Op-Ed: Holistic nursing practice can help mitigate COVID effects

By Angel Jennings, Ph.D.

Holistic nursing practice encompasses healing the whole person: the body, mind, spirit, emotions and relationship to the environment. To heal the body, you must heal the person. Holistic nurses use their own experiences as a foundation for providing patient care, integrating social, cultural and spiritual values with the patient’s experience to treat the whole person, not just the illness. Holistic care can include diet therapy, yoga, music therapy, reading and games. Providing holistic care to a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 can improve mental health and boost immunity while the patient is isolated.

Patients with COVID-19 experience many issues. Emotional issues can include fear of the diagnosis, or of isolation from family and friends. They may experience anger. Perhaps they received the vaccine and still became infected, or perhaps they got COVID more than once. The virus can affect a patient spiritually, with reliance on a higher being for healing or thoughts of death. They may be mentally or financially affected with worries about how to pay for hospitalization, time off work or spreading the virus to others. They also may be worried about the long-term effects of the virus.

Kotwani, Pawardhan, Patel, Williams, and Modi conducted a study in which holistic measures were shown to improve mental health in COVID-19 patients in isolation with no interaction with family members. The study indicated that mental health and recovery rates improved with minimal investment, benefiting both patient and hospital.

It is the nurse’s responsibility to assess a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 and recognize the presence of anxiety and depression. The nurse can then implement holistic measures to aid in avoiding these mental consequences of isolation. This can be challenging for nurses are overwhelmed with the increased patient load and often suffering from additional stresses themselves. However, adding holistic measures to patient care, such as music therapy to evoke relaxation, yoga and exercise therapy, and educating patients regarding diet therapy and immune boosters benefits the patient as well as the nurse providing care.

Encouraging a patient to take a walk around the hospital floor can benefit the patient’s mood and help increase lung capacity. If the patient is not able to get up, soft music can lift their mood and help distract them, aiding in alleviating discomfort. This can help ease anxiety and depression. A nurse can assist patients in remaining in contact with family members via Facetime or some other facial interaction. Many patients are scared and alone; allowing them contact with family in any form provides comfort to the patient and family members.

Holistic care also can aid patients for the long haul. Some patients experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue, brain fog, chest tightness and loss of taste and smell long after testing negative. Long-term holistic measures can include managing stress by getting outside, walking, riding a bike or trying a new exercise. Supplements such as zinc and vitamins A, C and D can aid immunity. Dietary changes may include limiting sugar, which can create an inflammatory response, and loading up on complex carbs like beans, squash, and fruit. A resilient immune system can help strengthen the body’s response and ease anxiety and depression.

Providing holistic care to patients with COVID can promote positivity for both the patient and nurse. A positive attitude may boost immunity and improve outcomes. Positivity has been shown to help heal the mind and is a fundamental factor to healing the body. The mind and body are our ultimate source of energy and protection. Holistic approaches are a positive way to combat the effects of this virus.

Angel Jennings, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Trine University’s RN-to-BSN program.

Last Updated: 02/07/2022