3 ways nurses are using holistic healing in patient care

Holistic healing methods are increasing in popularity

Miracle fruits. Herbal teas. In recent decades, these have been the images of holistic medicine. That’s no longer the case.

With more patients facing limited solutions to their health problems, many nurses, whether certified in holistic care or not, are exploring alternative methods to complement modern solutions to relieve pain or rid a patient’s body of disease.

While modern medicine focuses on the causes of illness and disease and treating symptoms, the root of holistic healing is considering the whole patient. Any patient can benefit from holistic nursing. For example, a car accident victim may be experiencing trauma that impairs their psychosocial health and even leads to spiritual distress. Holistic nurses will evaluate the whole person and direct care individually for the patient that will facilitate the patient’s innate healing abilities.

Holistic nursing is on the rise and helping patients across the globe. Here are three popular methods holistic nurses are now using to improve modern care.

Essential oil market expands

With the essential oil market expected to reach $11.67 billion by 2022, the use of herbs like lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus is expanding throughout the nation and beyond. It’s clear more and more people are embracing the power of essential oils and aromatherapy.

Different types of oils can treat a variety of ailments such as sore throats, earaches and bladder infections, or alleviate ongoing symptoms of illnesses such as asthma, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Lavender, for example, has been proven to aid in relieving stress and promote sleep. When combined with peppermint, lavender can also reduce migraine pain. Eucalyptus is known to reduce coughing or sinusitis, especially when infused in a hot, steamy shower.

“The field of aromatherapy is expansive and ranges from using essential oils to aid in wound healing to using them as a behavior modifier in dementia care,” Linda Weihbrecht, BSN, RN, LMT, CCAP, said. She added that aromatherapy goals could include reducing stress, stimulating the immune system, promoting healing, and reducing disease symptoms.

alternative therapy with herbs and essential oils in white background

Hydrotherapy a centuries-old method

Instances of aquatic therapy can be traced back to 1700 B.C. “It’s based on the idea that water benefits the skin and might treat a range of conditions from acne to pain, swelling and anxiety,” said Laura Newcomer. Hydrotherapists believe water therapy can also boost a patient’s immune system. Hydrotherapy has been successfully proven to control pain relief, particularly in burn treatments.

Watsu, a form of hydrotherapy developed in the 1980s, combines massage, Shiatsu, muscle stretching and joint mobilization, all performed in warm, chest-deep water, to treat patients suffering from arthritis, chronic pain and improve soft tissue mobility.

As a practice that was once limited to more aesthetic treatments, aquatic therapies are now embraced by senior living communities for its effective treatment of joint pain, severe physical impairments, and edema.

“The number one reason senior living communities should consider using aquatic therapy is how the principles of water benefit the patient,” Kathleen Kristoff, occupational therapist, said. “Buoyancy, the warmth of the water and hydrostatic pressure are three components that allow physical and occupational therapists to make progress with people who otherwise could not progress on land.” From a benefits perspective, Kristoff believes aquatic therapy can impact everything from a patient’s mobility to their activities of daily living.

Acupressure can ease pain, reduce opioid use

The sense of touch is a powerful healing tool and often used in many holistic therapies. Similar to the centuries-old practice of acupuncture only without the needles, acupressure is a therapy that uses hands, fingers and even elbows to activate acupoints throughout the body.

In a study conducted by a group of physicians from Taipei Medical University, researchers faced the dilemma of successfully treating postoperative pain resulting from surgical trauma. Although opioids are typically used to treat pain, doctors recognize that there are some undesirable side effects, such as the possible risk of addiction. In this study, doctors evaluated the effectiveness of acupressure and acupuncture in treating postoperative pain. Their findings indicated that certain modes of acupuncture improved postoperative pain on the first day after surgery and reduced opioid use.

Whether nurses rely on modern medicine or incorporate the combination of essential oils, massage or hydrotherapy to treat the whole patient, the melding of holistic and modern medicine brings promise to an ailing public and a transformative treatment for those in need of long-term and post-acute care.

Because holistic healing methods can be incorporated in every aspect of the healthcare industry, nursing schools throughout the nation have incorporated holistic medicine into their curriculum. There are currently 13 nursing schools in the nation that have been endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation, specializing in training holistic nurses. A nurse becomes Holistic Nurse Board Certified after working full time as a Nurse for one year, 48 CNE hours in Holistic Nursing Theory, Research, Practice, or related topics, and passing an exam administered by the AHNCC. For more information on holistic nursing, visit www.ahncc.org.

Courses Related to ‘Holistic Healing’

This module will increase nurses’ understanding of complementary and alternative medicine practices and the differences that exist between it and Western medicine. Among other skills, after taking the course you will be able to identify the four broad categories of CAM, discuss CAM practices and describe ways to assess a patient’s use of CAM modalities.

CE249-60: Making a Spiritual Assessment (1 contact hr)

This continuing education module will provide professional nurses (including advanced practice) with the knowledge and skills for conducting spiritual assessment, interventions and outcomes evaluation for those seeking care. The module includes information that compares spirituality and religion and describes relevant nursing diagnoses that support holistic healthcare.

WEB248: ASD: Review of Research and Evidence Related to Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies (1 contact hr)

This webinar describes the current Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatments, including research and evidence of nutritional and non-nutritional CAM therapies.

Nurse.com Job Seeker

Discover how Nurse.com can help you find your next dream job.
Just sign up and wait to be paired with your perfect match.

Julie Aiken, DNP, RN, CNE, AHN-BC
Julie Aiken, DNP, RN, CNE, AHN-BC, is the CEO of Ameritech College of Healthcare. Since 1979, Ameritech College of Healthcare has been committed to creating outstanding healthcare professionals. The college provides a fast track to a successful healthcare career through an expert faculty dedicated to the needs of the student. The college offers programs that include nursing, including both RN license and RN-BSN degree completion programs; occupational therapy assistant; medical assistant; and dental lab technician. For more information, visit ameritech.edu or call 801-816-1444.


  1. Avatar
    John Lester June 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Irrational treatments that have not been proven to result in positive outcomes are a waste of time, money and they delay more effective therapies. It is medical malpractice to encourage untested treatment modalities and is potentially legally actionable.

    • Avatar
      Sarah October 5, 2017 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  2. Avatar
    Dr. Christina Campbell Ed.D., LP, CNS, RN June 13, 2017 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Hi, Would like to rejoin. Was a member for a few years. Many contributions to Holistic Nursing throughout my 50 year career.
    Explored the emotional dynamiics related to illness, received a grant to prepare children for cardiac catheterization procedure 40 years ago, Offered ceu’s to nurses. Courses were related to the art of Nursing including therapeutic touch, healing artist performing dances that showed the way through trauma and to becoming a vibrant being. These are just a few of the examples.

  3. Avatar
    maryjane June 20, 2017 at 7:14 am - Reply

    thank you for sharing this.

  4. Avatar
    Carol H June 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    I was told I needed Surgery for a frozen shoulder 3 months of Accupuncture freed it that was 20 years ago

  5. Avatar
    dennoh June 28, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Awesome piece, thanks a lot for sharing.

  6. Avatar
    Nicole A Vienneau November 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Another holistic practice being used for behavior change is Integrative Nurse Coaching. By listening deeply and being fully present with people, we are able to help patients and clients tap into their inner wisdom, helping them discover their path to wholeness, while mitigating disease and preventing it!

Leave A Comment