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Complementary & alternative health care

What do you need to consider?

More often, clients are asking for complementary and alternative health care (CAHC). CAHC includes treatments or interventions not generally considered part of "mainstream" health practice in B.C. "Complementary" practices are those used along with mainstream health care.  "Alternative" practices are used in place of mainstream health care practices.

You have a professional obligation to provide safe, competent nursing care. This duty extends to activities associated with CAHC. Your responsibilities to clients remain the same whether providing complementary, alternative or mainstream nursing care.

Clients trust nurses’ opinions and may ask you for information about specific CAHC practices. You may also recommend or provide care considered complementary or alternative. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • Assist clients to get the information and support needed to make informed decisions about CAHC practices. Help clients understand their health problems and provide them with evidence-based information when discussing CAHC practices. Be aware of how your opinion or recommendation about CAHC can influence clients and the public.
  • Respect clients’ right to choose their treatment, including those considered to be CAHC. The CAHC practices you are involved in should not interfere with related practices or pose a greater risk to client health or safety than usual health practices. Your decision to initiate or participate in a specific CAHC must be evidence-based.
  • Make sure the CAHC practice is within the scope of nursing practice. All or part of a CAHC practice may be a restricted activity under the Health Professions Act. Legislation or policy may also limit the nurse’s authority to independently carry out or participate in a CAHC practice. Do not participate in illegal practices.
  • Collaborate, communicate and consult with other members of the health care team. This includes discussing and documenting both your and the client’s participation in CAHC practices. Document only from first-hand knowledge and for care you provide directly to the client. This includes providing information about, recommending, initiating or participating in CAHC practices.

For more information and related resources, see the Complementary and Alternative Health fact sheet.

 Need help?

For further information on the Standards of Practice or professional practice matters, contact us:

  • Telephone 604.736.7331 ext. 332
  • Toll-free in Canada 1.800.565.6505
  • Email practice@crnbc.ca
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