The competency of a nurse to perform complementary and alternative therapies begins with nursing education and ends with the safe nursing practice of those skills in such a way that ensures the safety, comfort and protection of clients. Nurses using complementary or alternative therapies in their practice should follow the ASBN "Position Statement 98-6 Decision Making Model." Particular attention should be paid to the definition of nursing in the ASBN "Nurse Practice Act," and statements in the ASBN "Position Statement 95-1 Scopes of Practice." Other professional practice acts may require additional certification and/or licensure to perform a particular therapy.
Most nurses have been exposed to systems, holistic and humanistic theories. These theories are the essence of nursing practice and may include complementary and alternative therapies. Nurses must practice within the scope of practice of their license. In basic nursing education, nurses learn to complement physician ordered treatments with techniques such as focused breathing and relaxation, massage, guided imagery, music, humor and distraction. The more complex complementary and alternative therapies are a part of advanced practice nursing. Advanced practice nurses may be qualified to recommend or prescribe vitamins, herbs, minerals or other over-the-counter products. The registered nurse practitioner and the registered nurse may follow protocols to recommend these products. These protocols shall be reviewed annually by the licensed physician and nurse and be provided to the Board upon request. The practice of applied kinesiology, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and ayurveda may require formal educational preparation and possibly even certification. State licensure laws regulate therapies such as chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and physical therapy.
Carefully following the ASBN "Position Statement 98-6 Decision Making Model" will ensure that nurses are practicing within their scope of practice. Nurses who choose to use complementary or alternative therapies in their practices may be requested to provide documentation that they have followed the "Position Statement 98-6 Decision Making Model" in making their decisions.
The ASBN Positions Statements can be accessed at www.state.ar.us/nurse or at the Board office.