The Science Behind Holistic Nurse Coaching

Holistic nurse coaching is an art…. as is nursing. However, it takes additional training and practice that is not typically taught in the traditional collegiate nursing school.
So, how did holistic nursing and nurse coaching evolve…. and what is the supporting science behind holistic nurse coaching?
Let’s start with a brief history of holistic nursing. You’ve heard of Florence Nightingale, right?

Brief History of Holistic Nursing

Although documented history of holistic medicine dates back greater than a couple thousand years in traditional Chinese medicine, it has been practiced globally and is known as the oldest way of treating illness and disease. So how did this get incorporated into nursing?
Prior to Florence Nightingale, nursing was viewed as an undervalued, disrespectful job; however, through her efforts as a trans visional leader she founded modern nursing. She shares her vision and methodology of the holistic concept in Notes on Nursing- What It Is and What It Is Not, published in 1859. In fact, the foundational nursing theories developed by Florence Nightingale are still respected today.

So, what changed in modern medicine?

Technology happened! Around the mid to late 1900’s, the growth of technology played a big part shifting healthcare to a business of profit rather than focusing on the caring, healing connection with the patient. This created more of a “treat the disease and not the person” type of healthcare system in the U.S. and upset the nursing profession’s value in true caring for the patient.
It wasn’t until the early 1980s that a group of nurses started the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) with a mission to advance holistic healthcare…. getting back to the intention of treating patients as a whole person in body, mind, spirit, and emotion.

In the late 1990s, the American Holistic Nurse Certification Corporation (AHNCC) was formed. Only a few programs are credentialled in providing continuing education to become a holistic nurse and/or nurse coach.

The Science Supporting Holistic Nurse Coaching

Nurse coaching is described as a skilled, systemic process, and is backed by philosophical principles, research, theory, and evidence-based practice.
The deep roots of nurse coaching stem from the philosophies of Florence Nightingale who established evidence-based best practices in nursing. She is recognized as the first nurse theorist of nursing and these theories set the foundation of both nursing and nurse coaching.

Many other scholarly nurse theorists have contributed to the elements of nurse coaching; however, there are too many to give credit to in this blog. You can learn about these important theorists online or in a holistic nurse coaching program. Let’s look at one theory that incorporates the broad scope of nurse coaching.

The Theory of Integrative Nurse Coaching is written by Barbara Dossey, Susan Luck, and Bonny Gulino Schaub. This theory is relatively new as it was first published in 2015. As explained in the Art & Science of Nurse Coaching, this theory “focuses on nursing coaching and guides nurse coaching practice, education, research and healthcare policy (INCA).
Additionally, research is ever evolving. Nurse Coaches are continuing to further their role with new research.

Nurse Coaching is globally recognized…. And it is nationally recognized as a Specialty by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). If that’s not great enough…. Holistic Nurses are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Program!

Holistic Nursing Practice Survey

The direction in healthcare is changing slowly, but how can you advocate for holistic care in your practice? A good start if your philosophy is all about holistic care, whether certified or not, is to participate in the AHNCC practice survey to keep Magnet status active past 2023 and the holistic movement going…. And as a bonus, you will be eligible for CEU’s after completing the survey.

In closing….

I’d like to invite you to take a moment and reflect on the history of “modern” nursing. How are we as a nation suffering from the current state of healthcare?
One might find the paradigm of healthcare is shifting towards the whole person holistic approach in conjunction with allopathic medicine. We are shifting towards preventative medicine, but Western allopathic medicine is good when necessary.


Nursing is a progressive art such that to stand still is to go backwards
~Florence Nightingale


Lisa Landis

Lisa is an adult wellness nurse in a family practice by day and a freelance health content writer by night….and Saturday morning. She is passionate about her career because she gets to do what makes her happy, help others and write.
Lisa is still actively involved with her INCA alumni and meets monthly with her cohorts and pursuing her board certification in Nurse Coaching.

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