1. Section Editor(s): Donnelly, Gloria Ferraro PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor

Article Content

This year, Consumer Reports1 conducted an online survey of more than 45 000 subscribers on their use of alternative therapies and realized 30 332 responses. The report noted that 38 million adult consumers in the United States make more than 300 million visits to alternative/complementary therapists annually. The September 2011 issue reports that for general health use, 73% of respondents use some form of vitamin/mineral supplement and 20% employ some form of mind-body therapy such as massage or yoga.2 Interestingly, hands-on therapies, particularly chiropractic, yoga, and deep tissue massage were highly rated for conditions such as osteoarthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and neck pain. Also nested highly in the ratings were prescription medications, not a surprising finding given health providers' bent toward employing pharmaceuticals first and patients' desire for rapid relief. The survey also documented the fact that those who use alternatives are "proponents," that is, they believe in the interventions and had a long history with them. Many reported that a transformational experience, forcing them to reconsider lifestyle habits, drove them to consider alternatives. These findings are consistent with many studies on the rate of complementary/alternative use by the US population over the years; that is, their use is on the rise and that they are increasingly part of the mainstream of health care intervention.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Nursing programs have kept pace with these trends. For example, in 2003, Fenton and Morris conducted a survey in which 125 deans and directors of baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs reported a high rate of use of holistic nursing content in curricula, particularly the American Holistic Nurses Association Core Curriculum, and content on specific complementary and alternative modalities. The majority of those surveyed (84%) included instruction on complementary and alternative modalities in their nursing programs.


As knowledge continues to explode, technological health care interventions continue to expand and pharmaceutical companies flood the market with new and better drugs, the following phenomena will remain constant:


* Individuals who feel empowered will find ways to heal themselves with modalities of their own choosing.


* Individuals will continue to seek whole-person interventions delivered by caring health providers who attend to body, mind, and spirit simultaneously.


* Conditions caused by unhealthy lifestyles will respond more effectively to a blend of holistic and traditional medical treatment.


* The nursing profession will increasingly take the lead in promoting the use of complementary therapies, as health care reform puts us front and center in improving the health of the nation.



-Gloria Ferraro Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN






1. Consumer Reports. Alternative therapies. Consumer Reports. 2001: 20-25. [Context Link]


2. Fenton M, Morris D. Integration of holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative modalities into curricula of schools of nursing. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9(4):62-67. [Context Link]