How to Become a Holistic Nurse
Holistic nursing is continuing to increase in popularity due to ongoing studies that show that an individual’s physical well-being is tied to their mental and spiritual health. Holistic nurses use a combination of traditional and functional medicine to treat patients' minds, bodies, and souls.
Lourdes Lorenz-Miller, a holistic nurse who served as the president of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), was interviewed regarding her role and the impact holistic nursing is having on the healthcare profession.
What is Holistic Nursing?
The AHNA describes holistic nursing as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.”
Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, is also regarded as the founder of holistic nursing. According to Nightingale, 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.”
“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.
What Do Holistic Nurses Do?
Holistic nursing uses complementary and integrative therapies to treat their patients as a whole including mind, body, and spirit. A combination of Eastern and Western medicine, holistic nurses utilize all modalities to teach their patients and communities about wellness and preventative health care.
Some common techniques and therapies used by holistic nurses:
- Assist patients in stress management techniques
- Hypnosis, hydrotherapy, and balneotherapy
- Chinese and Eastern healing practices
- Wellness coaching
- Herbal therapies
- Dietary change recommendations
- Guided imagery
- Exercise programs
How to Become a Holistic Nurse
To become a holistic nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Attend Nursing School
You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse. ADN-prepared nurses may want to take the additional step of completing their BSN degree
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN
Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
Step 3: Gain Experience at the Bedside
Prior to becoming a holistic registered nurse, individuals should have a few years of bedside experience. Holistic nursing does not require the traditional minimum bedside experience as other specialties.
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation offers several certifications for Holistic Nurses. These include the Holistic Nurse Certification (HN-BC), Holistic Nurse Baccalaureate Board Certification (HNB-BC), Advanced Holistic Nurse Board Certification (AHN-BC), and Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse Board Certification (APHN-BC).
Holistic Registered Nurse Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2021 is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary. While the BLS does not identify the salary of nursing specialties such as holistic nursing, according to ZipRecruiter, holistic nurses earn an average salary of $86,547 per year or $42 per hour.
Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution most include the following:
- Health insurance
- Certification Reimbursement
- Retirement Options
- Holiday Pay
- Family Leave of Absence
- Maternity Leave
- Dental Insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Life Insurance
- Paid time off
- Relocation assistance
- Bereavement leave
- Vision Insurance
- Discounts on extracurricular activities
- Continuing Education Reimbursement
- Relocation packages
- Attendance at nursing conferences
What Type of People Make the Best Holistic Nurses?
First and foremost, holistic nurses must be caring and focused on the ability to see the patient as a whole, including body, mind, and spirit.
According to Lorenz-Miller, “loving is the most important element of being a holistic nurse.” “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 the 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.
Other characteristics important in holistic nursing include,
- Passion for seeing the “whole”
- Spiritual reflection
- Strong communication skills
- Attention to Detail
- Good listening skills
Where Do Holistic Nurses Work?
Holistic nurses can work in a variety of areas but typically they tend to work in less traditional areas rather than a hospital setting. There are many alternative methods and techniques used by holistic nurses that do not require the equipment used by most bedside nurses. For this reason, they can work in settings that other nurses wouldn’t be able to.
Holistic nurses can work in the following locations,
- Medical Day Spas
- Patient’s Home
- Private Practices
- Birthing Centers
- Wellness Center
- Academic Centers
- Private Consultants
What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Holistic Nurses?
Generally, in order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee. Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal. If the RN license is part of a compact nursing license, the CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence. Furthermore, some states require CEUs related to child abuse, narcotics, and/or pain management.
A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.
Resources for Holistic Nurses
The American Holistic Nurses Association is the primary resource for nurses interested in becoming holistic nurses.
The AHNA was 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.
Other resources include:
- Journal of Holistic Medicine
- Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine
- American Nurses Association
- National League for Nursing
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