It would be foolish to say that nursing – indeed any health profession I know – offers true holistic health care. Sure, we talk the talk of being holistic. We say that we cater for all needs and care for the individual – a principle that is enshrined in the Code of Conduct. And yes, we have wonderful assessment tools that are designed and tested to identify the areas needing attention. We pride ourselves on how we cater for the idiosyncratic goals of the person being cared for.
But do we really offer holistic care?
Or do we hide behind a false veil of ‘professionalism’ and only deal with what we want to deal with rather than dealing with what the person wants?
Let me explain.
Holistic health care means caring for all health needs. What about sexual health? I, and every nurse I have spoken with, have never asked a patient about their sexual health needs. What a minefield that would be! Imagine the legal problems I would face if I asked a female (or a male for that matter) if she had any sexual needs that she would like me to address whilst she was on the ward. Would my plea of holistic health care be enough to satisfy a judge that I am not a perverted sexual predator? Unlikely. Would the NMC jump to my defence as I have upheld the Code?
And please, don’t make me laugh by saying that we at least cater for religious needs. It strikes me that if you are not Christian or Muslim then the health services either cannot or do not want to help you with your religious needs. But even these two religions only have a token gesture made to them. The problem here is that it would take effort to organise and money to pay to allow people to practise their religion – two commodities that are in precious short supply in the health care system.
Of course, we have iatrogenic conditions and nosocomial infections – it is particularly worrying that professional caused conditions and hospital acquired infections are so common that we have words dedicated to them. So do we even offer physical health care?
Holistic health care is an ideal that we should (and do) strive for. But lets be realistic – it ain’t here yet.