Holistic Nursing

The holistic nursing approach focuses on whole person healing. In one sense the holistic focus central to nursing. It can be traced all the way back to Florence Nightingale.

However, nurses don’t apply holistic nursing principles equally. Holistic nursing is also a recognized specialty. Some nurses have a more consciously holistic practice and more training, and they pursue certification as holistic nurses.

One of the goals of holistic nursing is to get away from a narrow focus on carrying out procedures and routines. The American Holistic Nurses Association stresses that holistic nursing is not a set of modalities but a way of being. In a holistic approach to nursing, a person is viewed as more than the sum of his or her parts.

Holistic nursing takes into account the mind-body-spirit connection. Holistic nursing is not the same as integrative healing. However, holistic nurses may practice various integrative therapies such as guided imagery, healing touch, and aromatherapy.

Holistic nurses may seek out employment in integrative health centers. However, one can find holistic nurses just about everywhere.

Holistic Nursing in Practice

One of the holistic nursing applications is in working with cancer patients. Medical professionals have to do more than just treat cancer processes. Patients may be experiencing a lot of pain from the treatments as well as the cancer. They’re experiencing fear and grief, and what they’re experiencing can influence outcomes. The combination of side effects and emotions can also make it hard to do the things necessary to keep up strength. Holistic nurses can help cancer patients battle cancer and also feel better in the here and now. Sometimes of course cancer become hospice patients. Here, too, holistic nurses have a place.

There is a need for a holistic approach to those with ongoing pain issues. Another application: mental health and addictions.

There is a place for holistic nurses in care coordination and navigation, as noted in article in Beginnings, a publication of the American Holistic Nurses Association (https://www.ahna.org/Portals/66/Docs/Networking/Lorenz_Shifting%20and_Emerging_Roles_for_Holistic_Nurses.pdf?ver=2017-02-22-105326-383).

Ultimately there are many interconnected applications – and this interconnection is central to holistic nursing.

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Holistic Nursing Certification

Holistic nurses start with the same type of education that all nurses do. They need to complete state-approved nursing programs and pass a nursing licensing examination. They may pursue education and licensing at multiple levels.

Training in holistic nursing may be included in a nursing degree program or pursued as continuing education. Nurses can enroll in post-degree certificate programs. The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation has a process for endorsing holistic nursing programs; a list of currently endorsed holistic nursing programs is available on their website (https://www.ahncc.org/school-endorsement-program/current-endorsed-nursing-programs/). Endorsed schools have faculty members who are committed to promoting the holistic paradigm and a curriculum that is in accordance with AHNA Core Values; these schools have elected to go through the endorsement process.

There are many professional development opportunities for those who want to develop their skill sets (https://www.ahncc.org/resources/professional-development-activities/).

Nurses who pursue higher education can extend their reach in holistic care, as in other areas.

Holistic Nursing Programs

Drexel University offers plenty of options, including an MS in Complementary and Integrative Health and a number of post-degree professional certificates. A master’s student will select a concentration in holistic hospice and palliative care, integrative addiction therapies, or women’s health. The following are among the courses that all RNs who are enrolled in the complementary and integrative health master’s program complete: Functional Approach to Clinical Nutrition, Translational Research in Complementary and Integrative Health, and Foundations of Phytotherapy.

Florida Atlantic University boasts endorsed programs from the baccalaureate level to the doctoral level. The school offers a master’s program in Advanced Holistic Nursing. Students take standard master’s level courses like Advanced Pathophysiology and also a wide variety of discipline-specific courses such as Foundations of Holistic Nursing 2: Advanced Nursing Situations and Integrating Expertise Holistic Nursing Practicum. PhD students, meanwhile, may be interested in attending a nursing school that counts holistic health among its four main research interests.

Holistic Nursing Certification

Voluntary certification as a holistic nurse is available to qualifying professionals at the RN level and higher. There are four holistic nursing certifications available from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation:

• HN-BC® (Holistic Nurse Board Certified)
• HNB-BC® (Holistic Nurse Baccalaureate Board Certified)
• AHN-BC® (Advanced Holistic Nurse Board Certified)
• APHN-BC® (Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse Board Certified)

The AHN-BC is available to RNs who hold masters degrees but are not advanced practitioners.

In each case, the nurse will need to demonstrate one year of recent holistic nursing practice. He or she can receive credit for 2,000 hours accrued at some point in the prior five years.

The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation requires candidates to have 48 qualifying CNE hours prior to initial certification.

Holistic nursing certification is by examination.

AHNCC-certified nurses recertify every five years. They can recertify on the basis of 100 hours of professional development or continuing education provided they meet other requirements. Modality courses may be credited, but only if they focus on more than just technique.


The American Holistic Nurses Association can provide plenty of resources for holistic nurses (https://www.ahna.org/About-Us/What-is-Holistic-Nursing).

Certification information is available from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (https://www.ahncc.org/certification/holistic-nurse).

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