Complementary and Alternative Health Nursing

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a growing branch of medicine, and nursing in this field can be an exciting route for you to take in your nursing career if you are interested in integrating holistic living and alternative healing practices into your nursing care protocol to better treat patients. More and more Americans are turning to alternative medicine to complement the conventional western medical care they receive. This type of nursing is considered holistic, looking at the whole person and their lifestyle instead of just at the symptoms. It focuses on prevention, nutrition, alternative forms of healing, and places faith in the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

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Complimentary health nursing can focus on a variety of approaches, including Chinese medicine, supplements, meditation, acupuncture, yoga, breathing exercises, hypnotherapy, or spinal manipulation, to name just some of the approaches encompassed by CAM. The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine states that it is difficult to define the scope, because more and more therapies are being integrated into mainstream medical practices, and more and more therapies are being employed by complementary and alternative healing nurses and care providers.

Becoming a licensed, registered nurse is the first major step toward this or any other nursing specialty. You can become a nurse by earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a vocational or community college, and be done in two to three years. You can also earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in four years from an accredited nursing program at a college or university and potentially will have better job prospects upon graduation. Many hospitals now prefer to hire BSN educated nurses over diploma or associate’s educated nurses. Once you earn your nursing degree, the next step is to pass your state’s board of nursing requirements and the NCLEX, which stands for National Council Licensure Examination. When you pass the NCLEX and complete all of your state’s board of nursing requirements, you will receive your nursing license and be eligible to practice in your state. Find entry to nursing programs in your state.

Because it’s a field that is constantly changing and incorporating new methods of treatment, it’s important to stay updated with emerging trends. Many universities offer certificates in complementary and alternative medicine that will provide you with some of the necessary background to work in the field. Earning a certificate is not required the way a degree and license are for nursing, but it will make you more marketable in your job search. It demonstrates your commitment to staying current, and your knowledge and competence. Work experience in a complementary alternative medicine environment is another way to gain valuable exposure to this field and will provide you with some marketability.

The use of alternative medicine is growing, as people seek ways to treat illness in less invasive ways and pursue a more holistic lifestyle. This combined with the massive growth of the healthcare sector will ensure that you can potentially have a prolific career in this specialty. Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in this country, and as the healthcare system struggles to meet the medical demands of the growing aging population the demand for complementary and alternative health care nurses should also increase. As medical care becomes even more specialized and seeks the best possible way to treat people in the most cost-effective manner, complementary nursing will again continue to grow. If you are interested in complementary and alternative healthcare nursing and are or plan to become a nurse, this is the path for you. The average nursing salary is around $40,000 in the first five years, according to, and shoots up to an average of $50,000 to $70,000 at ten years. If you pursue a master’s degree with a focus on alternative medicine, you may earn even more and expand your opportunities into advanced practice, research or teaching. There are many paths to take in this unique branch of medicine that is quickly being integrated into mainstream health care and paving the way for innovative healing. Find a nursing program today or if you are already a nurse explore the advanced educational opportunities on this site that can help get you on a nursing career path you want to be on.

(Sources: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, University of Georgia Professional & Personal Development at The Georgia Center for Continuing Education)