Skip to main content

The Importance of Holistic Nursing Care

by Carson-Newman … on September 6, 2022
A nurse caring for her patient in the holistic nursing care model

Aristotle is attributed to be the one who first said, "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." If you have ever considered this idea as it relates to nursing and the care of the human body, you have begun to consider the roots of holistic nursing care. 

The specialty of holistic nursing is a meaningful career path that takes into consideration the whole person when providing physical and psychological care to individuals and families. In this article, we will take a look in more detail at the route to becoming a holistic nurse practitioner.

What is Holistic Nursing?

Holistic nursing is a philosophy of caring for patients that takes into consideration the whole person as opposed to individual parts when treating health conditions. Wholeness and healing are nurtured by taking into consideration that each person has unique characteristics that shape their goals and desired health outcomes (as well as the most effective means or methods for attaining wellness):

  • Physical condition
  • Mental health
  • Emotional state
  • Spiritual needs
  • Environmental strengths
  • Specific challenges
  • Personal values
  • Beliefs about health 
  • Past health experiences

The American Holistic Nursing Association defines holistic nursing as "all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal." Traditional nursing also shares this goal, but the attitudes that determine the approach to healing the whole person create the main distinctions between holistic nursing care and traditional nursing care.

The Holistic Approach vs. Traditional Approach

Both the holistic approach and the traditional approach to nursing care consider the individual parts of a person to be important and treat the whole person. However, holistic nursing care looks more closely at the individual parts as though they are all connected and therefore best managed collectively as opposed to separately. A holistic nursing approach also often seeks to make a substantial spiritual and emotional connection with each patient, above and beyond the traditional approach that aims to deeply respect and honor these aspects of an individual within the framework of health care delivery. 

Several other elements of holistic nursing practice include the family, the environment, and the community (and how these elements of holistic nursing practice affect the overall goal of health for the whole person).

Elements of Holistic Nursing Practice

A holistic nursing practice may focus extensively on the impact of factors aside from solely the health condition or a diagnosis that may be influential in determining or aiding in the achievement of desired health outcomes. For example, in the holistic approach taken in palliative care, practitioners may consider a person's age to be a factor when prescribing the most appropriate forms of comfort care if the person is limited due to their mobility or other age-related changes.

Element of Practice: The Patient as a Whole

In addition to age, a patient's culture and religious beliefs may affect the way their health care is delivered. A person who values faith-based forms of self-care may benefit from the inclusion of activities they enjoy related to their faith in their plan of care. 

When considering the patient as a whole, socioeconomic factors also matter. Stressors related to finances or the means to obtain the income required for health care may impact a person's mental health. Because of this connection, a person may exhibit anxiety or depression related to the lifestyle required to manage a stressor. In this way, holistic nursing care is able to identify the interconnectedness of these factors and view the patient as a whole.

Element of Practice: Family

As a holistic practitioner, the ability to assess and understand family dynamics and family values is essential for creating a safe and supportive care plan that is most suitable for the patient. To learn about the family of a patient requires active listening skills and a deep respect to professionally honor beliefs and practices that may differ from your own. A nurse practitioner with an awareness of the family can see how this element of practice may affect a person's health condition and treatment plan.

Element of Practice: Environment

The environment of a patient is assessed by a holistic practitioner with respect to where the patient calls home and where the patient spends a majority of their time. Cleanliness, organization, and availability of personal care items for activities of daily living are factors that may be addressed in the holistic model of practice. Patients with cognitive decline or a decrease in functional mobility may need assistance with ensuring their environment has adequate lighting, access to fresh air, and availability of food and water appropriate to their abilities to take in nutrition.

Element of Practice: Community

Similar to family, a patient's community may include support systems from their place of worship, shared hobby groups, or other social networking. A person's community may be local, distant, virtual, or in-person. Assessing the patient's community and understanding the impact of the varying degrees of involvement a person may have in their community is an element of holistic nursing practice.

Why Become a Holistic Nurse Practitioner?

If you are looking for more autonomy in your nursing practice and desiring to grow your role with an advanced practice degree, a program that offers a holistic approach to nursing care might be a great fit for you to consider. There is a need for health care providers, and those with a holistic approach are valuable in a world where the optimal health care experience for each person includes many aspects of what is important to each individual and family. 

What matters to each person is sometimes personal in nature and this means that quality health care outcomes must incorporate the appreciation of diversity and a variety of value systems in the treatment of the whole person. Quality nursing care incorporates the needs and goals of each individual patient as health care providers work in partnership with patient and family preferences. 

The interconnected relationships of the elements of holistic nursing practice are important areas of focus in the care delivered by a holistic practitioner. Next, we'll take a look at some current issues in primary care that may be served with a holistic nursing approach.

Mental Health and Underserved Communities

Primary care has long been the health care delivery approach for our communities in the United States. Since the COVID-19 pandemic especially, trends have begun to emerge showing a greater need for solutions for mental health and the needs of underserved communities.

A 2022 report ranks states on the prevalence of mental health conditions and confirms that mental health in America continues to be a concern today, suggesting 20% of American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives. An executive summary of findings during the timeframe of the COVID-19 pandemic shows more individuals having suicidal thoughts and self-harm than have ever been reported, with over 8 in 10 people ranking as having severe anxiety or moderate to severe depression of those who took screening assessments for these conditions. 

Trends related to technology access, race, bias, and discrimination continue to motivate a greater push to ensure underserved communities are reached. There is a shortage of mental health providers, with more than one-third of Americans living in a location with such a health professional shortage. Many nurse practitioners are adopting the holistic model into their practice out of necessity for addressing the impact of spiritual, mental, and emotional factors on the health of patients.

How do You Become a Holistic Nurse Practitioner?

The nursing journey to become a family nurse practitioner begins by becoming a bachelors prepared (BSN) registered nurse, completing a graduate nursing program, and passing the national Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification examination that is offered either by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. You will then apply for state licensure to become an NP. There are several routes you might take to becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner that can be explored in this complete guide, including the best states to live and work as a nurse practitioner. 

Online program options are available that are credible with accreditation and reputable faculty. You may be surprised to learn about the online environment and the benefits of online nursing education. Program options include an online MSN-FNP program and Post-Master's FNP certificate. Once you become a family nurse practitioner, you can incorporate holistic practices in your advanced nursing practice and pursue additional certification in holistic nursing.

Implementing the Holistic Model

As the holistic model is increasingly adopted into practice, there are studies showing improvement in patient outcomes. Examples of this can be seen in the care of Hispanic victims of trauma and new research on the facilitation of posttraumatic growth in clinical practice. 

Resources are available to help nurses implement the holistic model into existing clinical practice. 

Certifications in holistic care are not a requirement to adopt holistic practices, but if your health care practice philosophy aligns strongly with this area of specialization, there is holistic nurse certification available. Many nurses pursue additional certification from The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC)

If the holistic model of practice interests you, look no further than Carson-Newman University as an excellent option for training. The educational programs available will not only prepare you for the certification program in holistic nursing but will guide you in thinking deeply about your health care experiences and the philosophy of implementing a holistic approach in health care delivery.

Carson-Newman Programs

With a Christian mission supporting the compassionate care required for a holistic approach, Carson-Newman's online family nurse practitioner program is an excellent option. This program prepares registered nurses to become more complete and autonomous caregivers through the inclusion of holistic nursing philosophy throughout the curriculum and your clinical experience.

Graduates will be equipped to provide the extra care for patients by promoting healthy lifestyles and finding the resources to positively affect the lives of patients and their families. If you're ready to start your FNP journey part-time at a competitive price, download your free Carson-Newman FNP program guide today.

Back to top