Luisa Porrata, RN, MPH, CCAT, QTTT, comes from a family of healers. Her relatives use of herbs and massage were part of the culture in their native Puerto Rico.
My aunt, a midwife in the hills of her small town, would do massages after births and administer herbal teas to calm the mother into a gentle sleep, she says. As a nurse, I planned early in my education to incorporate holistic healing modalities as part of my plan of care for clients.
Porrata, an adjunct professor at Hostos Community College in New York City, is among a growing number of nurses who are using holistic healing methods, says Elizabeth Ann Manhart Barrett, RN-BC, LMHC, QTTP, PhD, FAAN, who is in private practice in New York City and professor emerita at Hunter College of the City University of New York. More people are accepting of holistic healing practices today because there is a growing body of literature, as well as more educational offerings on the topic, she says.
The American Holistic Nurses Association is the national organization, and holistic nursing is recognized now as a nursing specialty, Barrett says.Rochelle Mackey, RN
Rochelle Mackey, RN, MA, APN, AHN-BC, QTTT, adjunct faculty at New Jersey City University and in private practice in Ridgewood, N.J., uses therapeutic touch, guided imagery and aromatherapy in her practice.
Ive been a nurse now for more than 40 years, and I love nursing just as much if not more than when I first started, Mackey says. I believe that holistic nursing brings you closer to the patient.
Its not only the emphasis on patient care, but also self-care that makes practicing holistic healing appealing to nurses. Mackey says learning how to use the modalities, such as meditation, to enhance her own life helps prevent professional burnout. Holistic healing practice is not more time-consuming, she says, rather it enriches nursing.
Holistic healing goes beyond complementary and integrative modalities, such as therapeutic touch, Reiki, deep breathing and more. It is a way of being, says Diane Poulios, RN, MA, CHCR, nurse recruiter at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. The center encourages nurses to use holistic principles as part of a focus on self-care, she says, which includes deep breathing techniques between patients.
When it comes to patient care, simple practices go a long way to improve nurse-patient relationships, Poulios says.
[This includes] sitting with the patient at the bedside rather than standing up from the doorway or even at the head of the bed, Poulios says. Studies have shown that patients perceive the length of time that nurses are with them as longer if [nurses] are closer to them.
Deborah Shields, RN, PhD, CCRN, QTTT, AHN-BC, an associate professor of nursing at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, says she views holistic nursing as an expression of the art and science caring, presence, relationship, intuition, communication, creativity, personal knowing, theory, research, practice based on best evidence, critical thinking and reflection.
Holistic practice is by no means a stretch for nursing, says Eloise Monzillo, RN, PhD, AHN-BC, QTTT, CPHQ, adjunct faculty at Hunter College and in private practice in New York City and Montclair, N.J. In fact, its in line with nursings integration of mind, body and spirit.
Presently, we are witnessing its progression into its more refined expression, and were calling that holistic nursing, Monzillo says.
Therapeutic TouchElizabeth Ann Manhart Barrett, RN
Shields, Monzillo, Mackey, Barrett and Porrata are among the many holistic nurses who focus on therapeutic touch.
Although the name implies physical touch, there is none. The intention of the therapeutic touch session is for compassionate concern for the patient, Porrata says. Therapeutic touch involves integrity, where the practitioner is self-disciplined and nonjudgmental.
Citing the description by Therapeutic Touch International Association, Monzillo defines therapeutic touch as an energy intervention a contemporary interpretation of several ancient healing practices. It is an intentionally directed process of energy exchange during which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus for facilitating healing. The intent of the intervention is to enable people to repattern their energy in the direction of health.
Nurses who use therapeutic touch often will notice a profound relaxation response in two to four minutes. Infants who receive the modality will make an audible sigh, even smile, and their coloring improves, Porrata says.
The evidence that modalities, such as therapeutic touch, work goes beyond psychological benefits. Research has shown that there is a significant difference in proliferation and mineralization in certain cell types [as a result of therapeutic touch], Monzillo says. Thats the basic science, where you dont have placebos involved. Other studies have been social science studies, which showed hemoglobin and immune cell augmentation.
Nurses can think of holistic practice as both a life path and a specialty with its own standard of practices. Holistic nurses might choose one or several modalities as part of their clients healing processes. Inherent in this process of selection is the nurses own journey of inner growth and awareness the inner work which allows the nurse to be centered and present to the humanity before them, Monzillo says.
Holistic practice is the way I choose to show up fully present with those entrusted to my care, meeting people where they are and knowing deeply that with every encounter I receive far more than I give, Shields says.