Vol. 5 Issue 26
Nursing & Homeopathy
Creating a practice model for the future
Homeopathy, a system of holistic care developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the 18th century, has become a major force in American healthcare in the past 20 years. Homeopathy is one of the five categories classified as an alternative medical system by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and is widespread in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.1
During the past 3 years, the percentage of Americans using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is estimated at 62 percent, while the percentage of adults over 18 years using homeopathy is estimated at 1.7 percent.2 A landmark study conducted from 1990 to 1997 also found the number of Americans using homeopathy during that 7-year period had increased an estimated 500 percent, thereby increasing the need for professional homeopaths.3
Currently, the practice of homeopathy is not a licensed profession in the United States. Nurses have the unique opportunity to serve as change agents within the present healthcare system, and can promote homeopathy as a safe, effective treatment modality. Nurses educated in homeopathy possess the ability to assist in the integration of allopathic and homeopathic care. It is ideal to be included in the scope of practice of the nursing profession.
Alternative and complementary therapies are being implemented in nursing curricula in the United States.4 The past several years have seen professional nurses studying homeopathy to educate their clients and incorporate homeopathy into their scope of practice.
Nursing provides the most holistic approach to healing of any of the conventional modalities because of nurses' unique bio-psycho-social understanding of the patient. This creates the ideal situation for homeopathic practice because of nurses' strong knowledge of health sciences compared to non-medically trained professional homeopaths.
Currently, nurses educated in homeopathy provide safe care to patients, have credibility with the public as well as with traditional healthcare providers, and are at the forefront of healthcare reform. It is not necessary to be educated at an advanced practice nursing level to be a safe and effective homeopathic nurse.
Development of a Specialty
The Homeopathic Nurses Association (HNA) was founded in 1984 as a forum for nurses interested in the art and science of homeopathy. Initially, HNA provided information to nurses and the public regarding homeopathy and its history. However, the organization has evolved to include informing nurses about homeopathy as an adjunct to their nursing practice and assisting nurses who are trained in homeopathy to utilize homeopathic philosophy and principles in their practice.
Additionally, the HNA promotes the advancement of the legitimate role of homeopathic nursing in the healthcare system, recognizing it as a specialty of nursing based on specific competencies and knowledge.
HNA identified the need for standards of practice in the late 1990s; by 2002, an outline was in place for written standards. The document stemmed from the need to articulate the role of the homeopathic nursing to patients and their families, the public, organizations, employers and educators, as well as certification, regulatory and legislative bodies.
HNA members currently are creating standards of practice with the goal of developing homeopathic nursing as a specialty. A standards committee was formed in 2003 with members contacting state boards of nursing concerning scope of practice for homeopathy use in nursing. Next, a three-phase plan was created to gather, translate and assimilate data from each board of nursing; to develop a position paper and Homeopathic Nurses Standards of Practice; and, finally, to distribute this document through informational/educational packets to the state boards.
The Homeopathic Nurses Standards of Practice is designed to provide competency, consistency and continuity in patient care through the development of a structure to standardize homeopathic nursing while maximizing patient outcomes and controlling healthcare costs. The standards are meant to reflect current knowledge and understanding of homeopathic nursing and were developed using the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Practice and the American Holistic Nurses Association Standards of Holistic Nursing Practice.
Since nursing and homeopathy are both an art and a science, they are comparable. Both focus on the whole patient, caring for them at all stages of the life cycle and in all states of health from health promotion, enhancement and education related to normal growth and development to caring for people and their families experiencing a persistent illness and/or an acute health crisis.
Both the sciences of nursing and homeopathy involve the study of life processes within the human system and environment for the purpose of helping clients achieve optimal levels of wellness. The art and science of homeopathic nursing is grounded in the nursing theories of Margaret Newman, PhD, BSN, RN, FAAN, and Martha Rogers, ScD, MPH, MA, BS, RN, where pathology is seen as a manifestation of a total pattern and health is the unity and harmony of the body-mind-spirit.
Although many people confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine, the only similarities are that many homeopathic remedies are derived from familiar plants (e.g., herbs such as St. John's wort or chamomile).
However, homeopathic remedies are diluted so many times that no molecules of the original active ingredient remain. Instead, the special dilution process imprints information from the active ingredient on an inert substrate, much as information is conveyed on a computer chip, cassette tape or CD.5 Therefore, it is essential that nurses are knowledgeable about the difference between herbal medicine and homeopathy and clarify information when discussing what the patient is using.
1. National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (2003, April). Questions and answers about homeopathy. (NCCAM Publication No. D183). Retrieved June 22, 2005 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy/index.htm
2. Barnes, P.M., et al. (2004). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Retrieved Oct. 22, 2005 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nccam.nih.gov/news/report.pdf
3. Eisenberg, D.M., et al. (1998). Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: Results of a follow-up national survey. Journal of American Medical Association, 280(18), 1569-1575.
4. Fenton, M.V., & Morris, D.L. (2003). The integration of holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative modalities into curricula of schools of nursing. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(4), 62-67.
5. Lennihan, B. (2004). Homeopathy: Natural mind-body healing. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 42(7), 30-40.
Ann M. McKay is president of the Homeopathic Nurses Association and a networker for the American Holistic Nurses Association.
Learn More About Homeopathic Nursing
For information about homeopathy or to refer patients to a qualified practitioner, contact the following organizations:
• Homeopathic Nurses Association: www.nursehomeopaths.org
• National Center for Homeopathy: www.homeopathic.org
• Homeopathic Educational Services: www.homeopathic.com
Facts About Homeopathy
• Homeopathy is a safe, effective system of medicine that has been used by millions of people worldwide for more than 200 years.
• Homeopathy treats individuals rather than diseases and can be safely used with infants, children or adults.
• Homeopaths consider the whole person mental, physical, emotional and spiritual as well as contributory, personal and familial history, and cultural and environmental factors.
• Homeopathic philosophy encompasses a specialized body of knowledge built upon science with specified outcomes related to health and holism.
• Homeopathy as a holistic healing system works on a collaborative model, with the homeopath encouraging patients to observe and report their own subjective experience of illness as a primary basis for assessment, in addition to more objective measures.
• Homeopathic medicines are prepared from natural sources, are used in extremely small amounts and are recognized as over-the-counter drugs by the FDA.