June 8, 2023

Jul 20, 2022 | Blog, Health & Wellness, Patient Care
There’s no doubt that the medical industry has faced some significant challenges over the last few years. COVID-19 has been particularly disruptive in a variety of areas. Among the most notable effects is the pandemic has exacerbated burnout to the extent that healthcare personnel are leaving the industry en masse. This means there is a shortage of experienced medical professionals in a number of fields. Nurses are among those roles in which there is an urgent need for skilled leaders who are able to provide the care most relevant to contemporary patients.
As such, this challenge can also be seen to offer opportunities. On a wider scale, the industry must make cultural changes to create a more supportive space for staff. For nurses, however, this also presents chances to demonstrate they have the agile skill sets to provide the more rounded care and patient management practices that are growing in demand.
We’re going to take a closer look at how nurses can take a holistic approach to patient care.
Nurses are in a position of both privilege and pressure. They are always on the front lines of any medical situation. It also means they have the chance to gain important early insights into a patient’s well-being and circumstances that can inform a holistic approach to treatment. This can apply in all situations whereby nurses are the first point of contact, whether in hospitals, primary care clinics, or community outreach.
When assessing a patient’s needs for the first time, it’s important here to take the holistic approach. Every medical situation also has knock-on effects when it comes to mental, emotional, and even economic well-being. Utilizing the time of first contact well can also open nurses to information regarding the patient’s cultural needs. Taking notes here on more than simply the strict medical elements can ensure all personnel from first contact onward are fully apprised of the holistic requirements of the patient.
Nurses’ first contact position can also put them at a vital point to identify the most relevant resources. Where patients are being assessed or treated for symptoms that may put additional strain on their mental wellbeing, nurses can offer advice about community mental health services. Where patients have avoided treatment in the past or have some hesitancy now due to money issues, it may be helpful to provide them with information about local organizations or programs that can help. Part of the key here is taking some time to prepare data on such resources in advance so this is easy to access at the times patients need it.
There is an increasing willingness by patients to explore the potential of alternative sources of medicine and treatment. Part of this is due to a desire to be less reliant on harsh prescription drugs, particularly opioids. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in opposition to traditional treatments. Rather, it’s often a method to support their other treatments and take back a certain amount of control during an experience in which many patients feel helpless. It’s also worth noting many alternative treatments are focused on the whole self rather than individual symptoms.
As such, nurses can take a more holistic approach to patient care by providing patients with their support in respect of alternative treatments. The first consideration here is to interact with the patient from an empathetic position. It can be too easy to respond to questions about non-traditional treatments with immediate dismissal (“Oh; that’s ignorant ‘woo” science.”). Rather, nurses should seek to understand why the patient is keen to explore alternatives to mainstream treatment. Being open in communication here is an especially powerful tool for nurses. It not only shows the patient that the medical professional respects their perspectives — it can also reduce the anxiety they may be feeling.
It’s also important to recognize how certain forms of treatment previously considered to fall under the “alternative” banner are being adopted as part of mainstream care. As such, nurses can be effective in providing holistic care by keeping up with research into not just traditional treatments but alternative therapies, too. This enables nurses to give the most relevant and safe advice to patients when there are inquiries into different treatment options.
One of the most vital ways nurses can take a holistic approach to patient care is to consider beyond the supportive structure of the clinic or hospital. Specifically, with regard to how the patient is able to be their own best advocate for their health and handle the conditions they’re living with.
It’s important to establish tools and practices to empower patients in taking control of their holistic care. This not only helps the whole patient stay healthy, but it also ensures their lifestyle both minimizes exacerbation of a condition and supports the treatments they receive during direct care.
A prime example of this is in substance abuse treatments. Medical professionals in this field are increasingly aware of the need to treat the whole patient. This is particularly important given how experiences of stress and the presence of mental health comorbidities can trigger reliance on harmful substances. Away from rehabilitation facilities, patients need to be able to manage these elements independently to prevent falling back into addictive behavior patterns. As such, nurses can guide patients to utilize helpful tools here. Daily meditation practices, journaling activities, and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can assist patients in taking control of their holistic well-being.
A holistic approach to nursing is not just relevant to contemporary medicine. It can also demonstrate patient-first skills in healthcare leadership at a time in which there is a clear gap here. Nurses can be effective in this regard by creating impactful experiences at the point of first contact with patients. It’s also wise to act in an empathetic and well-informed way to provide advice on how alternative medicines can support traditional areas of care. To best attend to the whole patient, it’s vital to empower them to take control of their well-being away from supervised care, too.
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