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How holistic nursing can help traumatized patients

by sophiajames

Holistic nursing is the practice of viewing the whole patient when treating their disease or illness, rather than just a set of symptoms. A holistic nurse will take everything about the patient into consideration when creating a care plan, including their mental health, spirituality, support systems, abilities and knowledge. They understand that having a plan of care that incorporates the patient’s input is crucial in the patient moving forward towards better health. 

A brief history

In the late 1900s, theories about holistic nursing care took a back seat to treating patients according to their symptoms rather than as an individual. This view came about when medicine advanced technologically and became a profitable business rather than a service. The nurses were caught between wanting to treat the patient holistically while being pushed to treat the symptoms for profit. 

These nurses created the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) to advance holistic care through the training of new nurses. These holistic nurses formed this association in 1981. Since then, it has grown to over 5,000 members who share a common goal. The holistic principles can eradicate the traditional barriers to healing as well as cultivate an understanding of the patient and allow them to collaborate on their own healing plan. 

Holistic nurses can work in a wide range of settings including acute care hospitals, private practices and private clinics. These medical professionals can also be found in universities and colleges, home healthcare organizations, government agencies and physicians’ offices. Holistic nursing is a specialty of nursing that requires a special program from a school accredited by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). 

When a nurse decides to advance their education with a new degree, they are more likely to become nurse practitioners who can treat patients without the supervision of a physician. Above and beyond the degree, there are also additional certifications that need to be met before a nurse can refer to themselves as holistic. 

This certification is not attached to the nurse’s license but rather is recognized and administered by the Center for Nursing Education and Testing. Additional training for nurses who are interested in helping people on a larger scale can come in the form of a forensic nursing degree. With this type of degree, nurses can join organizations responsible for treating large groups of people who have experienced the same traumatic event.

What is the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) crisis intervention theory?

Crisis intervention theory is a framework used by mental health professionals to provide immediate support and assistance to individuals who are experiencing a crisis or traumatic event. The goal of crisis intervention is to stabilize the individual’s emotional state, ensure their safety and help them cope and recover from the crisis. 

This program was developed using NOVA’s expertise in providing support services to victims who have suffered emotional trauma related to crime. They used that model and scaled it to meet the needs of large groups of people experiencing the same traumatic event. Key components of crisis intervention theory include crisis identification, psychological first aid, crisis assessment, collaboration and support, short-term intervention, safety planning and follow up.

Forensic nurses play a crucial role in providing care to individuals who have experienced trauma, violence and other forms of abuse. They often integrate crisis intervention and holistic nursing principles into their practice to address the immediate needs of patients while also considering their overall wellbeing. Here’s how forensic nurses use crisis intervention and holistic nursing principles:

Crisis intervention theory allows mental health professionals to respond effectively to crisis situations, support individuals in distress and help them regain stability and resilience. This may include seeking justice for individuals who have suffered physical trauma. Nurses who are interested in Forensic Nursing Online programs can become part of a team of individuals who seek justice for traumatized victims. Accredited schools such as Cleveland State University provide a flexible curriculum that aims to teach individuals the fundamentals of forensic nursing as it pertains to health, recovery and justice. With 100% online coursework, students of this program study evidence-based practice, forensic nursing, forensic methodologies and the legal system. 

Holistic nurses fit into this role naturally as they are trained in recognizing the various factors that can affect an individual’s recovery and mental health. Nurses consider a variety of factors when treating a patient and understand that the whole patient is greater than the sum of their parts, such as the mind, body, culture, spirit, socioeconomic background and environment. 


In holistic nursing, the mind is treated as an essential aspect of a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Holistic nurses acknowledge the mind-body connection and recognize the impact of mental and emotional states on physical health. One of the approaches they use is therapeutic communication, where effective communication is used to understand their patients’ thoughts, emotions and concerns. By engaging in active listening and providing a safe space for expression, nurses can promote mental wellbeing and help patients feel understood and supported. They also offer emotional support by providing empathy, compassion and understanding. They create a therapeutic environment where patients feel comfortable discussing their emotions and experiences.

Stress reduction techniques are often incorporated in dealing with a patient’s emotional health. Holistic nurses often use stress management techniques to help patients manage their mental wellbeing. These techniques may include relaxation exercises, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises and guided imagery and can help patients reduce anxiety, improve focus and enhance their overall mental wellness. Holistic nurses also incorporate complementary and alternative therapies that promote relaxation, stress reduction and mental wellbeing. These can include techniques such as aromatherapy, music therapy, art therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy.

Education and empowerment are crucial for patients to take ownership of their own recovery. By understanding their health issues and treatment options, patients can actively participate in decision-making, leading to an enhanced sense of control and increased mental wellbeing. By addressing the mind in holistic nursing, nurses recognize the importance of mental health in overall wellbeing and seek to provide comprehensive care that promotes healing and supports the patient’s mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.


The body is treated as an interconnected and dynamic system that encompasses physical, emotional and spiritual aspects through holistic nursing. Holistic nurses aim to promote health and wellbeing by considering the whole person and addressing their physical needs in a comprehensive way. They conduct a comprehensive assessment that goes beyond identifying physical symptoms and ailments. Holistic nurses will explore various factors such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, sleep patterns and stress levels to gain a deeper understanding of the patient’s overall health.

These medical professionals will integrate conventional medical interventions with complementary and alternative therapies to support the body’s natural healing processes. This may include therapies such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, nutritional counseling and yoga. They also provide education to patients regarding their physical conditions and treatment options by emphasizing self-care practices, such as proper nutrition, exercise and stress management techniques. These techniques are aimed at empowering patients to take an active role in their own healing process.

Holistic nurses emphasize the importance of proactive measures to prevent illness and promote overall wellness. This may involve discussing lifestyle modifications, promoting healthy habits and encouraging regular check-ups and screenings. They also work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, recognizing the value of an integrative team approach. They may consult with physicians, nutritionists, psychologists and other specialists to develop a comprehensive care plan that addresses the patient’s physical needs. In holistic nursing, the body is treated with a focus on restoring balance, supporting the body’s inherent healing abilities and promoting optimal physical health. The goal is to provide care that considers the interconnectedness of the body, mind and spirit to foster overall wellbeing.


Holistic nursing considers the patient’s culture to be an essential aspect of providing comprehensive and patient-centered care. Holistic nurses often conduct cultural assessments to understand the patient’s beliefs, values, traditions and practices regarding health and healing. This assessment helps nurses provide care that aligns with the patient’s cultural preferences. These medical professionals also recognize the importance of effective communication with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds. They make efforts to bridge language and communication barriers by using interpreters, providing translated materials and learning key phrases in the patient’s language.

Holistic nursing acknowledges that patients’ cultural practices and traditions may vary significantly. Nurses demonstrate respect for these practices, ensuring they do not compromise the patient’s wellbeing or conflict with medical treatments. They strive to integrate cultural beliefs and practices when planning and delivering care, in addition to considering the cultural context when promoting health and wellness. 

Caregivers trained in holistic nursing recognize that individuals may have unique perspectives on health and may engage in different behaviors to maintain or restore health. By understanding the patient’s cultural background, nurses can tailor health promotion strategies that are meaningful and relevant. This includes recognizing the importance of collaborative care with patients, families and healthcare providers. 

Nurses work together with patients to develop care plans that respect their cultural values, preferences and goals. They also collaborate with colleagues to provide a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the holistic needs of the patient. By considering the patient’s culture, holistic nurses aim to promote acceptance, emotional wellbeing and positive health outcomes for individuals in their care.


The patient’s spirit is regarded as an integral part of their overall wellbeing in holistic nursing. Holistic nurses acknowledge the importance of addressing and supporting the patient’s emotional and psychological needs. They create a healing environment that promotes emotional wellbeing, actively listen to the patient’s concerns, and provide empathy and support. These professionals also recognize the interconnectedness of the mind, body and spirit. Holistic nurses encourage patients to explore practices such as meditation, mindfulness, relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises to promote emotional and spiritual wellbeing alongside physical healing.

By appreciating the significance of social and spiritual connections in a patient’s life, they support patients in maintaining relationships with their loved ones, accessing community resources and connecting with spiritual advisors. This helps patients feel supported and connected, enhancing their overall sense of wellbeing. They will often conduct spiritual assessments to understand a patient’s beliefs, values and spiritual practices. This assessment helps nurses provide care that aligns with the patient’s spiritual needs, whether it involves facilitating religious rituals, connecting with clergy or incorporating spiritual practices into the care plan.

Holistic nurses create a healing environment that honors the patient’s spirit. They may personalize the patient’s room with comforting and meaningful items, provide opportunities for quiet reflection or prayer or offer spiritual resources such as inspirational books or music. They may integrate complementary therapies such as music therapy, art therapy, aromatherapy or energy healing to support the patient’s spiritual wellbeing. These therapies can contribute to a sense of peace, relaxation and spiritual connection.

Holistic nursing recognizes and values the unique spiritual dimension of each patient, working to address their emotional and spiritual needs in conjunction with their physical health. By treating the patient’s spirit, holistic nurses aim to promote deeper healing and holistic wellbeing.

Socioeconomic background

In holistic nursing, a patient’s socioeconomic background is an important consideration to ensure that care is patient-centered, inclusive and addresses the social determinants of health. Holistic nurses recognize that socioeconomic factors can impact a patient’s access to healthcare services. They work to address barriers such as limited financial resources, lack of insurance, transportation challenges and language barriers. Nurses may connect patients with appropriate resources, provide information on low-cost or free healthcare options or assist in navigating the healthcare system. 

These medical professionals also understand that individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds may have varying levels of health literacy. They strive to provide clear and understandable health education materials, explanations and instructions. Holistic nurses may also tailor their communication style and content to meet the unique needs of patients with limited health literacy.

This type of nursing recognizes the importance of social support networks in a patient’s overall wellbeing. Nurses identify and assess the patient’s social support system, including family, friends and community resources. They may help connect patients to social services, support groups or community organizations that aid with housing, food, employment or other social needs. 

There is also an appreciation that socioeconomic background is often intertwined with cultural beliefs, values and practices. They take cultural sensitivity into account when planning and delivering care. This includes recognizing cultural norms around health-seeking behaviors, understanding different socioeconomic challenges faced by various cultural groups and tailoring care plans to respect the patient’s cultural context.

Holistic nurses advocate for patients’ social and economic needs within the healthcare system. They work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and community organizations to address systemic barriers that impact patients’ health outcomes. This advocacy may involve policy initiatives, resource allocation or community outreach programs to improve access to care and address socioeconomic disparities. By considering a patient’s socioeconomic background, holistic nurses strive to provide patient-centered care that addresses the social determinants of health, promotes equity and supports individuals from diverse economic backgrounds in achieving optimal health and wellbeing.


In holistic nursing, a patient’s environment is an important consideration as it can significantly impact their health and wellbeing. Holistic nurses assess the patient’s physical surroundings and make efforts to create a healing environment. This includes factors such as cleanliness, noise levels, lighting, access to sunlight and aesthetics. Nurses may work to create a comfortable, soothing and safe environment that promotes relaxation and supports the patient’s healing process. 

They also consider the safety and accessibility of the patient’s environment. They assess potential hazards, such as trip or fall risks, and make recommendations or modifications to ensure the patient’s safety. Nurses also address accessibility issues, such as ensuring equipment or furniture is suitable for the patient’s needs and facilitating mobility in the environment.

Holistic nurses recognize the importance of the patient’s social environment in their overall wellbeing. They assess the patient’s social support system, including family, friends and caregivers, and consider the impact of these relationships on the patient’s health. Nurses may provide resources and support to enhance positive social interactions, address conflicts or facilitate access to peer support groups. They also acknowledge that the patient’s cultural and spiritual beliefs heavily influence their environment. These medical professionals respect and integrate cultural and spiritual practices into the environment if requested by the patient. This may involve providing resources for religious or spiritual practices, accommodating dietary preferences or creating space for prayer or meditation.

In home care settings, holistic nurses consider the patient’s living conditions, including factors such as cleanliness, safety and access to necessary resources. They may collaborate with caregivers or community resources to address any environmental issues or concerns that may impact the patient’s health. They also recognize the interconnectedness of human health and the environment. Nurses may promote environmentally friendly practices within healthcare settings, such as recycling programs, reducing waste or using eco-friendly products. 

Nurses may also educate patients about sustainable living practices and their impact on health and wellbeing. By considering the patient’s environment, holistic nurses aim to create supportive, safe and healing spaces that promote the patient’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. They work to address environmental factors that influence health outcomes and incorporate patient preferences and cultural beliefs into the care plan.

Final thoughts

By integrating crisis intervention and holistic nursing principles, forensic nurses address the immediate crisis, provide compassionate care and support individuals in their healing journey. They strive to provide a safe and supportive environment while considering the broader physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients who have experienced trauma, working to promote recovery and empowerment.

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