The field of medicine is constantly evolving and adapting to new knowledge, challenges, and standards of care. Among these transitions is the shift toward holistic care in nursing, wherein healthcare providers evaluate patients as whole people, looking beyond physical symptoms to assess mental health and other contributing factors.
With a shortage of up to 450,000 nurses by 2025 predicted by McKinsey, the demand for skilled nurses is at an all-time high nationwide. Using the advanced skills and knowledge gained from pursuing a nursing degree, future nursing leaders have the opportunity not only to provide positive holistic care solutions to their patients but also to bridge the gap between nurses and physicians, assisting the healthcare system and meeting their professional goals.
What Is Holistic Care?
The holistic healthcare movement is based on the principles of patient-centered care. These principles shape what holistic nursing care is and how its goals are formulated, primarily in terms of assessing patients as whole people with unique circumstances, rather than focusing on a single health issue within that larger picture.
Other principles of patient-centered care include:
- Respect for a patient’s care preferences and religious or cultural values
- Coordinating the integration of care between specialties
- Educating patients on their care
- Providing physical and emotional support
- Improved access to care and the involvement of family or the patient’s support system in the care process
Holistic care in nursing recognizes that healthcare challenges do not occur in a vacuum, and factors besides physical symptoms can be crucial to proper patient care. Essentially, if a patient’s mental health or environment is contributing to or causing their physical symptoms, medical professionals will not be able to find an effective solution for the symptoms without addressing those other concerns as well.
This change in perspective brings many areas of nursing care together, encouraging collaboration to evaluate a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional health, in addition to contributing economic or environmental factors.
How to Become a Holistic Care Nurse
Becoming a holistic care nurse can be a challenging and rewarding career path. Building the advanced skills and knowledge to provide comprehensive care to patients takes time, and prospective nurses can expect to invest years of training and work experience to be up to the task.
Individuals beginning their nursing journey will pursue either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing. Graduates must complete a standardized exam to become a registered nurse (RN). From this point, nurses can begin building experience in holistic care.
For many graduates, however, continuing their education to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is a valuable next step, essential to meeting their personal and professional goals. Pursuing a higher degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), alongside certification through organizations such as the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC), builds additional knowledge, demonstrates professional expertise to employers, and provides graduates with the ability to offer a more comprehensive array of healthcare services.
This can include full practice or prescriptive authority, allowing nurses to provide primary care to their patients and better bridge the gap between nurses and physicians. With additional qualifications, nurses can build private practices that embrace what holistic nursing care is seeking to achieve, providing care that responds to whole people, their needs, and their particular circumstances.
Holistic Nursing Care Examples and Opportunities
Holistic care in nursing covers a wide range of practices, techniques, and theories. Involving traditional and nontraditional practices alike, examples of holistic nursing care can vary broadly from one institution to the next, with many embracing care services that originated outside Western medicine. This integration of services can connect multiple types of professionals including:
- Herbal medicine practitioners
- Therapists and psychologists
- Physicians and specialists
- Physiotherapists and other fitness or physical health professionals
Patient-centered care recognizes that providing effective and comprehensive care to patients means acknowledging that a multitude of factors may be contributing to someone’s healthcare challenges. By embracing collaboration between schools of thought, professions, and specialties, a holistic approach to care removes many traditional limitations or barriers to care, expanding the toolbox of techniques available to care professionals.
Holistic Nursing Jobs
Many facilities around the country are now embracing the holistic approach to nursing care. With a median annual salary of $120,680 for nurse practitioners and a projected overall employment increase of 46% between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are many opportunities for nurses to pursue a career in holistic nursing care. Depending on their level of education, experience, and job location, nurses can compete for a variety of fulfilling roles.
Those who are passionate about specializing in holistic care can aim for senior roles in healthcare organizations by pursuing an advanced degree in nursing, allowing them to build the leadership experience they need to influence the future of healthcare. Alternatively, some registered nurses prefer to work outside the hospital system, pursuing careers in smaller clinics, private practices, or holistic care organizations.
Holistic Health Specialist
As professionals who embrace the integration of care strategies within and outside the Western tradition, holistic health specialists can range in experience and education from individuals with minor accreditations to fully certified and licensed physicians such as osteopathic, naturopathic, or ayurvedic doctors. For some registered nurses, this field provides the opportunity to build their own practices, providing alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, reiki, or aroma and music therapy.
Home Health Nurse
Many patients prefer to receive care in the comfort of their homes, reducing the stress or possible complications associated with travel. With less equipment than they would have available in a medical setting, many home health nurses are limited to providing basic care. They do, however, have the opportunity to embrace noninvasive strategies of holistic nursing care, such as massage, dietary practices, physiotherapy, or aromatherapy.
Community Health Nurse
The nursing profession is an opportunity to provide care strategies, resources, and support to those who need them most. Beyond one-on-one patient care, many nurses are inspired to positively impact their communities by influencing policy or making resources more accessible to the public. In the position of community health nurse, holistic care nurses can play a forward-thinking role in the public sector, responding to immediate needs such as vaccination programs or influencing the direction of healthcare funding.
Choose a Fulfilling Career in Holistic Care
The care that nurses provide can make a world of difference in the lives of their patients. By treating the patient as a whole person, holistic care in nursing addresses illnesses and challenges at the source, working to heal the mind, body, and spirit, while equipping individuals with the tools they need to lead a wellness-focused lifestyle.
More than simply a job, nursing is a vocation — one that requires a strong foundation in education. Through programs such as Maryville University’s online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral nursing degrees, future nursing leaders can build the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a fulfilling career. Fully online, with multiple concentrations and specializations available, the degree programs from Maryville University were designed to provide students with the practical skills they need to reach their professional goals.
Discover how you can make a positive impact with a career in holistic nursing.