A “Novice’s” Journey to Holistic Nursing

Submitted by Alie Oyster, BSN, RN
OHNA Secretary

Alie Oyster

Nine years ago, I completed a yoga teacher-training program. Tuning into my body through the physical asana and mind via my readings of the yoga sutras, I discovered a lot about myself. I learned to slow down and work from my inner strength. This gave me the clarity to reevaluate my goals. With a degree in Product Development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and a career in the fashion industry on the rise, I began to ponder my future. Chief aspects of my character were not being nourished by my chosen profession – my concern with wellbeing, my passion for health and exercise, and my interest in people. Furthermore, the demoralization, poor environmental practice, and mistreatment of workers that are typical of the fashion industry were in disagreement with the practice I was so intent on, that of ahimsa (“do no harm”). A change had to be made. With that, I moved from California to Oregon to complete my prerequisites and apply to nursing school.

Alie’s favorite yoga space

My journey through nursing school was filled with angst. I questioned going into a field that seemed so focused on treatment with pharmaceuticals. I was appalled by the food provided in local hospitals and unsettled by the environment. If I felt on edge and fearful, how did my patients feel? If acupuncture, yoga, and meditation helped me with these feelings, why wasn’t it readily available to my patients? I questioned leaving the field entirely but quickly found a supportive community. I joined my school’s Holistic Health Club, which I eventually went on to lead. With likeminded peers, I was able to explore various integrative modalities and was overcome with hope that nursing is more than passing meds and following orders. Through that group, I came to discover this organization. My involvement with the community and attendance at the yearly conference has propelled me through various milestones. Those began with graduating nursing school, to starting my first job in corrections, transitioning into community health, and most recently, stepping into a role as an RN at a residential treatment facility for pregnant women and those with young children. The Oregon Holistic Nurses Association (OHNA) has provided me with a source of solace in a tumultuous healthcare environment. My participation in the organization has deepened my connection to self and put me in touch with the type of nurse I want to be.

Bamboo Forest Bathing on a hike in Hawaii – ‘Nature-Nurturing’

When it comes to a holistic practice, I am frequently asked: What is your modality? The truth is, I do not have one. I have studied yoga and bring breath work into my practice, but I do not currently lead classes (more to come on that at a later date!). I have done some training in Therapeutic Touch and hope to integrate that more in coming months. But I am also content with the exploration, and unattached to becoming an expert in any one area. There is value in being a generalist. I embrace the various tools that exist to bring us more wholly into practice and to guide patients on their healing journey. To me, holistic nursing is an attitude. It is about being present and recognizing the connection of body, mind, and spirit in the healing process. It is about truly listening. With this approach comes creativity. Whether it be nutritional guidance, breathwork, movement, or intentional touch, I seek to bring my patients into greater connection with their bodies and minds, freeing their souls. That is certainly what this work has done for me.

My hope is that nurses exploring the realm of holistic nursing are not intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of learning a specific modality. I have had moments of questioning my “credibility” as a holistic nurse without an attached specialty. What I have learned along the way is that, while the tools are useful, what’s most important is establishing presence and connection, with oneself and those cared for. From that place, healing work can be done.

Alie & her beloved ‘pooch’ – ‘Animal-Nurturing’