Jane Dickinson’s wonderful post of February 24th, “Replacing words that shame and blame in nursing care” touched on one of my own favorite topics – the words we use! Our language is steeped in euphemisms – particularly where medicine and health are concerned. Years ago Jo Ann Ashley often pointed out ways that the term “health care system” is a misnomer – it should be call “Sickness” or “disease” care system. Even our conception of “prevention” is distorted, in that very little actual prevention happens. Mostly, the activites that this term refers to is “disease detection” – not prevention. With the exception of the development and use of vaccines, very little prevention happens. Early detection of disease is a good thing, of course, and can “prevent” progression of disease to an advanced stage, but this is not prevention.
The term “holistic” is particularly important to consider where nursing is concerned. Wholism (my preferred spelling) is, in my view, is one of the foundational values that distinguishes nursing as a discipline. From this point of the view, the term “holistic nursing” could be seen as redundant. However, now the term “holistic nursing” is taken to refer to a nursing speciality that draws on complementary or alternative healing modalities. We do need a term to refer to this particular focus, but it seems to me that even someone whose practice includes a complementary modality does not necessarily mean that it is wholistic, in terms of the extent the nurse takes into account not only the whole person, but the family, envieonment and social determinants of health. Given the nature of the modalities we refer to as “complimentary” or even “holistic,” it is likely that the practice is indeed more “wholistic” than many medicalized specialties, but it is still too easy, in many of the contexts in which nurses work, to be overly focused on a part, not the whole.
I would be very interested in your thoughts and ideas on this! Reaching for that which is “whole” is not easy, and is made more difficult in the contexts of specialization, and our language is a barrier as well. So share you thoughts and insights here – let’s have a discussion!