What is a Holistic Nurse Practitioner? (Comprehensive Education + Career Guide)
Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Are you interested in a nursing career that gives you the opportunity to do more than pass medicine and perform head-to-toe assessments? If so, the role of a holistic nurse practitioner may be a great option for you. A holistic nurse practitioner uses alternative treatments and medicine that are generally combined with traditional Western medicine to provide patient care. In this article, we will answer the question “What is a Holistic Nurse Practitioner” and discuss education requirements, job outlook, and other important information regarding this career.
Formal Definition: What is a Holistic Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who is trained to blend clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with a focus on disease prevention and health management. A holistic nurse practitioner, often referred to as a complimentary health nurse practitioner, is an advanced practice registered nurse who combines a mind-spirit-body-emotion approach of patient care to the traditional practice of a nurse practitioner.
What Does a Holistic Nurse Practitioner Do?
The belief that true wellness encompasses not only physical health, but emotional, spiritual, psychological, and social health is the driving force behind a holistic nurse practitioner’s approach to patient care. They employ an approach to care that is centered around using the body’s natural healing abilities. Rather than treating symptoms of an illness only, holistic nurse practitioner duties include using a naturopathic approach of care, focusing on disease prevention. Additionally, holistic nurse practitioners practice functional medicine to address the cause of diseases.
Holistic nurse practitioners focus on the mind and body connection of patients and, in lieu of pharmaceutical interventions only, they utilize methodologies from around the world to provide relief and healing to patients. In addition to traditional approaches, holistic nurse practitioners offer alternative methods, such as herbal therapy, acupressure, healing touch, and nutrition counseling.
Because holistic nurse practitioners incorporate both Eastern and Western methods of treatment into their practices, they still perform many of the same duties as conventional nurse practitioners. They assess patients, diagnose illnesses, treat diseases and conditions, prescribe medications, and advise patients. The primary difference between a general nurse practitioner and a holistic nurse practitioner is that a holistic NP’s work includes the addition of the alternative of mind-body therapies and approaches.
What is the Scope of Practice for Holistic Nurse Practitioners?
Nurse practitioners are independent practitioners who practice autonomously and in coordination with health care professionals as well as other individuals. Holistic nurse practitioner practice includes assessing patients, ordering and/or performing medical tests, interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests, making diagnoses, and initiating & managing treatments. Other holistic nurse practitioner duties include prescribing non-pharmacological treatments and/or medications, as needed, coordinating care with the care team, and educating clients & their families.
Like nurse practitioners in any specialty, holistic nurse practitioners are accountable to patients, the nursing profession, and the state board of nursing of the state wherein they reside. They are expected to practice consistently with an ethical code of conduct, national certification, evidence-based principles, and current practice standards.
What Education and Training is Required to Become a Holistic Nurse Practitioner?
Each state requires nurse practitioners to hold an MSN degree or higher and an active, unencumbered RN license. After obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, nurses may obtain an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license. Nurses who want to become a holistic nurse practitioner have the option to pursue a master’s degree or post-master's program that is specific to holistic nursing practice. Programs for holistic nurse practitioners generally involve traditional APRN courses including pharmacology, health assessment, and pathophysiology. Further, core concepts that are significant to holistic nursing are studied such as intentionality, holistic ethics, spirit-mind-body perspectives, holistic health, healing, and self-care.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Holistic Nurse Practitioner?
There are different paths to become a holistic nurse practitioner. Some nurses choose to earn a BSN degree before pursuing graduate studies. Others choose to graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and then work on completing each additional level of education. To become a nurse practitioner, nurses must achieve a minimum MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree. Typically, an MSN program lasts between 18-24 months in addition to the previous RN program which may last between 24 and 48 months, depending on the program choice. Overall, it can take from 6 to 8 years to become a holistic nurse practitioner.
How Much Does It Cost?
Tuition and fees for a BSN degree can range anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000. Most nurse practitioner programs require students to successfully complete an average of an additional 45 credits dealing with advanced practice nursing. The average price per credit ranges from $225 to $650, depending on whether you take classes In-State or Out-of-State. The typical average is around $400 per credit, which means becoming a holistic nurse practitioner will cost approximately $18,000 more than a BSN degree. These estimations in cost can be more or less depending on whether a course needs to be repeated or not.
How to Obtain Certification and Licensure
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation offers Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse, Board Certified (APHN-BC) certification to RNs who possess a graduate degree from an accredited school as well as hold an active APRN license.
Requirements for certification by the American Holistic Nurses Credential Corporation include:
• Have a current, unrestricted RN license in the United States
• Must have worked one year full-time as a holistic nurse or have at least 2,000 hours of experience working part-time during the five years prior to taking the exam
• Possess at least 48 contact hours of continuing education in holistic nursing within the two- year period prior to taking the exam
• Must sign a Candidate’s Agreement with AHNCC agreeing to their terms and conditions.
Where do They Work?
Holistic nurse practitioners work in the same environments that other nurse practitioners work in. These include private practices, birthing centers, integrative health facilities, hospitals, educational institutions, and outpatient clinics. They may also work in alternative medicine settings such as a chiropractor’s office, holistic health clinics, and naturopathic practices.
As with other nurse practitioner certifications, the workplace of a holistic nurse practitioner is typically determined by what area of patient care the NP wants to focus on. For example, some holistic nurse practitioners may want to work in the role of midwifery, neonatal, or geriatric care. Massage therapy specialists may seek positions at a chiropractic office, physical therapy, or sports medicine clinics.
Depending on whether a specific area of concentration is chosen, overall condition of the working environment may differ. For example, some holistic nurse practitioners may work in patient homes or community-based centers and may not have ready access to some equipment or assistance that those who work in hospitals or other professional centers may have. Other holistic nurse practitioners may work in centers that offer advanced technology and access to some of the most elite equipment and resources.
What Hours Does a Holistic Nurse Practitioner Work?
Work schedules vary for holistic nurse practitioners depending on what setting he/she chooses to practice. Those who work in primary health centers or private practices generally work most weekdays during the day and enjoy weekends, holidays, and nights off. Holistic NPs who work in birthing centers or in neonatal centers may work alternating shifts/schedules.
Experience and seniority at a place of employment may also be a factor that is considered when work assignments and schedules are given.
Starting Salary of a Holistic Nurse Practitioner
While there are many factors involved in determining a person’s beginning salary, entry-level holistic nurse practitioners can expect to earn an average salary of about $74,380. The average hourly rate of an entry-level holistic NP is $35.76, and the monthly average is $6,200.
| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|
| $35.76|| $6,200|| $74,380|
Average Annual Holistic Nurse Practitioner Salary
The average annual wage for a holistic nurse practitioner nationally is around $102,190. In some states, like California for example lows are reported around $95,840 and highs of $173,560. Salary appears to vary significantly depending on what state a holistic NP is practicing. The higher the cost of living, the higher the average salary will likely be. Even the lowest-paying states report salaries for holistic NPs that are around $40,000 more than the national average for all other jobs.
Although sources may report slight differences in the average salary of holistic nurse practitioners, the average remains somewhat consistent among all contributing sources. As of June 9, 2020, ZipRecruiter reported an average annual salary for a holistic nurse practitioner in the United States as $99,621.
The average hourly salary of a holistic nurse practitioner is $49.13, with a low range of $35 per hour and a high of $66 per hour. Monthly salary ranges from $6,200 to $11,590 with a median salary of $8,360 per month.
| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|
| $49.13|| $8,520|| $102,190|
Annual Salary of Holistic Nurse Practitioners by Level of Experience
The amount of work experience a holistic NP has is usually influential in determining a holistic nurse practitioner's salary. Full-time holistic nurse practitioners can generally expect an annual salary based on experience as follows:
| Type|| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|
| Starting (Entry-Level)|| $35.76|| $6,200|| $74,380|
| 1-4 Years of Experience|| $40.76|| $7,070|| $84,780|
| 5-9 Years of Experience|| $48.24|| $8,360|| $100,340|
| 10-19 Years of Experience|| $55.80|| $9,670|| $116,070|
| 20 Years or More Experience|| $66.84|| $11,590|| $139,030|
Which State Pays Holistic Nurse Practitioners the Most?
California is currently the highest-paying state for holistic nurse practitioners, reporting an average salary of $126,694. In California, the average annual salary for holistic nurse practitioners has increased by approximately $10,000 since 2016.
| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|
| $60.91 || $10,560||$126,694 |
Salary by State
The average salary by state for a holistic nurse practitioner ranges from $88,181 in Alabama to $126,694 in California. In addition to California states like Washington, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, and New York are among the five highest paying states for holistic nurse practitioners. Most of the lowest-paying states for holistic NPs are in the southern United States.
| State|| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|| Salary Range|
| Alabama|| $43.74|| $7,580|| $90,977|| $65,480 - $118,110|
| Alaska|| $50.91|| $8,820|| $105,889|| $56,220 - $151,380|
| Arizona|| $48.97|| $8,490|| $101,859|| $59,900 - $141,930|
| Arkansas|| $46.49|| $8,060|| $96,706|| $75,690 - $120,670|
| California|| $60.91|| $10,560|| $126,694|| $95,840 - $173,560|
| Colorado|| $46.90|| $8,130|| $97,547|| $66,600 - $128,820|
| Connecticut|| $50.58|| $8,770|| $105,203|| $71,090 - $144,960|
| Delaware|| $49.39|| $8,560|| $102,727|| $76,510 - $135,530|
| District of Columbia|| $49.18|| $8,520|| $102,289|| $79,740 - $130,360|
| Florida|| $44.59|| $7,730|| $92,750|| $56,880 - $120,320|
| Georgia|| $46.42|| $8,050|| $96,551|| $69,820 - $128,480|
| Hawaii|| $54.47|| $9,440|| $113,299|| $68,800 - $150,690|
| Idaho|| $48.70|| $8,440|| $101,293|| $41,800 - $144,960|
| Illinois|| $47.38|| $8,210|| $98,552|| $72,130 - $127,480|
| Indiana|| $46.73|| $8,100|| $97,199|| $76,000 - $120,600|
| Iowa|| $48.28|| $8,370|| $100,425|| $77,240 - $128,210|
| Kansas|| $44.17|| $7,660|| $91,873|| $58,180 - $117,800|
| Kentucky|| $43.73|| $7,580|| $90,968|| $62,600 - $122,080|
| Louisiana|| $46.67|| $8,090|| $97,071|| $61,080 - $138,580|
| Maine|| $46.99|| $8,140|| $97,729|| $75,000 - $120,360|
| Maryland|| $49.11|| $8,510|| $102,152|| $74,200 - $139,330|
| Massachusetts|| $53.70|| $9,310|| $111,691|| $81,940 - $149,330|
| Michigan|| $47.73|| $8,270|| $99,283|| $77,260 - $121,920|
| Minnesota|| $53.97|| $9,350|| $112,248|| $83,940 - $141,630|
| Mississippi|| $48.65|| $8,430|| $101,183|| $71,310 - $140,940|
| Missouri|| $46.15|| $8,000|| $95,984|| $74,590 - $121,130|
| Montana|| $47.93|| $8,310|| $99,703|| $76,810 - $123,600|
| Nebraska|| $46.32|| $8,030|| $96,350|| $75,800 - $120,640|
| Nevada|| $50.94|| $8,830|| $105,962|| $79,020 - $139,670|
| New Hampshire|| $48.62|| $8,430|| $101,128|| $75,210 - $130,440|
| New Jersey|| $54.39|| $9,430|| $113,125|| $84,770 - $144,550|
| New Mexico|| $49.17|| $8,520|| $102,270|| $77,000 - $134,690|
| New York|| $53.83|| $9,330|| $111,974|| $78,140 - $148,440|
| North Carolina|| $46.52|| $8,060|| $96,752|| $75,890 - $124,210|
| North Dakota|| $48.74|| $8,450|| $101,375|| $76,920 - $129,920|
| Ohio|| $45.59|| $7,900|| $94,824|| $73,810 - $122,140|
| Oklahoma|| $49.73|| $8,620|| $103,431|| $77,660 - $139,580|
| Oregon|| $49.83|| $8,640|| $103,641|| $77,130 - $139,760|
| Pennsylvania|| $44.78|| $7,760|| $93,152|| $66,650 - $118,100|
| Rhode Island|| $50.65|| $8,780|| $105,359|| $81,290 - $135,040|
| South Carolina|| $44.23|| $7,670|| $91,991|| $73,850 - $116,520|
| South Dakota|| $44.91|| $7,780|| $93,408|| $73,940 - $117,490|
| Tennessee|| $42.39|| $7,350|| $88,181|| $56,560 - $117,370|
| Texas|| $50.71|| $8,790|| $105,478|| $77,510 - $143,710|
| Utah|| $46.23|| $8,010|| $96,158|| $63,930 - $130,980|
| Vermont|| $46.49|| $8,060|| $96,706|| $74,300 - $130,530|
| Virginia|| $47.93|| $8,310|| $99,694|| $75,650 - $128,530|
| Washington|| $55.75|| $9,660|| $115,967|| $79,140 - $147,640|
| West Virginia|| $45.32|| $7,860|| $94,266|| $70,870 - $121,580|
| Wisconsin|| $49.26|| $8,540|| $102,453|| $80,830 - $122,480|
| Wyoming|| $51.88|| $8,990|| $107,917|| $77,640 - $146,220|
Because many states have changed their laws governing the authority of nurse practitioners, they are often allowed to have a more diverse role within the healthcare team than in years past. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated an increased demand for nurse practitioners in general, of 36% between 2016 and 2026. With increased awareness of preventive and naturalistic methods of health care, the demand for holistic nurse practitioners is expected to increase, as well.
Professional Organizations and Associations
While it is not required, joining a professional nursing organization is a great way to enhance advocacy efforts. Nurses who are part of an organized professional association have access to more resources and are able to strategize more effectively to bring a nurse’s perspective to those who make decisions regarding health policies.
In 2006, the American Nurses Association (ANA) recognized holistic nursing as an official specialty in nursing and assisted the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) in publishing Holistic Nursing Scopes and Standards of Practice. The American Holistic Nurses Association is a specialty nursing association that serves over 5,000 nurses and holistic healthcare professionals in the United States and worldwide. The mission of the AHNA is to promote the practice of holism in nursing practice, research, advocacy, community, and education.
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) promotes advancement of holistic nursing and nurse coaching through education and certification. Holistic nurses and nurse coaches promote health and wellness as they facilitate a client’s growth and healing. The AHNCC offers nurses a way to distinguish themselves as experts in nursing education, practice, and research.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a resource for nurse practitioners who want to become further involved in their careers and who wish to partner with other nurse practitioners. The AANP offers information, resources, and tools to help empower all nurse practitioners to advance quality health care through education, advocacy, practice, research, and leadership.
Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is a holistic nurse practitioner,” you can make a decision whether this career option is a good choice for you. Nursing is a diverse field with many opportunities for growth and development. The sky really is the limit!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much work experience do I need to go to Nurse Practitioner school?
Most universities require a minimum one year of clinical nursing experience before granting admission to a nurse practitioner program.
What is the least amount of time it takes to become a nurse practitioner?
If you are able to attend school full-time, this can decrease the amount of time it takes to become a nurse practitioner. Keep in mind, a minimum Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is required to become a nurse practitioner. For most people who attend school full-time, the least amount of time it takes to become a nurse practitioner is six years of school and training.
Darby Faubion BSN, RN
is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).