Perceptions of professional nurses towards alternative therapies in the Umgungundlovu District, South Africa
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INTRODUCTION Globally, the use of alternative therapies by the public as well as healthcare workers has been widely documented. In South Africa, no studies have been done on alternative therapies specifically related to nurses. The vast amount of media attention with regards to alternative therapies related to the positive and negative outcomes has sparked major interest in this topic. The aim of the study was to determine the perceptions of professional nurses at nine hospitals within the uMgungundlovu District, South Africa, towards alternative therapies in a nursing context. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The objectives of the study were to determine the professional nurses’ perceptions as well as knowledge of alternative therapies. The possible barriers in providing alternative therapies in nursing practice was also explored in order to make recommendations to guide professional nurses with regard to alternative therapies in patient care. METHODOLOGY A quantitative exploratory research approach underpinned this study. A survey questionnaire was used to obtain information from professional nurses who had consented to participate. The total population of professional nurses was 1218. A total of 616 questionnaires were distributed to participants at the nine participating hospitals. Three hundred and eighty six (386) questionnaires were returned, which resulted in a 63% response rate. FINDINGS It was evident from the data that professional nurses used various forms of alternative therapies. The results revealed that almost 69% (n=265) used prayer/spiritual healing, followed by 53.9% (n=207) who used nutritional supplements, whilst 51.9% (n=199) used music therapy. Participants rated their satisfaction on the information received regarding alternative therapies in nursing education as follows: prayer/spiritual healing 71.1% (n=271), nutritional supplements 71.7% (n=273), music therapy 57.9% (n=220), massage therapy 46.7% (n=216) and support groups 80.3% (n=306). About two thirds (n=272) felt that alternative therapies was beneficial rather than a threat to patient’s health. However, 60% (n=229) agreed that the use of alternative therapies that were not tested in a scientific manner should be discouraged. More than 80% (n=313) of the sample thought that health professionals should have the ability to advise patients in the clinical setting about the most commonly used alternative therapies. More than half of the sample (n=254) stated that they did encounter patients in the clinical setting who enquired about alternative therapies. Only 39.6% (n=153) stated that they felt confident to advise patients about alternative therapies, whilst 26.7% (n=103) stated that they were unable to do so. As the evidence base for the use of alternative therapies grows, so too does the demand increases for the integration of alternative therapies in nursing education. Nurses being the patient’s advocate need to be well versed regarding the use and safety aspects of alternative therapies.