The Gift of Self Care with Ellie Peterson

The seed for a lovely Saturday morning retreat was planted months ago.  That seed finally took root this weekend on the cusp of growing season in these parts.  Five nurses, a physician, (and my mom!) gathered for an experience in meditation and movement like none other.  The group left wanting for more!  I can hardly wait to further explore the overlap in Ellie Peterson's  Meditative Movements™ and the practice of caring for others; starting with the gift of self-care.

I became acquainted with Ellie through a trusted friend and admired Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach, Bekah Rieke of SageSpoonLiving.  Having attended an event co-hosted by The Reflective Nurse, Bekah had a hunch that this following may groove to the unique practice she discovered through Ellie, founder of Power of Positive Workouts.  Bekah was right!

You can pour from a pitcher when something is welled inside.  Once empty we are reduced to going through the motions.  Caregiver fatigue weighs down care-delivery.  The research is out there on any aspect of this truth: patient safety, healing, and connectivity are at risk when we don't refresh processes to care for ourselves as we care for others.

A generous facilitator, with Ellie's permission, I share her "show notes" from our Saturday morning retreat if you care to peak at a practice that might enhance yours:

1. On Ellie's bookshelf:
  • The Heart Speaks by Dr. Mimi Guarneri
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  • The Body Keeps Score by Bessel
2.  Sample Meditative Movements™:
3.  Link to free upcoming in park classes.  We practice the Meditative Movements™ in a group fitness setting:
4.  Link to free uplifting daily messages you can subscribe to: 
5. Connect with Ellie via Facebook: 
Do you have a meditative practice that enhances your professional practice?  Comment here or reach out to to share how you align your head, heart, and gut.  Guest blog post submissions are welcome!




Meditative Movements with Ellie Peterson

Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale!

My Nurses Week 2017 resolution is to enhance my practice by way of trying new personal wellness strategies.

Self care for the caregiver!

If this resonates with you, take a look at an event The Reflective Nurse is hosting with Ellie Peterson on June 10 from 9-11am...and join us!

More info and registration:

Let's fill the room with lively conversation to kick off a week of celebrating our practice!

Please join me for my annual Nurses Week Salon next Friday evening from 5:30-8:30pm in Minneapolis. Space is limited but there is still room for you!

RSVP here or

Dinner will be provided.  Details and location specifics to follow upon RSVP confirmation.

You can read about The Reflective Nurse Salons here.


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:

"Maps" is the painted products of Regina Holliday's presence at the 2016 MAPS (Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety) Conference.
Patient rights advocate Regina Holliday painted "Maps" at the 2016 MAPS (Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety) Conference.

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's paintbrush influences the course of events like a magic wand.
Regina's paintbrush influences the course of events like a magic wand.

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 seeking out more about Regina's story, I stumbled across one article in Forbes, "Will Regina Holliday Become Healthcare's Rosa Parks?"

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."

Cranes of Hope Artist Trading Card
Cranes of Hope Artist Trading Card

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 about sharing a guest post on The Reflective Nurse blog.



These CEUs were sprinkled with everything from sugar to rose petals.
These CEUs were sprinkled with everything from sugar to rose petals.

"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.

Notes and nibbles from the summer 2016 salon at Chez Sackey.
Notes and nibbles from the summer 2016 salon at Chez Sackey.

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: to receive invitation to future nursing salons, events, and blog updates.

Remembering children and families in a humble moment of service, silence, and song.
Remembering children and families in a humble moment of service, silence, and song.

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 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 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:


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!       

UMD sophomore Calvin Sackey reflects on how his Mother, Jenny Sackey is always behind him.
UMD sophomore Calvin Sackey reflects on how his Mother, Jenny Sackey is always behind him.

"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."