Tomorrow I have the honor of presenting a talk to a group of nurses in the AD to BSN program at Augsburg College. I was asked to speak about how I've integrated self-care in my nursing practice to include hosting my blog and nursing salons. I drew inspiration from Socrates', "Know thyself" quotation to explain how honing a reflective practice feeds self care, and ultimately optimizes outcomes for the patients and families we serve.
Today I'm asking: How have YOU integrated self care in your practice?
Feel free to comment or connect here or by reaching out to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I started hosting nursing salons and this hobby blog to curate reflections from nurses and our partners in healing. Figurative canvases, the venue for a nursing salon or the blank page of an unwritten blog post are spaces to create conversation starters. Marie Manthey, one of my many dear mentors, often closes her nursing salons by saying, "Conversations change people, and people change the world."
Last week I met Regina Holliday at the Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety (MAPS) Conference. Regina is starting conversations that are bound to change the world. She was the opening keynote speaker, and I first spied her on the side of the ballroom, wearing a hand-painted jacket and wielding a paintbrush like a magic wand. I never snapped a picture of her in action, but I did my best to create a rendition of her presence with a little watercolor wanderlust of my own this weekend. I processed her message while I crafted an expression of gratitude for her talk at the conference and for the conversations she is starting with The Walking Gallery, a movement you can watch in a mini doc on Vimeo by Eideon Film: The Walking Gallery of Healthcare.
Regina courageously recounted the story of her late husband Fred in her opening keynote speech at the 2016 MAPS Conference. More, Regina shared her steps to answer the compelling call to grow into the brave, bold, patient rights advocate she is today. Just ask her about her "Little Miss A Type Personality" jacket and how she embraced the moniker to start that conversation.
Regina painted on the sidelines of meeting rooms all day following the keynote she delivered, chiming in to participate in the dialogue and creating a colorful canvas that became a painted narrative of conversations started in each of the conference breakout sessions. That painting is the lead image in this blog post. The details are rich; and they represent real stories about real patients and real pain and real people gathering at a conference, trying to take steps to prevent history from repeating itself as we study and learn from medical error and failed communication. In an interview published on Regina's blog, she says her painting style has been described to her as, "often sweet and disturbing at the same time." The MAPS masterpiece is no exception in my humble appraisal.
In reading Regina's reflections on her blog about her relationship to her work, she says, "My favorite piece is “Are you alright?” In that painting, I captured my late husband Fred. He stares at me from that painting like he is still with me. Still alive on pigment covered canvas. Still urging me to help him, a patient. And every day I do exactly that."
Years ago I bought a handful of Cranes of Hope Artist Trading Cards at a local hospital gift shop. In the mix was one that I've hung onto. I think it was meant for Regina - and I'll be mailing it to her, this week! Writer, speaker, and painter, Regina is modeling more than The Walking Gallery. She is modeling the spirit of creativity that starts conversations. And conversations change the world.
Are you a nurse? What is your canvas to reflect the change you wish to see in the profession? Are you a patient or a family member or partner in healing? Have you found a canvas to paint your ideas, your challenges to the system, or your story? I'm listening. Feel free to contact me in the comments below or at email@example.com about sharing a guest post on The Reflective Nurse blog.
"Best CEUs ever!" Jen Quade heralded to promote last weekend's Wild Feminine Retreat on a prairie about an hour outside of the Twin Cities metro area. I found myself repeating that mantra to Jen through sweat and a smile during the Qoya portion of the day. Below, you can read Jen's summary of the retreat and follow the links (and your bliss!) to learn more about her work. I had so much fun participating in a day dedicated to a wild, feminine, freeing, approach to learning about ancient traditions and new movements. The event has sparked some ideas for some exciting CEU collaborations that are in the works for 2017 a la The Reflective Nurse. Stay tuned for future collaborations and read on to hear Jen's reflection on her Wild Feminine Retreat!
"Last weekend 13 beautiful women made a pilgrimage from the city to my prairie home to sink into their wild selves for a day. We sat in community together and shared from our hearts, we danced and invited in the wild woman within, we ate a homemade lunch together and we prayed and created a traditional Peruvian despacho offering in gratitude for life.
It. Was. Divine. ☀️
I'll admit there was a part of me that was worried no one would make the drive... And wow was I proven wrong! So many people are craving experiences like this. I was humbled and thrilled to have been able to spend the beautiful fall day with a group of such wise, loving and creative women.
How might it feel to embody your wildness more? To really trust your own unique life force and creative spark... And to express from that place?
I'm teaching a free Qoya class on Friday Oct 28 and I'm launching a 3 part "Wise, Wild and Free" series at YESS yoga beginning Nov 5th. Join us!"
Check out Jen's events page for more info:
It's counter-intuitive, this notion of professional caregivers struggling to prioritize self care. But it is a theme that comes up on and off the job for many nurses. The struggle of self care was a prevalent theme at this week's nursing salon.
I'll be sharing a couple of professional articles on this matter in coming days. But today, I share the gift of the featured image on this blogpost, offered to me by one of the participants at this week's nursing salon. I've read the prose on the image on three separate days now. Each time I read the passage, I get something different out of it. More importantly, each time I've read the passage, I've found a moment to make self care a priority.
Do you have a self-care practice to underpin your nursing practice? What does it look like on the job? What does your self care look like before going into a long stretch of work? How about on the day after a long work weekend?
Do enjoy the image kindly shared by a nurse who I consistently look up to for her ability to model self-care practices. And please do share your best practices in the comments below if you are so inspired! More importantly, make a moment to prioritize your own self-care today.
I combined efforts with a couple dear friends and colleagues to host The Reflective Nurse summer nursing salon. I'm savoring notes from the event, along with the memory of that homemade ice cream cake. Plenty more ideas to consider and to practice after sharing an evening in conversation with fellow nurses.
More reflections on this week's salon to come.
I'm already craving the next salon...and that ice cream cake. As a wise friend once said, "All good things must come to a next time."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to receive invitation to future nursing salons, events, and blog updates.
This weekend I sang in the volunteer choir at the annual memorial service organized by the hospital where I work as a staff nurse. Having one voice in a choral ensemble is a mighty humbling experience. Amplified by the emotion of looking into the eyes of an audience of bereaved families, I'm reminded that loss and grief can underpin some of our best efforts to preserve life. I've written about how saying goodbye to patients at discharge can be one of the hardest parts of the job. Harder, is saying goodbye at the end of life...to patients, and to grieving families.
As hospital staff, it is a privilege to extend our support to families grieving the loss of a child with the Ribbons of Remembrance service. I'm so grateful for the efforts of our memorial service planning committee and our chaplains for hosting a service that reflects diverse beliefs and traditions. Singing in the choir has proven to be a way for me to process the waves of loss, grief, and bereavement that come with this work. It's not unexpected to witness loss when caring for critically ill children. Nonetheless, you're never prepared for the moment of looking into the eyes of parents who have just lost a child.
My aunt is a nurse anesthetist. She's shared a lot of moving accounts with me over her 45 years in practice...some for shock value, others for instructional value. One case she shared that has really stuck with me was how she was told by colleague to deal with her first loss and move on, because her next case was coming in ten minutes. She shared that story with me years before I was a nurse, and I remember wondering how she could in fact move on to the next case...in ten minutes, no less. She explained that there's a job to do, that each practitioner has a responsibility to find ways to grieve these losses, and that hopefully, you're part of a compassionate team that offers a human touch in caring for one another.
The first time I witnessed a death in my nursing career, I documented the details like a slide show in a personal journal I keep. I pulled that journal off the shelf after attending this weekend's memorial service. I wrote about the loss the day after it happened...right after attending a debriefing for providers. The journal holds a chronological play-by-play of what I witnessed, and the details of each caring and compassionate gesture extended by the mature care-team members who knew that I was witnessing death in my role as a nurse for the first time.
What the individuals on that care team did for me when I witnessed that loss of life was instructional in action. One nurse got a blanket from the warmer and wrapped it around me with a hug. Another told me to take a walk around the block, and to find her when I came back inside. A surgical technician told me that he might look composed in the moment, but that when he got in his car, he would cry; for the team, for the family we were serving, and for the child we lost.
One of the chaplains at this weekend's memorial service held a special moment for the children where he read a story by Ellen Yeomans, Lost and Found. The story is about death, told through the eyes of a sibling. This young voice wonders why her parents say that her sister Paige died, but her grandparents say, "We lost Paige." She wonders if she is still a sister, and if her sister is lost, can she be found? In the end, she discovers that she will always be a sister, and that her sister can be found in memories of the heart.
Hearing this story while standing among fellow choir members at the Ribbons of Remembrance Service, looking out into the eyes of these bereaved families while singing, I was reminded that grief is processed in waves. I am still a nurse to those children who we have lost. These families who came to remember their children shine a light on the places we can find them in our hearts.
After the first rehearsal I attended in preparation for the memorial service, I cried in my car the way I sobbed on the drive home after being involved in my first case that ended in loss. I was reminded that there's a place we tuck grief that re-opens over time. I felt it open up again when I recently received a call from a nurse I've had the honor of mentoring over the past couple years. She was sustaining her first loss in the patient-care setting. We cried together.
Like so many other aspects of nursing, what helped me feel prepared to process this loss with my mentee was the human touch modeled by members on that care team who helped me begin to process the first death I witnessed. Digging further back to the instructional value of my aunt's first account of dealing with a patient loss, I heard myself recount the advice that we have a job to do and a responsibility to find a way to process losses. This journey has not been as lonely as I once anticipated, thanks to opportunities like singing in the hospital's choir and thanks to being a part of a compassionate team who cares for one another.
Editor's note: I've found the article, "Strategies for Teaching Loss, Grief, and Bereavement," in NURSE EDUCATOR, Volume 28, Number 2, March/April 2003 to contain some helpful exercises and resources on how caregivers can work together to process loss and find comfort in these most difficult times.
I love hearing from readers. How do you process loss in your career? How do you practice self-care while extending care to the patients and families we care for in these most difficult times? Please feel free to comment here or to reach out by email at: email@example.com
Editor's note: Double feature on the blog today in honor of Mother's Day! Jenny Sackey's son Calvin is following in his mom's footsteps in health care career aspirations. Some excerpts from a recent scholarship essay Calvin wrote pay special tribute to the insights he has gained from his mom. Beyond the meaningful reflections shared here below, Calvin's essay highlighted how he is channeling his life experience to find a volunteer opportunity to mentor biracial students who may be facing some of the challenges he either experienced or witnessed in his formidable years. Calvin's remarks demonstrate that what we show our children in our actions will forever speak louder than our words. Thank you to this mother-son dynamic duo for staging this Mother's Day blog takeover!
"I am a sophomore in college majoring in biology, attending University of Minnesota – Duluth in pursuit of my dream to become a Physician’s Assistant or a Registered Nurse. A lifetime of admiration for my mom has inspired my career aspirations. A lifetime of watching her model the best advice she’s ever given me is helping me to reach my goals.
Before college, I remember receiving advice from respected coaches, teachers, and mentors who encouraged me to look at college as a full-time job. I don’t think I fully understood the advice before getting into the context of university life, and I struggled to balance the new freedoms and responsibilities that seemed to be placed on me all at once. I realized in my struggle that it was not just advice I needed to get me through the challenges, it was a role model.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you I have always been a ‘momma’s boy’ – I’ve always looked up to my Mother with immense admiration. While she was pursuing her Associate of Science degree in Nursing at North Hennepin Community College to become a Registered Nurse, she was also busy mothering three young children while working a full-time job as a Certified Nursing Assistant and trying to live a “normal” life as well. She consistently demonstrates that the only way to balance multiple responsibilities and to be successful is to develop a disciplined work ethic.
An important accompanying piece of my Mother’s best advice that has always helped me when making a decision is to ask myself, “How will this affect me in 10 seconds, in 10 days, and in 10 years?” My Mother modeled this advice. By way of watching her overcome the challenges related to balancing so many caregiver roles, I’ve seen her model the advice to look at balance as a full-time job. It is from my Mother where I was inspired to learn and mimic her work ethic and to follow in her career path. More, it is from my mom that I learned that it is my duty to pass what I have learned through experience to help others when they are struggling to have their brightest future possible."
On a recent Sunday morning, my husband and I headed into town for one of our favorite weekend activities: Sunday service at St. Joan of Arc church. I was particularly enthusiastic to hear the featured guest speaker this occasion, Dr. Stephen Nelson, a local pediatric hematologist-oncologist. His talk, 'Racial Disparities in Health Care,' was right up my alley!
Dr. Nelson was given all of about 15 minutes to express his message. He did not disappoint. A few compelling statistics coupled with his insights on biases left me with one question: why?
Why do we make judgements? How do judgements impact our subjective assessments – especially in a clinical environment? What is at the root of our categorical assessments based on race? These questions swirled in my mind in the context of being a nurse, a mother, and a citizen.
Dr. Nelson offered a comparison scenario: caring for a child of a 17-year-old single Black mother from North Minneapolis versus caring for a child of a Caucasian mother from Edina. He admits to catching himself making those quick judgements towards the 17-year-old Black mother. "Does she have insurance? Will transportation be a barrier to make appointments? Will she comply with treatment plans?" Dr. Nelson’s transparency helped me shift my question from why to what. What do I do with the recognition of biasesI’ve discovered?
Soul stirring talks like Dr. Nelson’s – receiving a message that marries my values with my faith while forcing me to evaluate how my convictions are exercised in my career…this is what privilege feels like. Being in a moment where I can look at the gaps that exist in our society, and thinking about how those gaps impact societal values, faith, and conviction...I felt truly privileged to entertain all these thoughts. I told my husband that we had to stay to meet this speaker. I had to thank Dr. Nelson for pushing the envelope on my thoughts.
The line to meet and greet was long and the opportunity to express my gratitude felt swift. Upon meeting and sharing with Dr. Nelson that I am a nurse - and that his talk would impact my practice, he asked where I worked. What a treat to learn next that he was scheduled to come and speak at the hospital where I’m employed!
Fast forward three weeks. I went in on my day off to hear Dr. Nelson expand his experience with confronting racial disparities in health care in a different dynamic environment: my workplace. The context of hearing what he had to share in my place of faith context held up now in my place of employment was rich. There was more time at this presentation – and I was astounded by the unabridged variety of examples Dr. Nelson shared to illustrate the struggle of racial disparity in this nation and in my home state of Minnesota. I’ll try to recap some of the examples from my notes (without specific citation) that were hardest for me to digest.
I would not have guessed that Minnesota has one of the highest rates of racial disparity in the US.
Minnesota is a national leading state for education. Yet for our African American population, the 4th grade reading level is the same as in the state of Mississippi (who has less dynamic educational outcomes to herald). Fourth grade level is a significant turning point for students transitioning from word recognition in reading to reading comprehension.
African Americans have a 3:1 unemployment rate ratio.
There are 10 times as many African Americans incarcerated versus Caucasians.
On any given day in Minnesota, a Black person is 20 times more likely to be stopped for a traffic offense than a white person.
African Americans have a higher infant mortality rate.
African Americans wait longer in the ER than a Caucasian patient.
It takes 3+ hours longer for the African American to go to the the ER for an injury v.s. a comparable injury that a Caucasian patient would go to the ER for, likely due to socio economic barriers.
It takes 20 minutes longer for the hospitalized African American patient to receive pain meds when calling out for them.
In 2004, there was eight times the financial support for Cystic Fibrosis research (majority Caucasian persons-affected disease) versus Sickle Cell Disease (majority Black persons-affected disease). Sickle Cell Disease also has a higher population of patients than Cystic Fibrosis does. Today, there is 11 times the financial support for CF.
There has been a decrease in Black Registered Nurses and Black MDs from the University of Minnesota. Last year, The UofM graduated one Black doctor.
I felt a rush of emotions as I listened to these statistics, took notes, and considered what I was hearing in relationship to the privileges I’ve appreciated as a White female. I felt disheartened and almost guilty. Since hearing this impactful message from Dr. Nelson that day, I’ve been moved to channel the impact of the chord that was struck in my personal and professional life as a nurse. I strive to be more intentional. I follow Dr. Nelson’s plea to anyone pondering privilege to ‘lean into’ observations of disparity. My hope is that with my newly heightened awareness, I become more active in my voice against racial disparity and less tolerant of observations to this end.
This topic also has immeasurable impact on my personal life. I am the wife to a kind-hearted African man. I am the mother to three beautiful biracial children, and the grandmother to one adorable biracial grandson. I work with intelligent, talented, African Women, and I have many African friends I hold dear. I’m deeply saddened to consider how the aforementioned statistics have or might impact their lives. As I read this post to my husband to seek his thoughts, he said, "It's very simple. Treat others the same way you would want to be treated."
Can you reflect on a time when you have witnessed racial disparity in health care? Think about how that realization felt. Could you have leaned in to make a difference in yourself or in the situation? It's never too late. Please, lean in. Please, ask why.
Please, ask, “What do I do with the recognition of biasesI’ve discovered?”
Editor’s note: Jenny Sackey has been a Registered nurse for nine years. Jenny went back to school to complete her nursing degree while she was raising a family, as it was always her desire and goal to be a nurse. Prior to going back to school, she worked many years as a nursing assistant for Presbyterian Homes and Services. Her first job as a Registered Nurse was at North Memorial Medical Center on the Mother Baby unit, where she worked for three and a half years. It was always her dream to work with new moms and babies. In 2010, Maple Grove Hospital opened. Jenny had a strong desire to be a part of that new hospital, and soon thereafter accepted a position in the Family Birth Center. This past year she accepted a position as a PCF, (Patient Care Facilitator), a leadership role for the unit. Jenny loves being an integral part of this fast paced unit, and will tell you she has the best colleagues to be found. She is honored to be a part of her patients and families birth experience. Jenny describes this as being privileged to be a part of one of the most special life events a family will ever encounter. Jenny never loses sight of the privilege of impacting this precious milestone in patient and families’ lives.