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American Holistic Nurses Association: A Review

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The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) is an organization dedicated to furthering the practice of ethical nursing. ANHA supports the use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). They hold the position that CAM methods do not detract from traditional medicine. In order to provide a resource for the nursing community, the AHNA exists as a support system. “As a resource to its members, AHNA provides a supportive community, informative publications, continuing education, local networking opportunities, liability insurance, and a focus on self-care and wellness, among others.” (American Nurses…, 2010).

The AHNA is an organization that is focused on promoting integration of CAM techniques with traditional medicine, and for preserving the integrity of the nursing relationship with the individual patient. The AHNA was founded in 1981 by Charlotte McGuire in response to industry-wide changes that were occurring. It seemed that the emphasis was not on the patient but on staffing. The AHNA was initially instituted in order to reclaim the nurse’s individual relationship with patients, and to ensure that the nursing relationship was well rounded. In a sense the AHNA is a union of nurses looking out for each other’s well beings. There are over 5,700 members in the AHNA. There are 125 chapters spread across the United States. Additionally, the AHNA is a non-profit organization.

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Considering their mission statement, it is apparent that the purpose of the AHNA is to further ethical practices through education and community ties: “The mission statement for the AHNA is: “The mission of American Holistic Nurses Association is to advance nursing through community building, advocacy, research, and education.” (American Nurses…, 2010). The hope is that through continuing education, the AHNA will improve the workplace for nurses and patients. The separation between the institution that provides healthcare and the individuals who interact with the patients is needed, because prior to the AHNA, the ratio of nurses to patients was more in favor of the hospital payroll rather than patient-needs. Although many discount holistic nursing as being “homeopathic”, “organic”, or non-medical, it is not at all any of those things.

It is a combination of traditional scientific medical practices with naturalistic remedies. “Holistic nurses may integrate complementary/alternative modalities (CAM) into clinical practice to treat people’s physiological, psychological, and spiritual needs. Doing so does not negate the conventional medical therapies…” [italics] (American Nurses…, 2010). The AHNA attempts to overcome this idea that alternative medicine is ineffective. However, the AHNA also works to dispel the idea that their organization is anti-traditional medicine or science. This is not the case; the organization promotes both traditional scientific medical practices and promotes naturalistic treatments.

The AHNA claims that honoring patients’ needs with both natural therapies and traditional medicinal therapies is the best method for nursing. The AHNA legitimizes the non-traditional medicinal practices. The AHNA asserts that the two practices, CAM and traditional medicine, are complementary and that they are not mutually exclusive: “AHNA has taken positions on the practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), holistic nursing ethics, research and scholarship within the field of holistic nursing.” (American Nurses…, 2010).
The future of the AHNA is bright: The AHNA wants to become politically involved in upcoming years. Furthermore, according to the AHNA website, the chapters are expanding and the AHNA is solidifying its presence as a nurses’ union. The support and regulations offered by the AHNA are specific to AHNA standards, and these standards have improved the nursing relationship with patients over the past 35 years. What was begun in 1981 has flourished into a thriving union of nurses working together to promote a healthy integration of traditional medicine and CAM techniques.