Holistic Nursing: A New Era of Patient-Centered Care
By Contributing Author, Ainsley Lawrence
Although medical advances have dramatically changed people’s ability to recover from injury and illness, medical care still largely addresses symptoms and diagnostics via the biological perspective rather than considering a patients’ health from a whole body-whole being perspective.
Patients increasingly demand care that is not just effective for treating disease but is holistic in the sense that it improves their overall health. In other words, patients are looking for something more, and they aren’t necessarily getting it from conventional medicine.
That’s why holistic nursing in itself is one of the top trends to watch within the field of integrative medicine.
Holistic nursing is a type of caring that focuses on healing the whole person rather than focusing on their present ailment or injury. An article published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing in 2018 identified the most common trends in the field from a sample of 579 studies published between 2010 and 2015. It found some interesting trends in both research and practice, including a renewed emphasis on caring, a focus on spirituality, and the measurement of quality of life.
Trend #1: A Renewed Emphasis on Caring
What does it mean to “care” in the context of the biopsychosocial model of nursing? It’s a common question with many answers. At the same time, the concepts of caring and nursing are so intertwined that nursing would be something else entirely without caring. One of the most important trends in holistic nursing is that it’s actively expanding the conventional definition of what it means to care for patients.
The holistic approach to nursing opens up avenues to complementary caring that aren’t always found among more traditional nursing practices.
Some of these therapies include hydrotherapies like Watsu, in which a hydrotherapist combines Shiatsu muscle stretching and massage in warm, chest-deep water.
Acupressure and acupuncture are other growing trends provided by nurses. These are low-risk ways to treat pain and nausea in patients, and studies show that patients with non-specific pain benefit from them more than they do from traditional care.
Trend #2: Focus on Spirituality
The idea of caring for a patient’s spiritual wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing isn’t a new one. For centuries, the therapist and the faith leader were one and the same. What’s more, Florence Nightingale recognized spiritual care as being essential to nursing care, and the impact of this type of care is a staple of medical and sociological research. Indeed, there are faith-based health systems (hospitals affiliated with a branch of religion, etc.) that double-down on the concept of healing the spirit as well as the body.
Evidence suggests that when a program meets patients’ spiritual needs, they are better able to not only adapt to illness, but they are in a better position to seek rehabilitation, particularly when they face a chronic disease.
At the same time, spiritual care wasn’t subject to the same sort of research or theoretical framework as the physical aspect of caring. As recently as the late-2000s, there was no Western empirically derived theoretical framework to shape, assess, and guide research in the subject.
A new, empirical focus on spirituality is a core trend in integrated care and holistic nursing. Several researchers have attempted to put together a framework for spiritual care that accepts empirical evidence as it applies to nursing practice and spirituality. With these developments, nurses will be able to expand their spiritual care to a wider patient group, and even more, do so in a way that’s empirically more effective and produces better patient outcomes.
Trend #3: Measurement of Quality of Life
The final significant trend in holistic nursing is an extension of the first two: a new look at what quality of life means and how to measure it. In conventional nursing, Quality of Life (QoL) is a subjective measurement that the patient has of their position in life. It’s an important part of healthcare outcomes, but it can also be sorely lacking in some ways. The patient’s search for an improved QoL and conventional medicine’s limited ability to cater to it explains, in part, the attempts by technology companies like Amazon to integrate themselves into the healthcare market.
To provide care, nurses and their patients need a similar understanding of the patients’ unique quality of life, which includes their physical, psychological, social lives as well as their environment.
Within holistic nursing is the emergence of concepts of comfort and wellbeing and their role in QoL. Comfort, in this case, is a broad holistic concept. Wellbeing is more closely associated with the psycho-spiritual dimensions of QoL.
Rather than relying solely on the patients’ ability to complete their activities of daily living (ADLs) or their ability to participate in normal activities in their daily lives, nursing for comfort gives holistic nurses a positive outcome to work for that is not only measurable and integrative but keeps the patient at the center of their own care.
Holistic Nursing Could Be the Answer Patients are Looking For
In some ways, holistic nursing is a return to the roots of nursing. It allows nurses to fully embrace the biopsychosocial model while also honing in on elements that make integrated medicine more effective and empirical.
These trends in holistic nursing could offer a new era of patient-centered care that recognizes that improves patient Quality of Life, wellbeing, and the all-powerful indicator of patient satisfaction.