Holistic nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as it’s goal (American Holistic Nurses Association, 1998).” The holistic nurse uses his or her skills and knowledge to nurture the patient’s wholeness, peace, and healing. The whole person is taken into consideration during each phase of the nursing process. Members of the American Holistic Nurses Association use one or more complementary, alternative, or integrative treatments. Here are five approaches you can use on yourself or with your patients to promote healing.
- Meditation. This is a great relaxation tool for emotional well-being. At the workplace, you can meditate anywhere that you can find a quiet space–in the break room, outside during a short walk, or in your car before or after your shift (Schroeder, T., 2017). You can even encourage your patients to meditate to help reduce pain and anxiety.
- Therapeutic Touch. This technique was developed in the 1970s. It involves the manipulation of a person’s energy field between the practitioner and receiver. The Therapeutic Touch International Association defines it as “a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being (TTIA, 2017).
- Aromatherapy. Nurses can use aromatherapy to bring comfort to their patients and reduce pain. Use a scent that has a positive emotion attached to it. Ask the patient what they would prefer and go from there. Practitioners can use essential oils with citrus, mint, woodsy, or floral scents. Different oils can be mixed together to create a unique blend (Guitierez, C., 2017).
- Deep Breathing. This can help to reduce stress in yourself and your patients. It’s easy for everyone to do, as long as you can breath! Take deep breaths from your diaphragm, pushing out your belly with each breath. Once you have mastered diaphragmatic breathing, try some other techniques such as 4-7-8 Breathing, Roll Breathing, and Morning Breathing.
- Supplements and/or Probiotics. As a nurse, we can recommend certain supplements to our patients such as fish oil, and other vitamins and minerals. I also recommend a probiotic for patients after they have been on antibiotics. The easiest one to get is some yogurt, if they don’t want to spend a lot of money. Always remind your patients to be mindful of drug interactions if they are on any other medications.
These are some recommendations and of course there are many more. Let me know what you have tried in the comment section!
Gutierrez, C. (2017, June). Holistic Nursing: Engaging the Five Senses for Emotional Health (AHNA). Beginnings, 37(3) 6-7, 24-25.
Schroeder, T. (2017, June). Meditation for emotional well-being. American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). Beginnings; 37(3), 10-11.
Therapeutic Touch International Association, http://www.therapeutictouch.org.
In nursing school we are taught that pain is the fifth vital sign, next to temperature, respirations, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels. We are also taught that pain is what the patient says it is, leading us to constantly ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. We are asked to re-evaluate their pain after our interventions, leading us to often tell the physician that a patient’s pain isn’t well-controlled. On top of this, our hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid based on patient’s pain control through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores. With all this focus on pain, combined with the monetary incentives to control pain, is it any wonder that so many people are addicted to pain medications?
Our intense focus of alleviating a patient’s pain in all ways possible has lead to many patients becoming addicted within the hospital system. When they can no longer get opioid prescription medication, they turn to illegal drugs like heroin. Many of my patients come in with abscesses from heroin injections. According to the American Nurses Association:
- 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose
- At least half of all opioid overdoses involved a prescribed medicine
- Sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, but the overall amount of pain Americans report has not changed
- Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2010
As nurses, we should advocate for more drug-free ways to relieve pain. After all, pain is a part of life, but so many people are afraid to feel it. There are alternative pain treatments out there, such as meditation, acupuncture, guided imagery, hypnosis, exercise, and so many more. Hospital treatments are almost solely focused on medication, and it’s time for that to change if we want to rid ourselves of the opioid epidemic in this country.
Balance means different things to everyone. Some people are content where they are in life, and don’t want to achieve anything more. Some people are constantly striving, but don’t seem to get anywhere. When I was studying for my Bachelors in nursing, one professor started off every class with a meditation. Each week we would focus on a different aspect of mindfulness. One of them was “Letting Go.” It’s important to let go of worry, anxiety, fears, and to just be present in the moment. This is one of the ways I’m working to bring balance to my life. Once you realize that all worry is futile, and is nothing but a waste of time, more balance and happiness will come into your life.
There are many videos on YouTube that are all about letting go of worries, fears, and past relationships. I like the guided meditations that can help calm and relax me after a stressful shift. Another aspect of mindfulness that goes along with Letting Go, is Non-Striving. The meditation that we would listen to in class was by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and his non-striving explanation can be found here. There are nine aspects of mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn provides excellent resources.
If you are looking to add balance to your life, I highly recommend some form of meditation.
To be a nurse it is necessary to have high emotional intelligence. This is something I struggle with sometimes, especially when certain patients push my buttons. It would be easy to lose my cool and say something I’ll regret later when called into my manager’s office. But, being able to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that it’s all about the patient is what saves me most days. Breathe In….Out….In….Out…..
There’s a practice I learned about while getting my BSN called “mindfulness meditation”. I took a therapeutic touch class and we all meditated for about 10 minutes at the beginning of class. The goal was to sit still, pay attention to your breath, and let thoughts come to mind. If a thought came to mind, you were to dismiss it and draw your attention back to your breath. Your mind may wander constantly–mine did–and then when you are ready open your eyes and pay attention to how you feel. How are you going to start your day? What is your attitude going to be like today? Are you going to send out positivity or negativity? If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, go to www.mindful.org.
This practice is simple, and with time you will get better and better. You will be able to recall the peacefulness of your breath when you are in a patient’s room and suddenly just taking that one breath will be enough to calm you down. Let me know if you’ve tried this and what you think!