Nursing the anthroposophical way: Anthroposophical nursing aims to improve life quality and patients' capacity to self-heal.
Subject: Anthroposophical medicine (Forecasts and trends)
Nursing (Practice)
Nursing (Methods)
Nursing (Forecasts and trends)
Patients (Care and treatment)
Patients (Management)
Author: Manchester, Anne
Pub Date: 02/01/2009
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: Feb, 2009 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks; 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis; Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 194904200

Anthroposophical nursing takes an holistic, therapeutic approach to health and illness, taking into account not only the physical body, but also the patient's vital psychological and spiritual condition. Therapies focus on supporting and strengthening an individual's capacity for self-healing. Often based on homeopathic principles, therapies are prescribed to restore balance and promote well-being. Care and support offered by nurses involve a particular nursing attitude, the use of natural plant materials, rhythmical body oiling, hydrotherapy and external applications.

Anthroposophical nursing dates back to the 1920s when Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, working with pioneering woman doctor Ita Wegman, developed anthroposophic medicine, which uses nature's medicines to stimulate the body to "heal itself". Steiner defined anthroposophy as "the science of the spirit". (1)

Since the mid-1990s, the centre for anthroposophical nursing education in New Zealand has been at Taruna College in Havelock North. Around 50 anthroposophical nurses have been trained in New Zealand, where the world's only English-speaking anthroposophical nursing diploma in holistic health care is offered. At the end of last month, 11 nurses, including five from Australia, graduated from the three-year graduate diploma in anthroposophical nursing course. The weekend also saw nine nurses become accredited with the International Forum for Anthroposophical Nursing as nurse specialists, following presentations at an Anthroposophical Nurses' Association of New Zealand conference.

Anthroposophical nurse training has been restructured this year, with the first year now a foundation year in anthroposophical health (theory and skills), open to all health professionals. It covers the healing qualities of plants (eg in compresses, foot baths and medicinal teas), understanding the theory and skills of holistic health care, and helping patients explore the meaning of illness and how to be responsible for their wellness. The certificate in holistic healthcare (CHH) has been approved by the NZQA. Registered nurses who complete the CHH can then continue for a further two years and complete the diploma in holistic healthcare (anthroposophical nursing Aotearoa). The next intake of the CHH will be at the end of this month.

The diploma in holistic healthcare is a part-time programme, totalling one year of full-time study over three years. It is a level seven qualification, but, as Taruna College general manager Roy Boonen explained, it is not approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), as the Nursing Council must approve all NZOA qualifications containing the work "nurse" in the programme title. The Council does not work with private tertiary institutions.

Improving internal organ function

Registered nurses enrolled in the diploma course will deepen their knowledge of medicinal plants (eg mistletoe therapy used in cancer treatments and injected subcutaneously) and learn the techniques of hydrotherapy, rhythmical body oiling and pharmaceutical warmth processes. All are used to improve the functioning of internal organs, particularly the liver and digestive system.

Jocelyn Freeman, a nurse with more than 30 years' experience, was co-founder of the first anthroposophical nursing training programme in New Zealand. She is currently working in general practice where, like many anthroposophically trained nurses, she uses these nursing principles to enhance her work with patients. She also works part-time at the Weleda Healthcare Centre in Havelock North. The anthroposophical nurse-led health service receives funding from the Hawke's Bay Primary Health Organisation to run free, healthy lifestyle clinics for those with chronic conditions, as well as work with palliative and mental health care patients. The centre also takes private patients.

"The majority of our patients being treated for chronic illnesses are Maori and Pacific," said Freeman. "Not only do we address the primary diagnosis, we also endeavour to enable better sleep, lessen pain, improve digestion and help create a more integrated experience of living with a chronic condition. We use body oil, liver compresses and homeopathic medications to support digestive activity. Warming and restoring rhythm to the body is important, as these techniques soften tissue that has been hardened through heart disease and other illnesses.

"Most of our patients will have their own GP-prescribed medications, so our aim is to work in another sphere, engendering and restoring liveliness to the body and improving life quality. Most people have a very materially fixed picture of their body and its well-being, but health is much more than the physical. We offer support and care, and a change of consciousness, building the person up, so their experience of illness is better. For example, our treatments can relieve the heaviness of varicose veins but they cannot remove the deformity."

Programme director of the health faculty at Taruna, Michelle Vette, also works at the Weleda Healthcare Centre. She finds children particularly responsive to the practical and hands-on nature of the nursing interventions. She sees children with a variety of problems, including skin conditions, behavioural problems, reflux and eating issues. A combination of chamomile abdominal compresses, massage using caraway seed oil and light rhythmical body oiling helped one boy with major digestive and constipation problems improve his digestive functioning. A woman was referred after becoming severely incapacitated following major abdominal surgery. She was assisted by liver compresses used to stimulate her metabolism, and body oiling, which improved her physical energies and emotionally labile state, Vette said.

Another man in his early 50s had become dependent on opiates to control back pain following an injury. The nurses used a ginger kidney compress and solum uliginosum oil to help reduce his pain and dependency on the opiates. "He has now taken up swimming and is ecstatic about his improvement," said Vette.

In a health environment where nurses have increasingly less time for direct patient care, anthroposophical nursing offers an holistic and satisfying way to extend nursing practice.


(1) Anthroposophical Society in New Zealand. Rudolf Steiner. Retrieved 26/01/09.
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