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How to become a holistic nurse practitioner

smiling nurse confers with patient
joe edwards

Written and reported by:
Joe Edwards
Staff Writer

In a holistic nursing career, spirit and emotion are just as important to wellness as the mind and the body; and the philosophy of caring and interconnectedness is fused with knowledgeable nursing practice.

The holistic health field recognizes the totality of the human being, integrating natural healing with clinical practice to treat people’s physiological, psychological and spiritual needs. Similarly, this type of nursing helps to complement more traditional methods for a well-rounded, complementary approach.

In This Article

What is a holistic nurse?

A holistic nurse is a board-certified registered nurse (RN) who incorporates a mind-body-spirit-emotion approach to patient care—akin to the philosophy of holistic medicine schools. To assist patients in maintaining a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit, these nurses frequently urge patients to include self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and introspection in their lives. 

A holistic approach to nursing care focuses on treating the patient as a whole rather than only addressing the symptoms of their current disease. Holistic nursing care approach patients from a different angle and look at their lifestyles to find clues about how to enhance their overall health and wellness rather than treating a specific problem.

Holistic nurse practitioners often incorporate complementary therapies into patient care, relying on eastern and western medical traditions, such as aromatherapy. In addition, they employ holistic medicine, not just as a treatment method but to prevent disease, as well. It operates under the idea that a person’s complete physical and mental well-being can reduce their risk of becoming ill.

Core principles of holistic nursing

The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) defines the following principles as the bedrock of holistic nursing:

  • Holistic caring process: A holistic nurse enhances the standard of care by treating patients as whole beings—recognizing that holistic health is a multidimensional condition.
  • Communication, environment, and cultural diversity: The three pillars of holistic nursing care are communication, a therapeutic healing environment, and cultural diversity. A holistic nurse, therefore, effectively communicates with their patients and cares about the well-being of their environment using environmentally friendly practices and treatments. Additionally, they are aware of the diversity of their community and know how to apply cultural traditions to the healing process.
  • Nurse self-reflection and self-care: A holistic nurse practitioner assesses their own performance in light of existing laws and standards and identifies areas for improvement. They also practice self-care by encouraging a good balance between work and personal life, controlling stress, and enhancing their general well-being.
  • Education and research: A holistic nurse stays current on developments and trends in the industry, such as holistic nutrition and studying therapeutic modalities from various sources and putting them into action.

What does a holistic nurse do?

Registered and holistic nurses undertake the same tasks, including running tests, identifying illnesses, and managing patients, but a holistic nurse practitioner has additional responsibilities to aid the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual recovery.

Firstly, they combine Eastern and Western medical approaches in hopes of improving patient care and boosting the body’s natural healing processes. Additionally, they assist patients in finding the alternative therapy that is most appropriate for them. They also assist in controlling patient stress and anxiety.

Although excellent holistic nurses possess the same professional abilities as typical RNs, the deeper connection a holistic nurse practitioner strives to establish with patients sets them apart. They understand their problems, pay close attention to detail, are observant, kind, good listeners, view patients as a whole, and place equal focus on patients’ emotional and physical health.

In a holistic context, a nurse sees a health problem as a reflection of how individuals live and care for themselves. So when they engage with their patients, they look at the health condition and the entire lifestyle that contributes to it. Then, to help heal and avoid recurrence, they suggest various measures to alleviate the issue, such as dietary adjustments, stress-relieving workouts, and more.

Where do they work?


Holistic nurse practitioners find career possibilities in patients’ homes, clinics, hospitals, and primary care facilities. Those working in 24-hour hospitals and private clinics may find themselves working late at night, early in the morning, or on the weekends. Additionally, to suit patient schedules, nurses who care for patients in their homes sometimes have to work late into the night or on the weekends.

Medical offices are often open during regular business hours. With this, holistic nurses working in them will likely have a more predictable daily routine. A holistic nurse practitioner can also work with the government, social service organizations, or educational institutions.

Holistic nurses may also practice in hospice care facilities, where they use holistic medicine to treat terminally ill patients at the end of their lives.

Becoming a holistic nurse

As with other registered nurses, you must complete a few steps before becoming certified as a holistic nurse, including earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Getting experience in healthcare and growing used to the workplace are two crucial steps in becoming a holistic nurse. 

Required education

Holistic nurses, like RNs, must enroll in a college or university to get their BSN or ADN. After earning a BSN or ADN, nurses are then qualified to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) test. Finally, holistic nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN before applying for a license and practicing.

Employers often prefer those with a bachelor’s degree, and it may be beneficial to go a step further to earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). Although earning your MSN it isn’t strictly necessary to practice as a holistic nurse, registered nurses who want to specialize in the profession often do so.

Certifications

After obtaining your RN license, you can seek holistic health certification with the American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC). The prerequisites for certification include:

  • holding an RN license,
  • completing at least 48 hours of nursing continuing education,
  • and working as a holistic nurse for at least a year or 2,000 hours.

After that, candidates must pass a quantitative and qualitative evaluation to become certified. Certificate renewal is required every five years.

Other holistic nursing certification programs you may want to look at include:

The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) is an organization that supports practicing holistic nurses and supports numerous initiatives linked to holistic nursing.

Integrative Healing Arts Program (IHAP), IHAP is a retreat for holistic nurses focusing on honing nurses’ abilities and exposing them to fresh approaches to treatment.

The Canadian Holistic Nurses Association (CHNA) is a group for Canadian holistic nurses.

Salary and career outlook for holistic nurses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $77,600. Take a look at salaries for RNs by state.

Registered Nurses

National data

Median Salary: $77,600

Projected job growth: 6.2%

10th Percentile: $59,450

25th Percentile: $61,790

75th Percentile: $97,580

90th Percentile: $120,250

Projected job growth: 6.2%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $99,110 $77,450 $127,020
Alabama $60,510 $47,390 $78,670
Arkansas $61,530 $47,510 $79,440
Arizona $78,260 $60,750 $100,200
California $125,340 $78,070 $165,620
Colorado $78,070 $60,550 $100,870
Connecticut $83,860 $61,470 $110,580
District of Columbia $95,220 $62,700 $129,670
Delaware $75,380 $59,900 $99,780
Florida $75,000 $49,680 $95,630
Georgia $75,040 $58,400 $98,410
Hawaii $111,070 $75,380 $129,670
Iowa $61,790 $48,290 $79,260
Idaho $75,560 $59,640 $98,030
Illinois $77,580 $59,640 $100,650
Indiana $62,400 $48,400 $90,260
Kansas $61,790 $47,630 $79,360
Kentucky $62,480 $48,000 $82,410
Louisiana $64,450 $48,920 $94,360
Massachusetts $94,960 $61,180 $151,310
Maryland $78,350 $60,420 $101,650
Maine $75,040 $59,640 $98,780
Michigan $76,710 $60,120 $98,510
Minnesota $79,100 $60,850 $101,610
Missouri $61,920 $47,350 $94,690
Mississippi $60,790 $47,210 $78,670
Montana $75,000 $60,320 $97,260
North Carolina $72,220 $51,420 $95,360
North Dakota $73,250 $59,810 $95,360
Nebraska $64,000 $55,040 $84,910
New Hampshire $77,230 $59,900 $99,580
New Jersey $94,690 $70,920 $117,990
New Mexico $78,340 $60,320 $98,660
Nevada $79,360 $61,790 $119,530
New York $96,170 $61,260 $127,080
Ohio $74,080 $59,540 $94,690
Oklahoma $62,170 $47,960 $79,940
Oregon $99,410 $76,180 $127,680
Pennsylvania $76,940 $59,640 $98,680
Rhode Island $78,900 $61,340 $101,650
South Carolina $72,650 $47,860 $86,820
South Dakota $60,550 $47,470 $77,360
Tennessee $62,390 $48,190 $81,950
Texas $77,320 $59,780 $99,070
Utah $75,000 $59,640 $95,160
Virginia $76,900 $59,170 $100,990
Vermont $75,380 $59,640 $98,030
Washington $96,980 $74,070 $127,320
Wisconsin $76,560 $60,060 $98,970
West Virginia $62,390 $47,450 $87,440
Wyoming $75,000 $59,650 $98,140

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Depending on the state they are in or the organization they work for, holistic nurses may be eligible for benefits, including health and life insurance, daycare, payment for continuing education, holiday pay, and maternity/paternity leave.

Even though the BLS does not explicitly address job growth for holistic nursing jobs, it estimates that employment for registered nurses is expected to expand by 6% through 2031, which is just slightly faster than national job growth for all careers.

By 2031 there will be a greater-than-average increase in the need for nurse practitioners, and holistic nurses who advance their education and enter the practitioner area may expect a much higher than average job growth rate of 46% says the BLS.

Frequently asked questions


What is a holistic nursing program?

A holistic nursing practitioner program adds training that emphasizes focus on treating the patient’s mind, body, and spirit, setting it apart from a typical nursing school. Depending on the school, this may entail emphasizing compassion, self-care, interpersonal relationships, massage treatment, religion, and spirituality.

How much time does it take to train as a holistic nurse practitioner?

It varies widely from person to person and depends heavily on the level of education you pursue. It takes at least two years to earn an ADN, and four years to earn your BSN. If you aim to earn your MSN, it takes two additional years on top of the time it takes to earn your BSN.

Are there a lot of holistic nurses?

Holistic nurse practitioners continue to have a substantially brighter job outlook than the national average for all jobs. Furthermore, nurses with holistic training should anticipate growing work prospects as the healthcare business adopts more complementary and alternative medicine techniques to assist patients in managing acute and chronic diseases.

Updated: September 2nd, 2022