The goal for nursing practice has always been to heal the whole person in body, mind and spirit. The focus on wellness and the interrelationship of people and their environment dates back to the practices of Florence Nightingale, a 19th century nurse who is considered the founder of holistic nursing. Yet it wasn’t until 2006 that the American Nursing Association (ANA) recognized holistic nursing as a specialty.
The incorporation of a holistic, person-centered approach to patient care continues to gain acceptance and relevance, especially with ongoing changes in healthcare reform. The practice of viewing the individual, family and community as an interconnected system can help support numerous positive health outcomes. Holistic health encourages patients to become more involved in self-care and work on their long-term health and wellness goals. Recognizing the importance of this, Lamar University includes a course on holistic health assessment in its online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program.
What Do Holistic Health Assessments Encompass?
A holistic health assessment is based on the principles of holistic medicine, being medicine that focuses on the whole person, including physical health as well as emotional, mental and spiritual health. The whole condition of the patient is assessed, taking into consideration wellness across the lifespan.
Holistic medicine is central to the holistic nursing specialty. As explained by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), holistic nursing has a defined scope and standards of practice, based on advanced skills and knowledge, evidence-based research, diverse modalities of practice (alternative, complimentary and/or integrative) and an approach rooted in caring and relationships.
The development of a relationship with the patient begins with open, therapeutic communication. This supportive, non-judgmental method of assessment recognizes that the patient’s stress levels, diet and relationship issues can often exacerbate many ailments.
A holistic health assessment allows the nurse to gain information essential for diagnosis, planning and treatment implementation. It shows respect for the patient’s preferences and preserves the patient’s dignity. According to the Focused Mindfulness Center, a holistic health approach focuses on assessing a patient’s physiological, psychological, sociological, developmental, spiritual and cultural conditions and experiences.
Integrating these six aspects of holistic assessment into conventional medical assessment can help healthcare providers identify underlying causes of illness and determine if other contributing factors are delaying recovery. Nurses can use this approach to glean information regarding the patient’s family dynamics, values, beliefs and other factors that could inform the care delivered and impact the patient’s healing.
This can result in more effective treatment and better health. As such, gaining understanding of holistic health assessment methods through in-depth and unbiased study can help nurses build upon existing, conventional assessment skills, which can, in turn, lead to improved patient outcomes.
What Does It Really Mean for Nurses?
The practice of holistic health nursing is based on the premise that self-care is necessary to effectively care for others. Nurses who practice holistic nursing incorporate a philosophy of responsibility to the self and a commitment to integrate self-care into their personal life. They strive to increase their awareness of their connection to the environment and remove barriers to the healing process. Under the holistic health philosophy, internalizing self-care and concepts of interconnectedness can help nurses provide more comprehensive care to others.
Holistic nurses combine mainstream and complementary, or alternative healing modalities (CAM), just as they integrate conventional and holistic assessment methods. These healing modalities may include meditation, massage, deep breathing, natural products, yoga or music. Offering more treatment options suitable for different lifestyles can provide patients a greater scope of healing potential.
Why Is Holistic Health Nursing Important?
Hospitals increasingly recognize and utilize integrative health services, which can incorporate holistic health assessment methods and treatment modalities. Unlike other specialties that are defined by a client group or a disease category, holistic nursing can be practiced in almost every area of care and in all settings. This patient-centered, practical and sustainable approach to well-being can help patients of any age improve health outcomes. Plus, the authentic, real relationships developed by practicing holistic nursing can be mutually beneficial to both the patient and the nurse.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online RN to BSN program.