Submitted by Sierra Bassett RN, BSN
“The only thing you can count on is change.” My father often repeated this saying to my sisters and I as we were growing up. It is a saying that continues to play an important role in my life, especially in my journey as a nurse. My path commenced with the pursuit and completion of a BA in Psychology. I found work with an organization that served the needs of developmentally disabled individuals who lived in group homes. Additionally, I was able to serve patients with acute mental illness in a hospital setting, and the severely ill who were enrolled in a county mental health program. After working with clients in the psychological field for eight years, I wanted to shift my area of practice. I knew I wanted to work more with the physical body. I was not sure what that would look like. So I started taking night classes in anatomy and physiology. Going into a medical field was a scary proposition for me. It was unknown and there were some distinct personal prejudices I would need to overcome.
My older sister was born with spina bifida. My knowledge of doctors and nurses were limited to going in and out of hospitals to visit my sister after surgery or her latest bout with a life-threatening illness. The stress and worry caused by her diagnosis created very real emotional fissures within my family. We managed to endure, but it was not simple, easy, or anything that a family should have to face. When I was 22, I was admitted to a hospital for a burst blood vessel due to a ruptured ovarian cyst. It was a painful and frightening experience– being wheeled into emergency surgery as my abdomen filled with blood, listening to doctors talk about what needed to happen, and feeling a mixture of fear and longing to be anywhere else. I looked to the nurse beside me and she must have seen the terror and sadness in my eyes. She said, “Don’t worry I’ll be with you through the procedure.” She held my hand as I stared at the ceiling from the stretcher. When we were in the operating room her voice was my anchor saying “think of a place that made you feel happy” as a sedative drifted me into unconsciousness. When I awoke after surgery, she came to see me and relief washed over me when I saw her face and touched her hand.
I loved learning about the human body, especially anatomy and physiology. With this realization, and remembering who helped me through my traumatic experience, I decided to go to nursing school. While in nursing school I came across a newly founded organization that resonated how I wanted to be as a nurse. This was the Oregon Holistic Nurses Association. Their moto is “We are the Change”. I didn’t fully understand what that meant until after graduating and working in a hospital for a few years. I spent those years working in a hospital with patients recovering from lung or heart surgery. There came a certain point when I realized I’ve been caught in the rigidity of how I practiced medicine and how I saw myself as a healer.
I became stuck in the vicious cycle of pulling medications and feeding diagnoses. It was clear that I gave medications to help with side effects of other medications. Couple this with the ridiculous amount of processed foods given to nourish the patients and I began to see that this was not what I envisioned. When I had a patient weighing over 500lbs with a tracheostomy tube hooked up to a ventilator and going into heart failure, I noticed how trapped we both were in a system that perpetuated a state of unhealthy healing. What happened to being the change? This created another shift on my nursing path.
With this realization, I started looking at how I wanted to approach healing as it related to bedside nursing. I have been exposed to many alternative modalities of healing such as Reiki, healing touch, body/mind awareness, healing breathwork, sound healing, and shamanic energy practices that birthed my belief in implementing complimentary/ alternative/ integrated modalities (CAM) at the bedside.
My mission has been to make this integration happen in an authentic way. I came to the realization the key to a better sense of healing was here all along – meet the patient where they are! There is no forcing, no pushing, or making someone heal. To allow for openness of where someone is with their illness shifted my healing approach. Since then I have found bedside nursing more exciting and powerful. I am a resource for better alternative health and have stepped into my role as a nurse in a more authentic way.