Trends in Alternative Medicine: What Nurses Need to Know

Because many patients today are interested in exploring alternative treatments and medicine, having a good grasp of that field is an important part of being a great nurse – even if the idea feels a little counterintuitive to your medical background. Whether you’re already a newly registered nurse or are just thinking about starting nursing school, understanding the popular holistic therapies below and how they relate to allopathic medicine can help you prepare for a more successful career down the road.

Originating from ancient China, acupuncture is the practice of using tiny needles to manipulate the body’s internal energy flow. Proponents of acupuncture believe it can be used to treat a wide range of diverse conditions, including insomnia, depression, chronic pain, and immune deficiencies.

Often recommended as an organic solution for relief from stress and skin irritation, aromatherapy involves the use of aromatic plants and essential oils.

Herbal Medicines
Affordable and easily accessible, herbal medicine is one of the most popular holistic options on the market. While many dietary supplements are supported by medical professionals, some blends can be potentially hazardous to patients who take daily prescription medication or suffer from specific health conditions.

Massage Therapy
Focused on healing the body by stimulating its muscular structure, massage therapy is used to treat health conditions that run the gamut from joint disease to insomnia and depression.

For a more thorough introduction to these and other alternative medical methods, take a look at this guide.

What to Do When Your Patients Are Interested in Alternative Medicine

Patients know that their nurses are caretakers who don’t have the final say on treatment plans, so try not to get stressed out when they bring up alternative medicine. Chances are they just want to get your advice before checking in with their primary physician. Your job is to simply share the pros and cons of holistic therapy without advocating for any one specific treatment or being judgmental.

Even if you don’t personally believe that holistic therapy is effective, make an effort not to sound dismissive. Remember that it’s not uncommon for doctors to approve a combination of conventional and alternative treatments for patients who express the wariness of prescription drugs or invasive surgeries. While more research is needed to determine the exact benefits of popular holistic therapies, many patients still want to include them in their overall treatment plans.

Another reason why getting familiar with alternative medicine should be on every nurse’s agenda is a drug interaction. Because some prescription medications may not be compatible with popular herbal supplements, you could be the first line of defense against dosage mistakes and dangerous interactions.

Interested in becoming a nurse? Contact Sumner College directly at 503-972-6230, or visit us online at to learn more about our comprehensive registered and practical nursing programs or our medical assisting program in Portland, OR.


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