Holistic Health

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Holistic Health in Adult Nursing

Holistic Health in Adult Nursing


The concept of holism has been around since earliest history, its root 'holos' is derived from the Greek meaning' whole', and relates to the study of whole organisms or systems (Farmer, 2003). The terms 'holism' and 'holistic' were first used in 1926 by the South African Philosopher Jan Smuts, who expressed the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts. The classical definition of holism is that people are multidimensional. Each dimension is considered to be inextricably linked to other dimensions, and change in one dimension, resulting from the internal or external environment, may result in change in the others. Therefore, in physical illness, a person may be affected spiritually, psychologically and socially. This explains the holistic view that assumes the person always responds as a unified whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts. The value of the concept of holism has been widely recognised by nurses, and the American Holistic Nurse Association provides a definition of holism as 'the concept of wellness: the state of harmony between mind, body, emotions and spirit in an ever changing environment' (2002: 278).

Holistic nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (American Holistic Nurses' Association, 2008, Description of Holistic Nursing). Holistic nursing is a specialty practice that draws on nursing knowledge, theories, expertise and intuition to guide nurses in becoming therapeutic partners with people in their care. This practice recognizes the totality of the human being - the interconnectedness of body, mind, emotion, spirit, social/cultural, relationship, context, and environment.

The holistic nurse is an instrument of healing and a facilitator in the healing process. Holistic nurses honor each individual's subjective experience about health, health beliefs, and values.

Holistic nurses may integrate complementary/alternative modalities (CAM) into clinical practice to treat people's physiological, psychological, and spiritual needs. Doing so does not negate the validity of conventional medical therapies, but serves to complement, broaden, and enrich the scope of nursing practice and to help individuals access their greatest healing potential.

The practice of holistic nursing requires nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives. This may lead the nurse to greater awareness of the interconnectedness with self, others, nature, and spirit. This awareness may further enhance the nurses understanding of all individuals and their relationships to the human and global community, and permits nurses to use this awareness to facilitate the healing process.


The main focus within the holistic perspective is on promotion of individual health and wellness and return to wellness, as opposed to illness. The heart of holism which is often overlooked is that the individual actively utilises their own inner resources to improve their quality of life and make healthy choices to support adaptation to their health challenge (Buckley, 2002).

The concept of holistic care is based on the holistic philosophy, and is an approach or value system held by the practitioner who provides care which recognises ...
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