According to CDC, the leading causes of death in the US in 2021 were heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19. These diseases account for over $3 trillion in health costs. While conventional medicine focuses on healing someone’s body and mind, holistic care calls for healing the person through the unity of body, mind, spirit, emotion, and environment. Nurses trained in holistic care can provide patients with comprehensive treatment and give invaluable advice on preventative healthcare. 

What is holistic care?

Holistic care is a field that emphasizes treating the whole person and not only the physical condition or ailment. A holistic nurse evaluates not just a person’s physical symptoms, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual contexts that might affect their condition. 

Holistic care believes in the interconnectedness of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health. It takes the opinion that if one of these areas becomes unwell, the others will also be affected in turn. Holistic care ultimately aims to enhance an individual’s quality of life and well-being. 

The importance of holistic nursing care

Holistic nursing was first introduced by the American Nurses Association in 2007. Practicing holistic care in nursing allows nurses to recognize that a patient isn’t defined by their illness. By taking Marymount University’s online DNP-FNP program in Virginia, nurses can gain a comprehensive nursing education that incorporates holistic care. Marymount University roots its study on this knowledge of holistic care to hone students for nursing and improve patient outcomes. By studying at a reputable institution such as Marymount University, nurses can gain all the knowledge required for a successful career in nursing. The online nature of the courses provided also allows students a great degree of flexibility. 

It’s important that aspiring nurses gain an education that includes holistic care as it is beneficial to patients in numerous ways.

Holistic care acknowledges the whole person

Holistic nursing considers the patient as a whole, not just their physical illness. The practice recognizes that each individual is unique and has their individual needs. It recognizes that other factors such as their spirituality, social-economic factors, and emotional state may affect their overall health.

For example, someone suffering from depression may also exhibit symptoms such as frequent migraines. A holistic nurse can determine that certain non-medical stressors, such as financial worry, may affect the patient’s mental health. The individual may also show signs of depression related to the changes in their lifestyle. Holistic nursing care identifies the connection between all the factors and allows the nurse to view the patient as a whole. 

Holistic care fosters relationships with patients 

Holistic nursing focuses on providing comprehensive care rather than treating the illness in an isolated way. Nurses interact with patients seeking to understand the effects of illness on the patient’s mind, body, emotions, spirituality, and personal relationships. 

A good relationship with the patient allows them to freely share their concerns. This leads to better patient outcomes and increases their overall health and well-being. 

Holistic care allows patients to feel empowered in their treatment and care decisions

Holistic nursing care also entails empowering patients with the education to make informed choices. That can include advising patients to incorporate self-care, reflect on their daily actions, and take responsibility for their health. This motivates patients as it gives them choice and autonomy over their care. Additionally, they can make informed care decisions once they understand that they can incorporate healing therapies and other natural remedies to aid in their healing.

Holistic care reduces the use of lab-made medications, chemicals, and artificial ingredients

Nurses involved in holistic care learn how to prescribe chemical-free treatments to patients. This ensures that patients are receiving treatment that won’t have any adverse effects on their health in the short, medium, and long term. 

Holistic care therapies used in nursing

Conventional medicine’s main focus is treating disease using drugs and surgery. Holistic medicine, however, uses the methods of Western medicine combined with additional therapies to improve patient outcomes. 

Common holistic care therapies in nursing include:


Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice that involves inserting fine needles into the skin to treat various health problems. A nurse can manipulate the needles manually or stimulate them with electrical currents, a practice called electroacupuncture. 

Chinese medicine believes that the human body has different acupuncture points. When needles are inserted into these points, they stimulate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals into the brain, muscles, and spinal cord. These changes stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. 

Research shows that acupuncture can help provide relief of chronic symptoms caused by disorders such as headaches, insomnia, and nausea after surgery. Acupuncture can also help relieve pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sprains. 

Nurses using acupuncture after, during, or before treatment can increase the effectiveness of medical interventions and enhance a patient’s well-being. 


Aromatherapy is another common holistic care therapy used in nursing. It involves using inhaled essential oils to improve an individual’s health and well-being. The practice dates back to 5,000 years ago when Egyptians inhaled different essential oils to calm their minds.

Studies showed that some pathways related to the brain’s limbic system are affected after inhalation. The result is a change in blood pressure, heart rate, memory, respiratory rate, and more. 

Research shows that using lavender aromatherapy can reduce pain, mostly associated with gynecologic and postoperative pain. Aromatherapy with peppermint, chamomile, and citrus can decrease anxiety before surgery. Essential oils such as rose and ginger have also been shown to help with postoperative vomiting and nausea.


Acupressure is an ancient healing practice that uses fingers to press on certain pressure points on the body. Unlike acupuncture, which involves needles on pressure points, acupressure is non-invasive and only involves applying pressure to the skin. 

Putting pressure on these acupoints has been shown to help with common side effects of chemotherapy, such as vomiting and nausea. Acupressure can also help reduce pain, anxiety, and stress. Nurses can use acupressure in combination with other medical interventions to promote healing. 


Massage therapy is another common holistic therapy nurses use to help patients relax and cope with unpleasant pain, fatigue, anxiety, and stress. 

The practice involves the manipulation of soft tissues to promote healing and comfort. Massage therapy comes in different forms. It can range from a patient gently rubbing their own muscles and joints to hourly sessions, led by professionals, that involve deep tissue manipulation. 

By obtaining a patient’s medical history and creating a plan for massage therapy as part of their treatment, nurses can decrease suffering and promote positive changes in a patient’s comfort and health.

Hypnosis/ Hypnotherapy 

Hypnosis is a proven practice that allows patients to tap into the power of the subconscious mind and unlock its healing potential. Integrating hypnosis in holistic nursing practice can help with pain and stress management. Qualified nurses use hypnosis to induce a relaxed state that can help patients deal with various health-related issues such as chronic disease management, stress, anxiety, and more. 

Incorporating hypnotherapy in holistic nursing helps foster healthier behavior, improving a patient’s lifestyle and treatment adherence.


A naturopathic approach to health views illness as a disturbance process to health and seeks to promote recovery within natural systems. The theory believes that chronic stress, poor nutrition, and toxin exposure, among other things, can affect optimal health and contribute to certain diseases.

Healing in naturopathy uses natural resources such as sunlight, water, and soil to treat and prevent illness. As a holistic care practice, the goal is not to treat the disease but also to restore the body’s wellness and wholeness. 

Nurses practicing naturopathy ask patients questions about their lifestyles, diet, family background, and history of illness, among other issues. After gathering information about the patient’s health history, the naturopath can use techniques such as iridology, kinesiology, functional testing, and blood analysis. 

In naturopathy, several non-invasive techniques, such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, and nutrition advice, are employed to heal the body. Additionally, a nurse can use counseling techniques such as life coaching and advice on stress management to handle stress and emotional problems. 


Reflexology is a non-invasive, holistic approach that involves touch therapy. Our ears, hands, and feet have reflexes that connect to every organ, gland, and area in our bodies. Stimulating these reflexes can help promote the natural functioning of the affected areas without adverse side effects. 

Nurses incorporate reflexology to help patients relax, allowing the body to heal. These treatments help improve circulation, relieve tension, and promote better health outcomes. 

Dietary change recommendations

Addressing diet is part of holistic health care. Nurses employ this form of holistic care to help patients understand that they can address the root cause of mental, physical, and emotional concerns through diet modifications. 

Additionally, nurses advise patients on a diet based on their needs, as no one diet works for everyone. They evaluate a patient’s health, age, blood type, activity level, and personal preferences to establish their dietary needs. Sometimes, a holistic nurse may recommend supplements if a patient’s diet is deficient. 

Guided imagery

Guided imagery entails concentrating the mind on positive images. It involves imagining peaceful events or scenes, stimulating the body’s natural relaxation. Holistic nursing care incorporates guided imagery to help patients overcome anxiety and stress. 

Research shows that guided imagery can help patients with arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases manage pain. The intervention can benefit depressive symptoms and improve quality of sleep.


Yoga is a meditative movement that incorporates various body postures. Typical yoga sessions include meditation, breathing exercises, and assuming poses that flex and stretch different muscle groups. 

Holistic nursing incorporates yoga as a treatment intervention to increase flexibility, improve vitality, increase muscle strength, and promote cardiovascular health. Research shows that yoga can also improve an individual’s mental well-being, which promotes calmness and provides mental clarity. 

Yoga’s relaxation techniques can also reduce chronic pain experienced from carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and lower back pain. 

Exercise programs

Research has shown that exercise can help with weight loss, promote strength, improve cardiovascular capacity, and reduce heart disease risk. Nurses can recommend the right exercises to patients depending on their age, physical condition, and other factors. Exercise can improve sleep, increase a patient’s self-esteem, and enhance mental clarity. 


Biofeedback is a holistic therapy that trains people to improve their health by controlling specific processes and functions. That includes things such as muscle responses, breathing patterns, and heart rate. It involves using machines to measure bodily functions and help reduce symptoms of illness. 

This form of therapy equips patients to control their body’s involuntary responses. Nurses can employ different types of biofeedback depending on a patient’s health goals or problems. Common types include neurofeedback, thermal biofeedback, and electromyography, which measures muscle tension. 

Biofeedback can be useful in treating depression, chronic pain, anxiety, asthma, muscle immobility, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure. 

Music therapy

Music therapy is the use of therapeutic sound to promote healing. Nurses can engage patients in an active experience where they can sing or dance. Alternatively, they can provide a passive experience where the patient only listens to the music and responds. 

Holistic therapy has been shown to help patients who have Alzheimer’s and suffer from memory loss. Furthermore, music therapy can help treat anxiety disorders, headaches, traumatic brain injuries, and cancer.

Research shows that patients undergoing music therapy experience a drop in stress levels, improved sleep, lowered blood pressure, and a reduced risk of stroke and other forms of heart disease. 

The impact of holistic care

Holistic care in nursing can help improve preventative care, promote better health outcomes, and reduce treatment costs. As a nurse, pursuing further education in value-based care can help you learn how to best provide holistic care to patients and the different types of holistic medical practices you can employ to complement conventional medicine. 

Published by HOLR Magazine.