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The American Nurses Association has recognized holistic nursing as a nursing specialty since 2006. If you have a calling to provide the best care to patients, you may want to consider holistic nursing.
According to the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), holistic nursing is the practice of healing the whole person: not just the body. Holistic nurses use a holistic philosophy in their approach to patients. Holistic nursing is based on the teachings of Florence Nightingale, and it is helpful in all settings and for all populations. Any nurse in any environment or specialty can practice holistic nursing.
Holistic nursing differs from conventional nursing care by focusing on healing the whole person. In addition to healing a person’s physical body, holistic nurses also care for the patient’s emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. Holistic nurses choose to be instruments and facilitators of healing.
Another aspect of holistic nursing is internal. Holistic nurses are encouraged to incorporate self-care, self-responsibility, reflection, and spirituality into their daily lives. They are encouraged to care for themselves, personally, as well as care for their patients.
The basis of this approach is that a nurse’s attitude and feelings impact how they interact with patients. Nurses who are tired and emotionally unavailable create an unhealthy environment for themselves, their coworkers, and their patients. Nurses who take care of themselves are better rested, more emotionally available to others, and better able to facilitate a healing environment.
The Standards of Holistic Nursing described by the American Holistic Nursing Association include five core values:
Charlie McGuire formed the AHNA in January 1981 after witnessing problems within the nursing and medical communities throughout the 1970s. The founding meeting was held in Houston, Texas, and included 33 nurses from eight states. The AHNA now serves over 5,500 members. It offers continuing nursing education (CNE) accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, including through a Journal of Holistic Nursing, an annual conference, regional conferences, online webinars, and the Beginnings magazine.
Holistic nursing and the AHNA, however, have roots much further back. Current practices are based on the work and theories of Florence Nightingale. Through Nightingale’s observations, experiences, and detailed recordkeeping and statistics from nursing wounded soldiers, she helped create formal and science-based nursing education. Much of her work is the basis for modern nursing today, including the holistic nursing specialty.
Holistic nurses carry the typical responsibilities of registered nurses, and they take additional steps to help their patients heal physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually. In Holistic Nursing: A Way of Being, a Way of Living, a Way of Practice, Lucia Thornton, former president of the AHNA, reveals what it means to be a holistic nurse:
There are myriad practices holistic nurses may incorporate into their own lives, offer to their patients, and partner with communities to expand the focus on wholism and support our innate ability to enjoy health and well-being. These practices include, but are not limited to the following examples:
You can practice as a holistic nurse in any setting where nurses work. Many holistic nurses practice in hospitals and medical facilities. Others practice in a range of private settings. Holistic nurses can work in:
Salary figures for holistic nurses depend on their specific position, setting, or location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on registered nurses, the median pay for registered nurses in 2018 was $71,730 annually as of January 2019. Employment is expected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028.
Holistic nurses are legally licensed nurses. You must meet the educational and training requirements for becoming a registered nurse in your state.
The most frequent way nurses strengthen their holistic viewpoint and skills is through attending continuing education (CE) courses. The two leaders of holistic nursing CE courses in the USA and globally are:
Registered nurses have the option of pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree specific to holistic nursing. As of July 2021, there are 15 AHNCC-endorsed academic nursing education programs in the United States.
You do not have to become certified to practice holistic nursing, but certification designates your professional knowledge and experience to others. If you wish to specialize in holistic nursing, you can obtain a holistic nurse certification through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. To be eligible for HN-BC, you must have:
To be certified by the AHNCC as a holistic nurse, you need to have a minimum of 48 hours of continuing nursing education (CNE) in holistic nursing topics. The higher certifications require higher levels of education. Once you apply and show that you are eligible, you then must pass a quantitative examination.
There are five holistic nursing certifications you can pursue through the AHNCC. Four of these give a holistic nursing credential and one gives a nurse coaching credential.
This is the most basic level of certification as a holistic nurse. This is available to all registered nurses who meet or exceed the criteria. The requirements for an HN-BC are as follows:
An HNB-BC is a holistic nursing certification for nurses who have a baccalaureate degree. Requirements for an HNB-BC are:
An AHN-BC is a certification for nurses with a graduate degree. Requirements for AHN-BC are:
This is the most advanced certification for holistic nurses. Requirements for an APHN-BC are the same as the AHN-BC, PLUS:
No. Certification is not required to practice as a holistic nurse, but it does signal to employers, peers, and the public that you have demonstrated standardized knowledge and experience in holistic nursing.
American Holistic Nurses Association
American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation
Holistic Nursing Scope & Standards of Practice by the AHNA and ANA
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