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Holistic Nursing Degree and Certificate Program Information

Holistic nursing programs teach students to care for a patient's whole being: body, mind and spirit. Curriculum consists of seminars, courses, clinical studies, practicums by which students learn information and skills for safe nursing care.

Essential Information

Holistic nurses must meet the same education and licensing requirements as registered nurses (RNs), but some associate's, bachelor's and master's programs specifically incorporate holistic nursing topics into their curricula. Professional certification in holistic nursing is available for those nurses who meet education and work experience requirements. Certification is separate, however, from mandatory state licensure. Associate's programs require basic skills in reading, English, computer literacy and math while a Master of Science in Nursing program requires that students already be registered nurses and have a bachelor's in nursing. Both bachelor's and associate's programs often include clinical experience.


Associate's Degree in Nursing

A number of associate's degrees in nursing promote holistic perspectives in their programs. Candidates receive a comprehensive foundation in general education as well as nursing knowledge, and develop the skills and competencies sufficient to pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is required for nursing practice. Once licensed, graduates can seek immediate employment or pursue advanced degrees. After gaining work experience, graduates can also pursue certification as board certified holistic nurses (HN-BC) through the American Holistic Nurses Certification Corporation (AHNCC), the only national credentialing organization for holistic nursing.

Schools may arrange clinical experiences with participating hospitals, nursing homes, home healthcare agencies, physician's offices and clinics. Courses may include nursing fundamentals, anatomy, physiology, general psychology and mental health. Other courses related to holistic nursing might be:

  • Holistic approach to pharmacology
  • Concepts in nursing management
  • Holistic wellness
  • Holistic nursing: process, skills, settings
  • Holistic practice and nurse healer
  • Moral, ethical, legal and regulatory principles

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Some nursing schools focus on a holistic approach to nursing while also covering the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduates for traditional practice as well as holistic nursing practice. Graduates are eligible to apply for holistic baccalaureate nurse (HBN-BC) certification from the AHNCC. The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) maintains a list of AHNA-approved nursing programs. Upon completion of the program, graduates are prepared to take the NCLEX-RN.

In addition to basic science courses and general education courses, students take upper-division nursing courses that include the study of complementary and integrative therapies. Holistic concepts, knowledge and applications are often integrated with courses, practice labs, clinical practicums and seminars. Course titles may include:

  • Community and the individual
  • Alterations in holistic integrity
  • Holistic health assessments
  • National community management
  • Behavioral health and spiritual implications
  • Integrative health concepts and techniques

Master of Science in Nursing with a Holistic Concentration

Several schools offer Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a holistic nursing concentration or specialization option. The graduate-level programs are designed for currently practicing nurses who are seeking to continue their education and secure advanced practice nursing positions. MSN programs with a holistic concentration do not typically qualify graduates to work as nurse practitioners, but instead teach them to apply take a holistic approach to nursing care. Graduates of these programs may qualify to take the exam for Board Certification in Advanced Holistic Nursing (AHN-BC).

Students in an MSN degree program may participate in seminars, practicums, fieldwork and courses in core nursing and patient care topics. These courses often encompass topics in nursing research, patient assessment, advance practice nursing roles, advanced pathophysiology and advanced pharmacotherapeutics. Concentration courses in holistic nursing may include topics in:

  • Holistic nursing foundations and healing models
  • Integrating holistic nursing techniques with Western medicine
  • Alternative health practices
  • Herbology and advanced holistic assessment
  • Complementary healing modalities
  • Ancient healing practices

Popular Career Options

MSN degree programs prepare nurses for advanced practice or leadership positions in nursing. After completing holistic nursing curricula, nurses should also be able to seek positions in holistic, complementary or alternative healthcare treatment facilities. Additionally, holistic nurses might practice in traditional venues or in specific holistic healthcare settings. Certain specialties may require further training and certification. Common employment settings for RNs include:

  • Outpatient hematology-oncology
  • Hospice
  • Home health care
  • Critical access and long-term care
  • Operating rooms

Continuing Education & Certification Information

RNs with an associate's degree frequently enter bachelor's degree programs to prepare for a broader scope of practice and career advancement. They may work in entry-level positions while taking advantage of tuition reimbursement benefits to work toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

After completing the bachelor's program, graduates should qualify for the exam to earn certification from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). The AHNCC offers two certifications related to Advanced Holistic Nursing: the Advanced Holistic Nursing, Board Certified (AHN-BC) and the Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse, Board Certified (APHN-BC). Certification applicants must have completed an approved nursing education program, have a current RN license and have at least one year of full-time or 2,000 hours of part-time clinical practice in holistic nursing. Applicants to the APHN-BC credential must also be licensed advanced practice RNs.

Individuals who already have a master's degree in nursing but are looking for training specific to holistic nursing may enroll in a post-master's certificate program in holistic nursing. This program includes the same holistic nursing courses as the specialization option, but allows students to skip general nursing courses.

Employment Outlook

Overall, job opportunities for RNs are expected to grow by 16%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A relatively high rate of job turnover among nurses, an aging population, technological advances that allow more conditions to be treated and an increasing desire for care in residential facilities and at home are all expected to contribute to this projected growth. Prospects are expected to be best for nurses with at least a bachelor's degree and those willing to work less-desirable shifts (www.bls.gov).

Some nurses (voluntarily or at their employers' requests) seek specialty credentials, such as ambulatory care, gerontology, informatics and pediatrics. The median annual wage as of May 2015 for RNs was $67,490, according to the BLS.

While holistic nurses must have the same educational background as other nurses, they can choose to focus on holistic topics in associate's and master's degree programs. A bachelor's degree can increase career options and certification is available from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC).


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