Comparing Holistic Nursing and Conventional Nursing

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Holistic nursing integrates the benefits of conventional nursing care with complementary and alternative modalities.

Holistic and conventional nursing share many of the same affinities and distinctions.

Both types of nursing require formal training and licensing in standards of care and practice. Holistic and conventional nurses can give bedside care and perform tasks within their appropriate scope (e.g., registered nurse (RN) or family nurse practitioner (FNP)), including doing assessments, dispensing medications and developing a care plan.

However, holistic nurses also can expand their practice to include options for alternative treatments and medications.

“Unlike many other specialty areas, holistic nursing is practiced in all settings with individuals, families, communities and populations throughout the lifespan,” according to “Holistic nursing: Focusing on the whole person” by Nina Klebanoff on “Holistic nursing is not specific to a particular patient/client group, disease, setting or population. Holistic nurses practice in a myriad of roles.”

Students who pursue a nursing degree at Duquesne University are educated “in the art and science of nursing to provide ethical, holistic, culturally competent and population-based collaborative care,” as stated in the school’s mission statement.

Contemporary Standards of Care

Conventional nurses, such as FNPs, are state-licensed and nationally certified advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who care for patients across the lifespan.

Using evidence-based practice (EBP), they integrate research evidence, clinical expertise and patient beliefs into their decision-making process for care.

Florence Nightingale is linked to the earliest use of EBP, documenting her sanitary practices in patient care and employing statistics to predict patient outcomes.

Treating everyone from infants to geriatric patients, conventional nurses provide continuous, comprehensive care, which includes managing chronic conditions, treating minor injuries and offering preventive health services and education.

In some states, FNPs have full-practice authority that allows them to act as primary-care providers without requiring physician supervision. They may also specialize in areas such as women’s health, neurology and cardiology, according to “Role & Scope of Practice of a Family Nurse Practitioner” on

Healing from the Inside Out

Holistic nursing focuses on the benefits of integrating conventional nursing care with complementary and alternative modalities.

Holistic nurses evaluate patients by considering mind, body, spirit, emotion and environment. They employ treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, hypnotherapy and wellness coaching.

Although the American Nurses Association (ANA) didn’t recognize holistic nursing as an official specialty until late 2006, the practice can also be traced back to Nightingale’s work.

Nightingale recognized the importance of addressing the patient as a whole person. She encouraged interventions that enhanced patients’ abilities to muster their own healing powers. She considered touch, light, music, aromatics, empathetic listening, quiet reflection and similar healing measures to be some of the essential elements of good nursing care.

“Today’s education of holistically trained registered nurses and advanced practice nurses is built upon these same principles,” according to the “Position on the Role of Nurses in Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches” by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA).

The AHNA, which was founded in 1981, is a nonprofit national membership association for holistic nurses and other holistic healthcare professionals. It is dedicated to the continued development of evidence-based holistic research, self-care methods for nurses and non-pharmacological pain management.

To become a certified holistic nurse, an RN or advanced practice nurse such as an FNP can apply and take the exam offered by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC).

The Holistic Nurse

Holistic nursing theory is about more than certain actions or words. It’s a philosophy that ensures whole care for every patient.

“Holistic nurses are often described by patients as those nurses that ‘truly care,’” according to “The Importance of Holistic Nursing Care: How to Completely Care for your Patients” on “While there is nothing inherently wrong with being task-oriented or goal-oriented in your nursing care, if a nurse is overly task-oriented or appears severely rushed, it can leave patients feeling like they are just a number or a diagnosis or worse, a burden.”

Holistic care not only enriches the lives of patients, it can also improve the lives of nurses.

“Nursing is a tough profession,” according to “The Importance of Holistic Nursing Care” on “It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. Other times you experience a patient or moment that reminds you why you became a nurse. One way to increase these experiences and provide better overall care to our patients is through holistic nursing care. The key is not necessarily about how long you spent interacting with a patient, but how you used the time you had with them.”

Holistic medicine allows nurses to promote psychological and emotional well-being to help facilitate their patients’ physical healing.

“When we do this, our relationship with the patient changes and grows into something more positive than before,” according to the article. “This leads to better patient outcomes and can increase the happiness and purpose in your work as a nurse.”

Career Outlook

While holistic nurses may be found in traditional hospital settings, many prefer to work in private practice, integrated medical facilities, birthing centers and in patients’ homes.

Holistic nursing shares the same career outlook as registered nursing, with a projected increase of nearly 20 percent by 2022, according to “Holistic Nursing Careers and Salary Outlook” on

The article also notes that “This is a higher than average rate of growth, and while the average RN will see this kind of availability in the future, holistic nurses may see some differences as the medical community becomes more accepting of these alternative methods of medical practice.”

About Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing

Duquesne’s online MSN degree can prepare graduates for advanced careers as primary-care providers. The curriculum includes coursework in healthcare ethics, pathophysiology, and family and individual care. Students may also add a concentration in nursing education, forensic nursing or transcultural nursing.

For MSN program and family nurse practitioner information, contact the Duquesne University School of Nursing.





What Is The Difference Between Holistic and Traditional Nursing? —

Holistic nursing: Focusing on the whole person —

Role & Scope of Practice of a Family Nurse Practitioner –

Position Statement on the Use of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in the Practice of Nursing —

Position on the Role of Nurses in the Practice of Complementary & Integrative Health Approaches —

Certification via the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation —

The Importance of Holistic Nursing Care: How to Completely Care for your Patients —

Holistic Nursing Careers & Salary Outlook —