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Importance of Holistic Health Assessments

As a nurse, you likely have heard about holistic health assessments but may not be sure what the practice entails. At its core, holistic health is a comprehensive approach to nursing care that assesses the patient as a whole rather than focusing only on specific symptoms or medical diagnoses.

Holistic health assessments allow nurses to understand a patient’s overall well-being by considering the many factors influencing their health. In the Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science (BSN) online program from the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM), nurses can develop their understanding of holistic health to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

What Are the Fundamentals of Holistic Health?

Holistic health prioritizes of a person’s life that contribute to their health. The leading organization in this area, the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), defines holistic nursing as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.”

While that definition offers a big-picture view of holistic health, AHNA president Lourdes Lorenz-Miller told the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies in 2019 about the must-have skills for nurses practicing the technique. These include the “ability to assess, plan, intervene, evaluate” and perform preventive, supportive and restorative functions in several health domains. Holistic nurses consider a patient’s physical and emotional circumstances as well as their mental and spiritual.

Today, nurses and integrative medicine professionals often incorporate holistic health philosophies into everyday practice. Although nurses offering holistic care may support complementary modalities like mindfulness and reflexology, Lorenz-Miller says the basis of the nursing theory ultimately lies in helping patients achieve “harmony in body, mind, spirit and environment.”

Where Did Holistic Nursing Originate?

Like traditional nursing practices, holistic nursing has evolved with research as healthcare professionals learn more about human nature and the body. The specialty nursing practice has expanded today, and AHNA has more than 5,500 nurse members. Still, Florence Nightingale is often credited with being the first holistic nurse because she believed healing was a natural process influenced by one’s environment, says Lorenz-Miller.

What Are the Benefits of Holistic Health Assessments?

Compared to traditional health assessments, holistic assessments are more comprehensive, but there is some overlap in the information collected. According to StatPearls, the key to a successful holistic assessment and evaluation is gathering information about the patient’s physical and psychological status and sociological and spiritual needs.

Based on these subjective and objective findings, nurses can quickly highlight critical needs and form a diagnosis to prioritize interventions and care. Plus, they can flag other concerns to address later to optimize the care plan further and home in on preventive strategies to avoid future health problems.

A holistic needs assessment stands out for its ability to meet patients where they are and help create a treatment program that fits their circumstances and lifestyle. According to the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM), this approach can increase the likelihood of long-term compliance and encourage individuals to become more involved in their treatment and recovery.

How Can Nurses Apply Holistic Health and Assessment Practices?

Nurses can apply holistic healthcare practices by considering the whole patient and their environment. The responsibilities of nurses allow them to do this very well and serve as holistic care advocates.

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), holistic nursing ” … embraces all nursing practice that has enhancement of healing the whole person from birth to death as its goal … [and] recognizes that there are two views regarding holism: that holism involves identifying the interrelationships of the bio-psycho-social-spiritual dimensions of the person, recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; and that holism involves understanding the individual as a unitary whole in mutual process with the environment. Holistic nursing responds to both views …

By applying the ANA’s holistic nursing framework, nurses can use best care practices in any specialty and environment.

About ULM Online RN to BSN Program

Nurses in all specialties can learn more about holistic health through educational resources and professional development opportunities. ULM’s includes the Health Assessment for RN to BSN course that teaches students to consider the whole patient in holistic health assessment practices and health promotion practices.

Holistic health is a dynamic and evolving framework, and nurses in every specialty must know how to use it to best address patients’ needs and concerns. By integrating a holistic approach into their practice, nurses can better understand the interconnectedness of various aspects of a patient’s life and provide more effective and compassionate care.

Learn more about ULM’s online RN to BSN program.

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