Holistic nursing is a relatively new specialty field that focuses on using alternative treatments from Eastern medicine to care for the whole patient. Holistic nurses are being increasingly sought after for their expertise in helping individuals improve their physical well-being along with emotional health, mental state, and spiritual wellness. Instead of traditional Western medical procedures and surgeries, holistic nursing deals with other healing methods like acupuncture, aromatherapy, hynotherapy, meditation, and massage therapy. Holistic nurses play a vital role in wellness coaching by educating patients on the best lifestyle habitats for preventing disease patterns. Health promotion, self-awareness, and self-exploration are key parts of holistic nursing. Whether they’re registered nurses or nurse practitioners, holistic nurses strive to propagate healthier, happier lives from a well-rounded approach.


Based on the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, holistic nurses and other RNs employed in the United States earn an average yearly salary of $69,790, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $33.55. Holistic nurses working in home healthcare will earn slightly less at $67,880, but those employed at outpatient care centers make more with a mean salary of $72,390 annually.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out in holistic nursing, RNs will likely fall into the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a yearly wage around $45,880. However, holistic nurses with years of experience can eventually bring home a sizeable six-figure salary over $98,880. Those who complete a master’s degree and become APRNs can expect to earn upwards of $113,470 also.

Key Responsibilities

Holistic nurses have the primary responsibility of caring for a person’s total well-being and good spirits. Unlike most nurses who treat injuries or illnesses, holistic nurses typically work with patients across the health continuum to promote wellness. They’re highly trained to perform inner energy-based curative modalities to treat the root of health concerns, not just symptoms. Daily duties can include providing stress management, conducting massages, using herbal medicine, delivering hypnosis, and giving acupuncture. Holistic nurses are “natural healers” who build long-term relationships for training patients how to heal themselves without drugs or costly surgeries. Administrative tasks like maintaining patient records, billing, and creating treatment plans with other healthcare professionals is also common.

Necessary Skills

Before selecting the holistic nursing path, nurses will need to build sophisticated skill sets slightly different than other specialties. Holistic nurses must have an innate ability to view the whole individual rather than dwell on physical symptoms. Holistic practice requires that nurses have an open, flexible mind for treating patients physically, mentally, and spiritually. Good communication skills are essential for holistic nurses to talk candidly with patients. Having patience, compassion, and sensitivity will help patients feel as comfortable as possible. Holistic nurses must possess strong clinical skills in alternative healing traditions. Possessing analytical and problem-solving skills is also important for nurses to create individualized holistic treatment plans that effectively address the root of illness.

Degree and Education Requirements

Working in holistic nursing will require that you have at least a two to three-year Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) from an accredited college. Having a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is quickly becoming the minimum requirement for RNs in certain states though. Whichever route you take, make certain that you’re taking courses related to holistic healing, health assessment, mind-body practice, aromatherapy, acupuncture, stress management, and wellness coaching. Finding a degree program with a built-in holistic nursing specialization will be valuable. Nurses who continue on for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) will be qualified for practicing holistically in advanced practice roles like Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

Pros and Cons of the Position

As with any other nursing specialty, being a holistic nurse will come with a range of benefits and challenges. On the plus side, holistic nurses have the unique opportunity to help patients improve their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The intrinsic reward of transforming lives can outweigh the sadness of losing some patients. RNs in holistic nursing make good salaries with excellent benefits packages. There’s even room for advancement into six-figure salary range. Job opportunities are abundant in a variety of practice settings from the bedside into administration. However, holistic nurses need to invest a significant amount of money and time into their training. Certification must be maintained every few years with extra education. Being faced in life-and-death decisions can be extremely stressful on RNs. Holistic nurses often work in medical facilities where 24-hour care is provided, so shifts may be overnight or irregular.

Getting Started

While enrolled in nursing school, it’s advised that you start building your resume with clinical practice in holistic settings. Jump on every opportunity for practicum, service learning, or internships to maximize your experience in nurturing the health of the whole patient. After graduation, take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed in your state. Then, you can start working independently as a registered nurse. It’s likely that you’ll start in entry-level staff nursing positions to gain experience. From there, work to advance into holistic nursing positions, which are often found in hospices, hospitals, faith-based community clinics, burn units, and mental health centers. Being certified through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) can help. At least 2,000 hours of holistic practice will be required for holistic nursing board certification (HN-BC).

Future Outlook

Even in a struggling job market, the demand for holistic nurses continues to grow as more people are insured and looking for preventive medicine. According to the NCCAM, the number of visits to holistic nurse practitioners has grow by 47 percent over the past decade. Many patients have formed a distrust of conventional Western treatment and want alternative methods that mirror their spiritual values. Employment of nurses is projected to skyrocket by 19 percent through 2022 overall. Holistic nurses are particularly sought-after in metropolitan areas. Job prospects will remain strong in hospitals, integrated care units, birthing centers, clinics, and other clinical settings. Holistic nursing is popular in home health services too.

Also referred to as complementary health nurses, holistic nurses devote their careers to using alternative therapeutic modalities to maximize each individual’s healing potential. Holistic nurses help patients develop better awareness of the interconnectedness of physical health with self, others, nature, and spirit. If you make the decision to specialize in holistic nursing, you’ll have the rewarding opportunity to follow in Florence Nighingdale’s footsteps and deliver mind-body medicine that heals the whole person.