Integrative–or alternative–medicine isn’t so alternative these days. More and more medical professionals are training in more holistic approaches to patient care, and nurses are no exception. The American Nurses Association officially recognized integrative nursing in 2006, according to American Nurse Today, and continues to grow.
Nursing, like many professions, changes with the times. Practitioners continuously learn new things and incorporate new developments. Today, many embrace activities that combine self-care, responsibility, reflection and even spirituality, with the traditional nursing model. Individuals who employ this method and have completed professional certification in integrative nursing are typically called holistic nurses.
Traditional nursing focuses on eliminating symptoms, providing medical treatment, and offering advice to patients. But there are limits, traditionally dictated by policy and procedures, to how they approach patient care. So integrative nursing goes beyond specific symptoms to look at an individual’s overall well-being. It may use broader strategies to help patients recover.
Principles of Integrative Nursing
The University of Minnesota lists six principles of integrative nursing:
- Humans are whole systems, and cannot be separated from their environments. Humans consist of body, mind, and spirit, and all must be in balance for optimal health and comfort. The environment does affect human health.
- Humans have the capacity to self-heal. The human body can heal itself on physical, social, emotional, and spiritual levels.
- Nature has the power to help people heal and lift their spirits. Research shows that exposure to nature has positive effects, even it’s just a plant-filled space in a hospital. The environment also affects staff members, not just patients.
- The basis of integrative nursing is creating relationships and focusing on the individual as a whole, not on specific symptoms. For optimal outcomes, medical care provider and patient must create a relationship. Integrative nurses must listen, provide options and spend time fully present with patients and their family members.
- Evidence guides integrative nursing, which uses a variety of therapies to support healing, starting with the least invasive method. Integrative nursing calls on natural healing and soothing to supplement medical interventions. Some treatment plans may include massage, acupuncture, breathwork, and stretching. As needed, plans are adjusted to move into more intensive methods.
- Integrative nurses take care of caregivers too. While patients are obviously the priority, these nurses also watch out for and encourage caregivers to practice their own self-care.
What Does Integrative Nursing Look Like?
Holistic nursing can take on a variety of treatment options. As such, there’s no single model that professionals follow. They personalize treatment to patient needs.
According to an article published in the Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, integrative nursing embraces things like art, music, and personal objects. In addition, it pays attention to how various external factors like one’s environment affect a patient’s well-being. It uses complementary healing practices like breathing exercises, guided visualization, and other approaches.
What Education and Professional Certification Are Required?
Integrative nursing is a recognized specialty that requires certification through the American Holistic Nursing Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). Holistic nurses must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing, at a minimum. They then need at least a year of full-time nursing experience, as well as continuing education credits.
The AHNCC certification page outlines training and education requirements. Colleges and universities also offer advanced level degrees that include focus areas on integrative health and nursing, like the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing.
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