Gut check selfie.
Gut-check selfie.  Listening for bowel sounds in the lower left quadrant on post-op day one...been there, done that.

Admit it.  If you're a nurse, you've probably busted your stethoscope out to listen to your kid, your spouse...and maybe even yourself?  I recently caught myself - and caught up with myself in the same moment.

Here's the backstory.  I've logged more time as a patient than as a nurse in the last six months, to include a surprise cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) on April 1 - no foolin'.  Last week at my post-hospital follow-up appointment, my Primary Care Provider suggested I seek out a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program for its scientifically proven benefits for others who have struggled with the chronic issues I've been wrestling: asthma, migraines, and GI distress.  I'm committed to a nursing practice that starts with self care, so the notion of tapping into an internal resource to help heal what's ailing (among countless other benefits) had immediate appeal.  Add to that, two friends and nurse colleagues I hold in high regard have taken MBSR training and offer rave reviews...stay tuned for a guest post later this week!

There are upwards of 700 venues to take MBSR, worldwide.  Fluidity in time, cost, and flexibility are paramount for my participation at this juncture.  After a little surfing, I've landed on an online venue that is modeled after the University of Massachusetts Medical School's program founded by Jon-Kabat-Zinn, generously offered at no cost by a proclaimed, fully certified MBSR instructor.  Thank you, Dave Potter at Palouse Mindfulness for sharing this gift!
Foreshadowing?  Pulling this title forward on my bookshelf among other activities to get in the mindfulness mood this week.  Note, this is not required text for the MBSR training.
I've started printing my MBSR Manual and reacquainting myself with the study of mindfulness this week - to include dusting off a book in my home library that I bought some 22 years ago, Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, referenced founder of The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine's Stress Reduction Clinic, the place of origin of MBSR.
Care to join me on this 8-week online training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction? 

The price is right (free!) and you can access the course content and practices from anywhere.  This is my first foray into creating a discussion group around a topic that matters to me personally and professionally.  I'd love some company (and accountability) for the ride!

You can follow the highlighted links above to the free online course offering or seek out a venue or offering that resonates with you.  As I mentioned, there are upward of 700 venues, many offering live, instructor lead content and many offering CEUs (with potential for reimbursement for those who have education dollars to spend).

I plan to start my 8-week course this coming Sunday, April 17.  I'm told to account for about 30 minutes of practice per day during the two-month training, and to include a little extra time for watching video resources provided on 'day one' of each new week in the program.

Feel free to comment here, on the Facebook post, or email me at: to jump into the MBSR dialogue at any time over the next couple months!  I'll be creating a Facebook group to log weekly progress and anecdotal findings along this 8-week path to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  Please reach out in any of the aforementioned routes to connect and request an invitation to the group.

Caregiver stress is real.  We can easily lose sight of self-care as we dole it out to others.  Hindsight, my tenacity in pushing through some of my own health issues to keep caring for others escalated matters to a state of health that was sub-par to the outcomes I aspire to deliver others.  As a nurse mentor recently reminded me, "You can't pour from and empty cup.  Take care of yourself first."

I think that nurses and caregivers of all kinds get very good at operating with our gas lights on.  Join me for this opportunity to fill the tank and to stop running on fumes.  Here's to starting best practice with our own self-care!


PS: You need not be a nurse to join this dialogue or MBSR training!

Auscultation serves the science of nursing, and listening serves the art.
When I listened to my heart this fine Valentine's Day, I heard poetry.

My passion for playing with words is how I've come to reflect on practice with this blog.  Today is Valentine's Day, so I'm inclined to reach for poetic inspiration.  I had so much fun scratching out the following haiku:

Reach out, stethoscope:

extending from ears to heart,

listen to this life.

Nursing is often described as a science and an art.  Science drives the need to re-certify in basic life support every couple of years. I like to think that having a practice for creative expression is equally important.

I know a lot of nurses (and partners in healing) who have a creative practice outside of their professional practice.  Knitters, quilters, scrap-bookers, painters, chefs, and others.  Have you discovered how your creative expression overlaps with your professional practice?

An explanation and how-to on haiku is offered on a favorite writer's resource of mine: Creative Writing Now.  Check it out and give your hand in poetry a whirl with three little lines inspired by Japanese verse.  I love hearing from readers.  Share your prose or poetry here or email to:


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:

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.