Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies

It is widely regarded that using complementary therapies in conjunction with conventional medical care can improve a patient’s health and well being.

There are certain considerations that need to be taken before practicing a complementary therapy.

On this page you can find information on:

  • advertising
  • choosing a complementary therapies course
  • things to consider before commencing therapy.


The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code: Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses and Midwives (2015) states that you must:

21. Uphold your position as a registered nurse or midwife.

To achieve this, you must: 

21.3 act with honesty and integrity in any financial dealings you have with everyone you have a professional relationship with, including people in your care 

21.4 make sure that any advertisements, publications or published material you produce or have produced for your professional services are accurate, responsible, and ethical, do not mislead or exploit vulnerabilities and accurately reflect your relevant skills, experience and qualifications 

21.5 never use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health.

Here, the emphasis is on not misleading the public, and making it clear which services are being provided.

The RCN considers it entirely reasonable for a nurse to use business cards that may read, for example:

  • name of NMC registrant 
  • RGN RMN 
  • aromatherapist. 

However, if the nurse is not actively practicing as a nurse then this should not be stated on a business card as it could be misleading.

Choosing a complementary therapy course

The RCN does not endorse any specific complementary therapy courses.

You should however consider the following when choosing a course:

  • if the course is validated by an examining or professional body who provide a qualification 
  • wherever possible, discuss potential courses with colleagues who have qualified in this field. 

The course should include:

  • appropriately qualified lecturers 
  • a sensible tutor/pupil ratio 
  • supervised clinical practice 
  • support for the trainee therapist 
  • anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology 
  • record keeping and data protection 
  • a practical and theoretical examination 
  • counselling/communication and self development skills training 
  • insurance
  • basic management and business skills, and  
  • an holistic approach. 

Further useful information can be found from a number of bodies accrediting complementary therapies, such as:

Things to consider before commencing therapy

The new NMC Code states that you must preserve safety and:

6. Always practise in line with the best available evidence

To achieve this, you must:

6.1 make sure that any information or advice given is evidence-based, including information relating to using any healthcare products or services, and

6.2 maintain the knowledge and skills you need for safe and effective practice.

In every case you must have considered the appropriateness of the complementary therapy to both the condition of the patient and any co-existing treatments.

It is essential that the patient is aware of the purpose of the therapy and its effects, that you have assessed their understanding and that they give informed consent. See: Principles of consent.

All complementary and alternative medicines should be recorded alongside other medicinal products and prescribed on patient prescription charts. You need to ensure your employer has accepted vicarious liability for any complementary/alternative therapy you may undertake or that you have indemnity cover for your practice.

RCN indemnity scheme and complementary therapies

Details of the RCN indemnity scheme can be found in the legal help section of the website. The RCN will only indemnify practitioners using complementary therapies as part of their nursing practice or as volunteers not as their sole employment. In addition while we acknowledge that many people benefit from a variety of therapies we only cover those therapies stated on page 13 of the indemnity scheme information.

Professional lead for complementary therapies: