Complementary and alternative therapies have and are receiving a great deal of attention in health care. Do we think broadly enough about them?  An earlier definition of complementary/alternative medicine was that it included any therapy or practice that was not part of Western health care. Thus, these therapies encompassed more than herbal preparations and acupuncture. When the healing practices used by persons around the globe are considered, the number of therapies grows into the thousands.

In the 7th edition of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Nursing, each chapter contains a perspective about the specific therapy from the perspective of a nurse who is not from the United States. The author details how the therapy is used or not used in her/his country. Often, the nurse delineates other healing practices used. Not only is our view of health care broadened, but it also prepares nurses to better care for the increasing diversity of patients found not only in the United States but across the globe.

Because the array of complementary and alternative therapies is gargantuan, it is impossible for nurses to know about all of these therapies. However, there are strategies that can be used to promote quality of care:

  • Obtain information from patients about the therapies/health practices being used
  • Display an openness and acceptance that assists patients to provide accurate and complete information about use of therapies
  • Investigate if a therapy or practice that is part of a patient’s culture can be incorporated into the health care plan

Attention to complementary and alternative therapies has provided an opportunity for nurses, physicians, and other health care workers to consider the use of therapies that were largely excluded from Western health care 25 years ago. Perhaps we could say that the door has begun to be opened, but there are still many therapies yet to be explored and used.