Hand-stamped notecards covered my dining room table last August. Loving messages were written for a woman who was waiting for a heart. Yesterday she got that heart, and these notecards are going in the mail to decorate her hospital room.
Last August I hand-stamped a dining room table full of notecards the night before a benefit, Picnic with a Purpose. Loving messages were written by guests at said benefit for a woman who was waiting for a heart. Yesterday she got that heart, and next week I'll hand deliver these notecards to her - and to her new, grateful heart.

I work for a hospital that is sponsoring a wellness program that launched today: Attitude of Gratitude.  This self-accountability activity is one that aims to foster a grateful heart.  Tonight I reached out to a dear friend whose mom received the gift of life yesterday - a new heart.  I asked my friend if I could dedicate a blog post to her and to her mother as I reflect on fostering a grateful heart.  I'm so glad she said yes.

Two years ago Saturday I received a call from my friend Tanya.  She had just received the news that her mother needed a heart transplant.  For two years, I have watched Tanya and her mother do everything humanly possible to prepare for receiving this gift of life.  The to-do list was not short, nor for the faint of heart, but even with a heart that was failing her, Terry Olsen took stride to become the best steward she could be for an organ given by another soul.  And her daughter Tanya kept pace at her side.  Let me tell you one of the most heartfelt stories of gratitude I've ever witnessed.

A fellow nurse, I witnessed my friend Tanya read and research with a scientist's eye, the process and procedure she and her mom were preparing for.  She made countless drives with her mom to appointments, often leaving home before sunrise and returning after sunset.  She made and packed sandwiches and snacks to sustain long days of appointments and the miles between home and the facility where things were first scheduled to happen.  Then, she stood by her mother in seeking out a program and facility closer to home to endure transplantation.  This Sunday morning she met me for pancakes just three hours shy of her mom going into surgery to have her heart transplant, and I am so grateful for the window into this journey she has opened for my eyes and heart.  I have witnessed this miracle of organ transplantation through the firsthand account of my gracious friend and her mom, and I am beside myself tonight as I write this account of what it's been to witness this process.

How do you begin to follow-through on, "how can I help?" when you stand by someone who is preparing their mind, body, and spirit for what might be the best or the worst outcome imaginable in the advances of modern medicine?  This friend is the one who will swoop in on any friend to be there when the need arises.  She is the friend who never fails to send written thanks.  When preparing for the benefit I planned with others in our circle of friends, Tanya was the friend who was writing thank you notes to acknowledge the time and energy we were spending weeks before the benefit even occurred.  Little does she know, the gratitude is ours for being let in on this path of seeing what it means to foster a grateful heart.

On this journey to a new heart for her mom, Tanya became an Ambassador for LifeSource, the organization that saves lives through organ and tissue donation, serving communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  Tanya spoke to her first group of critical care nurses recently.  She reflected that many moments in a nurse's day are routine, but they are someone else's once-in-a-lifetime.

The miraculous advances in medicine that provide for transplantation are not every nurse's daily routine.  But one common denominator among nursing peers and our partners in healing is the fact that we are all on our own wellness journey while we deliver care to others.  I'm starting my Attitude of Gratitude challenge with a simple practice that is sure to be a source of personal wellness: a family gratitude journal to adorn our dining room table and conversation.  There are countless (and some elaborate!) examples of gratitude journaling, like this one from Writing Forward.  I spent less than $2 on a traditional composition notebook that is sure to hold a composition that reflects a daily Attitude of Gratitude.

This self-accountable journal practice is dedicated to Tanya, to her mother, and to the donor of Terry's gift of life.  May we all be so fortunate to be touched by stories that instill compassion as we aim to deliver our care with that touch.  To read more moving accounts of donating life, or to become involved in the mission of promoting organ and tissue donation, visit the LifeSource website.   If you have an account of a life-giving donation, of gratitude in practice, or of what's on your mind about nursing, I'd love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment here or reach out to me at: natalie@thereflectivenurse.org

Today I am grateful to know that my dear friend Tanya's mom has a new heart that is beating strong.
Today I am grateful to know that my dear friend Tanya's mom has a new heart that is beating strong.  Terry Olsen, you are the essence of a grateful heart.  Mine is forever touched for knowing both of your hearts.



Jennifer Johnson is a surgical services RN who finds a little levity can go a long way on both sides of health care delivery.
Jennifer Hall Johnson is a surgical services RN who has found that a little levity goes a long way on both sides of health care delivery.

We all have those friends who help us survive the uphill terrain in life with a little laughter to propel the journey.  Jen Johnson was one of those friends who helped me survive nursing school with her quick wit and tireless commitment to create community along the way.  It's no surprise to catch up with her over a decade beyond wearing whites in nursing school together and to find her creating comic community as an escape from the stress of the daily grind.  When Jen isn't working in the OR in her local community, she's traveling the world with Seattle Alliance Outreach or plotting her next steps in raising funds and awareness to combat the widespread affect of cancer.  When I recently caught up with Jen and asked her what was on her mind about nursing, here's what she had to say:

"Last fall, the nursing profession was front and center in the media thanks (or no-thanks) to criticizing comments made on a national talk show by uninformed television hosts.  With that press, nurses (and healthcare workers of all types) came out of the woodwork to state their opinions, good and bad - about our chosen profession.  I have never seen such an outpouring of support for health care workers, and I am grateful for the national spotlight the nursing profession had in the aftermath of said press.  I mean, nursing is a great profession!  Where else can you roll into work in your PJ's and then change into other PJ inspired clothing?  I wear an OR hat at work all day, so that saves a lot of money on grooming supplies.

That said, I have also noticed an influx of negativity regarding nursing, particularly in social media.  I started following a very popular healthcare Facebook site and what I saw alternated between making me proud and inspired, and sad.  I have heard the mantra "nurses eat their young" so many times and by so many people, yet I had not experienced it myself.  What I saw on social media last fall in the flurry of reactions to the aforementioned press was a cacophony of: "Behind my name are X amount of letters Alphabet Bashing", the old "I've been a nurse since (insert year) so don't dispute me because you don't know as much as I do," and various administrators of the aforementioned site arguing the professionalism of certain posts and comments...it was like I was watching the human equivalent of a tiger salamander (in case you didn't get that reference, they literally do eat their young).

I thought about it and realized that I wanted to do something to bring attention to all the positive (and funny) parts of nursing...so nurses and healthcare workers of all types could maybe get a laugh, blow off some steam, and not worry about being blasted by a FB group administrator for violating an unknown (and often changing) line of "professionalism".  A small way to focus on the positive rather than be bogged down by all the negativity.
I don't care what your title or place of employment is, if you work as a nurse, you have stories.  You have seen some bad stuff.  Really bad stuff.  I've had to tell people that their family member needed an emergency surgery after delivery of a stillborn baby.  I've looked into the eyes of a patient who didn't know how far their cancer had spread, held their hand as we walked down the hall to the OR, and as anesthesia took over, said a silent prayer for them.
Heck, I've BEEN the cancer patient.
I was there when my co-worker's mom went into cardiac arrest during an endoscopy.  My co-worker was standing outside the procedure room door as the code was called, and she had to make the decision to call it off after 45 minutes of non-effective CPR.  It's tough stuff.  I'm not telling you guys this so you think I'm Super Nurse or anything.  The point is, if you work in nursing (or health care), you either have seen some earth-shattering events, or it's just a matter of time before you do.  And you have to get up the next day (possibly wearing Hello Kitty pajamas) and go back and do it all over again.
The Joy of Nursing is a Facebook group I created with the intention to create camaraderie (and to blow off some steam) within the healthcare community using humor.  Focusing on the positive and the funny stuff makes the bad stuff easier to handle.  And maybe humor is a vehicle we can take to aid in not taking ourselves so damn seriously."
Jen's FB group is: The Joy of Nursing - she invites you to join her in a chuckle.
The views and opinions expressed by our guest authors and by those who comment on their posts do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of www.thereflectivenurse.com


Crockpots were lined up as far as the eye could see at this week's potluck on our nursing unit.
Crock pots were lined up as far as the eye could see at this week's potluck on our nursing unit.

The thermometer read -8 degrees when I hopped out of my car on Sunday morning to brave the walk from the parking ramp to the hospital entrance.  I ran into two of my nurse colleagues in the stairwell upon arriving.  They were robed in Vikings apparel and each of them had a crock pot in tow.  The home team may not have won this weekend, but our Sunday potluck was a win on many fronts.  The impact of the nursing unit potluck on morale is what's on my mind about nursing, this week.

"I don't even feel like I'm at work," I heard one nurse say as a couple of folded bed-sheets were fluffed open and made to function like fine, white, table linens as we set up the spread in the break room.

"I'm not gonna lie, this turned into a $40 dip," another nurse roared as she stirred her (delicious) buffalo chicken dip.  One of our star clinical support assistants had us hanging on every word and every bite as we savored a sneak preview of his homemade bone broth soup.  American dim sum, we jokingly labeled that moment of taking some quick nibbles on morning break of all the goodness that awaited us on our lunch break.  This, people, is a taste of the palpable energy that is potluck day on a nursing unit.

The unit potluck is an opportunity to dedicate break time and some time on the home-front to prepare a little dose of TLC for the colleagues who affectionately become the work family.  Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and game day in recent weeks on my calendar have been exponentially heightened by the feasts that have come together in the name of camaraderie.  Potluck days are sure to bring an added moment of levity...and whether you're showing up with the chips or the aforementioned $40 dip, your contribution is part of a whole heap of food and fun to be had by all.

I've seen the unit potluck play out in a variety of forms and fashions.  There's the case study of what Mighty Nurse calls, "The Potluck Nurse" - where a unit can count on one brave soul to rally a menu and a mentality for coming together to break, and to break bread.  SignUpGenius can whet your appetite with their rave round-up of 50 Creative Potluck Themes and a modern day version of the break room sign up sheet.  Or, I once worked on a unit where our "potluck nurse" would plan and prepare a sign-up list detailed with everything needed to pull off a feast, divided into equal cost-to-create contributions.

A couple current work-family friends of mine and I have taken our affinity for food-shares to a down-sized potluck concept on our rotation of working every-other weekend.  We created a private group on social media (The Lunch Ladies) to communicate about what's cookin' as we go into our weekend stretch...and then we swap our respective contributions once we get to work.  It's a win-win, because you cook one thing and you end up with three home-cooked dishes to enjoy over the weekend.  Planning to be at the hospital for three consecutive 12-hour shifts (where you are away from home for an average of 14 hours a day) can feel like a business trip where you are prepping your own meals.  And if you enjoy food prep and consumption as much as the three of us do, the variety in the swapping is the cherry on top of this make-ahead-meal method.

Tactics for raising morale on nursing units is well documented in academic journals.  But today's reflection is boiled down to the basics.  There's just nothing quite like a unit potluck (for three or for thirty!) to rally spirits, satiation, and sustainability for a long shift.

What's on your mind about nursing?  Commenting here or on the Facebook post adds to the potluck of thoughts about the work we share.  Or, email me at natalie@thereflectivenurse.com to volunteer a guest blog post to answer this pressing question.




Jennifer Quade, RN, BSN, HNB-BC Board Certified Holistic Nurse Revolutionary Women's Holistic Health Care Holistic Stress Management Instructor
This week's guest blog reflection is written by Jennifer Quade, RN, BSN, HNB-BC.  Jennifer is a Board Certified Holistic Nurse with a passion for traditional healing and wisdom. She runs a thriving practice in Minneapolis, helping people find balance through self care.

Hi Natalie! Thanks for your invitation to be a guest on your blog. I really believe having dialogues about our practices is super important to keep us connected, cared for and inspired as we do our work.

So what is on my mind about nursing?

Self care.

I personally feel that this might be the most foundational, important aspect of nursing.  If we don’t give ourselves excellent care, it’s nearly impossible to give others our best.  Do you know the feeling of trying to give from an empty gas tank? I bet you do...and it doesn’t feel so great. I’ve been there...and I have to constantly be on alert to make sure I’m not slipping back into over-giving. When I feel irritable, depressed, or experience body pains, I know it’s time for some serious self care. No more "sucking it up" or dealing with the imbalances.

I have been a nurse for 10 years.  After my first few years of working on the Float Team at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, I was burning out because I truly didn’t know how to care for myself at the level that I was giving. That’s why I embarked on my own healing journey. I have dedicated my life and my private practice to learning how to care for myself, to staying in balance, and to supporting other women, caregivers, and nurses to do the same.

Why? Because I’m interested in living a vibrant life...living my dream. I want to see nurses fully realizing their dreams, too. It has to begin with self care, which includes self awareness..."know thyself." What do you want? What do you need?

Self care...it sounds like a simple concept, but it can actually be pretty difficult to put into practice, especially when there are so many demands on our time and energy. And since nurses are amazing and are generally good at just about everything (if I do say so myself), the demands are increased! Everyone wants a piece of the action.

Take a moment to consider where your creative energy goes. Be honest with yourself. Reflect on this: am I making myself a priority?  

After years of practicing basic self care techniques and receiving support from integrative therapy professionals and traditional healers, it became clear to me that what I really wanted in my heart of hearts is to take an extended time away from the winter to travel south. After 5 years of writing about it, praying about it, talking with friends who have done it, and saving for it...it’s happening. In one week I leave for a three-month, extended trip to Costa Rica, Columbia, and Hawaii.

I’m thrilled that I have found a way to make this dream come true and I’m also excited about what this will mean for my practice and my work. I have been preparing to launch three signature speaking programs especially for nurses and caregivers. I’ll be taking time on my journey to put final touches on them so I can begin to share this message of mind-body-spirit emotional healing and self care with larger audiences.

Coming to a hospital near you in 2016:

Become the Eye of the Hurricane: Managing Stress Amidst Chaos

The Art of Self Care for Nurses

Stress & Human Spirituality

Taking three months away from my daily work is something I have never done before, so of course I have had to navigate fears and doubts along the way. Will my clients receive what they need while I’m away? Can I afford it? Am I being selfish? And more...

When these thoughts and fears arise, I take a deep, soft, belly breath. I feel my heart...and I remember why I am taking this time for myself: to fill my fuel tank so I have more to give upon my return, to take space to create my speaking programs from my center, to study with indigenous healers along the way, and to have fun. I'm realizing I can't afford NOT to do this for myself!

Let’s face it -- nursing can be (and often is) intense and exhausting. But we do it, because at the core, we have hearts of service. It is vitally important that we tend to our hearts.

Consider reflecting on the following:

  • What is your heart calling for?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change in your life?
  • What is one simple self care practice you can weave into your day today?

Also, consider looking at the resources page on my site. You will find a generous list of resources for self care. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in connecting with me about my speaking programs, please visit my website.

Take Care and Happy New Year!

Jennifer Quade, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Board Certified Holistic Nurse
Revolutionary Women's Holistic Health Care

Holistic Stress Management Instructor

The views and opinions expressed by our guest authors and by those who comment on their posts do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of www.thereflectivenurse.com


A cherished personalized necklace from a crafty friend will forever remind me of the power of this one little word in 2015.
A cherished, personalized necklace from a crafty friend will forever remind me of the power of this one little word in 2015.

It's the final hour of 2015.  Although my husband and I are spending New Year's Eve in different locales for the first time in over 10 years...I'm in a happy place: reflecting and writing.  He's at a family wedding on the East Coast, and upon tucking our daughter in, I settled in with my hot date (my laptop) to recount some highlights of 2015 and to dream up some highlights yet to unfold in 2016.  The present moment is so quiet, all I can hear is the calendar page turning from 2015 to 2016.

For three years now, instead of amassing New Year's Resolutions, I've picked One Little Word a la Ali Edwards' online class.  The idea is to pick a word that represents what you want to attract more of in your life.  The online course delivers prompts on the first of each month to spark ways to live with your word through journaling, activities, and reflection as you go about your daily life.  My 2015 word was reflect - and I dare say, I rocked it.

Santa stuffed my stocking with some cards to help me bring others into the forum I've created to reflect and connect on practice.
Santa stuffed my stocking with some business cards to help me bring others into the forum I've created to reflect and connect on practice.

I've dreamed about creating a forum for nurses to connect and reflect on practice since I was a student nurse.  Nursing school was way off the grid from my undergraduate degree (communication with an English writing minor). My exposure to nursing in my work as a volunteer coordinator (for the pediatric hospital where I am now employed as a staff nurse) inspired my passion for this profession.  Practicing in other settings, earning my MSN, teaching, and advising students in advanced degree programs are opportunities I've had along my path to open my eyes and heart to some incredible nurses and partners in healing who further propelled my desire to start something I believed I could do.  So I did it!  This year I built a website, a blog, and a community of nurses and our partners in healing to grow the reflections and connections that deepen our relationship to practice.  It's been great fun - and it's only just begun!

The Reflective Nurse forum has served as a springboard for me to host nursing salons in my home, to dabble in blogging, and to collaborate with others who wish to enhance practice in between shifts and amidst the other joys and challenges in life.  I've had a rough couple months recovering from pneumonia in November, so I recently reached out to one of my favorite holistic health nurses (Jen Quade) to tap into her wisdom surrounding holistic compliments to Western medicine.  The outreach  lead to a collaborative effort to host an event in December featuring a class she designed.  Stay tuned for more offerings in this vein in 2016!

If you are interested in upcoming CEU-adventures, stay tuned to the blog or ask to be on The Reflective Nurse mailing list by emailing me at: natalie@thereflectivenurse.com

My article, The Nursing Salon Experience: A Tale of Hosting Conversations, appears in Creative Nursing, Volume 21, Issue 4. 2015.
My article, The Nursing Salon Experience: A Tale of Hosting Conversations, appears in Creative Nursing, Volume 21, Issue 4. 2015.

Dabbling with my blog got me warmed up to live my dream of becoming published in 2015.  I was tickled to be invited to submit an article to my favorite professional journal, Creative Nursing.  This exercise provided me with a platform to reflect on what's inspired and sustained my professional pursuits and it got me in back in touch with a couple key mentors.  When I went to school for communication and writing, I remember thinking, "now I just need something meaningful to talk and write about."  Insert nursing career, here.

The Writing Habit was a class-offering by Rosanne Bane at The Loft Literary Center this past summer that reignited my love of reading and writing.  What I learned in class primed my pump for my 2016 One Little Word: WRITE.  Being a part of a writing community reminded me that reading and writing are two of my most cherished joys.  Upon asking another writer what she does to sharpen her writing skills, she answered, "I read" -- insert 'aha' moment, here!

Three nurse-blogs I follow include:

Nurse Eye Roll, Marie Manthey's Nursing Salon, and my new favorite, End of Earth Nurse.  I'm inspired by these ladies.  Reading what they have to say about our profession encourages me to ask more colleagues and partners in healing the key question we ask and answer at nursing salons I host and attend: "What's on your mind about nursing?"

The Reflective Nurse is now seeking guest bloggers to join and spark more conversation around the reflections and connections we make in our profession and practice.  I'd love to read your response to, "What's on your mind about nursing?"  Please email me at: natalie@thereflectivenurse.com to volunteer your voice!

A snapshot from The Reflective Nurse conversation salon in July 2015 -- we may not be able to carve a whole chicken together on the blog but we can still ask and answer the question, "What's on your mind about nursing?"
A snapshot from The Reflective Nurse conversation salon in July 2015 -- we may not be able to carve a whole chicken together on the blog but we can still ask and answer the question, "What's on your mind about nursing?"

In the meantime, look forward to guest posts from three dynamic and wandering nurses during the month of January...intrigued?  You should be!  I'm excited to feature posts from one nurse who is about to take the expansive, enriching, hiatus of her dreams, from another nurse who uses humor as an escape in her daily grind, and mission trips around the world in her vacation time, and finally, from a young nurse who has found a way to merge her dreams of practicing nursing AND yoga on new horizons beyond her wildest dreams.

Happy New Year!  I've effectively reflected and written my way into 2016...bliss.  Join me for more in the coming year.