Nurses Create Quack Specialty

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
May 19, 2008

The 2,500-member American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) has announced that the American Nurses Association (ANA) has officially recognized “holistic nursing” as a nursing specialty [1].To achieve this status, the AHNA submitted a 76-page document that defined “holistic nursing” and articulated standards. In 2007, the document was expanded into a book that was jointly published by the AHNA and the ANA [2]. The other specialties currently recognized by the ANA are ambulatory care nursing; cardiac/vascular nursing; gerontological nursing; medical-surgical nursing; nursing administration; nursing case management; nursing informatics; nursing professional development; pain management; pediatric nursing; perinatal nursing; and psychiatric and mental health nursing 3].

The American Holistic Nurses’ Certification Corporation, which administers the Holistic Nurses’ Certification Examination, defines holistic nursing as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” and further defines it as “practice that draws on nursing knowledge, theories, expertise and intuition to guide nurses in becoming therapeutic partners with clients in strengthening clients’ response to facilitate the healing process and achieve wholeness.” [3] However, related textbooks [4-6] and the AHNA’s online practitioner directory indicate that “holistic” practices can include applied kinesiology, astrology, aura cleansing, channeling, chelation therapy, colon therapy, cranial therapy, crystal therapy, iridology, psychic surgery, reflexology, reiki, therapeutic touch, and about 100 other disreputable methods.

This appears to be the first time in modern history that a major professional organization has embraced a broad array of quack theories and practices.

  1. Holistic nursing achieves ANA specialty status. AHNA news release, Dec 14, 2006.
  2. Mariano C and others. Holistic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. Silver Spring, MD:, 2007.
  3. ANCC Certification/Specialty Certification. Silver Spring, Maryland: American Nurses Credentialing Center, 2005.
  4. A definition of holistic nursing. AHNCC Web site, accessed March 21, 2007.
  5. Frisch N, Dossey B, Guzzetta C, Quinn J. AHNA Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice: Guidelines for Caring and Healing. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, 2000, pp 215-222.
  6. Shames KH. Touch. In Dossey B. Core Curriculum for Holistic Nursing. Gaitherburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, 1997, pp 205-210.
  7. Dossey BM and others. (Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice (3rd ed.). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, 2000, pp 619-623, 2000.

This article was revised on May 19, 2008.