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Just after she earned her B.S.N. and took
her first nursing job, Nancy Berry developed a
special bond with one of her patients. One day
he had a horrible headache, so Berry offered to
put a warm cloth on his forehead. “That was like
magic! He was so thankful and relieved. This
established great trust between us. I didn’t have
to go to nursing school to learn that.”
She says this not to imply that she didn’t need
her education in order to be a good nurse. Far
from it. What she means is that nursing is an art
as well as a science. Sometimes human touch can
be more healing than painkillers.
Decades later, she still remembers her
patient’s name. “I’ll never forget his name. I’ll
Berry earned her M.S.N. from Immaculata
in 2008 and has taught holistic nursing in
Immaculata’s R.N. to B.S.N. program for five
years. Although she didn’t initially know about
it as a specific theory or practice, holistic nursing
has always been her philosophy, and she is now a
certified holistic nurse.
The Division of Nursing emphasizes holistic
care—caring for body, mind, and spirit. But
what exactly does this mean?
It’s not a bunch of fluff or hocus-pocus.
Holistic nursing treats people like whole
human beings, not just bodies with parts that
need fixing. Holistic nursing is humanizing. It
acknowledges that we not only have intricately
designed bodily systems, but also minds that
wonder and hope and worry, and souls that
hurt and love and long to connect with fellow
human beings and with God. Holistic nursing
freedom from disease
and pain—but also
a sense of peace and
of being loved.
Ed.D., associate professor of Nursing, wrote
Immaculata’s holistic nursing curriculum, and
Gail Lehner, M.S.N., AHN-BC, who retired
last summer from being assistant professor of
Nursing, helped develop the courses further.
Because of Lehner’s expertise, Berry sought her
out when she began teaching at Immaculata and
asked to observe a class.
“This is just a revelation!” Berry thought,
watching the students share their experiences
while Lehner listened intently. “She draws
students out but also draws them together.”
Now, in her own classes, Berry always starts with
Florence Nightingale. “She was a very spiritual
person, and she felt that her calling was to take
care of people. She acknowledged that the mind,
body and spirit are interconnected, and that healing
only occurs when we care for all those elements.
“But she came from a wealthy background,
and people in her society didn’t take care of sick
people. Women didn’t work. They were supposed
to do needlework and maybe speak a couple of
languages,” Berry noted. “But she felt that God
Berry goes on to cover a variety of holistic
treatments with her class: cognitive-behavioral
therapy, nutrition, exercise, play, relaxation
techniques, guided imagery, music, touch,
relationships, aromatherapy, and more. Students
choose a certain complementary or alternative
medicine modality and write a research paper on it.
“I really think that this program helps people
who are already practicing nurses to see the
scientific proof, where there is evidence, that
these holistic methods really help,” Berry says.
The goal of holistic care is to provide
the appropriate medical, surgical, and
pharmacological treatments in combination
with complementary and alternative modalities.
Science provides evidence that relaxation and
exercise can ease some physical conditions more
effectively than drugs. And unlike drugs, there
are no side effects, Berry points out, smiling.
It can be easier to swallow a pill, she says,
because this takes no time at all compared to
exercising or pausing to relax. Drugs are often
medically necessary, but we can simultaneously
engage in certain activities to improve our health.
Nurses facilitate the healing process for
patients, Berry adds, but they don’t accomplish
it. “Patients’ healing comes from within. This
is part of the beauty of life, that human beings
have these methods to heal ourselves. We have
so many resources within ourselves. Nurses help
patients utilize those resources and guide them
to find what is optimal for them.”
Caring for Body,
Mind, and Spirit
Nancy Berry ’08 M.S.N., Nursing instructor