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Florence Nightingale and Holistic Nursing

by Barbara Dossey


e are at a time in history where we must transform the health care structure from a disease management industry to a healing system. As nursing students, your role today is key to the future of health care. How do you want to actively contribute to these dynamic changes that will impact the practice and the image of professional nursing, and the healing of society?

History is one of the most important aspects of any profession. Modern nursing has a proud heritage through its founder, Florence Nightingale, who lived from 1820 to 1910. Nightingale was a mystic, visionary, healer, reformer, environmentalist, feminist, practitioner, scientist, politician and global citizen. Her achievements are astounding when viewed against the backdrop of the Victorian era, and her contributions to nursing theory, research, statistics, public health, and health care reform are invaluable and inspirational. As a brave risk-taker, Nightingale possessed uncommon vision, focus, dedication, and commitment. Her tenets of healing, leadership, and global action provide us with her vision for a healthy world (Dossey, 2000; Dossey, Selanders, Beck, & Attewell, 2005).




Although Nightingale's work, letters, and books date back to the last century, they contain the core values to holistic nursing practice and nursing's roots. Challenge yourself to identify the core values that guide your professional practice and personal life, and learn to communicate them powerfully and clearly to colleagues, consumers, and other health care professionals. To better accomplish this, let's explore the essential components of holistic nursing practice and ways to articulate the essence of professional nursing. of their connection to others and to the universe and the forces of nature. The AHNA Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice are used in conjunction with the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Practice (2004), American Nurses Association Nursing's Social Policy Statement (2003), and the specific specialty standards where holistic nurses practice. They reflect the diverse nursing activities in which holistic nurses are engaged and serve holistic nurses in personal life, clinical and private practice, education, research, and community service. Some of my greatest joys in nursing have been exploring the journey towards wholeness with my patients and with holistic nursing colleagues in professional organizations, such as the American Holistic Nurses'

"A part of Nightingale's wisdom resides within each of us."

Association (AHNA), the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), and Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI). I have been a critical care nurse, biofeedback nurse, nursing educator, holistic nurse consultant, and Florence Nightingale scholar. After thirty-nine years in nursing, my major challenges are to further the understanding and integration of holistic nursing theory, standards, and practice, and to teach rituals that integrate an individual's belief systems and their innate healing ability with modern technology. A part of Nightingale's wisdom resides within each of us. I imagine hearing her voice as she tells each of us to identify our "must" and to fight for a health care system driven by the needs of patients. She would encourage all of us to unite in order to actualize our visions. Nightingale, the master networker, would want us to know who are elected officials are and how to best educate them so that they can develop effective legislation for health care reform. Exciting work lies ahead. How are we going to write our chapter of nursing history as the beginning of the 21st century? What is our role at the local, national, or international level, and in the health care system? What seeds are we going to plant for others? What is our next productive, innovative and creative endeavor? I wish you the best in your healing journey and finding your "must!"


Holistic Nursing

Can holistic nursing can be delivered in today's health care environment? Yes! But nurses must understand what holistic nursing is and what is involved in holistic care. Although the face of modern health care has changed, the essence of Florence Nightingale's message for holistic nursing and holistic care remains the same. The American Holistic Nurses' Association (AHNA) Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice provide a working description of holistic nursing and give clear guidelines for holistic nursing practice (AHNA, 2003; Frisch, 2000). Holistic nursing heals the whole person. Holistic nurses are agents of healing and facilitators in the process, honoring the individual's subjective experiences and beliefs about health and values. To become therapeutic partners with individuals, families, and communities, holistic nurses draws on nursing knowledge, theory, research, expertise, intuition, and creativity. Holistic nursing practice encourages peer review of professional practice in various clinical settings and integrates knowledge of current professional standards, laws, and regulations governing nursing practice. Holistic nurses must integrate selfcare, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives, which may lead them to a greater awareness

Nursing Theory and the Essence of Professional Nursing

There are four essential questions you must answer to help you define the essence of nursing: How do you define 1) Nursing? 2) Person? 3) Health? 4) Environment? These four questions are also the basic components of nursing theory. Choosing a nursing theory to guide your nursing practice is not just an exercise in your education -- it impacts both your professional and personal life and strengthens your purpose, meaning, and mission in life. (See references for more information on these four concepts.)

Finding Your "Must"

Nightingale refered to her work as her "must." What is your "must?" To enhance your understanding of holistic nursing and your personal mission statement, make it a priority to talk with peers, faculty members, and nurses about holistic philosophy, nursing theory, and complementary and alternative interventions. Discuss your role as a student in shaping the image and future of professional nursing. These interactions help you think critically about what your personal and professional values and help you bring caring and healing into each day.



American Holistic Nurses Association w w w. a hn a. org Nightingale Initiative for Global Health (NIGH) w w w. NIG Hcommunit ies. o rg (also features Powerpoint presentations to download.)

and Bartlett. Dossey, B. (2000) Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. Dossey, B., Selanders, L., Beck, D.M., and Attewell, A. (2005). Florence Nightingale Today: Healing, Leadership, Global Action. Washington, D.C.: Nursesbooks.Org. Frisch, N., Dossey, B., Guzzetta, C. and Quinn, J. (Frisch, 2000). AHNA Stan-


American Holistic Nurses' Association (AHNA). Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice (2003). Flagstaff, Az: AHNA. American Nurses Association (2004). Nursing Scope & Standards of Practice. Washington, D.C.: American Nurses Association (2003). Nursing's Social Policy Statement (2nd ed). Washington, D. C.: Dossey, B. Keegan, L., and Guzzetta, C. (2004). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones

Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the holistic nursing movement and as a Florence Nightingale Scholar, and has authored over 20 books. For more information, visit www. do s s eydo ssey. c o m .





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