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ANA Grants Holistic Nursing Formal Status as a Nursing Specialty PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Breaking News: ANA Grants Holistic Nursing Formal Status as a Nursing Specialty

SummaryHolism just made one of its most significant advances in US health care. The American Nurses Association accepted holistic nursing as a recognized specialty within nursing. The decision followed a two year process guided by the 26-year-old, 3200 member American Holistic Nurses Association and the association's president, Carla Mariano, RN, EdD, AHN/BC. Good for nursing! Good for us!

Image On November 20, Carla Mariano, RN, EdD, AHN/BC (1), received a call from Carole Bickford, RN, PhD. Mariano is president of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), a 3200 member organization founded in 1980. Two years ago, the AHNA re-initiated an elaborate process of application to gain recognition as a recognized specialty of the ANA.

Bickford, a policy leader with the American Nurses Association (ANA), was calling Mariano to give her some good news. The AHNA-led application had been accepted. Holistic nursing is now a fully-recognized contributor to US nursing.

Mariano, leading the AHNA effort
Mariano states that "this is a phenomenal step forward for nursing and a very special achievement for holistic nursing. Having holistic nursing recognized as a specialty gives us legitimacy and authority within the mainstream of our profession and credibility in the eyes of the healthcare world." Mariano adds that the recognition also "acknowledges the unique contribution of holistic nursing to the health and healing of people and society."

The road was arduous, as Mariano tells it. AHNA had previously promulgated two levels of holistic nursing standards, basic and advanced. (To review a text on the basic standard, click here.) These, however, "had to be re-languaged" to fit the ANA's processes. "They went through eight iterations," Mariano, recalls, relieved to be done. The two years of the application also required the creation of a scope of practice document. The acceptance came through the  ANA Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics.
after prior approval from the ANA Committee on Nursing Practice Standards and Guidelines.

AHNA's application rested on making a sound case, in a 78-page document, for the field's distinct nature. An article in the AHNA's monthly e-news notes that the specialty is rooted in:

  • A body of knowledge
  • Research
  • Sophisticated skills
  • Defined standards of practice
  • Diversity of modalities from a broad range of health practices
  • Philosophy of living and being that is grounded in caring, relationship, and interconnectedness.

Mariano is clear that the holistic nursing specialty is about a philosophy of care, and not about "incorporation of a modality." She states that specialty status "strengthens the voice of the entire profession and allows clients and patients to trust that they will receive quality care that facilitates the health and wellbeing of the whole person."
She notes that the scope of practice document and the AHNA certification are both based on this philosophy. The ANA will publish a book, with copyright jointly held between ANA and AHNA, on the standards and scope of holistic nursing.

Mariano notes that the AHNA's strategic plan, developed prior to the acceptance of the specialty by the ANA, forecasts that membership will increase to between 5,000-10,000 by 2015.

(1) AHN/BC stands for Advanced Holistic Nursing/Board Certified. The other certification is to a basic standard, HN/BC (Holistic Nursing/Board Certified).


and holistic
in particular,

have an exceptional
go-between role
as integrated care
develops and

Holistic nurses can
sometimes be
the one party
trusted by all

ImageComment:  Credit the American Nurses Association for taking this step toward recognizing the value of empowering this voice of holism by bringing it to their table. Here is hoping that the 1 to 1000 ratio of AHNA member holistic nurses (3200) to nurses (3-million) will have a powerful role in assisting that association to lead the charge for whole health which the American Medical Association (AMA) has unfortunately abdicated. Notably, acceptance as a holistic specialty by the AMA has eluded the holistic medical doctors, as represented by American Holistic Medical Association and the American Board of Holistic Medicine.

Complementary healthcare providers often comment that nurse practitioners are better sources of referrals than are their medical doctor counterparts. In addition, holistic nurses are often selected as care coordinators in integrated centers. Amidst the sometimes heated passions of the integration dialogue, holistic nurses can be viewed as safe harbor, a field with a foot firmly in conventional and healing camps.

Special kudos to Mariano, a close colleague in the Values Task Force of the National Education Dialogue (NED) to Advance Integrated Health Care: Creating Common Ground, which she serves as chair, and which the AHNA has helped fund since 2005. She has been a go-between nurse in this process, helping to negotiate between diverse world views and cultures. More than one member of NED has commented on the importance of nurses and nursing in this role. Notably, Mariano did not mention her own labor in pushing for the specialty recognition as she spoke of the AHNA groundwork here.

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