STORIES
February 7, 2018

Interview With A Holistic Nurse: Focus on Love And Self-Care

Interview With A Holistic Nurse: Focus on Love And Self-Care

By Lee Nelson

She quit nursing school three times. But Lourdes Lorenz-Miller found her calling as a holistic nurse.

“This is the beauty of this specialty of nursing. Holistic nursing is like the thread that can be woven through each and every nursing specialty,” she says. “You can be an emergency nurse and be a holistic nurse. You can be a surgical nurse, and be a holistic nurse. It’s about the way you affect your patients in a positive manner. You can have the technical skills, but you also have the empathy for them.”

Lorenz-Miller serves as the president of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). She also is CEO of the International Integrative Health Institute in Asheville, N.C.

What is holistic nursing? 

The AHNA describes holistic nursing as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.” 

Florence Nightingale, who is considered the founder of holistic nursing, taught nurses to focus on the principles of holism: unity, wellness and the interrelationship of human beings and their environment. 

“We can promote healing or be a hindrance to healing. That is a huge component of holistic nursing,” Lorenz-Miller says. She continued, “you must have a consistently caring presence with unconditional love and positive regard for that human being.  You must treat each patient like a family member.”

Lorenz-Miller believes that listening is a key component to a nurse’s job description, “when nurses aren’t present with their patients, they don’t listen as well, and may miss something critical to that patient.”

“A holistic nurse looks at the individual as a whole instead of looking at just the cardiac aspect of their illness or other problems. We are all becoming so specialized in nursing that the essence of who we need to be when we are connecting with a patient is in crisis of getting lost,” Lorenz-Miller explains.

“I never really wanted to be a nurse.”

“I never really wanted to be a nurse. My parents pushed me to be a doctor,” she says.

 She was born in Cuba. She taught dance, painted, worked at Disney World and worked in a theater. She also tried going through the pre-med programs at college to please her parents. 

As a youngster, at the age 16, she worked in her father’s doctor office giving hundreds of shots a day. He was an allergist and immunologist. All the nurses in her dad’s office seemed miserable and complained a lot - they turned her off from a career in nursing. 

“I didn’t want to be like that. I enjoyed meeting with the patients! I was doing nursing back then, but didn’t even realize it,” she says.

Holistic Nurse Mentors

Lorenz-Miller went directly from nursing school in 1982 to working at a critical care unit. She felt confident in her skill set. Once she got into her job, she began to admire nurses who were truly engaged with their patients. They always seemed like the best team players, and they always mentored new nurses.

“I wanted to be like them. They were holistic nurses,” she explains.

A Practice Centered In Love

Lorenz-Miller had already been doing much of what the practice of holistic nursing calls for. She began practicing walking meditation every day as she walked the ½ mile from the parking lot to the first hospital she worked at. All paths were leading her in the direction of holistic nursing. 

“I made sure that I was in a place centered with love and healing, and I have never stopped doing that since 1982. I was Catholic, so I also was calling all the angels to back me up. That was my beginning into holistic nursing,” she adds.

What is the American Holistic Nurses Association? 

The AHNA started in 1983. The first publication about holistic nursing practice came out in the 1980s. When Lorenz-Miller read about it, she knew this is what she wanted to do. 

She says that any nurse can belong to the organization, along with a special non-nursing membership for people such as yoga instructors, massage therapists and others. 

There are currently only 5,000 members of the AHNA -  but she hopes as president that she can build that up tenfold. 

“In growing our numbers, we have a larger voice. It took until 2006 for the American Association of Nursing to recognize holistic nursing as a separate practice,” she says. 

The association also offers a yearly conference for these like-minded people, and regional conferences across the country. It is the only nursing organization that has a core value of self-care, she adds.

What type of people make the best holistic nurses? 

“Loving is the most important element of being a holistic nurse,” says Lorenz-Miller. She continued, “a holistic nurse must be someone who sees the world with a very clear lens. They don’t have their implicit biases, and they aren’t bringing their baggage to work,” she says. 

“They aren’t reactive, but they are empathetic,” she added.   

Comfort is of utmost importance when it comes to patient care. “We look at always promoting comfort for our patient population with guided imagery, massage therapy technique, biofeedback, energy work, aromatherapy and more,” she says.

To become a holistic nurse, you must pass a certified exam. 

What is the salary range of a holistic nurse? 

Any hospital that recognizes holistic nursing as a specialty will pay the differential pay just like a critical care nurse or emergency room nurse.  Some hospitals around the country endorse holistic nurses. 

Where do holistic nurses work?

The practice of holistic nursing is embraced in Canada, Germany and Japan, along with parts of the United States.

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