Integrating Holistic Approaches in Minority Nursing Practices

Integrating Holistic Approaches in Minority Nursing Practices

According to the AACA, in 2022, 80% of nurses in the United States were white/caucasian. With nurse burnout already a problem nationwide, being a minority in the industry can create even more unique challenges. That includes things like racism from patients or co-workers, discrimination, and even economic hurdles depending on your background and where you grew up.integrating-holistic-approaches-in-minority-nursing-practices

All nurses must care for themselves and infuse wellness into their daily work. However, it might be even more essential for minority nurses to integrate holistic approaches into their careers.

With that in mind, let’s explore the importance of a holistic approach in healthcare and provide actionable insights you can use to enhance patient well-being and improve overall nursing effectiveness.

What Is Holistic Nursing? 

As a nurse, you may be tempted to scroll past the ideas of holistic healthcare practices. But, holistic practices have been used for centuries to help people look inward for physical and mental wellness. Holistic nursing combines Western medicinal practices alongside complementary and alternative care solutions. Holistic nurses go beyond the physical and physiological aspects of medicine and focus on the values and beliefs of their patients. Nurses who practice holistic care also hold themselves to an extremely high standard and lean into five core values of practice:

  • Holistic philosophy and education;
  • Holistic ethics, theories, and research;
  • Holistic self-care;
  • Holistic communication;
  • Holistic caring process.

Paying attention to a person’s entire being can make a big difference in how they feel, especially when in a compromising medical situation. It’s one reason more midwives are taking holistic approaches to pregnant women. A holistic nursing approach can also help to improve your entire department, especially if you’ve been struggling with issues as a minority nurse. When holistic practices are implemented, people will start to look at you as a whole person and value your well-being rather than focusing solely on race identity.

Planning Healthy Holistic Practices

If you want to integrate more holistic practices into your career, it starts by leading a more holistic lifestyle yourself. Changing lifestyle habits and career practices, as well as even influencing your department, can feel overwhelming at first. One of the best ways to start taking a holistic approach to your work and life is to set goals for yourself. SMART goals can keep you motivated and help you recognize when you’ve hit milestones and achievements. SMART goals are:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Attainable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-Bound.

For example, if you want to focus on specifics, ask yourself what you want to achieve with holistic practices. Why is it essential to make a change, and who will you involve?

You’ll be able to measure your goals through achievements. Maybe you’ll start to feel better, personally. Perhaps you’ll see a change in work culture or the challenges you typically face as a minority. You might even begin to see your patients differently, which can help you fight back against burnout and find more joy in your daily interactions.

As you set goals and develop a strategy for holistic approaches, keep in mind that holistic medicine doesn’t have to somehow diminish your medical knowledge. Rather, it should serve as a complementary approach beyond basic treatment. A holistic approach to healthcare can inspire you to integrate more holistic practices into your daily routine on and off the clock.

Holistic Practices That Can Make a Difference

When you look within to begin your holistic integration, it starts with self-care. Again, this is essential for all nurses. But, when you face some of the unique challenges of being a minority nurse, self-care becomes even more necessary to maintain your mental and physical well-being. Thankfully, these practices don’t require much extra time or effort. Integrate some of the following into your everyday routine:

  • Prioritizing sleep;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Journaling;
  • Connecting with colleagues;
  • Deep breathing;
  • Showing self-compassion.

Daily affirmations can also make a difference, especially when you’re heading into a long shift or dealing with difficult co-workers. Say things like, “I choose to trust my skills and abilities,” or “I know I am a skilled and compassionate nurse.” It might take some time to get comfortable with affirmations, but they will go a long way in improving your overall mindset. When you are kind and compassionate with yourself, you’re more likely to pass on that care to your patients.

Practicing mindfulness is another excellent way to lead a more holistic life and career. Mindfulness can help you manage stress and anxiety and keep you focused on the present. You’ll be less tempted to think about something a patient or co-worker might have said that bothered you or worry about the “what ifs” of your next shift.

There is no question that being a minority nurse comes with a few obstacles. However, by integrating holistic approaches in your life and career, you can reduce personal stress, improve patient care, and change the course of your department and practice.

Dr. Jesus Cepero: Advocate for Holistic Care

Dr. Jesus Cepero: Advocate for Holistic Care

When patients consider what they want in a hospital experience, they are looking for excellent and compassionate care, of course. But as patients think about a hospital experience, they are also looking for a factor many don’t know how to describe. Frequently, says Dr. Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, NEA-BC and CNO of Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, patients describe wanting to be in an environment that doesn’t have a cold, sterile feeling. In short, they want to be in a place where they are being cared for in a way that feels most authentic for their needs.

Cepero says the missing link can be attributed to holistic care–caring for the whole patient–something he first became aware of after working in adult medicine and moving into children’s and women’s health services. “There’s a big cultural difference between the two environments,” he says, noting that he could feel the shift. “I thought it was more compassionate care, and it was more satisfying to patients.”

But the difference, he says, didn’t rest entirely with compassion as compassionate care is already a driving motivator in the nursing industry. “It was how we delivered the care,” he says, “and that has become a guiding principle for how I lead organizations.” Holistic care is a team approach, he says, and one that brings in a team dynamic that includes physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, and support personnel to work together, communicate well, and meet patient needs.

Typically when patients are asked what they hope to happen from their hospital visit or stay, they will say they want to feel better, says Cepero. Hospitals are places you go when you are sick and you need to get better, so that’s a pretty normal response. But there is more to getting better than just repairing the body, he says. It’s really an approach that sees the balance of body, mind, and spirit as essential.

Holistic care honors that and loops the patient into the care by asking, “How can we help you feel better?” The answers often have nothing to do with the science-based medications, procedures, or other therapies needed to help patients’ physical health improve. It can be reading a book or sharing a book with patients, he says, or it could be art or music therapy or a visit from a therapy dog. Patients could have spiritual needs that are feeling unmet so bringing in a faith leader can alleviate stress. Even need something as simple as someone helping them recharge their phone can relieve a stress point and make a difference in a patient’s day.

The psychosocial needs of patients are important to help heal a body and are also part of a holistic approach. If a patient can’t afford to buy enough healthy food or they lack transportation or access to a grocery store upon discharge, that will impact their healing. “If hospitals aren’t addressing things like food insecurity, they are not taking care of the whole patient,” Cepero says. “That’s what I see as holistic care,” he says, “and why it’s so valuable to the patient and the family.”

Despite the proven benefits to patients’ recovery, holistic care isn’t implemented at the rates that match the demand. Hospitals don’t always have the finances to hire additional support and therapy workers. And even if they do, it’s tough to find experienced people to do the work.

But patients expect this level and type of care and healthcare organizations that align the values and mission with a holistic care approach notice the difference. “Healing patients and making them feel better when they leave is what we are paid to do,” Cepero says. “We are not paid for that compassionate care that we provide.” But providing that compassionate, patient-focused care is so important for the patients so they can approach recovery from all angles. It’s also important for the healthcare providers who see the immediate impact of their work.

And Cepero says the patients are the key to creating an opportunity that allows the best chances for the kind of recovery that helps them. He notes, “It is listening to patients and families about their experiences.”

Studying the Traditional Healing Practices of Mexican-American Women

Studying the Traditional Healing Practices of Mexican-American Women

Caroline Ortiz

Caroline E. Ortiz, MS, MPH, RN, NC-BC

Caroline E. Ortiz, MS, MPH, RN, NC-BC, Associate Professor, Holistic Nursing, Pacific College of Health and Science, grew up in a bicultural and bilingual household. So it’s not surprising that she learned a great deal about traditional healing practices of Mexican-American women —especially from her grandmother.

When Ortiz decided to pursue a PhD, she chose this topic to study. We interviewed her about it to see what all nurses could learn from her research.

How did you get interested in the traditional healing practices of Mexican-American Women? Why did you choose this for your PhD topic?

Growing up in deep South Texas on the coastal border with Mexico, I was raised in a bicultural/bilingual region where Mexican culture and traditions mixed with those considered American. My mom was a nurse, so when we were sick, she would take us to the pediatrician. However, if we were staying with our grandmother—my mom worked a lot—she would either administer home remedies or take us one block down the road to the local traditional healer.

As a child, I did not understand the difference between Western biomedicine and traditional medicine. I just knew that receiving care from my grandmother and the local healer felt so much more love-infused than when taken to the doctor. As I further explored complementary and alternative medicine and holistic nursing, the childhood memories of my grandmother’s healing rituals and remedies and the feelings of being deeply cared for returned.

My decision to study traditional healing practices among Mexican-American women of deep South Texas is more an act of honor and gratitude to my ancestral medicine-keepers than being strictly an intellectual endeavor. Through this work, I am returning home to learn from caregivers and healers with the intention of sharing what the traditional medicine from ancient Mesoamerica by way of Mexico can teach us today about well-being and healing in mind, body, spirit, and emotions.

Have you or anyone you know actually practiced these traditional healing techniques? If so, please say which ones and explain.  

Yes.

  • Plática – an organically unfolding heart-centered talk for arriving at the root of a problem and mutually working it through to resolution
  • Limpia – an energetic spiritual cleansing using various tools, such as healing herbs or a whole, uncooked egg, meant to harmonize imbalanced physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual aspects
  • Botanicals – the use of healing herbs and botanicals for numerous ailments (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in a variety of preparations, including infusions, tinctures, or in natural form; Commonly used are rue, basil, rosemary, chamomile, rose, sage, lavender, fever few, cinnamon, and aloe vera.

These practices are commonly noted in Mexican-American communities today, whether used by informal caregivers independently or with the assistance of a traditional healer.

How do you think that your research may help the nursing field? Should some of these practices be used in Western medicine? Or are you focusing more on how and why nurses should be aware of these practices?  

My intentions are to share with nurses and health care practitioners and leaders what so many patients are practicing and have kept as valuable cultural expressions for improving health, healing, and well-being individually and collectively.

Why is it important for the health care field to be aware of these traditional healing practices?  

Research shows that medical pluralism is commonplace, especially in geographical regions where cultures intersect, as they do along the U.S.-Mexico border. This means that people are utilizing more than one medical system or paradigm of care at a time. However, patients of Mexican ancestry are often not disclosing their home treatments to health care providers, and their providers are often not exploring those practices beyond a superficial level, if at all.

The standard of high-quality health care includes being effective, safe, and culturally responsive. Knowing more about traditional medical practices in U.S. communities of Mexican origin and leveraging their potential for improving health expands opportunities for meeting those standards. Moreover, the U.S. medical system may come to learn additional approaches to health, healing, and well-being practiced by other cultures with positive outcomes. The World Health Organization’s Traditional Medicine Strategy has the incorporation of traditional medicine into Western health care systems as one of its goals for increasingly accessible and equitable health care worldwide.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that is important for our readers to know?

Curanderismo is the Spanish term describing traditional medicine from ancient Mesoamerica and currently practiced by many communities in Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and the Amazon. It comes from the word curar, meaning “heal.” In curanderismo, the health state means being in harmony internally and externally. Internal harmony balances the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects, while external harmony balances the self in relationship with others, the natural world, and the greater, multi-dimensional universe. However, this paradigm, in essence, acknowledges no separation between any of these elements.

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