Energy Theory and Nursing

Dr. Carl O. Helvie is an RN who has developed a new theory for the practice of nursing. Dr. Helvie specializes in alternative medicine treatments and his theory is designed to support this type of care. However, his nursing theory can be applied to any type of nursing care. He holds a PhD in nursing practice.

Alternative medical treatment involves the use of energy to treat the client. Depending on the treatment, the practitioner may be releasing blocks to the body’s natural energy paths, increasing the body’s energy to respond to an illness or improving the body’s general state of being. Energy is the key to alternative nursing care.

Drawing upon his lifetime of practice in the nursing field, Dr. Helvie developed his theory around 8 points of action. These 8 points are all necessary to make a successful intervention using the energy theory. This nurse theorist first used his theory on individuals, families and then community health nursing. His theory consists of the following 8 points:

1.Humans are open energy systems.
2. The environment of each human is energy.
3. Each person exchanges energy with the environment.
4. All persons continually try to adapt holistically to exchanges of energy.
5. Energy needs vary with time and each situation.
6. Adaptation to energy exchanges determines the level of health of each person.
7. As humans move toward illness, they usually require help to regain their former level of energy.
8. Health practitioners assist high-risk individuals to maintain or regain holistic exchange of energy.

Humans Are Open Energy Systems

Each person has three types of energy operating simultaneously. These are bound, kinetic and potential energy. Bound energy is the parts of the body that form it, such as cells, organs and systems. Kinetic energy is the energy that flows through the body such as blood sugar or oxygen. Potential energy is stored energy systems that the body can draw on for future use. An open energy system draws on the environment to produce energy. Each person requires input from the environment to provide all the body’s energy needs.

Environment of Humans is Energy

Besides the internal energy of each individual, they are also surrounded by energy outside of their bodies. This energy can be broken up into different types of energy in the environment, even though they are related to each other. These energies are: chemical, physical, psychological and biological. Chemical energy is found in food, oxygen, pollutants, medicine, cigarettes and other compounds that can be ingested. Physical energy is found in entities such as heat, light, radiation and wind. Biological energy is found in living systems such as bacteria, animals, plants, fungi, and allergens. Psychological energy is found in such things as love, hate, prayer, healing actions or familial support. A community has its own energy found in the services and support available for the individual.

Exchanging Energy with the Environment

When each us exchanges energy with the environment, the exchange centers on input and output. The input is what we take in from the environment. This can be food, heat, light, infections, anger, love or any other aspect that our bodies take in. The other consideration is the output, which can run to carbon dioxide, feces, sweat, pollution and spit. One way to improve energy flow is to look at the input and output and measure it against know standards when the client was healthy.

Trying to Adapt to Energy Change

All humans experience changes to their environment. Negative change would be those changes that upset the healthy state of the body such as injury, illness, job loss, or unwanted changes to a relationship. Negative change is usually not wanted or chosen by the individual involved. Positive change would be those changes that do change the body, yet they are welcomed by the individual. Such things as a new job, weight loss, and learning can all lead to change perceived as welcome by the individual. Negative or positive change can necessitate temporary changes that last until the body is restored to its normal condition. Negative and positive change can be good or bad. This is determined by the response to this change which is indicated by the energy flows that the body is able to generate.

Energy Needs Vary with Each Situation

Different stages of life require different inputs and generate different outputs. Most of these stages are documented, and it is known what to expect. For example, it is known what changes to energy a pregnant woman needs vs. a young woman who is not pregnant. An elderly person will often eat much less than a busy young person who is also an athlete. The ability to obtain the needed energy that these changes require can be a challenge in some situations. This can result in the body performing at less than the ideal energy peak. Some changes can lead to bodily damage that is so severe the body cannot adapt to it, even with support.

Adaption to Change Determines Health

Over time, each individual experiences shortages and excesses of energy. Their response to these changes determines where on the health continuum a person lands. They may move for a short time down the continuum to less healthy and then return on their own to normal or with medical intervention to their previous state. However, if someone has more than one negative change at a time, such as having bronchitis with an already compromised lung system, the person may never be able to move back toward their previous healthy condition.

Continuum Movement Usually Requires Assistance

Once a person has moved down the continuum to the unhealthy side, the individual may require assistance to return to their previous state of health. This may be from a health practitioner or it could be from a family or community member. Usually, some sort of help is needed to return the body’s energy to normal. If the body could adapt on its own, it will usually do so in a short period of time. The longer the body spends in an unhealthy position on the health continuum, the more likely they are to need assistance.

Health Practitioners Need to Assist High-Risk Individuals

Health workers such as nurses should be assisting those individuals that are most high-risk at being unable to return to a normal condition on their own. This becomes apparent from the history of the client and reactions of clients in a similar position. Nurses should make sure that needy clients receive the additional care that they require vs. someone who has a temporary disfunction.

The Nursing Process

To provide care using the energy theory, nurses apply the nursing process. Using the energy theory, the first step of the process is to obtain a past history including their past problems with energy exchange. They also discus the client’s current level of energy exchange and energy level.

Next, the client is assessed by the nurse. This involves taking data about the client and then comparing them to standard norms. This assessment determines where on the health continuum the patient currently stands. Normal would be in the middle; a movement to either end indicates an over supply of energy or a lack of energy being absorbed by the body.

Once the state of the patient’s energy level is quantified, the nurse makes one or more diagnoses concerning the client. From these, goals and objectives are designed that will be used to return the client to health or at least return the client to the best state possible. The goals and objectives are developed with the client in mind, as he or she must be able to fulfill the goals to meet the objectives.

At the end of the treatment process, the nurse looks at the success of the interaction with the client and uses these results to apply to the next interaction. Successful goals should be carried forward; goals that were unobtainable should be dropped by the nurse in future cases.

Dr.Carl O. Helvie’s energy theory can be used with any use of the nursing process. However, it is most effective for alternative therapists who base their treatments on energy flowing through the body. This includes nurses, herbalists, acupuncturists, healers, physicians and chiropractors.


Helvie, C. (1998) Advanced Practice Nursing in the Community, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publishing Co.