Complementary and alternative medicine are terms used to describe medical practices that are not typically considered part of Western medicine and are often not used by official healthcare providers in the Westernized world (Edelman & Kudzma, 2018). Complementary medicine specifically references the use of nontraditional adjunct therapy with many facets of traditional Western medicine still involved (Edelman & Kudzma, 2018). For example, a patient who uses massage or acupressure to relieve cancer pain along with use of chemotherapy and/or radiation would be using complementary methods. This contrasts with alternative medicine which is the use of only non-Western methods, such as a patient who elects to only use herbal remedies to treat their diabetes instead of medication recommended by Western physicians (Edelman & Kudzma, 2018). Nurse practitioners have an important role in helping their patients to treat their conditions the way that they choose. There are many patients who want to use Western methods to treat their conditions but also want to incorporate complementary methods into their treatment plan. An example of this would be a patient who has anxiety and desires to treat their condition with therapy and meditation. The nurse practitioner can discuss with the patient how this type of treatment plan can work and ensure that it is safe for this patient. Meditation is a complementary method for treating anxiety and depression that has evidence-based practice behind it. A study by Takahashi et al. showed that people with severe anxiety who participated in an eight-week study of mindfulness had significantly decreased feelings of anxiety and depression following the meditative practice (2019). The nurse practitioner’s role in this case is to ensure the safety of their patient while also creating a plan that the patient agrees with and is willing to carry out.
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