As a registered nurse and certified advanced holistic nurse I am interested in healing: for self and for others. What does healing mean and how is it different from curing? Why should we care about healing in healthcare?

According to Lissa Rankin, a medical doctor, you can cure without healing, as curing means to eliminate all evidence of disease, whereas healing focuses on the mind-body-spirit and the process of becoming whole. Rankin noted that curing can and does happen, such as taking antibiotics for infections or placing a cast on broken limb; however, many to most illnesses we face in contemporary America are not easily cured, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain. Curing medical approaches are often referred to as the “band aid,” covering up the greater issues that remain for the person who is suffering from an illness.

Healing also supports true curing: for instance, when a person suffers from cancer and undergoes intense medical treatments such as surgeries and chemotherapy, the cancer cells may eventually be undetectable or classified as in remission. But only if healing of the whole mind-body-spirit does happen, can there emerge a true potential of the cure lasting and being complete. Healing is also a preventative health measure, bringing the body-mind-spirit into a place of being able to repair previous damages.

What supports healing or the person moving toward wholeness as they face the treatment and cure process currently supported by the allopathic or conventional healthcare system? Clearly, we need both curing and healing interventions. The good news is that healing is about the internal process you do for yourself, often through the support of a healer.

Healing is about bringing the whole body-mind-spirit back into balance, aligning and integrating. Nurses have always been concerned about supporting patients’ healing processes, and we do so through talking and exploring with patients, teaching and coaching patients around healthy behaviors, role modeling health, and ensuring the environment supports the person’s innate ability to heal.

Holistic nursing values healing. Holistic nursing is an attitude and guiding philosophy. Holistic nurses use holistic-integrative modalities to support the person’s growth toward healing and initiating their own healing process. This type of nursing includes actively listening from a heart-centered space, using guided imagery, teaching deep breathing, coaching around making lifestyle changes, or using therapies like aromatherapy. Many hospitals, including Beth Israel in New York City and UCLA, have begun to recognize the importance of healing within conventional medicine by integrating these modalities at bedside.

There is still work to be done in integrating healing modalities into our nursing practices and conventional healthcare systems, so that we may better support the person’s whole body healing processes to ensure that cures are lasting, and the burden and cost of disease is lessened.

The great thing about healing is that we can do this on our own as well: begin an exercise program, breathe deeply, meditate, play, love and laugh.