A Nurses' Guide To Holistic CareBy Staff Reporter, UniversityHerald Reporter
Holistic care is healthcare that is focused on the entire person, not just a single area. That means that nurses practicing a holistic approach will look beyond the immediate symptoms that a patient is experiencing and consider how their general health and wellbeing can feed into what they are currently feeling.
For example, if a patient presents with a headache, then prescribing an analgesic to them is the most obvious way of treating the symptom. However, treating the symptom is not the same as addressing the root causes. Under a holistic approach, the nurse would prescribe an analgesic while also asking the patient questions about their health and lifestyle to try and understand the root cause.
A person's overall health and well-being are the sum total of contributions from a number of different internal and external systems. There are intimate links between physical and emotional health, and ailments in one system can manifest in the other. For example, chronic pain patients will often experience psychiatric symptoms relating to their pain. Addressing the underlying chronic pain and giving the patient skills and techniques to cope with it can lead to an improvement in their mental state and emotional well-being.
Digging Beneath The Surface
The human body is a complex machine that consists of innumerable individual parts or working together. A problem in one area can have a cascading effect that leads to a range of symptoms. Sometimes, the symptoms that a patient is experiencing can actually be quite misleading as far as diagnosing the underlying condition is concerned. This is why holistic primary care is so important in ensuring patients have the best outcome possible.
If nurses and doctors only consider the most immediate and obvious culprits for their patients' symptoms, they might miss the opportunity to intervene early in progressive disease. By taking a comprehensive history of every patient that you treat, you will gain the information that you need to make more informed decisions about their care.
There are very few symptoms that are specific to a single disease. Most symptoms are shared by a wide range of conditions that have nothing to do with one another. A patient presenting with a series of common symptoms could, therefore, be suffering from just about anything. Of course, some things are more likely than others. But it would be a mistake to only consider the most likely outcomes and neglect the less obvious answers.
Don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions and to press your patients on important points. Sometimes, non-medical questions can give you the key information that you need to diagnose and treat patients.
Prevention Is The Best Cure
Taking comprehensive patient histories and considering alternative explanations for their symptoms enables healthcare professionals to prescribe proactive measures for preventing disease in the first place. Our lifestyle choices are obviously important factors in determining our overall health. We all know this, but doctors and nurses regularly encounter patients who fail to appreciate just how significant the link is.
Sometimes, even the most basic of lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on a patient outlook and prognosis. Alcohol and tobacco are two obvious examples of this. Reducing a patient's intake of either, even a little bit, can lead to some serious improvements in their overall health.
Learning To Listen
Nurses can inadvertently undermine their own efforts at a more holistic approach if they don't listen properly to their patients. If you walk in with a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask your patients in order to take their histories but then you only half-listen to their answers, it is very easy to miss something important.
Most people are not as good at listening as they think they are. Listening is one of those things that everyone assumes they can do, but few people really think about properly. Listening properly to your patients isn't just important for taking their histories. it is also important for ensuring that they have a full understanding of the treatment they will receive, what it entails, and why it is being prescribed.
The end result of a more holistic approach to patient care should be an improvement in patient confidence and the establishment of trust between patients and their caregivers. More trusting patients are easier to treat and to communicate with.
A holistic approach to patient care is better for both patients and doctors. By considering the entire person as a whole, instead of focussing on one area and ignoring the rest, healthcare providers can improve their patients' prognoses and prevent many health issues before they arise.