Social and spiritual roots of care

Development of a holistic, integrative culture of care

As a worldwide movement in the field of professional nursing care, it requires not only mutual perception, advice and support, but also agreement on common quality standards in practice, training and research. The central location for this task is the International Nursing Care Congress, which is held in Dornach in Switzerland every two years at the Goetheanum. This is the place where employees from the anthroposophic nursing world meet on the one hand, while on the other hand the anthroposophic nursing impulse presents itself to the general professional public.

The anthroposophic nursing impulse has evolved parallel to Anthroposophic Medicine since 1921. There are now an estimated 3,000 professional nurses worldwide in anthroposophical clinics, retirement homes, orthopaedagogical and social therapy facilities and outpatient care services. Nurses in 16 countries have committed themselves to the anthroposophic nursing impulse. In the International Forum for Anthroposophic Nursing (IFAN) they form a network consisting of approximately 60 representatives. There are national anthroposophic nursing associations in nine countries which have joined forces to form the International Council of Anthroposophic Nursing (ICANA). The aim of these amalgamations is to develop a holistic, integrative culture of care.

The care congresses at the Goetheanum have been investigating the social and spiritual roots of care since the year 2000 – every year under a specific motto. It is above all the inherent attitude which each and every nurse has towards the patient, resident, person being looked after or requiring care which is a core area of the nursing profession. However, these questions of the nurse's attitude are rarely discussed, which is why this congress format is probably the only one of its kind in the world in the field of care.

The nursing care congresses cover a wide range of specialist aspects. Working groups are offered for the care of the sick, the elderly and children, as well as for specialisations in the fields of oncology, palliative care, dementia care or intensive care. Of particular importance are the practical formats for rhythmic liniments, baths, poultices and packings that form an integral part of the congresses.

The International Nursing Care Congress at the Goetheanum is the starting point for new initiatives worldwide. It encourages nurses to start and further develop initiatives in their own countries. Without this congress, worldwide anthroposophic nursing would not have a physical centre.


The International Forum for Anthroposophic Nursing (IFAN)

The International Forum for Anthroposophic Nursing (IFAN) includes initiatives from 16 countries worldwide. Examples of these are the national professional associations, education and training facilities, outpatient care services and experts in anthroposophic nursing. The IFAN is a subdivision of the Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science, Goetheanum, which in turn represents the anthroposophic medical impulse worldwide. The IFAN is a member of the International Coordination of Anthroposophic Medicine (IKAM), which maintains the cooperation between the various health and medical professions in the field of Anthroposophic Medicine all over the world.

Holistic and Integrative Care

Holistic care does not consider the individual alone with their symptoms or nursing dependencies, but develops methods of individual and social health promotion. External applications, rhythmic liniments and methods for maintaining a healthy individual lifestyle are just as important as the structuring of emotional and social conditions for a self-determined, free life. The focus of the ethical convictions and attitudes of anthroposophic care is an active commitment to the right of sick or disabled individuals or those who are dependent on care to participate in society and undergo personal development.

Integrative care means that on the one hand the traditional methods of care and care cultures are observed in the various regions of the world. On the other hand, the findings of modern nursing science, as well as the approaches of Anthroposophic Medicine that go beyond these, are also included. For example, Anthroposophic Nursing attempts to support the individual in the various phases of their life not only with respect to their physical health needs, but also their mental and spiritual ones.

What phases has the congress passed through so far?

Under the motto "Spirituality in nursing care" with specific subtopics in each case, eight congresses have been organised so far.

2000    Spirituality in nursing
2002    The humanly possible is more than just the technically feasible
2004    Love and healing
2006    Time in nursing
2008    Beauty, authenticity and strength for innovation
2010    What can Anthroposophic Nursing achieve?
2012    Wounding and healing
2014    Doing good

What are the funds of the MAHLE FOUNDATION specifically used for?

The costs of the organisation and implementation of the congresses cannot be covered by the attendance fees alone. Without support for travel expenses and free tickets for participants from countries with low wages, an international congress of this format would be inconceivable. Only through the support of sponsors and foundations has such a series of conferences been made possible. The funding of the MAHLE FOUNDATION has contributed significantly to the effectiveness and the preservation of this series of events.


The next congress is planned for 2017. Its contents will be taking a new direction, as the aim is not to invite only professional nursing staff, but also individuals who take care of their family members and people who are themselves acutely dependent on care. Throughout the world of medicine there are discussions on how to involve patients to a greater extent and more actively in designing the treatment processes. The objective must be to work more intensively with family members and voluntary helpers and develop common future formats.