"Holistic" - What does this mean to you?

  1. We hear the term "holistic" all the time, but what does this actually mean? Is this quality important or even worth trying to achieve? Is it relevant at all to the often harsh, tumultuous reality of modern bedside nursing or just another fancy buzzword?

    Merriam Webster defines holistic as "relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts <holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body> <holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system>"

    Another definition: "Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts."

    And yet another definition: "A wide-reaching term, designating views in which the individual elements of a system are determined by their relations to all other elements of that system. Being highly relational, holistic theories do not see the sum of the parts as adding up to the whole. In addition to the individual parts of a system, there are "emergent," or "arising," properties that add to or transform the individual parts. As such, holistic theories claim that no element of a system can exist apart from the system in which it is a part."

    Just curious - What's your personal definition of holistic? And, more importantly, are you able to incorporate these principles or values day-to-day in your nursing practice?
    Last edit by VickyRN on Dec 29, '06
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    About VickyRN

    Joined: Mar '01; Posts: 12,037; Likes: 6,470
    Nurse Educator; from US
    Specialty: 16 year(s) of experience in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds


  3. by   VickyRN
    OK, I'll be first to bite. Holistic to me means addressing the WHOLE patient - spirit, soul, and body. I believe we are primarily spiritual beings, with a soul (will, intellect, emotions), housed in this marvelous human body. All three areas must be addressed when patients present with health problems or health-seeking behaviors.

    And yes, this is important. I attempt to incorporate holism at the bedside as time and circumstances permit. For instance, if a patient is afraid or anxious, and asks me to pray for him or her, I will do so (usually a short, simple but heart-felt prayer).

    Any other takers?
  4. by   brighella
    Excellent question. As a second semster student im still coming to understanding of what holistic means. Will be watching this thread as I formulate my definition.

  5. by   EmerNurse
    I guess this holistic thing, while never really defined in my mind, has always been there. I try my best to recognize subtle signs of anxiety or depression and spend a few more minutes with my patients. When I worked long-term actute, I tried to implement services we had to address mental or spiritual issues (clergy, social services, etc).

    I always kind of thought the opposite of holistic nursing was focusing ONLY on the presenting dx and specific physical sequelae - without addressing the total HUMAN BEING in the bed.

    Not an expert on holistic nursing by any means. If it includes "altered energy fields" I can say I've never done that.

    Just MHO.
  6. by   Barb101
    Holistic nursing is a term used for the bit that is always missed as assessment of a pts condition is partly subjective
  7. by   healingtouchRN
    Holism to me addresses the body/mind/spirit/emotion of the person, animal that is seeking care. I believe that I practice this & have always practiced this. It is difficult to do to realm of what I would like & see fit to be practiced due to the culture of my residence. But it is ever evolving & time will help with the attitudes of some of the masses. Education of the nurses & consumers will make the changes come in their own time. My two specialties, cardiac/vascular & Healing Touch along with my license in Massage Therapy & Bodywork allow me to bring together the clients I enjoy working with (cardiac & post anesthesia) with therapies that can heal them. I like to educate the clients about choices of integrative therapies they may benefit them. This to me is the basis of nursing.
  8. by   CardioTrans
    To me, holistic nursing is not only taking care of the whole patient, but also their support system or family.

    To meet the patients holistic needs the family plays an important role in that as well, so I always try to include some of the families needs in that as well.
  9. by   healingtouchRN
    I agree with CardioTrans! Family (whatever the patient's definition of family is) is so vital to health/healing of the client.
  10. by   zuzi
    holistic is a very nice term with many meanings, unfortunately less used day by day. why? because can't be measurable, holistic nursing care actions are hard quantifiable, so is hard to asses or implement and evaluate something that is not easy measurable (how you can measure soul and spirit cure? :spin: )
  11. by   Barb101
    I tend to agree with zuzi holistic nursing has more to do with theory than practical nursing. It is a concept best left to academics let us see if this theory does have legs in the end.
  12. by   VivaLasViejas
    I have always viewed the term 'holistic' as 'whole-istic'---meaning that one approaches the patient as a 'whole' person and takes into account not only body, mind, and spirit, but culture, family, friends, and life experience. (In short, everything that makes us who we are.)

    I'll use a resident from my assisted living facility as an example: I learned very early in my association with this woman that all the medication in the world cannot "fix" a human being suffering from spiritual pain. She's lived with chronic pain for many years, but during the course of several rather lengthy discussions with her, I found that as life has become harder for her over the years, the worse the pain has become. Now her spouse of 56 years is dying in a nursing home across town, and the pain is intractable despite massive doses of fentanyl, Vicodin, Neurontin, and amitriptyline. She has always had fibromyalgia and arthritis; but it only became impossible to live with when her husband was transferred a couple of months ago.

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why this is happening, or why medication alone cannot take away the pain. We are presently working with her on non-drug pain management methods, as well as providing willing ears to listen to her concerns; and between all of this, I have to say I think 'crying therapy' is helping her quite a bit. Thank heavens she is able to articulate her pain and distress; there are so many people who can't. And they are the ones who need a 'whole-istic' approach most of all.
  13. by   guerrierdelion
    as everyone can see, these two celebrations are about florence nightingale. but what do we know about her? we know that she is considered the founder of modern nursing. she is one of the three people cited by history books as doing the most to alleviate human suffering in the nineteenth century. she was a social activist who did not believe in women's liberation, but neither did she believe that a woman's place was in the home. she believed that we should forget about gender when it comes to the use of human talent and let every man and woman contribute what is in them to achieve. but what is often not discussed about her is her emphasis on the psychological aspects of sickness which were far ahead of her time. her writings on the effect of the emotions and spirit on illness are what holistic nursing is all about. in her writings she says,

    "little things can aid in the patient's recovery; being able to see out of a window; keeping small pets such as a caged bird; a visit from a baby or small child; a piece of good news." (huxley, e. florence nightingale. g.p. putnam's sons, new york, 1975, pp. 188-189)
  14. by   nursingstudent317
    This is what comes to mind when I think of a holistic approach: When you ask your patient how she's doing today and she replies that her abdominal incision isn't hurting as much as yesterday, you repeat the question ("great, how are YOU doing today?") Knowing that beneath that gown may look like all the others but is unique and plays many roles, perhaps a sister, a mother, a teacher, a daughter, a spiritual being, a member of the community, a member of a culture, a member of a socio-economic group, oh... and a person that just had abdominal surgery.