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Importance of Holistic Health Assessments

As a nurse, you likely have heard more 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 programs like the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Texas A&M International University (TAMIU), 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 all the aspects of a person’s life that contribute to their health. The leading organization in this realm, 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.”

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 centers around gathering information about the patient’s physical and psychological status and their 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, 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 increases the likelihood of long-term compliance and encourages individuals to become more involved in their treatment and recovery.

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.

How Can Nurses Learn More About Holistic Health and Assessments?

Nurses can learn more about holistic and comprehensive healthcare through educational resources and professional development opportunities. TAMIU’s online RN to BSN program includes a Health Assessment course that teaches students the techniques needed to excel in conducting comprehensive health needs assessments.

In addition, the RN to BSN curriculum emphasizes clinical reasoning and judgment to prevent the risk of harm to patients and colleagues. It also emphasizes the use of evidence-based practice to make decisions for improved quality outcomes. Both are essential skills when performing holistic patient assessments.

Holistic health is a dynamic and evolving field, and these well-rounded assessments are an invaluable tool for nurses looking to dig deeper into 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 Texas A&M International University’s online RN to BSN program.

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