You may have heard the word ‘holistic’ in reference to a medical practice or a sub-field of nursing. Often people think holistic means alternative and have the wrong idea regarding the description. There isn’t a ton of incense burning in a doctor’s office while nurses gather around and chant at patients. (Really, there isn’t.)
Holistic means that the practitioner (nurse or doctor) considers the entire being of their patient when creating a care or action plan. The patient’s illness, injury, mind, spiritual and mental well-being is taken into account and the care plan accounts for all of this.
Not only does the nurse take in consideration these items, but the patient’s family, if they have one, is included. Many nurses and other health professionals are now using this type of approach in their care. It has been found that the healing process is improved when holistic care is used.
There is a spiritual aspect to holistic care, though there is no religious connection unless the patient prefers there to be one. Spiritual is not a direct reference to religion, as many people that have no practicing religion have spiritual rituals (meditation, etc).
Alternative medicine often has a holistic approach to care, but again, holistic should not be confused with alternative medicines or treatments. Every type of treatment has the possibility of being holistic if the practitioners use the approach.
One important note about a holistic practitioner is that the nurse providing the care is a mentor, a guide if you will, on the path to becoming well (or healthier). The patient must follow the instructions or model that the nurse has provided in order to see and feel results in their health. While this may sound like typical care, the holistic version incorporates a more interactive approach – the patients is encouraged to ask questions and expected to participate in all of their care.
Holistic nursing is not ‘all about the medicine’. In some patient care, medicine is not used or the care is working to eliminate the need for medication. One example of this is depression care – the holistic care works to help the patient eliminate the need for anti-depressants if possible and manage their own emotions. Even if medication is needed indefinitely, holistic treatment does not allow the person to be medicated and left to fend for themselves. The nurse will check on the patient, talk with them about their feelings, their illness, and offer continued support.