Nurses’ attitudes towards complementary therapies: A systematic review and meta-synthesis

Helen Hall, Matthew Leach, Caragh Brosnan, Melissa Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background The use of complementary therapies is becoming, increasingly prevalent. This has important implications for nurses in, terms of patient care and safety. Objective The aim of this meta-synthesis is to review, critically, appraise and synthesize the existing qualitative research to develop a new, more substantial interpretation of nurses' attitudes regarding the, use of complementary therapies by patients. Data sources; A search of relevant articles published in English between, January 2000 and December 2015 was conducted using the following, electronic databases; MEDLINE, CINAHL and AMED. Reference lists of selected papers and grey literature were also interrogated for pertinent, studies. Design This review is reported according to the Enhancing Transparency in Reporting the Synthesis of Qualitative Research (ENTREQ) guidelines.Data were extracted and analysed using a thematic synthesis process. Results Fifteen articles were included in this review. Five analytical themes emerged from the data relating to nurses' attitude towards complementary therapies: the strengths and weaknesses of conventional medicine; Complementary therapies as a way to enhance nursing practice;patient empowerment and patient-centeredness; cultural barriers and enablers to integration; and structural barriers and enablers to integration. Discussion Nurses' support for complementary therapies is not an attempt to challenge mainstream medicine but rather an endeavour to improve the quality of care available to patients. There are, however, a number of barriers to nurses' support including institutional culture and clinical context, as well as time and knowledge limitations. Conclusion Some nurses promote complementary therapies as an opportunity to personalise care and practice in a humanistic way. Yet, nurses have very limited education in this field and a lack of professional frameworks to assist them. The nursing profession needs to consider how to address current deficiencies in meeting the growing use of complementary therapies by patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Complementary medicine
  • Complementary therapies
  • Meta-synthesis
  • Nurse
  • Systematic review

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