by Susan Luck, RN, BS, MA, HNC, CCN

Over the past few years, an integrative health paradigm has emerged within the medical model. A large body of research demonstrates that tools and techniques including imagery, massage, biofeedback, energy healing, relaxation and mindfulness meditation can be used to lower blood pressure, improve glucose metabolism, decrease pain, promote a sense of well being, and facilitate the healing process. Holistic practices are being driven by consumers demanding more options than those offered through the existing medical model. These healing modalities, compatible with nurse practice guidelines, are being integrated into patient care in diverse clinical settings throughout the country. As nurses, we can offer noninvasive, supportive interventions for prevention, wellness promotion, and for enhancing the healing process.

The American Holistic Nurses’ Association (AHNA) defines holistic nursing as one that “embraces all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as a goal.” Holistic Nursing focuses on the care of the whole person in body, mind, and spirit. The art and science of holistic nursing includes the qualities of presence, caring, connection, deep listening, intuition and intentionality, thus creating an energetic, healing dynamic.

A core component of holistic nursing is self-care. As nurses work in highly stressful environments, they often forget the need to take care of themselves.” Nurses learn holistic modalities by implementing them into their own lives first” states Aurora O’Campos, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, where she integrates several modalities into her clinical practice at the hospital. These modalities include; healing touch, massage, imagery, relaxation and breath techniques, and aromatherapy. She teaches these modalities to nurses, patients, and their families throughout the Medical Center and through programs including the Integrative Nurse Educator Certificate Program at the New York Open Center.

There are endless opportunities for holistic nurses. Some nurses become independent practitioners and health coaches and find new doors opening as they pursue this expanded nursing direction. Others work in collaborative practices with physicians and partner with other integrative healthcare providers. Many nurses are creating new programs in their communities and healthcare institutions and are becoming the leaders in the new integrative health paradigm.

Susan Luck RN, BS, MA, HNC, CCN is a national speaker and consultant on integrative healthcare. Susan has written extensively on the role of holistic nursing in an integrative paradigm. She has been a nurse for over 25 years, practicing in a variety of clinical and integrative health care settings both in the U.S. and abroad.  She is a medical anthropologist specializing in cross-cultural perspectives on health and healing.

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Information and resources: “At the Heart of Healing: Experiencing Holistic Nursing” an interactive self paced learning program in holistic nursing. 15.5 Contact Hours from Critical Care Nurses Association, For more information contact:

American Holistic Nurses Association website at: or call 1-800-278-AHNA.