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American Holistic Nurses' Association Guide to Common Chronic ConditionsSelf-Care Options to Complement Your Doctor's Advice
By Carolyn Chambers Clark
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-21296-2
Chapter OneWhy You May Need This Book
You may need this book for three very important reasons:
1. Your healthcare practitioner may not have the time to explain everything to you.
2. A medical approach is not always, and often is not, a holistic self-care approach that takes into account all the things you can do to get well and stay well.
3. You find yourself wanting more medical information, so you look on the Internet and listen to TV or radio and even scan the newspapers, only to discover conflicting and incorrect information.
Here Are the Answers to Your Questions
You're not feeling well and you go to the doctor. As usual, there are many patients in the waiting room and you barely catch a glimpse of your harried doctor. After you've waited for quite a while, the doctor examines you quickly, gives you a diagnosis, scribbles a prescription, and rushes off to the next patient. You're there, prescription in hand, not 100 percent sure what's really wrong with you, how you got that way, or what to do about it other than to have your prescription filled. Down the hall, you stop a nurse, who explains it all to you, plus tells you what to watch out for when you take the medication. The nurse also suggests some other thingsyou can do to feel more comfortable. You leave feeling calmer and with some understanding of what to do and why.
Maybe another familiar situation occurs when you're in the hospital for surgery. You wait all morning to see the doctor because you have a thousand questions to ask. The doctor hurries in, asks you how you are, and then rushes out. You watch the doctor leave, realizing you didn't ask any of the questions you wanted to ask.
A little while later, a nurse comes by and asks if you need anything. Before you know it, you're asking all the questions you forgot to ask your doctor. By the time the nurse leaves, you feel a whole lot better. Someone cares. The nurse has time to listen and give you answers to your questions in words you can understand.
We all know that doctors are busy people. They are in the business of curing, and that takes a lot of time. Nurses are busy, too, but they are in the business of caring. That's their job. They soothe your feverish brow, give you the lowdown on your condition, translate your doctor's orders, tell you the side effects of the medications your doctor prescribes, listen to your woes, and suggest treatments that fit right in with what your doctor has ordered. In this sense, nurses are the perfect complement to doctors, and their advice can add a lot to what your doctor says.
You Have a Right to Know about Measures You Can Take to Be Well
That's what this book is meant to do: give you some answers; talk to you in language you can understand; explain side effects or unwanted reactions to your medicines, treatments, or surgery; and add a few simple, safe things you can add to your daily regime to help you feel better-kind of like wrapping a warm, cozy blanket around you. It's okay, the nurse is in and is listening to you, maybe even anticipating your questions.
This book takes the stance that health is not a drive-through window. You have a very important role to play in getting well and staying well. The top three killers-heart disease, cancer, and stroke-have one thing in common: they're all strongly influenced by lifestyle or what you do. You can take charge and get well by eating right, exercising, and reducing your stress, among other actions. The specifics of how to do these appear for each condition.
Some strategies, such as losing weight and keeping it off, may mean a change in the way you think about food, from "I need to have French fries and burgers every day" to "Food is a medicine, a healing source."
The book provides safe procedures to use instead of always reaching for a pill. Just because a drug is legal doesn't mean it's safe. As pharmaceutical companies push more and more aggressively to sell their drugs on television and in other ways, they play down the side effects and dangers of their drugs. Remember: advertisements help make money; they don't protect you from harm.
Today, physicians and even many nurse practitioners are feeling the pressure from their bosses and insurance companies. The time they can take with you during your visits with them shrinks. They may barely have the time to tell you what medication to take or what surgery is suggested and have little time to listen to your concerns.
This book maintains that self-help information is as important in many cases as pills and procedures. It contends that you are an important individual deserving of a holistic approach. What does that mean? It means taking into account that your body parts are connected into a unique whole person, that healing and not just curing is valuable, and that there is always something you can do despite your diagnosis.
Why a Nurse?
A nurse is the perfect person to explain your doctor's orders because the education a nurse receives for giving you care is similar to the model used to educate doctors. Nurses are taught medical care, but they are also taught to focus on your reactions to your illness or condition. They see you as a total person, in the context of your family, occupation, and culture, not only a collection of symptoms. This holistic approach helps nurses tune into your reactions to what's happening to you and help you learn how to deal with them.
The American Holistic Nurses' Association
The American Holistic Nurses' Association (AHNA) is the voice of holistic nursing practice in the United States and in other parts of the world. Its members embrace caring and healing in their work with clients and also integrate these concepts in their lives. The AHNA believes that health and disease are part of the human experience and that disease and distress can provide opportunities for you to increase your awareness of the interconnectedness of your body, mind, and spirit. Two of the AHNA's objectives are to:
1. encourage nurses to be wellness role models for their patients and clients
2. improve the quality of healthcare by promoting education, participation, and self-responsibility for wellness in their patients and clients (Dossey 2001)
The AHNA has developed a certification program leading to the title holistic nurse certified (HNC), which means that those who pass the certification exam are board-certified to provide care for you that enhances your body, mind, and spirit. Holistic nurses not only care for you, they also care about you, and are dedicated to teaching you how to provide high-level self-care that complements your doctor's medical care.
What Do Nurses Know?
In medical school, medical students learn about how to diagnose what's wrong with you and what medications and treatments may help. In nursing school, nurses learn about medical conditions and their treatments, but they also learn a lot more. They are interested in helping you attain a balance, whether it's to find what's lacking in your diet or whether you need an exercise program or how to obtain support from family or others. One of the things nurses are absolute experts on is nutrition. Physicians receive very little, if any, education on nutrition in medical school. Some other areas nurses are experts in are how to:
protect you from infection
communicate with you and your family in a way that helps you grow
teach you about the effects of what you eat on how well you heal
promote health and well-being and prevent illness in the home, hospital, school, and community
teach you to control your symptoms, especially pain
include you in decisions about your care
prepare you for medical procedures in a way that reduces your anxiety
work effectively with your sexuality issues and concerns
teach you about labor, birth, and caring for a child
identify domestic violence
teach you about complementary and alternative therapies
support your right to be treated with kindness and respect
Why I'm the Right Nurse to Write This Book
Now that you know what nurses do, you can see that a nurse is the perfect person to write this book. You may still wonder why I'm the person writing it. Here are some of my reasons:
I've been a registered nurse since 1964, when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Since then, I've added a couple of graduate degrees (M.S. from Rutgers University and Ed.D. from Columbia University); worked in numerous hospitals, clinics, and private practice situations; taught and supervised nursing students; and even started my own wellness institute. I'm a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, a Certified Holistic Nurse, a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Nursing, and a Fellow and Advisory Board Member of the American Association of Integrative Medicine (AAIM).
I've also been writing nursing and health-related texts for twenty years, and three of the texts (The Encyclopedia of Complementary Health Practice, Integrating Complementary Procedures into Practice, and Wellness Practitioner) won Book of the Year awards from the American Journal of Nursing. And I've taken and taught many research courses, so I can tell you about the studies that provide significant evidence, and which indicate steps you should take to enhance your wellness.
During all of these experiences, I've met clients, sometimes even those in my own family, who asked me questions about medications, treatments, or surgery. They feel comfortable asking me, and to tell the truth, it makes me feel good to help them. Because I know you're out there with valid questions about the treatment your doctor orders for you, I've written this book.
For the medical diagnosis and treatment, I worked with a medical consultant to make sure I didn't make any assumptions about medical diagnosis or treatment. For a special seal of approval, I went to the American Holistic Nurses' Association, the largest organization for nurses worldwide that takes a truly holistic, mind/body/spirit orientation to your care.
The Conditions You'll Find in This Book
The twenty chronic conditions in this book are listed alphabetically for easy reference. First, the doctor's likely comments and prescription for that condition are presented. Below that, the nurse's thorough explanation of the condition and symptoms; what might have led to them; possible side effects of medications or treatments; how the condition can be prevented; and finally, complementary therapies or self-care procedures you can take to enhance comfort and healing are presented.
I've chosen to cover these conditions because they're chronic and because there's a lot you can do beyond the standard medical treatment to help yourself. Self-care advice in this book is backed by research. Studies that support the validity of each self-care approach can be found in the References at the back of the book.
Throughout the book, you will find references to milligrams (mg or mgm) and micrograms (mcg), primarily referring to vitamins and minerals. Read labels carefully so you do not confuse the two dosages.
Remember, a holistic approach means you are actively involved in self-care that complements your doctor's treatment. Take advantage of the information in this book, apply it to your daily activities, and be well!
Excerpted from American Holistic Nurses' Association Guide to Common Chronic Conditions by Carolyn Chambers Clark Excerpted by permission.
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