Holistic Nursing Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

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Master's and doctoral degrees in holistic nursing can lead to a variety of nursing careers. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Holistic Nursing: Degrees at a Glance

Holistic nursing is a sub-discipline that focuses not only on diseases, but also on the patient as a whole, including his or her mental, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual concerns. The practice of holistic nursing encourages patients to take part in their own care, disease prevention and health promotion. It may incorporate healing modalities such as Reiki, acupressure, hypnosis, herbology and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

At the master's degree level, a degree program in holistic nursing is typically offered as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a concentration or track in holistic nursing. As of December 2012, it was not possible to pursue an accredited Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in holistic nursing. At the doctoral level, the alternative for holistic nurses was to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a concentration in holistic nursing.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Registered nurses who hold a bachelor's degree and seek career advancement and holistic nursing training Registered nurses who hold an MSN and want additional career advancement opportunities plus additional training in holistic nursing
Common Career Paths (with approximate average annual salary or salary range) - Advanced practice registered nurse ($58,000-$110,000 - with board certification)*
- Family nurse practitioner ($65,000-$102,000 - with board certification)*
- Certified clinical nurse specialist ($63,000-$110,000)*
- Nurse practitioner ($68,000-$103,000 - with board certification)*
Same as with master's, plus:
Nurse administrator ($49,000)**
Time to Completion Two years full-time 3-5 years full-time after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 33-43 credits
- One or more clinical practicums
Most (or all) of the master's degree requirements, plus:
- Approximately 30-36 credits beyond the MSN
- Clinical internship
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited program
- Active nursing license
- MSN degree from an accredited program
- Certification as a nurse practitioner or a clinical nurse specialist
- Active nursing license
Online Availability Hybrid (online courses with in-person clinical requirement) Hybrid (online courses with in-person clinical requirement and intensive courses)

Sources: *PayScale.com (December 2012), **SimplyHired.com (December 2012).

Master's in Holistic Nursing

The formal names of master's degree programs that incorporate holistic nursing practices vary. Most culminate in a Master of Science in Nursing degree and offer a concentration in holistic nursing or an advanced holistic nursing track. An alternative master's-level program to the MSN is a Master of Science in Clinical Nursing Specialist in Holistic Nursing program. If you plan to pursue a DNP program after completing a master's-level program, please be aware that some doctoral programs require the applicant to hold an MSN degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Full- and part-time options are available to accommodate a range of schedules
  • Fellowships, traineeships and graduate assistantships provide hands-on experience
  • Clinical experiences may prepare the student for certification in modalities such as acupressure and Healing Touch

Cons

  • May require completion of a thesis or project
  • Fellowships and other opportunities may be unavailable to students who attend part-time
  • May require specific prerequisite courses, such as health assessment, statistics, pharmacology and nursing research

Courses and Requirements

A master's degree program in holistic nursing may require approximately 32 credit hours of courses and clinical experiences, in addition to a project or thesis. Some courses are similar to those found in MSN programs without a holistic nursing concentration, and others focus specifically on holistic practices. You might take some of the following courses:

  • Nursing theory
  • Health policy
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Naturalistic and holistic therapeutics
  • Holistic nursing foundations

Online Degree Options and Course Info

Online MSN degree programs with a concentration or track in holistic nursing typically require the same courses as the on-campus program. Because online programs also require the same number of clinical practice hours as on-campus programs, a student who completes his or her degree program online will be required to complete these clinical hours at an approved facility in his or her community.

Stand Out With This Degree

To help you stand out as a holistic nurse, look for a degree program that follows the Standards and Core Values for Advanced Holistic Nursing set out by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). In addition, look for a program that prepares its graduates to sit for the Board Certification in Advanced Holistic Nursing (AHN-BC) examination. This voluntary certification is available through the American Holistic Nurses' Certification Corporation.

Degree Alternative

Registered nurses who already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and who are interested in adding skills and knowledge in holistic nursing may be interested in a postgraduate certificate program in holistic nursing rather than committing to an MSN program. A certificate program may require prerequisite courses, such as pathophysiology, pharmacology and assessment courses.

Doctoral Programs in Holistic Nursing

A doctoral-level program with a holistic nursing track or concentration prepares you for leadership in the holistic nursing field. The holistic nursing specialization you can study through a DNP program might be referred to as integrative health and healing. Other DNP programs offer no specific track or concentration in holistic nursing, but incorporate holistic philosophies and practices into their curricula. At some universities, it's possible to enter a DNP program with a BSN, although this option requires significantly more coursework than the approximately 30-36 credits required beyond the MSN.

Earning the DNP requires an intensive commitment to the field of nursing. Even so, those who choose a holistic nursing specialization will not be able to prescribe pharmaceuticals, as are DNPs in other specializations, such as nurse midwife and nurse anesthesia.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Considered the highest possible level of preparation for the nursing field
  • May allow students the option of a self-designed concentration using credits from courses taken at other institutions
  • With some additional coursework, DNP students may be able to earn a certificate in health coaching or a related subject

Cons

  • Requires significant preparation beyond the master's degree
  • May require prerequisite courses in nursing theory, policy and research
  • Some programs will not enable graduates to have prescriptive abilities

Courses and Requirements

DNP students typically take courses common to all DNP students and then choose three or more electives in the holistic nursing specialty. Some of the specialty courses you might take in a DNP program include:

  • Holistic health psychophysiology
  • Botanical medicine
  • Human energy field therapies
  • Functional nutrition
  • Imagination therapies

Online Degree Options and Course Info

It's possible to find distance-learning programs with holistic nursing concentrations at the DNP level. These programs, like those at the master's degree level, require an in-person clinical component. The courses in these hybrid programs are typically the same as those offered through the on-campus programs. Students working toward the DNP may also be required to take short, intensive courses (also referred to as immersion courses) in person.

Stand Out With This Degree

Some universities offer students graduate-level certificate programs in holistic healing designed to give additional training in leadership in holistic health environments. These programs may offer internships and study-abroad opportunities as well as the chance to gain additional experience in local clinical settings. Credits from such programs may be counted toward the DNP.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
      • M.S. in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Centenary University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Primary Care
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Nursing Administration (Post-MBA)
      • M.S. Nursing and Master of Business Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Education
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • MS in Nursing
  • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
  • MS - Healthcare Management

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Herzing University

  • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
  • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
  • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education

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Centenary University

  • MBA in Health Administration

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care

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