What It Takes to Be a Holistic Nurse

Accredited specialty can enhance any clinical practice

Holistic nurse Rose Hosler

Sometimes it’s what you don’t know about a patient that can make the biggest difference in their care. Taking the time to learn about the whole person – not just the patient’s clinical needs – can lead to insight into providing the best treatment possible. This philosophy is an important tenet of holistic nursing.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services Policy

“There’s always more to the story,” says Rose Hosler, BSN, HNB-BC, HWNC-BC. “It is important to honor each patient’s values, beliefs and life and health experiences instead of making a judgment or assumption about them.”

Hosler and Angie Hamm, BSN, HNB-BC, HWNC-BC, both work full-time as Healing Services Coordinators at Cleveland Clinic – Hosler at Hillcrest Hospital and Hamm at main campus. Both are certified holistic nurses and holistic nurse coaches. They travel throughout the hospital system providing emotional and spiritual support services to patients and caregivers.  

Hamm says “taking a 360-degree look at the patient” through conversation helps to uncover emotional issues and other contributing factors that may not come up otherwise. She cites an example of a patient who is frequently readmitted because of nonadherence to medication recommendations. By talking with the patient, the caregiver may find out an inability to afford the medication is at the root of the behavior. Patients will often open up when given the chance.

“Just being there, being present with the patient and talking with them makes a world of difference,” Hamm says.

Hosler points out that many nurses do sit and talk with their patients. The ability to do this is not something that is part of formal learning in nursing school, she says. However, it is a mindset from which you practice nursing as a certified holistic nurse.

While a holistic approach can enhance care at any time, it is especially true during stressful times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated a sense of isolation for many patients.

Advertising Policy

What is holistic nursing?

Holistic nurses and coaches “promote health, wellness and wellbeing as they facilitate their client’s growth and healing,” according to the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). (Holistic nursing and nurse coaching are separate certifications.) The AHNCC provides certification for the specialty, which is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification.

It takes about two years for licensed nurses to complete the courses and hours of practicing within a holistic framework before they can take the certification exam for holistic nursing. The certification is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is Magnet® recognized.

Holistic nurses don’t need to specialize in a modality, such as Reiki, healing touch or aromatherapy, Hosler says, though those can enhance an interaction with a patient or caregiver in need of healing support.

“As a holistic nurse you can learn these things, keep them in your tool kit and incorporate them when appropriate,” Hosler says. “Being present with someone even when you are hanging an IV or changing a bandage is so valuable.”

Why become a certified holistic nurse?

Hamm says most people go into the nursing field because they want to take care of and help patients. Having a greater awareness of patients’ mind, body and spirit connectedness through holistic nursing enhances the ability to help them.

“It’s why I’m still in nursing 40 years later – because of this holistic approach,” she says.

Advertising Policy

Both she and Hosler agree that a holistic approach becomes a part of your nursing practice rather than another skill to add. It can be done within the context of any specialty.

“When you are grounded in holism, it becomes who you are as a nurse,” Hosler says. “You will do what needs to be done clinically, but it’s amazing how an effort to understand the whole person you are treating gives much better insight into how you can support the patient.”

To learn more about holistic nursing, visit the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation website (ahncc.org) or the American Holistic Nurses Association website (ahna.org).