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Holistic Nursing Career Guide

How To Become a Holistic Nurse

When people think of healthcare, they’re often drawn to examples of preventative medicine that treat a health condition or a specific symptom. But with the rise of the wellness movement, many are looking for a more well-rounded approach to health. Holistic nursing was designed to answer that call with a focus on whole body wellness.

Many point to Florence Nightingale as the founder of holistic nursing, based on her own unique take on health and wellness at the turn of the century. Nightingale believed in treating the person as a whole, exploring how each patient lived their lives when they weren’t in medical care. She believed that a person’s lifestyle could have a big effect on their health. She also practiced what she preached, offering herself up as a role model for healthy living. Her mindset revolutionized nursing and eventually led to the creation of the American Holistic Nurses Association in 1980.

Holistic nursing involves being well versed in assisting patients to create and maintain self-care routines that can help them enhance and maintain their overall wellness and helps them see their health from a body, mind, and soul perspective. Nurses who focus on holistic process are also commonly referred to as a complementary health nurse. Though their title may seem different from those of a more traditional nursing background, holistic nurses are board certified and registered, and have completed a BSN degree. They may also use complementary techniques or collaborate across the spectrum of care to meet their patient’s needs.

Doctors and nurses in a medical team stacking hands.

What Is Holistic Nursing?

Holistic nursing is a medical profession where the nurses are dedicated to offering whole person care to patients in need. Rather than treating a specific issue, holistic nurses look at the patient from a different perspective and examine their lifestyle for hints on how to improve their overall health and wellness. Whole person nursing practice and integrative focus into other areas are key in holistic nursing.

Nurses with holistic processes adhere to scientific principles and the modern standards of care but often draw from a combination of Eastern and Western medicine to address health of the body, mind, and spirit. By encouraging self-care, holistic nurses empower their patients to find new ways to maintain their health and foster a stronger connection to their bodies through a variety of holistic wellness-based practices.

What Does A Holistic Nurse Do?

Holistic nursing involves taking on many of the same basic duties and responsibilities of an RN, but the manner that holistic nurses treat their patients and provide care may differ. For example, a typical nurse may diagnose a patient with an issue and prescribe something to alleviate what may be ailing them. By comparison, in holistic nursing the nurses will address issues that a patient may be dealing with and explore their overall wellness in relation to both the issue and who they are as a person.

For a nurse in a holistic setting a health issue isn’t just about the issue—it’s about the way people live their lives and take care of themselves. So when they work with their patients, they’ll address a health issue by looking at the issue itself and also addressing the overall lifestyle that may be causing or exacerbating that issue. They may prescribe medicine if needed, but they may also make other recommendations—such as dietary changes, stress relief exercises, and more—to aid in healing and possibly prevent recurrence.

Some of the common holistic nursing techniques and therapies holistic nursing practices may use include:

  • Stress management techniques
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Cranio sacral therapy
  • Wellness coaching
  • Network spinal analysis
  • Dietary coaching
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Reflexology
  • Herbal therapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Biofeedback

What Education Does a Holistic Nurse Need?

In holistic nursing, nurses will need to complete a diploma program or a degree program for a BSN or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Those who are already working RNs can get their BSN through a registered school that offers online degree programs. Once a BSN or ADN is obtained, holistic nurses will also need to pass their state’s NCLEX-RN exam and become a registered nurse before they’re able to work. And while a master’s program isn’t typically required, getting a master’s degree often leads to higher-paying positions.



Holistic nurses who have obtained their RN license can then apply for certification from the American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC). While not necessarily mandatory, American Holistic Nurses Certifications can help holistic nurses stand out in a crowded employment space. Before applying for certification, they will be required to take a quantitative exam and qualitative assessment and show their continuing education in holistic nursing.

Some of the certifications a holistic nurse can obtain from the AHNCC include an Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse Board Certification (APHN-BC), a Holistic Nurse Baccalaureate Board Certification (HNB-BC), and a standard Holistic Nurse Certification (HN-BC).

Continuing Education

Because the healthcare industry is constantly changing and patient care needs are always evolving, it’s important for holistic nurses to continue their education throughout their careers. Holistic nurses will be expected to complete a certain number of CEU hours to renew their RN licenses. Check with a state’s board of nursing on specific requirements before license renewal comes up.

Holistic nurses may also want to get certified in techniques or therapies that are complementary to their work. Some of the therapies they can choose to explore include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Dietary coaching

Each type of holistic therapy requires its own separate training and may require their own certifications—check with state regulations before enrolling. Holistic nurses with a BSN or ADN may want to explore getting a master’s degreeso they can open themselves up to more lucrative job offers.

Every state has its own requirements relating to continued education for holistic nurses. To get the most up-to-date information on holistic educational requirements, contact the nearest board of nursing to ensure continued education requirements are being met.

Best Degrees for Holistic Nursing

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

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Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Next Start Date

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

Apply Today

Our online university degree programs start on the first of every month, all year long.

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about online college admissions at WGU.

Compare BSN and MSN degree options.

If you're a current RN there are many BSN and MSN degree options to choose from. Compare them to find the best fit for you.

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Nurse practitioner helping a patient

What Skills Are Needed For Holistic Nursing?

Because holistic nurses are more focused on a long-term, whole-body outlook on health, their approach to care is less about reaction and more about empathy. Holistic practitioners develop a deeper connection with patients and taking more time to help them achieve their health-related goals. As a result, holistic nurses can act more like a partner to patients who are looking to make lifestyle changes. Some of the important characteristics of a holistic nurse include:

  • The ability to be empathetic to a patient’s needs
  • Listening and communication skills
  • Seeing the patient as a whole being
  • Approaching care on the level of body, mind and spirit
  • Integrity
  • Self-responsibility
  • Attention to detail
  • A willingness to explore a variety of care opportunities
  • Compassion and understanding
  • The ability to look at care from an individual standpoint, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Mindfulness and presence in patient dealings
  • A willingness and knowledge that allows for blending techniques to get the best outcome
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • The capability to connect with other health care professionals

Holistic nursing can be a rewarding and lucrative career choice for those who wish to take patient care to the next level through self-care practices, integrative therapy, and a variety of healing modalities. Take the first step today by signing up for an online degree program to earn your BSN.

How Much do Holistic Nurses Make?


According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a holistic RN is $79,051 per year, while the average annual salary for a holistic nurse practitioner is $99,621. By comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that the annual salary of an RN is $73,300. 

View Salary Info

What is the Projected Job Growth?


Overall, the projected employment growth in nursing is expected to rise 7% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than average. It’s expected this growth will be spurred on by the drive for preventative care, which is where holistic nurses can gain an advantage.

Where Do Holistic Nurses Work?


Because of their non-traditional approach to nursing, holistic nurses have the opportunity to work in a diverse range of environments suited to their talents and area of focus. Some holistic nursing techniques and methods they employ to provide care may require different equipment than that of traditional nurses. So while they can work in hospitals, private practices, and other medical centers, holistic nurses are not necessarily bound to those environments. Some of the places holistic nurses work include birthing centers, medical day spas, private healthcare facilities, patient homes, gyms, and wellness centers.

Holistic Nursing Frequently Asked Questions

Holistic Nursing defined by the American Holistic Nurses’ Association as: “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” and includes attention to the patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual care as well as their need to practice self-care.

Examples of holistic nursing care includes such things as: attentiveness to the patients' needs beyond the simple clinical diagnosis, treating the patient with respect and in accordance with their religious preferences, and teaching the patient how to care for themselves to the level that they are capable given their condition. 

The five principles of holistic nursing include the following: 

  • Holistic Philosophy and Education

  • Holistic Ethics, Theories, and Research

  • Holistic Nurse Self-Care  

  • Holistic Communication, Therapeutic Environment and Cultural Competence

  • Holistic Caring Process

A holistic nursing program differs from a traditional nursing program by the addition of training that focuses on healing the mind, body, and soul of the patient. This can include focusing on compassion, self-care, personal interactions, massage therapy, religion, and spirituality, depending on the school. 

Interested in Becoming a Holistic Nurse?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for a career in holistic nursing.

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