Holistic Nursing: Fulfilling the Nurse as Well as the Patient

By Caroline Ortiz - April 10, 2015

The American Holistic Nurses Association describes holistic nursing as a practice that “requires nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives. This may lead the nurse to greater awareness of the interconnectedness with self, others, nature, and spirit.”

Incorporating a full circle approach to healthcare that involves the mind and spirit as well as the body allows holistic nurses a range of techniques to use in healing patients, in addition to the skillset they learned when they became RNs. What most people don’t know is that it can also lead the nurse to a more balanced lifestyle with increased fulfillment.

The Stress of Nursing and the Importance of Self-Care

Many of us experience some degree of stress in the workplace, but ironically, nurses (who help treat patients suffering from stress related illnesses) are experiencing stress at a much higher rate than most other groups. According to a study conducted by the American Nurses Association, 70.5% of nurses cited the effects of stress and overwork among their top three health and safety concerns.

Workload, inadequate staff coverage, time pressure, relationship with other staff, leadership/management style, a feeling of a lack of influence in decision making, and difficult schedules are just some of the factors mentioned by registered nurses as their primary stresses. Burnout from stress is a serious issue among nurses. The rates of burnout among nurses have been found to be higher than the rates among other healthcare professionals. According to a 2009 study, approximately 40% of hospital nurses have burnout levels that are higher than the other forms of healthcare workers. (Alexander, 2009).

Combating Nurse Burnout with Holistic Practices

The immense stresses caused by the hectic nursing lifestyle can unfortunately turn into a cycle of poor health. Lacking sleep and pressed for time on their shifts, stressed nurses can turn to poor diet choices, cigarettes, and other quick fix pick-me-ups that can damage their health in the long run and contribute to burnout. Unfortunately, many nurses care for others at the expense of their own care. Self-care is paramount for a nurse to balance on-the-job-stresses and avoid frustration and chronic stress in their career.

The Nurse Zone website has interviewed experienced RNs and catalogued advice on how to manage the stressful nursing lifestyle.

See the Nurse Zone article

Tips range from taking “you time” to meditation, yoga, and journaling. It comes down to preventative care and making oneself as much a priority as patients. Nurses are often stretched to the brink regarding time and energy, but between their job and their families, they rarely are able to take time for themselves.

By taking some personal time and incorporating a mind, body approach to their own health, nurses can avoid the pitfall of chronic stress and get back to the origin of their desire to be a nurse—healing. Each of the tips mentioned above are small but meaningful techniques to incorporate into a nurse’s schedule that can have a huge impact on overall state of mind. Ideas like these that incorporate mind, body, spirit, and preventative care such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, and qi gong are techniques a holistic nurse would be educated in and would learn to implement in his or her own life as well as patients’.

The overall well-being of a person depends on the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Nurses already actively seek out solutions for patients. Holistic nursing can provide an avenue for nurses to reach their optimal well-being while also continuing to pursue their career goals. We know that nurses are more than a career. As people with loved ones, family, and their own health to consider, holistic nursing brings the focus back to what makes healing so sought after: the healer. Join a force in healthcare that cares as much about the healer as the patient.


Holistic Nursing: The Bridge Between East and West

Holistic Opportunities Abound in U.S. Hospitals: New Integrative Programs Offer Opportunities for Patients and Practitioners Alike

Holistic Nursing Tips for Coping with Stress in the Workplace

Holistic Nursing: More Opportunities to Heal

Alexander,L.(2009) Burnout:Impact on Nursing. .

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Caroline Ortiz

Caroline E. Ortiz is a board-certified nurse coach and an associate professor in the Pacific College of Health and Science’s Holistic Nursing Programs. She has developed holistic health programs for healthcare providers and general audiences, participated in clinical research of integrative medicine, and created a Spanish-language guided meditation library for Health Journeys. She is active with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses-NY Chapter and the Integrative Health Project’s work in Guatemala. Caroline is also a curandera (f., traditional healer) apprentice and curanderismo (traditional medicine of Mesoamerican roots) researcher.

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