Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Holistic Nursing Comes to FAU

Firmly nestled within the crescent-shaped bowl of Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, a botanical garden of exotic flora and fauna is shook from repose. A cool wind gushes in, swaying the short trees still propped up by planks.

It’s a Holistic Healing Garden, designed for students fancying a private meditation, a few moments for self-reflection or for simple relaxation.

And for FAU pre-med senior Jackie Delval, it’s tranquil environment that keeps her coming back.

“The garden is peaceful, and I enjoy looking at all of the nature around me,” Delval says. “The diversity of all the plants is very comforting.”

Nursing undergrads like Delval aren’t the only students invited to the garden. The Initiative for Intentional Health, a program tailored for promoting holistic nursing care as a supplement to conventional medicine, welcomes the entire student body to pay a visit.

The American Holistic Nurse’s Association defines holistic nursing as “all nursing practices that has healing the whole person as its goal.” Where conventional medicine draws upon drugs and surgery to cure a single body function on the cellular level, holistic nursing regards the whole body as more than the sum of its parts.

In fact, holistic nursing cultivates a set of distinct caring principles: stress relief, pain prevention and exercise that are used to resist common ailments and diseases. It believes that nurses should exist not merely to cure sickness, but to engage the patients- understand their personal lives- and in turn prescribe therapies to combat the illnesses.

“It is interesting to note that in the Hippocratic Oath, the first line states that the doctor should do no harm,” Dr. Ruth McCaffrey says, the clinical director for the Initiative for Intentional Health. “This is a far cry from caring. Doctors are both focused on science and education to understand the cellular workings of, for example, the liver or lungs. The caring philosophy identifies the need to look beyond the cell, to the whole unique human, and come to know each person so that health and well-being can be influenced.”

Dr. McCaffrey, who is also an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, supplies an example: “If a person has back pain, instead of relieving the discomfort with aspirin, we would surmise that the pain is caused by high levels of stress. So, we would recommend yoga therapy, which reduces stress.”

“Our program’s mission is to help people feel more intentional about staying healthy,” McCaffrey says, “to help them learn about how to reduce stress before they arrive at the stage where they need doctors and medicine.”

In addition to instructing two graduate nursing courses on the Boca campus, Dr. McCaffrey teaches The Arts in Healing, a holistic course which explores the therapeutic properties of music on post-operative hip and knee surgery patients.

There also are two yoga instructors, one aromatherapy instructor, two Feldenkrais (where the instructor verbally guides participants in movement exercises to alleviate pain resulting from, for example, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy), and one Tai Chi instructor.

“Inhale slowly, then exhale, palms out,” Instructor Gary Tong wispers, the College of Nursing’s only Tai Chi Sifu, or teacher. “You learn how to control respiration with body movements,” he says, as he bends his knees. The three participants mimic his movement.

Tai Chi, like its holistic companions, addresses the relationship between body and relaxation. In this room, body movements and breathing are inter-connected.

“In daily life, there are moments of illness that cause stress and excessive emotions,” Tong says, who is a 20-year veteran of the practice. “Releasing the stress brings balance to the body and mind. We release stress through the slow movements of Tai Chi, which slows the brain waves in the mind, so we only focus on the movements.”

McCaffrey sees the project progressing positively. “All of our holistic classes are oversubscribed and get great reviews from students,” Dr. McCaffrey says. “Our existing participants use word-of-mouth to spread the message.”

Students don’t need to be intimidated by the looming, three-story College of Nursing building, or the seemingly foreign programs therein.

“Take the plunge and start slow,” Dr. McCaffrey says. “We encourage students to research, then reflect upon which program is beneficial to their health. Comfort is first.”

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