Anthroposophic Nursing — An Introduction

Extensive concepts for nursing practice, training and research based on Rudolf Steiner's approach to knowledge have been developed within the anthroposophic nursing movement since 1923. The aim of anthroposophic nursing is to assist people to find their individual way – on the level of body, soul and spirit – during phases of life when they are ill and dependent on care. Nurses in collaboration with doctors and therapists have been contributing to the realization of a spiritual art of healing.

Anthroposophic nursing understands the human being to be a free, evolving being which has manifold connections to self, nature, culture and the cosmos on the various levels of body, soul and spirit. Nursing serves to maintain, or where necessary, regain or redevelop these connections. Each human being is the measure of these evolving interactions. Each biography, illness or social relationship has its own patterns and rhythms, seldom does it progress in a linear fashion. Research and understanding of these connections and their significance for human freedom form the basis for developing concepts for nursing, training and research. Anthroposophic nursing is not founded on a closed, normative, theoretical system. Rather, it can arise wherever nurses rely on an anthroposophic background understanding from which to provide professional care out of knowledge and love, with presence of mind.

Knowledge and love, as well as all other traditional virtues and values of the nursing profession, are not morally normative imperatives. They are developmental opportunities within each caregiver, who is responsible for his or her own conscience. The nurse, like the client, is a human being in a process of development, whether professionally or privately. Self-chosen professional progress or regression can be seen not just in terms of outer skills. Professional progress is also found in the readiness to cultivate emotional and spiritual qualities such as love and compassion. Spiritual nursing care will concern itself with questions of reincarnation and karma, as well as with questions about the spiritual and social significance of typical kinds of need for care, such as that of babies or the care of patients who are in a vegetative state. It is only against such a background that ethical questions become objectively discussable, outside the constraints of a normative code of practice.

Translated from Rolf Heine: Anthroposophische Pflegepraxis. Grundlagen und Anregungen für alltägliches Handeln. 3rd ed. Berlin: Salumed; 2015.

Modern Therapeutic Procedures or Pre-scientific Home Remedies?

Baths, compresses and rhythmical oil applications have been part of the treasury of healing remedies of all cultures for thousands of years. They did not get pushed to the fringes of the therapeutic spectrum until the rise of science-based medicine in the 19th century. Already in 1921 the founders of Anthroposophic Medicine integrated such procedures into the science-based art of healing that they were developing, countering the trends of the day. They renewed procedures which have been undergoing a renaissance in recent years, also in modern-day clinical practice. Responding to the persistent demand of many patients who want complementary treatment using "natural" remedies, the profession has now begun to study the effectiveness of external applications. Also, patients themselves have become knowledgeable, so that external applications have gained a firm foothold in self-treatment, especially for less serious but nevertheless highly troubling complaints.

The practice of Anthroposophic Medicine goes beyond the approach that is possible in naturopathy and self-medication. Here external applications are used not just to relieve acute or chronic complaints, they are also deliberately implemented to support the effect of medications and artistic therapy. They consistently provide a decisive impetus or may even be the essential healing factor in the overall treatment, especially for therapy-resistant conditions. The substances used may be derived from the mineral realm, such as quartz, sulphur, copper and gold. These are applied in a dilution of water or oil, or in the form of an ointment. Other external applications call for extracts from chamomile, arnica, yarrow or many other healing plants. They may also rely on the healing forces found in certain animal and food products, such as quark or honey.

From: Rolf Heine, 2009,

About Anthroposophic Nursing

The recent corona pandemic shows clearly health is more than individual well being. Health also has economic, ecological, social, cultural demographic, biographical and spiritual aspects. These all work together in the individual. AN integrates these aspects in assessing those in need of care under the holistic perspective of body, soul and spirit.

Nature and the Human Being
Human beings are part of nature. We should live in harmony and respect with the realms of animals, plants and minerals. The climate crises expresses that we are responsible for this planet. We are grateful for the gifts of nature, for her beauty, warmth, nutrition, stability. We use these gifts for our nursing skills in a sustainable way.

Disease and Healing
Up to the 20th century most illnesses were inflammatory, infectious diseases. Due to vaccination, antibiotic and immune suppressive therapies the emphasis of these mostly acute diseases turned into chronic non-commicable illnesses. Now heart failure and cancer are the most relevant causes of death. Chronic disease often means lifelong assistance by nurses and other health professionals. Nurses accompany those in need with knowledge, warmth and practical aid.

It is not only important what we do, but how we do it. The quality of touch and movement, even thoughts and feelings of the caregiver have a relevant impact on the wellbeing and health on those in need of care. Twelve archetypal nursing gestures are a foundation for a caring attitude in nursing practice.

Primary Nursing Skills
Rhythmical Einreibungen (RE)
is gentle, gliding touch along archetypal forms of the body. Fundamentally it strengthens life forces, enhances warmth and harmonizes rhythmic processes in the body. RE supports the connection between the body and soul, particularly when this has been lost after physical or psychological trauma or approaching death. RE is applicable for nursing prophylaxis and support in illness. It is given as a whole-body, partial-body or organ Einreibungen treatments. For its application RE utilizes massage oils and plant or metal ointments.

Compresses, baths and therapeutic washings work through healing and caring substances via the skin, through warmth and rhythm via the healing atmosphere of the environment. They are an essential part of Anthroposophic Medicine.

Address: NAANA, P.O. Box 2001, Southeastern, PA 19399

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