Family Connection

FamilyMy husband Steve is doing well. He had a CT scan of chest and abdomen this morning and this afternoon we will see the bladder cancer specialist to discuss the results. He is a little tired but feels good generally. I do my best to take care of him but I am tired and my vision pulsing appears to be worsening this week. We are fortunate to have our grandson here to drive us to appointments.

Steve has had lots of people take care of him, since he spent 5 days in ICU. He said the most important part of care was the human connection. He said the best nurses are the ones who connected with him, were in the present moment, and did not have a personal agenda. Happily, almost all of his nurses and care providers exhibited those qualities.

A word about families of patients. Most of Steve’s care providers treated me very well. There was just  one time I got the runaround when Steve was in surgery. My daughter and I went to ICU to  see if he was out of surgery  yet and he was not. We proceeded to the surgery waiting room and called the hospital operator from there. She  said Steve was already out of surgery and in ICU. I told her no, I didn’t think so. She checked again and said he was out of surgery and the doctor would come right out to talk to us. That was good news. AN HOUR LATER the doctor had not shown up so I called the operator again. I was very concerned and was picturing a negative scenario. She said sorry, but the doctor was in surgery with another patient. She did not know why he didn’t come talk to us. She finally, as a last resort, connected me to the Recovery Room. The nurse there said that my husband was still in surgery! Why did nobody else know that? A half hour later the doctor spoke to us and all was well. My learning point of this story is that family members can get distraught while waiting for their loved ones in surgery. They are traveling the journey together with “the patient.”  There should be systems in place that keep the loved ones in the loop. I have always taught my nursing students that family members are included as part of patient care. We should care for family members (and visiting friends) the way we care for patients. Surgery and illness are family events.

The Peaceful Pelican

PelicanCountdown to surgery: 6 days to go. The last two days I have been super busy at work getting ready to take a couple months off. I am surrounded with loving, concerned and positive people. I am a blessed woman. A couple of people asked me today if I was nervous. I am not nervous in the least. I have been given a gift of peace and calmness. Not sure why I have been given this great gift, but I will just take it and say thanks. Maintaining a feeling of peace is effortless. It is just “there” for me.
Since  my first symptoms appeared I have had insomnia. Last night I slept very well and had a wonderful dream. I was at a holistic nursing conference with new nurse friends. A conference symbolizes learning and nurses symbolize healing and caring. We were in a car traveling to reach the top of a mountain so we could hike down it and back to the conference. That was an interesting symbol – why would I want to hike down the mountain instead of up the mountain? Could the mountain symbolize the tumor or surgery and hiking down symbolize my readiness to get over the experience and continue learning (symbolized by the conference)? In the dream I looked out the window of the car and saw a beautiful, huge, very white pelican land on the water in the bay next to the road. It was majestic and spread its wings in a loving sort of heart-shaped way. Looking at it made me feel loved and safe and peaceful. I looked at the nurses I was with and knew they did not see it and I told them I saw a pelican. It seemed important for me to let them know I had seen it..This pelican image has stayed with me all day and when people ask me how I’m doing or if I am nervous about the surgery, I visualize the pelican and I am happy, calm and peaceful. I see the pelican floating peacefully on the calm water. Emotions are often represented by water in dreams. This symbol goes along with the symbol of “sailing through” this experience that I mentioned in another blog.  I imagine the water being safe and calm, which I can use to calm myself if needed. But so far, I don’t seem to need calming. The loving, peaceful pelican symbol is just “there” for me, a part of my inner being. Is that cool or what??

The Healing Power of Love

Valentines Day Postcard with HeartsI am on my way to Kennebunkport, Maine where I will presenting a plenary session at the New England Holistic Nursing Conference. My theme is about co-creating the future of nursing, holistically, and I am excited about it. I have been looking over my presentation and a quote by Steve Chandler really sticks out for me: “Darkness isn’t anything. It is the absence of light. Light is something! You can bring the light and there is no darkness. In just the same way, fear isn’t anything. Fear is merely the absence of love. If you can bring enough love, there is no more fear.” This goes along with the quote from Rumi: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  Love has the power to heal. If we love others, and love ourselves, we are healers and the healed. We just need to get out of our own way and let the love and healing in. The same can be said about our profession, our workplace and our families. We can co-create our futures holistically by being open to the love we already have.

Holistic or Integrative?

charlie-embracing-lifeI had a great conversation with a holistic nurse yesterday who has a book about integrative nursing coming out in December. We talked about the difference between the terms holistic and integrative. It’s been interesting how terminology has changed in the past few decades. It all started out as allopathic medicine vs. complementary/alternative medicine. Then there was a discussion about traditional vs. non-traditional medicine. That was just plain confusing because no one knew what was traditional. I grew up with the tradition of going to our family physician, so allopathic medicine was traditional to me. Others grew up using herbs and natural remedies (yet another term that causes confusion) so they think of alternative healing methods as traditional.

The other challenge in this discussion about terms is the use of the word medicine. My understanding is that physicians practice medicine. So if I am a non-physician who uses massage, music therapy, or natural remedies, it would be incorrect to say  that I am practicing complementary or  alternative medicine, or even integrative medicine. As a nurse, I don’t practice medicine. I practice nursing within the healthcare field. With all these terms flying around, it is no wonder our healthcare system is in need of repair. We can’t even agree on semantics!

Back to holistic nursing vs. integrative nursing. Let me just say that holistic nursing is a way of being with a person, taking into account their entire being, including mind, body, spirit and environment. Integrative nursing focuses more on a way of doing or practicing nursing, taking into account all of the options for treatment, including allopathic treatments and non-allopathic treatments. As a holistic nurse, I want to be able to have a wide variety of treatment options for my patients. So I guess I am practicing holistic integrative nursing. Or integrative holistic health care. Or…. What new words will we come up with in the coming decades to describe exactly what we do? This is an age-old challenge for nurses. Patients know that nurses make a difference, but nurses have trouble describing what we do. And if we can’t describe it, then it is hard to get paid for doing it, and it is hard for nursing to continue to move forward and so what we were educated to do. Now, are you as confused as I am?

The picture I have posted with this blog is Charlie McGuire, the founder of the American Holistic Nurses Association. I know when she founded the organization 33 years ago, these same questions about words were discussed. I really like how her hands are open to the possibilities…


Holistic Nurses

AHNA Past PresidentsAs I contemplate Nurses Week, I am reminded of the many nurses I have met while I have been involved with the American Holistic Nurses Association. I came across this picture of three past presidents of AHNA: Veda Andrus, Deanne Aime, and Lynn Keegan. I will soon join the ranks of past presidents and feel inadequate and humbled to be in their company. Their servant-leadership is transformational  and I so admire their energy, love and dedication to improving nursing care for all. We can all be leaders in our own way, with our own style, and with a profound influence. It is time for nurses to find our voices and speak our truth. Thanks to all nurses. We are all leaders.

In the Shadow of Nightingale

Florence NIghtingaleIn honor of National Nurses Week I have been looking at some pictures of nurses and came across this one of an attendee at the 2009 American Holistic Nurses Association conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  I assume she is a nurse. As I view the photo I am struck by how the shadow on the wall reminds me of Florence Nightingale. Nightingale was a statistician and prolific writer and this photo evokes the spirit of scholarly inquiry and reform that Nightingale represented. Nurses not only help the helpless and give hope to the hopeless, we base our care on sound evidence. I am indebted to those nurses who have gone before me and in whose shadow I practice. Please join me in participating in a Nightingale Moment on May 12 at noon your time. Perhaps just take a breath and give thanks to those who have done so much to improve all of our lives.

Celebrating Nurses

DancersIn honor of National Nurses Week, I have been looking through my photos for interesting pictures of nurses. This one is from the American Holistic Nurses Association annual meeting in Snowbird, Utah last June. It shows nurses having fun and letting loose. Self care is so important for nurses and everyone else. Laughter really is the best medicine. Every year the AHNA conference always includes some “nurture the nurse” time to remind us to intentionally care for ourselves if we want to care for others.And I can’t think of a better way to care of myself than dancing and laughter with friends. Well, there’s also meditation, reading a good book, napping, hiking, exercise, positive thinking, getting a massage…. Taking care of myself is a big job!

Happy Nurses Week

HNYHappy Nurses Week! It has been my pleasure to work with outstanding nurses in my career. As president of the American Holistic Nurses Association I have been inspired by the recipients of the Holistic Nurse of the Year award, many pictured here. They exemplify the caring art of nursing, informed by evidence and best practices. They have improved the lives of not only their patients, but other nurses who look to them as examples of outstanding nursing practice, research and education. I will look through my pictures this week and post faces of compassion and caring. Faces of nurses.

People are Not Cars and Nurses are Not Mechanics

Scripps Glenda & SharonI just returned from the Scripps Holistic Nursing Conference in San Diego and had a great time. Sharon Murnane (pictured) and I spoke to a couple hundred practicing nurses, mostly from California, and was uplifted and energized. Two themes emerged over the two-day event. First, many nurses talked about how they were disappointed in the lack of real caring that takes place in our current health care system. One nurse said she got in trouble if she spent too much time with her patients. Another nurse said the whole system she worked with was driven by money and not the best interest of patients. Many nurses yearned to get back to the heart of nursing by using interventions such as presencing, listening, massage, non-judgment  and having time to support family members. Many of them agreed with my saying, “People are not cars and nurses are not mechanics.” Nurses are healers. It is time to change the health care system to allow nurses to embrace the healing tradition started by Florence Nightingale.

The second theme was certification. Many nurses wanted to know how to be certified as a holistic nurse. If you are a nurse and would like to be a  board certified, visit the website of the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. I also strongly recommend you join the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). The AHNA is 32 years old and has lots of resources to help you prepare for certification.