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

Int J Nurs Stud. 2017 Apr:69:47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2017.01.008. Epub 2017 Jan 29.


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.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; Complementary medicine; Complementary therapies; Meta-synthesis; Nurse; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Power, Psychological