News in Nursing

Real Heroes Wear Scrubs: A Deeper Look into Holistic Nursing

Real Heroes Wear Scrubs: A Deeper Look into Holistic Nursing

Photo: Nurses Protecting Babies During Earthquake. Source:

A video shared by SBS News in November 2017 made an impression on everyone worldwide. A group of Nurses in Pohang, South Korea mightily secured twenty babies in the nursery room during a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in the area. As if an automatic impulse, the nurses grabbed all the bassinets on wheels where the babies were kept and brought them to safety. This remarkable feat made these nurses real-life superheroes wearing scrubs instead of capes. It is the biggest community site in South Korea that shares information about your surroundings.

The nurses were admired for being calm despite of being in a frightening situation but mainly for their conviction to save lives at the expense of their own. Anyone could have just ran away and left the babies, but no one did. To them, saving the babies was more than just fulfilling their duties, but showing genuine concern and love for their patients. The principles behind such selfless acts constitute the very tenets of Holistic Nursing.

Understanding holistic nursing

Florence Nightingale, the founder of holistic nursing, believes in the principle of holism. It has three main values: unity, wellness, and interrelationships among human beings and the environment. The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) adopted such a principle, thereby describing Holistic Nursing as “a nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (AHNA, 1998).

Holistic nursing supposes that the nursing profession is more than just a role that has to be performed. This faulty ideology only results in dissatisfaction with one’s profession, which could ultimately lead to an inferior service. The philosophy of holism is an attitude that compels an individual to care, to be responsible at all times, to be spiritual, and to be reflective. Simply put, this makes nurses aware of their own, the others, environment, spirit, and the interconnectedness of them all.

A holistic nurse is someone who has all the expertise and knowledge of a licensed nurse, plus an understanding of each patient’s mental, physical, emotional, environmental, and spiritual challenges and needs. The whole situation of a person is taken into account in assessing his condition, as well as in the planning, intervention, and evaluation of outcomes. Overall, these nurses are an authentic instrument of healing with the nursing skills and a caring presence.

Although the central principles are centered on love and care for others, it is not to be misunderstood that they should care less for themselves. A holistic approach should include knowing to care for themselves so that they can be all-out in caring for others. As they say, nurses have to practice what they preach. Caring less about themselves only reduces their ability to show care for others.

To highlight, holistic nursing is a practice that’s centered in unconditional love and care for their patients. Self-meditation and reflection are considered essential in this profession wherein any worst-case scenario are possible. Its end goal is also to heal patients holistically.

Holistic nursing as a specialty practice

The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes Holistic Nursing as a separate specialty practice with its own scope and standards. This status is given to acknowledge the unique contribution of holistic nurses to the health and healing of patients. It also gives the profession an established foundation, as well as helps its nurses to be articulate and to gear towards self-improvement.

AHNA now has 5,000 members under the presidency of Lourdes Lorenz-Miller who aims at increasing the number tenfold. The organization consists not only of nurses as members but also other non-nursing individuals such as therapists and yoga instructors. In an interview, Lorenz-Miller says anyone who upholds the holistic principle can be part of the organization.

As a specialty practice, holistic nursing requires its nurses to garner certifications to distinguish them as experts in the field. The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) provides examinations for holistic nursing and nurse coaching, which are all certified by recognized accreditation bodies in the country. The AHNCC is separate from AHNA but its certifications are necessary requirements for those who aim to be documented as a holistic nurse.

The AHNCC certifications validate the competence and expertise of holistic nurses while assuring the public that they have met the competency standards. With these, they also receive collegial and institutional recognition and are assured of the needed support for career advancement. Most importantly, these certifications enhance their credibility and facilitate professional growth and life-long learning.

Scope and standards of holistic nursing

The Holistic Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice is co-authored by ANA and AHNA and sets the definition of the profession and clearly identifies the responsibilities of holistic nurses. The set standards provide schools with curricula templates to which the development of continuing educational programs can be anchored. It also validates research and attracts funds for it. Holistic nurses will be recognized by the state boards of nursing as well.

In addition, the scope and standards describe the knowledge, abilities, and skills of the holistic nurses. Thus, hospitals are guided as to what to expect from them. Finally, they provide the regulations for the professionals practicing the profession.

Aside from being a specialty practice, holistic nursing is also unique because it can be incorporated in all nursing specialties. This is done by simply adhering to the principles of holism and applying them to client care. Therefore, there is no specific patient or client group that is served. Holistic nursing is a way of thinking and of life that is simply added to current practices to improve health care.

The future of holistic nursing

Holistic nursing brings about many improvements in nursing and healthcare. It is no wonder why it has flourished over time. The traditional approaches did not lose any value, but they have been made more patient-centered through the principles of holism. Even students are already seeking programs that cover holistic nursing in the integrative health. They too understand that this complementary program brings nothing but improvement in the health care systems.

The holistic approach fosters a more patient-centered care where patients become the key players. With a strong emphasis on coordination, effectiveness, preventative care, and lifestyle change, holistic nursing is valued not only by patients but by the practicing professionals themselves. The availability of nurse coaches helps achieve even greater accomplishments in each patients’ health and wellness goals.

It is expected that overtime, holistic nursing will thrive and continue to progress no matter the time and setting. Holistic nurses do not only work on their professional lives, but also in their personal lives to serve clients better. It can only be seen in the future that holistic healing—the very foundation of holistic nursing—will be incorporated in most health care programs around the world.


The story of a small group of nurses who protected the lives of their little patients before their own is a great example to share. It is shown in this scenario that the nursing profession is more than just a job. It, in fact, is a way of life and reflects a nurse’s personal foundation. This points to the importance of fostering genuine love and care for patients as a way of improving the health care systems.  

Holistic nursing promotes healing in a complete manner. This cannot be achieved by simply aiming for professional developments. It leaves biases out of the picture to fully optimize health care and is thus a necessary addition to pre-existing health care programs. Holistic nursing is changing and will continue to change the course of health care provision.