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  • 26 September 2022
  • 6 min read

Practical Changes You Can Make To Practice Holistic Nursing Care

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    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Nick Dowling
    • Valerie Jones
    • Shellome Smith
    • Eryn Rizzi
    • Steven Miller
    • Rebecca Wetherhill
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  • 6352
By choosing to care for patients holistically, we as nurses can also better comprehend exactly how an illness or diagnosis may be affecting our patient’s life and personal needs"By choosing to care for patients holistically, we as nurses can also better comprehend exactly how an illness or diagnosis may be affecting our patient’s life and personal needs."

Rebecca, a newly trained Nurse, talks about how her personal values have led to her practising Holistic Nursing Care and covers the three main compenants of holism that can lead to better quality of care for all.

What is Holistic Nursing?

Holistic Nursing care can be defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (The American Holistic Nurses Association).

The philosophy behind holistic care is based on the idea of holism which emphasises that human’s are ‘whole beings’- therefore, our minds and spirits affect our bodies.

These parts are never separate.

First developed by Florence Nightingale, holistic Nursing care encompasses addressing not just the physical body, but the individual’s mind and spirit in order to prevent and treat disease, as well as promote optimal health.

As a new graduate Orthopaedic Nurse, I often observed on student placements that significant importance appeared to be given to treating the physical body, and less to considering how illness may be affecting the mind and soul of the individual receiving care.

Nursing ‘holistically’ includes a vast range of approaches. Some examples of such approaches include education, communication, medication, complementary treatment and self-help.

These approaches can fall under the three main components of holism: physical, psychological and spiritual.

Interestingly, research shows that holistic care can increase both self-confidence and self-awareness in patients.

By choosing to care for patients holistically, we as nurses can also better comprehend exactly how an illness or diagnosis may be affecting our patient’s life and personal needs.

Many barriers can be to blame for this influx of remaining ‘task orientated’ in Nursing care – short staffing, lack of time and compassion fatigue to name a few.

As I embark on the start of my Nursing career, it is a personal and professional value of mine to provide holistic nursing care for my patients.

Ultimately, Nurses play a valuable role in promoting the patient’s emotional and psychological wellbeing, thus acting as a catalyst in facilitating physical healing.

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Physical Care

Treating the individual physically is of course an aspect of effective holistic care. It is vital to monitor and manage our patient’s pain.

Using the start of every shift to properly assess the level of pain that your patient is in can help tremendously in reminding you to check in regularly throughout the day.

If medications are not due, is there any non-pharmaceutical approach that you can use to offer relief?

Can you provide them with an ice pack, or offer temporary forms of distraction such as deep breathing and changing body position?

Hospital environments can often be a place wherein opportunity to mobilise is limited, bar physiotherapy input.

In my opinion, it’s a testament to holistic nursing to assist our patients to mobilise to the toilet.

Sometimes it is ‘easier’ to offer the commode or bedpan, but if the patient is fully able, helping them to mobilise will do wonders to maintain their own dignity and reduce functional decline.

Furthermore, an integral counterpart of recovering from illness is nutrition and diet.

Our patients need to be consuming adequate food and hydration intake throughout the shift to help them to recover physically and psychologically.

Might they need a referral to the hospital dietician, and can you assess their nutrition using effective nursing care plans?

Wounds on the surgical ward require adequate protein intake to heal, an important fact to remember when helping post-operative patients to recover from surgery.

Empowering ill or elderly patients to feed themselves where able is part of treating with a holistic nursing approach.

Spiritual Care

Spiritual Nursing care can be identified as caring for the human spirit through interconnectedness and development of relationships between the Nurse and the patient.

As Nurses, we come across a vast array of cultures and religions, many that may differ from our own.

It is important to always respect and be sensitive to spiritual preferences of our patients.

By expanding your awareness, understanding the patient’s personal experience of health and illness and communicating clearly and effectively, spiritual care can be met (Dossey, 2016).

If working with palliative patients, assisting them to prepare to depart in a calm and peaceful frame of mind is integral to the work of the nurse.

Link in with hospital chaplains who can visit the individual and assist them further.

Therapeutic touch can be used where appropriate to calm your patients.

Ultimately, spiritual Nursing care comes back to assisting patients to preserve dignity in all situations – whether that be getting dressed or making a difficult decision about discharge.

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Psychological Care

When we take the time to talk with patients, learn about who they are and listen to concerns, this stimulates a compassionate and nurturing environment.

Something that is very important to me as a Nurse is learning the patients name and using it.

Often it can be ‘easier’ to refer to the patient by bed number when communicating with other staff but this can come across as rude and insensitive in certain situations.

It can help the patient to relax emotionally if they have a Nurse who can ask them how they are feeling in a sincere and caring manner.

Patients build trust with their Nurses when they feel they are being heard.

Whether we ask them for their say in a treatment plan or help them to set health goals, this is a strong aspect of holistic care in Nursing.

Making good eye contact and smiling can make considerable difference to easing the stress of dealing with illness and the hospital environment.

Always ask your patients if there is anything that you can do to reduce their anxiety.

Sometimes the patient may just have a simple question that has been playing on their mind for hours but they have not asked it.

Teaching the patient relaxation techniques is a really helpful way of showing that you genuinely care for their wellbeing.

Psychiatric medicine teams and trained counselling professionals can often be reached in the acute hospital setting.

How Self-Care Is Vital

In my opinion, in order to assist individuals to holistically heal, recover or cope with illness it is extremely important to care for oneself.

Nursing is a demanding and stressful job that can often result in feeling drained and depleted, following caring for so many individuals.

By adapting your own lifestyle to nurture your body, mind and spirit, the patient will receive a Nurse that is more capable of providing professional balance and support to their individual needs.

For example, to integrate the three components of holistic care for oneself on the day of a nursing shift, you could take a quick walk on lunch break and eat nutritious meals (physical), plug into an affirmative podcast on the drive to work and listen to favourite music (psychological) and get up five minutes earlier in the morning to meditate and gather your thoughts for the day (spiritual).

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Improved Quality Of Care

By remembering that a patient is so much more than their illness through using holistic principles and modalities in clinical practice, quality of care can be improved for all.

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About the author

My name is Rebecca. I completed a Bachelor of Science in General Nursing in Trinity College Dublin and am 200 hour yoga teacher trained. My passion lies in functional medicine and holistic based models of nursing care. My dream nursing job is to progress to a clinic role which could enable me to work with patients directly providing primary preventative education and care: advocating for the roles of stress management, sleep, exercise & diet in preventing and managing onset of chronic disease.

    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Nick Dowling
    • Valerie Jones
    • Shellome Smith
    • Eryn Rizzi
    • Steven Miller
    • Rebecca Wetherhill
  • 0
  • 6352

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