient as in mind, body, and spirit (in contrast to traditional nursing which only focuses on treating the medical condition). To some degree, all nurses can be seen as holistic practitioners due to the nature of the profession. All nurses give comfort and help their patients understand what is happening to them. However, there are distinct differences between holistic and traditional nursing.

Though both traditional and holistic nurses are required to be licensed by their state nursing board, holistic nurses usually have (and in some cases are required to have) additional training. This training is geared toward the techniques that promote psychological, spiritual, and mental health. The training of Holistic nursing promotes wellness through means other than exercise, medicine, and nutrition. They also promote stress free and a calming atmosphere, working through emotional issues and setbacks, and finding inner peace. In addition, like other nursing specialties there are certifications for holistic nursing.

Traditional nursing is often limited in the methods that can be used in order to treat a patient. Typically, there are policies and procedures that guide the actions, responses and behavior of a traditional nurse. To be more specific, aside from medical treatment, comfort, advice, and kindness there is little else that a traditional nurse can do to treat their patients. On the other hand, a Holistic nurse is encouraged to use creativity in their methods of treating patients. A holistic nurse is free to use treatment methods that include but are not limited music therapy, calming techniques, guided imagery, art and animal assisted therapy, an anxiety reduction, as well as a host of other techniques to treat their patients. These techniques fall within one of a few categories or modalities of holistic nursing. Holistic nurses can become specialized in one of the modalities or use a mixture to treat patients. The most common modalities are manipulative and body-based practices such as massage therapy, mind-body medicine like yoga, biologically based practices that include herbal therapy, and energy medicine such as magnetic therapy.


Aside from the methods and ideology, the other major distinction in traditional nursing and holistic nursing is the types of patients that they treat. Traditional nurses treat all types of patients with various backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, social status, and medical conditions. They treat infants to the elderly with everything from a common cold to cancer. Although holistic nurses are trained to treat every type of patient, they usually treat patients with severe medical conditions. These types of conditions include, but are not limited to severe burns, terminal patients, cancer patients, or those who need long term care. It is typically these patients who will be under the care of a nurse long enough for the nurse to be able to focus on the whole person and not the just the medical condition. Yet, with the increase in popularity of holistic nursing, the type of patient that they treat is increasing.

Since there is a difference in the type of patient that is treated by traditional nurses and holistic nurses, there is a difference in where they are most commonly found. Traditional nurses are found at every type of healthcare facility and they are typically able to get a job at any type of healthcare firm or organization. However, while holistic nurses can work at hospitals, the majority of holistic nurses are usually found at the more specialized healthcare facilities and firms that cater to their particular type of patient.

The holistic approach has been noted as effective for some patients and many more are attempting to incorporate a holistic approach to their medical treatment. Like traditional nursing, holistic nursing is a booming career path today. In addition, more and more nursing programs are offering holistic components in classes and providing the training regimen and exam preparation for holistic nursing certifications. Right now, it is still much easier to obtain a job as a traditional nurse, but there are resources for holistic nurses. The American Holistic Nurse Association is a great resource for anyone considering holistic nursing as a specialty.

Sandy Darson