Close-up of stethoscope with the word "Holistic" attached to it
Close-up of stethoscope with the word "Holistic" attached to it

The Philosophy of Healing: Holistic Primary Care

Being a successful nurse practitioner goes beyond mastering medical concepts. Those who excel in the role demonstrate effective communication skills, are compassionate and create meaningful connections with patients. Texas Woman’s University’s Master’s of Science - Family Nurse Practitioner program encourages the development of these attributes through a comprehensive nursing curriculum. Students are prepared to apply a holistic primary care approach to support the entire patient experience. In this article, we’ll explain the basic principles of practice and review examples of holistic care.

What Is Holistic Care?

Holistic primary care is a method in which diagnosis and treatment are centered around the whole person. Practitioners look beyond symptoms, evaluating and tending to other factors that negatively affect the patient. Central to the holistic care approach is the ideology that a person is made up of parts. These parts, or separate systems, are both internal and external. 

Internal systems include:

  • Body (physical health)
  • Mind (mental state)
  • Spirit (well-being)

External systems may involve:

  • Family
  • Community
  • Environment

These physical, emotional and social systems continually impact each other. When one system is imbalanced, holistic care providers believe that it can result in medical maladies.

Patient Scenarios

Imagine a patient consulting a practitioner for severe headaches. One solution might be to prescribe an analgesic. However, this may only be a short-term solution. A provider utilizing a holistic approach would ask questions to discover the root cause. After learning more about the patient, perhaps it is revealed that the headaches are actually due to dehydration, diet, stress, a vascular or mass effect, or other underlying cause. Rather than a quick medical intervention, holistic primary care aims to treat symptoms while addressing broader dynamic

Another scenario could involve a patient who is trying to stop smoking. A holistic care provider may ask questions to learn about their lifestyle including personal habits, stressors and social circle. If the patient does not have many ways to cope with stress, exercise or other activities might be recommended. If they have a family history of smoking, a discussion may take place. The treatment plan would consider all influential factors to help the patient’s lifelong health and well-being. 

Holistic Care and Nursing

Holistic care was officially designated a specialty area of nursing by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 2006. At its core, the general practice of nursing is aligned with holistic care practices. Nurses often connect with their patients on a deeper level than other professions. This connection helps them advocate for their patients, and also contributes to a high level of trust towards the profession. 

Examples of Holistic Care:

Holistic care can vary depending on the scope of practice, but holistic care approaches may include:

  • Investigating beyond the surface symptoms of a condition to determine whether an underlying disease is a cause or other factors are contributing.
  • Taking proactive measures to prevent disorders before they manifest fully, rather than treating them afterward.
  • Recommending lifestyle changes to promote overall well being.
  • Listening to a patient express their understanding of the prescribed treatment plan.
  • Building a nexus of trust between the patient and the nursing team, where the patient feels that they can communicate their needs and be in control of decision-making.

The quality of care and individualized attention from applying a holistic approach can change the patient experience. Nurse practitioners and physicians are able to treat the individual as a whole, promoting effective long-term treatment.  

Helping Others Heal 

There is a growing need for qualified nurse practitioners, especially in rural areas. By 2030, nearly 25 percent of this demand will not be met in Texas. Family nurse practitioners are especially wanted due to their ability to serve all age ranges. 

Develop your critical thinking skills as you become adept in holistic care practice. Texas Woman's accredited online FNP degree offers flexible learning for nurses who are committed to promoting quality patient care. Contact us to deepen your impact as a family nurse practitioner.

Sources

Nick, Dealtry, “What is holistic primary care?” ElationHealth. Accessed 8 August 2019 from: https://www.elationhealth.com/primary-care-physicians-blog/holistic/

“Holistic nursing: Focusing on the whole person.” American Nurse Today. Accessed 8 August 2019 from: https://www.americannursetoday.com/holistic-nursing-focusing-on-the-whole-person/

Jim Norman, “Americans Rate Healthcare Providers High on Honesty, Ethics.” Gallup News, 19 December 2016. Accessed 15 January 2018 from: http://news.gallup.com/poll/200057/americans-rate-healthcare-providers-high-honesty-ethics.aspx

“Principles of Holistic Care.” Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine. Accessed 8 August 2019 from: https://ahha.org/selfhelp-articles/principles-of-holistic-medicine/

“What is Holistic Medicine?” WebMD. Accessed 8 August 2019 from: https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/what-is-holistic-medicine#1

“Nurse Supply and Demand Projections, 2015-2030.” Texas Department State Health Services. Accessed 14 August 2019 from: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/chs/cnws/Nursing-Workforce-Reports/