The field of nursing keeps on evolving in the quest to improve patient care through the provision of quality and timely services for better outcomes. Holistic care has emerged in nursing as part of patient-based care practice whereby the focus is on the patients to address their care needs comprehensively. Holism is grounded on the philosophical understanding that the whole is greater than its constituent parts. When applied to healthcare, holistic care seeks to address all the patients’ needs by considering the interconnectedness of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. At the core of holistic care is the belief that the various aspects of an individual are connected and if one is affected then the rest are also involved in one way or another. This paper discusses holistic care to highlight how it might help patients heal, its main components, where it is being carried out, its implications for the future of healthcare, and the monetary aspects associated with it.
Holistic Care in Nursing
Holistic care in nursing borrows heavily from the principles of Florence Nightingale who understood that a person’s health cannot be separated from his or her environment. She emphasized the central role of cleanliness, light, pure air, and pure water in creating and maintaining a healthy environment for healing. According to Thornton (2019), holistic nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (p. 33). Therefore, the main components of holistic care include focusing on a patient’s physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and environmental aspects. This approach, as a patient-centered practice, honors each patient’s beliefs, values, and health experiences. The focus on the environment in this practice is hinged on the understanding that external factors to a person may contribute significantly to an ailment, by either causing it or exacerbating it. Therefore, as part of treatment, a patient may be moved to a new environment that promotes both spiritual and emotional wellness. Additionally, the relationship between caregivers and patients within this model is improved with high-level involvement of patients in their care. Ultimately, holistic care seeks to achieve optimum balance in mind, body, and spirit.
Therefore, holistic care confers many benefits to patients by helping them heal from both small and large health problems. First, within the purview of holistic care, health is not just the absence of disease. On the contrary, true health is viewed as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (McCartney et al., 2019, p. 22). As such, holistic care seeks to restore the mind, body, spirit balance by addressing a patient’s social, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. It fixes the underlying conditions and at the same time minimizes the risk of disease progression. The goal here is to achieve “holistic” healing as opposed to alleviating symptoms. Additionally, this approach is patient-centered, and thus it allows patients to be involved in their care by making decisions concerning their treatment and ultimately owning the responsibility of their wellness (Eriksson et al., 2018). It also reduces the need to use chemicals and artificial ingredients, which are common under conventional medicine. The focus on the “whole” implies that this approach addresses various conditions at once, which ultimately improves the overall balance and wellness. Therefore, it suffices to argue that holistic care helps patients heal from health problems, both small and large.
This approach to care is being practiced in all care settings. It is not restricted to certain diseases, demographics, or patient groups. A survey conducted in 2017 using a sample size of 5000 members of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) showed that holistic care was being practiced in acute care (35%), private practice (20%), universities and colleges (20%), outpatient care (15%), and hospice care (10%) (Thornton, 2019). Holistic nurses apply holistic care by adopting complementary therapies of “doing” and “being”. The “doing” therapy entails the various forms of modern medicine, such as dietary interventions, medications, acupuncture, and radiation among other related treatments. On the other hand, the “being” therapy focuses on states of consciousness, such as meditation and prayer to affect the body’s wellbeing. The objective of these therapies is to remove barriers to the healing process by creating an enabling environment for the restoration of the mind, body, and spirit balance, which allows the practice to be applied in any care setting.
Holistic care will impact the future of healthcare positively as more providers continue adopting this approach. It will be the heart of nursing science as the nursing practice continues to adopt patient-based care measures in service provision. It suffices to argue that the future of medicine will be human-centered. Clinicians will seek to have patients be highly involved in their care decisions and choice of treatment for better care outcomes. Regimens will be tailored to address a patient’s needs realistically. For instance, if a patient is overwhelmed by taking daily medication, the care provider would consider using a drug that is delivered less frequently. Additionally, the cost of holistic care is lower compared to conventional treatment, and thus with an aging population and increased demand for care services due to chronic and terminal illnesses, this form of care will be highly preferred.
The funding for holistic care is gaining traction as part of the campaign to convince more individuals and institutions to adopt this approach to care. For instance, the AHNA has various grants in both research and practice. Additionally, private entities are also actively getting involved in funding holistic care programs in various setups. Similarly, different learning institutions are offering scholarships for those interested in pursuing a career in holistic care. However, the government has not been actively involved in funding holistic care probably because this approach to care has not been fully integrated into the mainstream care provision protocols. Currently, the AHNA is the leading organization championing the adoption of holistic nursing in care provision. The organization has over 5,500 nurses and healthcare professionals as members both in the US and internationally (ANHA, 2021). With various endorsed training and certification programs, it is expected that more care professionals and nurses will join the organization and spread awareness on the benefits of holistic care to patients.
Holistic care in nursing draws from the principles of care by Florence Nightingale. This approach emphasizes the need to achieve mind, body, and spirit balance by focusing on a patient’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and environmental needs. The practice is patient-centered and it is being practiced in all care settings. Under holistic care, the definition of health transcends the mere absence of disease to cover other aspects of human living. While the government is not actively involved in funding this form of care, various organizations and private entities offer grants and scholarships to both institutions and individuals as an incentive for the continued adoption of holistic care in practice.
AHNA. (2021). About us.
Eriksson, I., Lindblad, M., Möller, U., & Gillsjö, C. (2018). Holistic health care: Patients’ experiences of health care provided by an Advanced Practice Nurse. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 24(1), 1-7.
McCartney, G., Popham, F., McMaster, R., & Cumbers, A. (2019). Defining health and health inequalities. Public Health, 172, 22–30.
Thornton, L. (2019). A brief history and overview of holistic nursing. Integrative Medicine, 18(4), 32–33.