This letter is in response to "Nursing as a Context for Alternative/Complementary Modalities," by Dr. Frisch. As a baccalaureate nursing student, I have been taught the importance of assessing the patient from a holistic perspective. One of the reasons I was drawn into nursing was its view of the client as whole person, not just a set of illness symptoms. I agree that alternative/complementary therapies should be incorporated into nursing practice, because these therapies tend to address the client as a holistic being with physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs.
Unfortunately, there are many barriers to accepting complementary modalities as therapeutic nursing interventions. One of these barriers is a lack of education related to complementary/alternative therapies in nursing schools. The only exposure I had in nursing school to these therapies was a research project on the medicinal properties of herbs. Massage, acupressure, and music therapy were not discussed. Also there was little information in pharmacology courses about the interactions that can occur between herbs and prescribed medications. Due to our knowledge deficit, many nurses, including myself, do not feel confident implementing these complementary modalities. Another barrier is a lack of time. In today's fast paced world, clients are often in acute care settings for little more than a day. Many nurses are overwhelmed with their patient loads and lack the time to perform the complementary/alternative therapies. I don't know of any nurses today, even students, who can take the half-hour or more that may be required to perform, for example, therapeutic touch with a client. Sadly, such a therapy may be what the client needs most, particularly as many of the chronic illnesses in our society are stress-related.
Despite these obstacles, all nurses can incorporate some care related to alternative therapies. At a minimum, nurses can assess the client's desire to promote his or her health via alternative/complementary therapies. I hope that as more of our clients turn to complementary therapies as a supplement to traditional health care, nurses will realize the importance of learning more about these therapies and begin to incorporate them into daily nursing practice.
BSN Nursing Student
Armstrong Atlantic State University