Cancer Treatment Centers of America

National Nurses Week: Healing the whole person with holistic nursing


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National Nurses Week coincides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, widely known as the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale believed in unity, wellness, and the interrelationship of human beings and their environment, and is considered to be one of the first holistic nurses.

The American Holistic Nurses Association defines holistic nursing as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal.” This concept takes into account the patient’s physical, mental, emotional and social needs, not just physical symptoms, in the treatment of medical conditions.

Holistic nurses integrate various healing modalities to complement conventional medical therapies, acknowledging that individuals are unique, and two people with the same disease may be treated very differently.

“I love being a holistic nurse because it involves not only caring for the medical condition but the person as a whole. Finding a way to meet the individual needs of each patient and their caregivers is a challenge that is rewarding to me not only as a nurse but as a person,” says Arlene Seweryn, RN, HN-BC, OCN, holistic nurse at CTCA in Philadelphia.

According to Seweryn, most people with cancer should seek a holistic approach because the disease not only affects the body anatomically and physiologically, it can affect the mind and spirit, causing fear of the unknown or loss of hope or faith.

“The holistic nurse partners with the patient in their care by helping to guide the patient and in turn, the patient takes an active role in their treatment plan,” says Cheryl Lynn, BSN, RN, CCRN, HNB-BC, a holistic nurse at CTCA in Philadelphia. “While we understand that curing cancer is not always possible, the holistic nurse understands that managing cancer is always possible,” she adds.

Nightingale once said: "Nursing is a thing which, unless we are making progress every year, every month, every week, take my word for it, we are going back.” The principles of holistic nursing are a step in the right direction to fulfill the initiatives she started.

Learn about an integrative approach to cancer treatment.

Learn about the Nursing Program at our Chicago-area hospital.