What is Holistic Nursing? — Jobs, Practice, Care, Journal, Association


Holistic nursing is the science and art of caring, treating and healing a person. This type of nursing recognizes the dynamics of the mind, body, spirit and environment, and how they interact and impact an individual’s ability to grow and heal. Health is a quality of life and a perception of wellness. Holistic nursing offers a platform to discuss ways to integrate nursing theories, knowledge, ability, intuition and complementary or alternative modalities. These ways guide nurses to become therapeutic partners with the people in their care and treat their psychological, physiological and spiritual needs. Basically, the primary goal of holistic nurses is to work with people at all phases of life and in all settings, enabling people to be lively as possible in every kind of situation.


American Holistic Nurses Association (ANHA)


The American Holistic Nurses Association is a non-profitable membership association for holistic nurses & health care professionals, that serves more than 5,700 members and over 125 local network chapters across the United States and abroad. AHNA’s mission is to advance holistic nursing through advocacy, education, research and community building. AHNA’s vision of the world where nursing inspires peace & healing and nurture wholeness.

AHNA advances the education of holistic health professionals and nurses, and the public in every aspect of holistic healing and caring. The AHNA’s efforts led to the holistic nursing recognition as an official nursing specialty by the American Nurses Association (ANA). AHNA also provides informative publications, local networking opportunities, focus on wellness and self-care, continuing education, insurance and supportive community resources to its members.


AHNA works together with American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC) to advance holistic nursing. AHNA is the membership organization while AHNCC is the certifying body that offers Holistic Nurse Board Certification.

Overall, AHNA promotes the holistic nursing profession by providing continuing education, which helps improve the healthcare workplace by educating health professionals and the public about integrative health care, promoting scholarships and research, and incorporating the concepts of holistic nursing.

Holistic Nursing Specialty Status


Holistic nursing was officially identified by the American Nurses Association as a nursing specialty in December of 2006, with a well-defined scope & standards of practice. This acknowledged the unique contribution of holistic nursing to the healing and health of people and society.

Specialty status delivers holistic nurses with a foundation and clarity for their practice, as well as strengthening the voice of the profession. It also provides the clear description of who holistic nurses are and helps holistic nurses identify their practice.

Holistic nursing is a specialty which is based upon evidence-based research, new skills, a body of knowledge, defined standards of practice, diverse modalities from a range of health practices, and a philosophy of living that is grounded in relationship, caring, and interconnectedness.

Each specialty standard of practice and nursing scope statement can greatly influence the nursing practice standards by:

  • Validating research and attracting research funds.
  • Providing recognition by nursing state boards.
  • Describing the skills, abilities and knowledge that health care agencies and hospitals can expect from hiring nurses.
  • Helping the professional nursing practice regulate itself.
  • Providing schools & universities with a curricula template and influencing the growth of continuing education programs.

Holistic Nursing Practice


Holistic nursing practice focuses on various aspects of alternative treatment. A holistic practitioner usually focuses on the health and healing of the person instead of treating a single disease or symptoms. Basically, holistic health looks at all parts of a patient’s life to make lifestyle changes like exercise and diet, as well as offering other treatments like herbal remedies or massage to restore health. Holistic nurses apply their own experiences as a basis for their care, thereby incorporating the patient’s experiences and social, spiritual and cultural values in treating the entire person instead of just the illness.

Holistic nursing approves that relationships exist everywhere and humans can also affect other humans. This concept is featured in the nurses’ care plan using reflection, self-responsibility and self-care to aid the patient to get healthy.

The holistic nurses focus on the patient’s interconnectedness with his/her world, leads to a deeper understanding of interconnectedness. The nurse then uses that awareness and understanding to give better health care for the patient. Because of the holistic nursing’s nature, it is generally considered more than the regular nursing practice. Holistic nursing affects all aspects of the nurse, both inside and outside his/her job, and becomes a lifestyle and philosophy.

An alternative medicine background or liberal arts is very helpful to holistic nursing. Both aspects give an excellent foundation of experience and education, allowing the nurse to expand his/her mind, increase his or her critical thinking skills, and grow personally.

How to Become a Holistic Nurse


Holistic nurses engage in holistic care from entry-level registered nurses (RNs) to Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Bachelor’s degrees, particularly in holistic nursing, are very rare, but many nursing programs promote the holistic view. Usually, a registered nurse who has an undergraduate nursing degree and wants to work as a holistic nurse should complete his or her continuing education in the field of holistic nursing.

Nurses who are aspiring to become holistic nurse practitioners have the choice to pursue a master’s degrees/post master’s programs particular to holistic nursing practice.

Programs generally cover both traditional and advanced practice nursing fundamental competencies, like health assessment, pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology, as well as complementary healing modalities. In spite of this, every course is taught within the framework of the holistic nursing philosophy.

Some holistic nurses integrate particular complementary or alternative healing modalities in their practices. Nurses can choose a few modalities to practice including:

  1. Body-based and manipulative practices, such as acupuncture, acupressure, movement therapy and massage.
  2. Mind-body medicine, like meditation, art therapy, and hypnotherapy.
  3. Biologically based practices, like nutritional counseling and herbal therapy.
  4. Energy medicine, like prayer, healing touch or Reiki.

In addition to providing knowledge on the complementary healing modalities, essential concepts to holistic nursing like self-care, intention or intentionally, holistic healing and health, presence, holistic ethics, perspectives of the spirit, mind, and body, as well as fundamental essentials are contained in the programs curriculum.


Some schools give programs which combine the patient population focus with the holistic specialty. For example, holistic nurse practitioner or adult nurse practitioner programs are very common. Other schools offer an advanced holistic nursing program or a holistic nurse practitioner program outside of the patient’s population focus. Additionally, post master’s certificates specifically for holistic nursing are available for clinical nurse specialists.

Holistic Nursing Certification


AHNCC is responsible for certification of holistic nursing. Currently, there are 4 approved holistic nurse certifications available from the AHNCC.

  1. Holistic Nurse-Board Certification (HN-BC) – Available to registered nurses who have completed nursing programs at an officially recognized/accredited school that offers at least an associate degree or diploma.
  2. Holistic Baccalaureate Nurse-Board Certification (HNB-BC) – Available to registered nurses who have completed a Bachelor’s degree from a nursing school certified by Association of Schools & Colleges.
  3. Advanced Holistic Nurse-Board Certification (AHN-BC) – Available to registered nurses who have an APRN license and have completed a nursing graduate degree from an authorized school.
  4. Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse-Board Certified (APHN-BC) – Available to registered nurses with an APRN license along with a graduate degree from a certified school.

These requirements apply to the 4 AHNCC certifications:

  • Nurses must have current and unrestricted registered nurse license in the US.
  • Nurses must have 2,000 hours at least of part-time experience, and 1 year at least of full-time experience within the 5 years of holistic nursing before the exam.
  • Nurses must complete 48 contact hours at least of holistic nursing’s continuing education within the 2 years before the exam.
  • Signed attestation of candidates agreement with AHNCC terms.

AHNCC also gives 2 certification choices for anyone who has interest in nurse coaching:

  1. Nurse Coach-Board Certified (NC-BC)
  2. Health & Wellness Nurse Coach-Board Certified (HWNC-BC) – This certification is only available to board certified nurses.

These requirements apply to nurse coach certifications:

  • Nurses must have unrestricted and current registered nurse license.
  • Nurses must have Bachelor’s degree conferred through a certified school of nursing.
  • Nurses must have 4,000 hours at least of part-time experience or at least 2-years of full-time experience during the 5 years immediately before the exam.
  • Nurses must complete 60 hours at least of continuing education within the 3 years immediately before the exam. Plus, 10 hours at least of experience in nurse coaching are also recommended.
  • 60 hours at least of experience under Certified Nurse Coach Supervisor’s mentorship. A letter written by supervising nurse coach is required to validate this experience.
  • Nurse Coach Self-Reflective assessment.
  • Signed attestation of the candidates agreement with AHNCC terms.

The Professional Testing Corporation is responsible for administering the exams from March through to October for 2 weeks in over 700 locations in the U.S. Certification validity is only 5 years. Recertification needs continuing practice and continuing education requirements.

Holistic Nursing Practitioner Programs


For those aspiring to become holistic nurses, you can get an Associate’s Degree in nursing that consists of a program with holistic perspectives. To enroll in this program you need to have basic skills in English and Math as well as computer literacy. In this 2-year program, nurses cover topics associated with general education as well as learn about basics of nursing. The next stage is to sit & pass the licensure exam and gain work experience. You can afterward pursue holistic nurse certification via AHNCC.

Holistic Nursing Program Coursework


Coursework in Holistic Nursing care programs includes clinical studies, practicums, and classroom lessons. The curriculum may include courses such as nursing fundamentals, general psychology & mental health, concepts in nursing management, holistic wellness along with a holistic approach to pharmacology. Students may also cover other topics like holistic practice & nurse healer, and moral, legal, ethical and regulatory principles.

Continuing Education in Holistic Nursing


Holistic nurses who would like to improve their career prospects can enroll in Bachelor’s programs in nursing. This more advanced degree prepares RNs for a wider range of career opportunities. BSc in Nursing completed in four years and covers several advanced topics such as spiritual implications & behavioral health, national community management, alteration in holistic integrity, holistic health assessments, and applied social science in healing. Graduates can opt for a Holistic Baccalaureate Nurse Certification. Additionally, they can also enroll in Master’s Degree in Nursing with the focus on Holistic Nursing. It can aid students to get the most productive opportunities within this field.

Online Holistic Nursing Programs


Online schools of nursing offer Online Nursing Programs for aspiring nurses. These programs are very flexible, which allows students enrollment in the programs from any place as well as complete the degree at own pace. Learners can also study at timings that suit their personal routine. Online nursing programs are suitable options for registered nurses seeking to boost their career prospects without quitting their existing jobs.

The AHNCC endorses the following holistic programs:

  • RN Patient Advocate Program
  • Certificate in Holistic & Integrative Health
  • Certificate in Spirituality, Health & Healing
  • Clinical Aromatherapy for Health Professionals
  • The Great River Craniosacral Therapy Training Programs
  • Healing Beyond Borders
  • Healing Touch Program (HTP)
  • Holistic Coaching Training Program
  • Holistic Stress Management Instructor Certification
  • Integrative Aromatherapy Certificate Program
  • Integrative Healing Arts Program
  • Integrative Reflexology Program
  • 3-in-1 Whole Health Educator for Nurses Program (Educate, Advocate, Coach)

These endorsed programs based on scientific research, get approved for CNE contact hours. These programs equip nurses with the skills and knowledge legally incorporated into the holistic nursing practice. In addition, a nurse gets broad exposure. The contact hours must be approved by an AHNA’s Education Approver Committee, or provided by an ANCC Recognized Approved Provider, or an ANCC Accredited Provider.

Journal Holistic Nursing (JHN)


The JHN is a peer-reviewed nursing journal based on incorporating traditional Western medicine with holistic health concepts. This journal was established in 1983, it provides a forum for creative and caring nurse practitioners & educators in research, clinical practice, personal wellness practice, and education to exchange important information, share personal and clinical experiences, as well as communicate research on health care, healing, wellness, human potential and nursing practice.

The JHN help nurses to learn how they can actively participate in the holistic healing process through:

  • Awareness of the opportunities to empower and nurture patients
  • Integrating concepts of wellness, self-care, preventive intervention and wellness in everyday practice
  • Inspiration to continue the professional and personal transformation
  • Knowledge of multiple approaches that apply to both lifestyle and patient care
  • Techniques that sharpen skills to become more clinically competent
  • Implementation of analytic and intuitive skills of the opportunities to empower and nurture patients

Other than the JHN, holistic nursing theories & models are also necessary for a holistic nurse. They include:

  • King’s Theory of Goal Attainment
  • Neuman’s Systems Model
  • Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings
  • Nightingale’s Environment Theory
  • Hall’s Care, Cure and Core Theory
  • Parse’s Human Becoming Theory
  • Roy’s Adaptation Model of Nursing
  • Johnson’s Behavior System Model
  • Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory
  • Erickson’s Modelling and Role Modelling Theory
  • Newman’s Health as Expanding Consciousness Theory
  • Watson’s Philosophy and Science of Caring
  • Humanistic Model

Job opportunities for holistic nurses are ever-increasing due to more need for holistic nursing. Therefore, career prospects for nurses are really bright because of the amount of new job openings that need these healthcare professionals all over the country.

Nurse employment is increasing at a faster pace compared to other occupations. Pursuing a career in holistic nursing can lead students to very lucrative opportunities in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics and other practice settings.

On average, holistic nurses can earn around $65,000 on an annual basis. This income varies mostly by work setting and area of specialty.

Holistic Nursing Care


Holistic nursing care integrates many easy ways to promote a healthy emotional, psychological and spiritual environment, and improve relationships with patients. During this care a holistic nurse should:

  • Learn the patient’s name & use it
  • Make good and strong eye contact
  • Ask how the patient is feeling & sincerely care
  • Smile and laugh when appropriate
  • Use therapeutic touch
  • Assist the patient to perceive themselves as people who deserve dignity
  • Preserve their dignity
  • Educate their patients on essentiality self-care
  • Ask the patient how they want to be helped reduce their pain and anxiety

Use non-pharmacological pain control methods like relaxation techniques, imagery, and more

Encourage and help patients as required using alternative treatment modalities. Never underestimate the importance of aromatherapy, music or massage.

Ask if the patients have certain cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs. Always be accepting and sensitive if they do.

These actions can promote the patients emotional and psychological well-being to enhance physical healing. In addition, the nurse’s relationship with the patient effectively changes and grows, leading to better patient outcomes, as well as increase the purpose and happiness in your work as a nurse.

Overall, holistic nursing care enriches the lives of nurses as well as patients. Nursing is a tough profession that is emotionally, mentally and physically draining at times, but holistic nursing care is sure to show the good memories, moments and experiences you had as a nurse, and remind you why you became a nurse.

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