Three Ways Nurses Are Using Holistic Healing in Patient Care


Holistic healing is becoming more popular, even with nurses. Before we knew about medicine, holistic healing was used to cure and treat many diseases and ailments. Whilst not all of these methods proved useful, many of them are still used today, and nurses are becoming better at promoting them. Some of the most common holistic approaches include fruits and herbal teas. As the population becomes older, medicine isn’t the only thing that can help treat or alleviate the side effects of illness. With many suffering from chronic pain, holistic approaches are being used by nurses to help their patients alongside modern healthcare.

Using complementary holistic healing alongside the medical approach has proved beneficial for many. Some nurses are trained in the art of holistic healing but even those who are not are becoming more and more open to the idea. Modern medicine often focuses on the disease and its cause and is used to treat symptoms and get rid of the illness. Nurses are supposed to take a holistic approach to care in general, so this means combining holistic healing with medicine. Whilst doctors often look at just the medical side, it is up to nurses to look at the patient as a whole.

One example of this is a patient who has been burned. Those who have experienced burns need not just medical attention, but holistic spiritual attention too. Whilst nurses and doctors can treat burns and ensure the healing process of a burn is carried out appropriately, those who have suffered from this traumatic experience need to be looked after holistically too. This means evaluating the patient as a whole and looking at their psychological stress and state of mind too. A holistic nurse can direct care for the patient in a holistic manner, using the person's innate healing abilities. This type of nursing is continuing to rise and can help patients from all over the world. Below are just a few of the ways that nurses are using a holistic healing approach to care.


Touch is one of the most powerful healing tools out there and as pain is a big reason for people remaining in hospital, acupuncture may be the answer that every healthcare professional has been looking for. Many holistic nurses promote the use of acupuncture for patients with many aches and pains, as well as those who suffer from chronic pain. This can be extremely hard to control and unfortunately, the longer you take painkillers such as opioids, the less they begin to work. This means giving patients stronger and stronger opioids, which often causes unwanted side effects and addiction.

Holistic care such as acupuncture limits the need for opioids, which we want to minimize as much as possible, especially within the child population. If we use opioids constantly, they will not be as effective later in life and it will be much harder to treat simple conditions due to the fact that we cannot control the pain of patients. One study, which was conducted at the Taipei Medical University by a physicians’ group, found that treating the pain of those following an operation was difficult. This study was carried out on those that had surgical trauma. Researchers found that opioids were causing undesirable side effects although they were treating the pain. These side effects were often worse than the pain to begin with, which is something nurses and doctors do not want.

Within this study, healthcare professionals looked at the effectiveness of using a more holistic approach to getting rid of pain, in the form of acupuncture and acupressure. The findings from this study indicated that holistic approaches such as acupuncture could improve any pain following surgery when used on the first day following the surgery. This, in turn, reduced the need for opioids.


Hydrotherapy is the use of water to heal and make better. This is used often in many hospitals, by nurses and physiotherapists. Physiotherapists use water to help those with immobility and it can be a perfect place to learn to walk. Hydrotherapy was first used all the way back in 1700 B.C. As it is still a recommended form of holistic healing today, it just goes to show how well it can work. Water benefits the skin in more ways than we can possibly imagine, helping with everything from pain, anxiety, swelling, and acne. Water features are often used in mental health facilities and are thought to have a calming effect.

Furthermore, these are used to boost immune systems. Many of those trained in hydrotherapy have strongly linked a better immune system reaction to spending time in the water. For those who suffer from burns, hydrotherapy is used to significantly control pain and reduce swelling. This is also a great distraction tool when trying to change dressings on children with burns. Watsu is one form of hydrotherapy that was developed in the early 1980s and combines Shiatsu, massage, muscle stretching, and mobilization, performed in chest-deep warm water. This is used to treat many conditions of the skeletal and muscular system, such as arthritis and chronic pain.

Many nurses refer patients for this kind of treatment, even if they cannot give it themselves. They promote the use of water for healing, including attending classes such as these or seeing a physiotherapist in the hospital who will use the swimming pool. Most hospitals contain a swimming pool for this reason. Hydrotherapy and other forms of aquatic therapies are used widely by the older population, as they can help with everything from joint pain to edema.

One occupational therapist who actively engages in promoting the use of water to heal is Kathleen Kristoff. Kristoff spoke about how the older community can truly benefit from using hydrotherapy. Due to the buoyancy of the water, alongside the warmth and the hydrostatic pressure, it is the perfect place to promote holistic healing and allow patients to move more freely than on land. Kristoff believes that hydrotherapy can have an impact on daily living as well as overall mobility. Many nurses will recommend their patients see an occupational therapist and many hospital protocols suggest nurses do this.

Essential Oils

Nurses are promoting the use of essential oils and these are often used to help treat many conditions from sore throats to mental health issues. The essential oil market is at an all-time high and by 2022, it has been estimated that this market will make a whopping $11.67 billion, so it is easy to see why nurses are getting behind this method of holistic healing. There are many essential oils out there that can be used, including eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender. Essential oils are often used during massages and can bring with them a calming effect.

Different essential oils have different properties, meaning they are used to treat different ailments. Some oils can be used to help treat earaches, bladder infections, and sore throats. These oils can also help patients to alleviate any symptoms that are ongoing due to a chronic illness. This includes using essential oils in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety and depression, and asthma. Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils around the world and is known to many as a way to relax, relieve stress, and also promote sleep. For this reason, there are many products out there such as sprays you use on your pillow at night to help sleep, all of which contain lavender.

Peppermint and lavender are also used to treat the pain caused by migraines. Many nurses suggest this holistic healing when other forms of pain relief are not working or are not strong enough for those who suffer from chronic migraines. Whilst nurses in the hospital often do not carry out this care themselves, they can suggest products. Eucalyptus is another essential oil that has been known to reduce sinusitis and coughing, especially when used with steam. This can be found in many products out there that are used for coughs and colds.

Essential oils can even be used to promote wound healing alongside other natural products such as honey. Honey is one of the biggest natural products used in nursing and within the healthcare profession and is great for healing wounds for plastic and burns patients. Essential oils are also often found in nursing homes, where nurses use these calming smells for those with dementia. This can significantly help the stress they feel. Essential oils should be promoted and used by nurses where possible, as they have many benefits including reducing symptoms of disease, promoting healing, reducing stress, and even stimulating the body’s immune system.

Using the Holistic Approach as a Whole

Many people tend to stay away from modern medicine and so nurses need to keep an open mind about holistic healing, as some patients prefer this over taking a painkiller. Many nursing schools have now incorporated holistic care and holistic healing into their curriculum, meaning the nurses of the future will have an open mind and a better understanding of this approach. As a nurse, it is never too late to improve your own knowledge around holistic healing and promote it. If you are a nurse looking to expand your knowledge, check out these masters of science in nursing online programs.

The holistic approach is not just about healing though, as it has been found in many studies that those who have better therapeutic relationships with nursing staff have a better outcome. As mental health is just as important as physical health, nurses need to look at the person as a whole when treating them. As well as using or recommending holistic healing, the holistic approach can be seen as a whole as a way of ensuring an individual’s needs are met in all aspects of care.

There are many ways nurses should and already do provide holistic care, and some of these are relatively simple but can have a big impact on a patient. Nurses should learn their patient’s name and use it, as well as ensuring they introduce themselves. This may need to be several times a day to someone with dementia. Even something as simple as knowing each other’s name can help build up trust and a rapport for a patient that is in an unfamiliar environment and ill. Nurses also need to be able to make use of therapeutic touch, meaning they know when and how touch is needed and what is appropriate.

For some, a simple hand on the shoulder during a difficult time can be enough to feel supported, but nurses need to understand their professional relationships and boundaries whilst offering therapeutic touch as a way of holistic centered nursing. Educating patients on the importance of looking after themselves is another thing that nurses should do daily. This includes promoting holistic healing, offering patients the option of being referred for further therapies that they can not offer, and speaking to other healthcare professionals if needed.

Whilst many healthcare professionals and nurses use scientific methods to treat and relieve the pain of many symptoms, holistic healing is becoming more popular within the healthcare industry. As we begin to understand more about holistic healing and the properties it possesses, nurses will continue to use holistic healing as a way to help patients. Nurses are meant to take an empathetic and holistic approach to care so this will incorporate holistic healing. Using a combination of hydrotherapy, essential oils and acupuncture, the nurse can treat the patient as a whole, meaning they can be treated mind, body, and spirit.

Holistic healing is great for those who do not want to use modern medicine or want to combine both therapies to get all they can from their situation. As nurses need to always look at the best interests of a patient, offering holistic healing should be something they do every day, whether the patient asks or not. As holistic care is beginning to be taught in many nursing schools, it will soon be a practice that is seen every day.

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