Treating the Whole Patient: What All Travel Nurses Need to Know

Patients are more than their illnesses, ailments and prognoses. Of all of the healthcare professionals, nurses may know this better than anyone: After all,  in many cases, they are the most direct, consistent and approachable point of contact for patients and their families during a hospital stay. Also known as “integral” nursing, the act of treating patients holistically — ie., physically, emotionally, culturally and spiritually — can not only help nurses offer better care to patients, but also to find more personal and professional fulfillment in the process. Let’s take a closer look at the guiding philosophy behind holistic nursing, along with why it’s such an important part of nursing and modern healthcare at large.

About Holistic Nursing

Defined by the American Holistic Nurses Association as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal,” holistic medicine is nothing new. In fact, its origins can be dated all the way back to Florence Nightingale.  Known today as “the Mother of Modern Nursing,” Nightingale was known not just for treating illness, but for doing so with the utmost respect for and acknowledgment of the impact of illness on the whole patient.

What does “treating the whole patient” mean, in practice? According to Practical, “It involves thinking about and assisting patients with the effects of illness on the body, mind, emotions, spirituality, religion, and personal relationships.” In other words, all patients are not created equally.  In fact, they can significantly vary in both background and perspective. Acknowledging their unique differences and preferences to the best of your ability can help ensure that you are providing the very best care.

Tips for Treating the Whole Patient

While the American Nurses Association (ANA) first started recognizing holistic nursing as a specialty area of practice a decade ago, the principles of holistic nursing can be utilized by both staff and travel nurses in all fields and disciplines.  In fact, regardless of where you land on your travel nursing journey, it’s possible to apply the holistic approach within any setting or situation by using the following tips as a guideline.

  • Learn and use each patient’s name.
  • Sincerely listen and care when inquiring how a patient is feeling.
  • Use eye contact and therapeutic touch.
  • Keep preserving dignity at the forefront.
  • Educate and involve the patient at every opportunity.
  • Be sensitive to the cultural, religious, and spiritual beliefs of patients. (Asking is not only acceptable, but appropriate!)
  • Be open to complementary and non-pharmacological pain control methods.

One last thing to note? There’s no arguing that the life of a travel nurse can be challenging. However, adopting a holistic approach has profound benefits, and not just for patients.  Taking care to treat the whole patient not only leads to better clinical outcomes, but can also help travel nurses avoid burnout while gaining enhanced awareness of their own invaluable part in facilitating the healing process and improving quality of life for the patients in their care.

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