Over the years, allopathic medicine has achieved a lot in terms of introducing successful methods and procedures for disease treatment and eradication. In most cases, the use of various scientific methods such as surgery and pharmacologic treatment options have seen the prevention and elimination of dangerous diseases through studying, identifying, and overcoming their causative agents. However, despite the use of surgical procedures and pharmacology leading to increased life expectancy across the continents, these scientific methods have also occasioned an unprecedented increase in the cost of healthcare. In some instances, the scientific methods have promoted the disease mentality among healthcare providers instead of encouraging consumer-tailored disease prevention strategies (Blais & Hayes, 2011, p. 23).
On the other hand, the current issues in healthcare have promoted various changes in the industry including the move from disease eradication to prevention. Of particular interest among the changes involves the deepening emphasis on the use of alternative therapies as a disease prevention option (Blais & Hayes, 2011; Mantle, 2002, p. 323). Here, stakeholders in healthcare have been involved in one way or another in promoting the use of vitamin, diet, and nutrition therapies. Moreover, massage and support groups have been used in the management and prevention of stress and mental health complications respectively. While some of these therapies are new to healthcare providers, others such as yoga, acupuncture, and herbal medicine have been used traditionally in other parts of the world. In the preceding discussions, it will be shown that the impact of alternative therapies in nursing involves positioning the role of nurses to enable them to examine their clients holistically, and thus promote the use of holistic approaches in disease management.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Tracing its roots back to the Han Dynasty, traditional Chinese medicine basically entails diagnosis of symptoms related to energy blockages in the patient’s body. Here, the practitioner examines the exterior state of the body and relates it with the interior state of the patient’s health. For instance, assessment of the pulse at various positions can be used to provide useful insights into the state of energy flow or any other energy blockages in the body. Subsequently, the assessment of various observable symptoms can be recorded through scientific means to enable follow-ups in the future assessment and determination of the effectiveness of the treatment option undertaken or any other amendments to the treatment option to meet the patient needs (Bascom, 2002, p. 468).
Therefore, in the event that allopathic medicine has failed or given limited results, some nurses and physicians refer their patients to Chinese medicine practitioners whose services are available in many parts of the world including the United States. In most cases, referrals involve various nursing diagnoses including sleep pattern disturbances, chronic pain, altered sexuality and urine elimination patterns, constipation, and diarrhea among others (Mantle, 2002, p. 323).
Acupuncture entails procedures aimed at preventing, modifying, and/or normalizing the pain perception and other physiological functions by inserting stimulating needles on or near the body surface. The overall objective of this procedure is to treat certain diseases and physiological dysfunctions in the patient’s body. In the United States, there are different types of acupuncture, which are currently in use including Auricular, medical, Japanese, and ethnic Chinese methods. In acupuncture, the insertion of needles takes place on several spots in the body relative to the diagnoses and treatment objectives, and it can last up to 40 minutes. In some cases, the needles can be moved from one spot to another in a single acupuncture session relative to the pulse results. Moreover, the needles are said to cause numbness, tingling, warmth, heaviness, and aching on the point of insertion (Burman, 2003, p. 28).
The scientific basis of acupuncture lies in the procedure’s effectiveness in activating various body systems including the lymph, electromagnetic, nervous (chemical responses), and the vascular systems. In so doing, acupuncture has been shown to promote the secretion of neurotransmitters (endorphins, enkephalins, and serotonin) and anti-inflammatory agents (cortisol). Some of these chemical agents have been shown to facilitate the functions of pain control systems and symptomatic relief by acting as natural painkillers (enkephalins). Relative to various scientific studies, acupuncture has reportedly been shown to be beneficial in the treatment/management of drug addiction recovery, GI disturbances, allergies, anxiety, lower back pain, migraines, and stress among other conditions (Bascom, 2002).
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Most of the allopathic medicines originate from some form of traditional herbal treatment options involving whole or some parts of plants and herbs. Some examples include conventional drugs such as morphine and aspirin, which are derived from the opium poppy seed and the willow tree bark respectively. Therefore, through the rigorous process of scientific drug testing, determination of drug dosages, assessment of adverse drug reactions, development of drug use guidelines, and FDA approval; most plant or herbal-based drugs have been accepted into use in allopathic medicine (Mantle, 2002, p. 324). Similarly, research studies have noted the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicines in the treatment of some types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases (heart diseases).
Unfortunately, some Chinese herbal drugs have not been tested, classified, and approved by the FDA. This implies that the indiscriminate use of such drugs may cause unforeseeable adverse drug reactions while other effective forms may fail to be prescribed by certified healthcare practitioners. Therefore, before patients decide to use such remedies, it is imperative to find out from their physicians about the inherent adverse drug effects or drug interactions associated with the herbal remedies. On the other hand, if the herbal remedies have been used without the physician’s knowledge, it is very important for the patients to notify their caregivers about the use of such remedies before undertaking any conventional treatment options to avoid potential drug reactions and interactions (Mantle, 2002).
The practical use of mind/body therapies cuts across all healthcare practices due to their inherent significance in the prevention and treatment of major illnesses or in decreasing/increasing the effect of treatment on the patient’s body such as in chemotherapy and surgical interventions (Burman, 2003). Therefore, nurses find it very important to include natural therapies in their treatment/teaching plans involving health promotion and disease prevention. In so doing, studies note that the role of nurses is gradually shifting from the traditional caregiver mentality to a healer (Blais & Hayes, 2011). Accordingly, nursing diagnoses that require mind/body therapies include fear, social isolation, anxiety, impaired social interactions, spiritual distress, and body image disturbances among others. Some mind/body interventions currently in use include massage therapy, chiropractic medicine, osteopathic medicine, neuropathic medicine, and homeopathy. Moreover, these mind/body therapies may be used separately or in conjunction with other alternative therapies such as essential oil and aromatherapy, detoxification therapy, environmental medicine, enzyme therapy, or oxygen therapies (Burman, 2003, pp. 28-34).
From the foregoing discussions, it is important to note that the increasing cost of healthcare provision through the use of allopathic medicines is promoting the shift to the use of alternative medicines, which are cost effective, safe, and efficient in the management of certain disease conditions. Furthermore, the increased application of alternative medicines in nursing has been shown to shift the role of nurses from being the traditional caregivers to healers who can look at their patients in a holistic manner and guide them through the healing and disease prevention phases. As a result, there is the need to encourage more nurses to embrace alternative therapies in their day-to-day operations for the benefit of their patients.
Bascom, A. (2002). Complementary and alternative therapies in occupational health. Part II-Specific therapies. AAOHN J, 50(10), 468-477.
Blais, K.K., & Hayes, J.S. (2011). Professional nursing practice: Concepts and perspectives (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Burman, M.E. (2003). Complementary and alternative medicine: Core competencies for family nurse practitioners. J Nurs Educ, 42(1), 28-34.
Mantle, F. (2002). The use of complementary therapies. J Holist Nurs, 20(4), 323-324.