One Board Member’s Dynamic Path to Holistic Nursing

Submitted by Sierra Bassett RN, BSN
OHNA Director-At-Large

3A3A6782_resized5“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.

OHNA Board vendor booth at: 2016 Oregon Student Nurses Association Conference

OHNA Board vendor booth at:
2016 Oregon Student Nurses Association Conference

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.

Sierra in Kenya with Project Helping Hands

Sierra in Kenya with Project Helping Hands

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One Board Member’s Holistic Nurse Journey

DSC_5336_cropped_editedBy deonne wright RN, OHNA Communications Coordinator

A holistic nurse’s journey must begin within him/herself. The AHNA Scope and Standards of Practice state, “The nurse’s self-reflection, self-assessment, self-care, healing, and personal development are necessary for service to others, growth/change in the nurse’s own well-being, and understanding of the nurse’s personal journey” (Carla Mariano, 2013). For me, this began while I was in nurses’ training, but I was completely unaware of the journey on which Spirit was taking me.

From the age of nine, I have suffered severe migraines. During lectures I struggled to absorb the information. I often left early with a blinding headache and disabling nausea, stumbling around the college parking lot until I found my car. I thank my guardian angels for protecting me on the drive home because I honestly don’t remember anything about driving back to my residence. This occurred countless times throughout my three years of training. Between my first and second years, I sustained a broken back at L1 while helping two of my colleagues lift a patient in traction. That was before all the marvelous lift equipment was available that we have today. While I was actually quite fortunate in regard to the degree of injury, the pain was initially very intense, and has had a chronic, life-long impact. It’s a marvel I graduated, and a miracle I passed State Boards. I often say I learned by osmosis rather than memory or true learning! But that probably isn’t possible.

The struggle to live a life of meaning while enduring incapacitating pain anywhere from five to seven days a week began to cause me to have a successively bleaker outlook as the years passed. None of the interventions my providers tried with me were helpful for relieving my pain, and I was a young mother of three children all under the age of three and a half. When I became pregnant with my fourth child, my back got so bad I could hardly walk. In my effort to make it to the bathroom, I frequently passed out cold on the floor with no warning or explanation. The orthopedic surgeon’s assessment was that my back had fused on its own, and there wasn’t anything that could be done surgically.

A very dear friend of mine at this time suggested I see a chiropractor. In those days I was a purely allopathic nurse, and not of the mindset to consider holistic practices as viable options. But pure misery and desperation had a way of changing my outlook, so I agreed to try it. With some nervous anxiety, I attended my first appointment. I shared my history and found the provider paying close attention, asking relevant questions. Sadly, I don’t remember that doctor’s name. But I vividly remember that experience because it is a turning point in my life. That day a ray of hope began to flicker that the chronic back pain I experienced would not prevent me from being successfully functional. That ray of hope grew bigger and wider, encompassing more of my life. I found myself eager to explore the options available for migraine management. That exploration has been a much longer journey; but it, too, has been successful in helping me become a functional and contributing member of our society.

The American Holistic Nurses Association philosophy regarding holistic nursing is stated this way: “Philosophically, holistic nursing is a worldview—a way of being in the world, not just the use of modalities. Holistic nurses do incorporate complementary/ alternative/ integrative modalities (CAM) into clinical practice to treat people’s physiological, psychological, and spiritual needs. Doing so does not negate the validity of conventional medical therapies, but rather serves to complement, broaden, and enrich the scope of nursing practice and to help individuals access their greatest healing potential.” (Carla Mariano, 2013).

This turning point in my own experience opened up a whole new world, about which I became passionate. I soon found I was experiencing an internal conflict when carrying out physician’s orders because it was clear patients were not being given a choice of alternative options, nor were they easily available in the hospital setting. I struggled with this dilemma quietly for several years, and eventually suffered ‘burnout’ from the stress. I took a break from nursing for a while and worked out of my home as a commercial seamstress sewing sky diving flight suits. With each stitch, Spirit helped me sort out my place in the world and in the field of health care. I was shown that wherever I am, I am a bridge between allopathic and holistic. The change in my worldview alone is enough to help me empower my patients. Once again, I saw a ray of hope and my world expanded.
DSC_5521I have a deep desire and calling to be of service to others, and it pushes me forward, just as the Standard in my opening paragraph indicates. I began to study energy healing techniques. I devoured what was available to me on healing with essential oils. Then I drove to Sacramento over three months’ time to study a core curriculum on essential oils with an expert. When it was complete I sat a national exam and received a certificate as a Registered Aromatherapist. I continued my energy healing studies with a shaman, doing a spiritual quest in the Teotihuacan Pyramids, returning completely changed. Since then I continue to do my inner work in order to serve on the deepest level possible. I’ve studied Reiki, Pranic Healing, Sound Healing, Energy Psychology, and other modalities that give me tools to assist clients in my private practice with their own desire for self-reflection, self-assessment, self-care, healing and personal development.

My own inner work will never be done while I walk Mother Earth. As long as I serve humanity and care for the soul, I must lean into the pain and discover my soul’s secret to freedom. My holistic worldview is manifest in my way of BEing in the world. My hope is that it’s a clear message.

Carla Mariano, E. R.-B. (2013). Holistic Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice (2 ed.). Silver Springs, MD, USA: ANA.
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A Message from the OHNA Director at the New Year

Standing Strong in Times of Change

By Marina Ormes, OHNA DirectorMarina_Photo_Best

Times of challenge for a nation or a planet are similar to times of challenge for an individual facing illness or injury. A healing response is needed and appropriate. Each of us must look at our own attitudes and behaviors and consider ways we can align with healing and wholeness. The work we do on ourselves, within our families and communities, and as leaders and advocates for healing and wholeness can follow the same path we take when we respond to a patient or human being in need.

With recognition of the social and political uncertainties at the beginning of 2017, the OHNA Board of Directors hereby affirms that we continue to be a welcoming and inclusive organization committed to the principles of holism and holistic nursing.

As an organization, we value and hold the following as foundational:

  1. We honor the uniqueness and inherent worth of all beings.
  2. Within diversity, there is unity and interconnectedness in all things.
  3. Healing is a continual process of returning to wholeness that strives toward the highest good for an individual and all interconnected beings.
  4. The highest good includes living a life of purpose and meaningful contribution.
  5. Consciousness, awareness, kindness, and compassion are a source of healing.
  6. The human experiences of suffering that include pain, limitation (physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual), the experience of being devalued, and other challenges can be catalysts to healing, when seen as such.
  7. Healing includes the meeting of physical needs and goes hand in hand with positive feelings such as joy, freedom, creative inspiration, clarity, and a sense of purpose.

standing_transparent2We affirm the positive outcomes we envision through practices such as centering, meditating, holding space, and sending our positive intentions to all human beings. As our own human fears and experiences of limitation rise to the surface, we look at them for what they are. They do not determine the future. We recognize that another force is awakening, and it asks us to expand our hearts and minds to embrace what calls us.

There is no need to fight from fear or with attitudes of either/or. We are warriors of the heart and protectors of the future. We stand with strength, courage, and boundaries, but with no need for hate. We hold healing and light for all beings. We join with lightworkers across the planet in holding space for awakening and transformation.

While we acknowledge the truth of destructive choices and their implications, our courage leads us to focus our energy not on fear and resistance, but rather on authentic, inspired action that is grounded in love and respect. Care, love, compassion, and healing for the self facilitates the emergence of the greatest good for one’s family, one’s community, and all beings.

We focus on seeing and feeling the shift. We envision waking up to the news headlines we want to see. We choose to feel our gratitude for what has become possible, as if all we hope for has already happened. We see the children and their children claiming the future. This is what we have been practicing for.  It is why we are here.

 

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Holism – A Bird’s-Eye View from a Board Member

Holism From a Bird’s Eye View

I consider myself to be a rogue nurse. A few years ago I was burned out after working inpatient behavioral health with jess-young-picks-004children and adolescents, and later, in outpatient radiation-oncology. I was disgusted with the treatment protocols for children with behavior issues. Pharmaceuticals and sugar were the two main prescriptions I had to ensure children on the psych ward received. With the strong knowing that food is medicine, this practice was out of alignment with my values  and I was appalled.

I became disheartened by the lack of holistic tools available to share with my cancer patients in one of the largest and most “progressive” healthcare systems in the country.  I knew there was more to medicine than following a single protocol for cancer treatment. Consequently, I dismissed myself from mainstream medicine and followed my heart toward natural medicine.

For three years I assisted in the growth of a single provider, naturopathic clinic into a booming, 23-provider, integrative clinic. Holism was my middle name in this position as I broadened my nursing toolbox and immersed myself in natural and Chinese medicine. Once I felt complete in this role, I transitioned upstream like the salmon returning home, to yet again the mainstream healthcare system– Elder care. Little did I know, my angels were divinely guiding me.  I was skeptical about re-entering the Western medicine arena and venturing into the sad reality of elder care in this country. Alas, my angels do not steer me wrong. If a rogue nurse was to work in elder care, this was the place to be!

Imagine a residential care facility for elders with Alzheimer’s and dementia where the doors to the outside are unlocked, promoting a culture of autonomy and freedom. Imagine an open floor plan, where the elders just simply walk out of their one-bedroom apartment to find themselves in the heart of the house—the kitchen. Comforted by the smell of nourishing meals, home-cooked by the house chef, the elders’ sense of belonging is heightened upon hearing the chef call them by name. Imagine a loving, home-like atmosphere, with a large organic garden, flowerbeds galore, and free-range chickens roaming around outside.

In this setting, where the sense of freedom is paramount to living well until the end, our elders are similar to the free-range chickens! They are not locked-up, but rather, given space to flourish within reason. Recently, I was struck by a profound epiphany… Elite Care (the facility where I now work) is the holistic model for elder care in this country. A new precedent is being set and I’m part of it!

As the sole nurse for this 24-apartment facility, I supervise and educate unlicensed caregivers who provide medication administration, and sometimes total care, to the residents. I am the support person for the residents, staff and families. It is challenging to keep holism in focus when immersed in the many aspects of my role: the dynamics of the community, when doing due diligence to prevent making a mistake, ensuring adherence to the many Oregon Administrative Regulations, and preparing  for the Oregon state compliance audits.

I have judged, and felt disappointed in myself when my ego perceived that holism was not being incorporated into my nursing practice. Am I becoming complacent in my passion for holistic nursing? Is there more that I could be doing?

Now, with nearly two years of experience in this position, I am able to zoom out and examine the bigger picture. Like an eagle flying overhead, scanning the horizon, I see that holism can have many appearances. It doesn’t always have to be acupuncture and massage, reiki or aromatherapy. It’s in the way we plant peppermint and chamomile for the residents’ tea. It’s in the request for cranberry pills and D-Mannose powder from the doctor to prevent further UTIs. Holism is the way the chefs blend nutrient-dense protein smoothies each morning for those without an appetite. It’s the way the elders harvest and package seeds from the garden in the fall to give back to the community.

But most of all, holism is about Presence. It’s about pinpointing that missing puzzle piece which helps the elder feel a sense of purpose and connection. It’s locating just the right “key” to unlock an antique memory held hostage by the deteriorating brain. Here we employ individualized interventions to avoid the use of anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications during times of agitation. Here we recognize the slightest change in behavior and act to prevent illness. This is holism, all right.

I am grateful to the guidance that brought me to Elite Care and the opportunity to travel into my shadows and doubt, to come out into the light of hope and inspiration. I am grateful that now I see the gems surrounding me each day; grateful that my definition of holism has expanded to encompass the one-on-one time spent with each patient. This understanding enables me to see I was always providing holistic care, even when I perceived to be limited in my holistic expression. My very nature is holistic and that’s enough.

My prayer is that this alternative to elder care will become the mainstream; that Medicare will begin to cover the high costs of care. And from this prayer, stems a prayer for the bigger picture of healthcare. May those in power of our healthcare system recognize the importance of, and begin creating holistic models where all people can thrive in prevention, holism and the presence of dedicated, whole nurses.

With heart,
Jess Young, RN, BSN

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A Board Member Shares Her ‘Meaningful Mistake’

Submitted by Susan Rhedmon, RN, CMSRN, HNB-BC
OHNA Secretary

I have now been practicing as a nurse for ten years, working in hospitals and
volunteering in clinics.   I am part of a susan-rhedmonpool of nurses known as the “Resource Team” for a prominent system where I live in Portland.  We work on multiple units and have a collective reputation of being competent, hard workers.  As part of this team, I grew in skill and confidence until I became too arrogant.  The guise of this arrogance was hurriedness and disbelief of the safety protections put in place by my employer, which led to my making a medication error and the unraveling of my identity project.

According to Kathleen Dowling Singh, our identity project begins during adolescence with incessant internal dialogue.  We then spend the remainder of our lives reinforcing this self-constructed image.

I am a non-Buddhist, with incredible reverence for its principles and methods.  The 1st Noble Truth is that suffering exists (no argument here); the 2nd Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by our attachments.  My attachment to being a nurse was evident prior to potentially losing that title, but became pronounced when I thought I might be fired.  What else would I do? Who would I be then?  Then followed the aspect of shame because my identity project has the adjective “good” associated with nurse, and how could a good nurse make a mistake?  I felt fear of being judged by my peers and my manager.  What was the source of this fear?

Now in my late 30s, I have just begun to look at my childhood programming.  I was raised by two “Recovering Catholics”, in the middle-class suburbs (yawn) of Washington D.C.  I was taught to conform and excel, and to respect the System; the more perfect I was, the more accepted I would be by society and the more worthy I would feel.  Conforming would help my life flow with ease.  How I perceive myself to be perceived was a driving force for my behavior.  My conditioning was fear-based, but too subtle to be noticed by the similarly programmed masses.  What was once fear of God’s judgment became fear of another human’s judgment.   I still struggle with this image-consciousness, and I fear(ed) being thought of as an incompetent nurse.

The most potent gift of this process for me was experiencing darkness.  Self-loathing is unfamiliar to me, a blessing of my genetics and my up-bringing.  I may have been depressed for a short period in college when I became acutely aware of injustice in the world, but I don’t tend towards those emotional states.  The only time I had felt so equally despondent is when I realized my mother was dying.  Once I had recognized the full potential for harm from the medication error I made, I became immobilized and joyless; I had touched the darkness, and my scope of empathy expanded. I now understood what so many humans experience as self-loathing, and I became grateful for its scarcity in my world.

Another thing that became evident to me was who of my many beautiful friends I trust with my vulnerability; it was surprisingly few.  Finally, my medication error reminded me to be humble because of the potential harm in so many things that I do every week in the early morning hours.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
-Viktor E Frankl

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A Board Member’s Personal Experience With Therapeutic Touch

Sept blog photo1

Submitted by Cordy Anderson, RN, BSN, CCMHP, QTTT
OHNA Treasurer

As an RN who practices holistically, I became a Therapeutic Touch Sept blog photo2Practitioner in 1984. Since 1994, I have been attending the annual Therapeutic Touch programs at  the Indralaya Theosophical Camp, located on Orcas Island in the Puget Sound San Juan Islands of Washington State.

Each year I have the opportunity to connect with nature in a deep way, finding harmony and peacefulness. I get filled and renewed while I simultaneously deepen my practice of Therapeutic Touch (TT). It is one of the most precious experiences of my life.

Therapeutic Touch is a holistic, evidence based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being. In my practice as a
nurse, I have used TT with patients and co-workers for many years. But I am still always filled with enthusiasm as Camp Indralaya and Orcas Island support me to deepen my understanding of the healing potential that exists in each of us.

I feel it is an honor and privilege to focus my intention and compassion on the support of another’s healing journey. At the same time of course, the energy that is flowing through me to another also supports my own well-being. This process is the wondrous benefit of learning and practicing/performing Therapeutic Touch.  I learned it initially to help my Home Health and Hospice patients; little did I know that my energy level and over-all health would also be improved.

Sept blog photo3About two weeks after TT Camp this year, I attended the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene, and worked in the Health and Healing Booth that is part of the Community Village. I offered Therapeutic Touch to folks who came to the booth, I first centered
myself – the process of bringing myself to a state of inner stillness, then and grounding myself, connecting to the flow of universal healing energy., In being able to do that, I realized my focus is very deep as I can ignore the music, talking, dancing, etc., that was occurring just a few feet away. This skill has developed over time of course, but it sure is helpful in today’s rather chaotic world. If you are interested in learning Therapeutic Touch please give me a call – we can set up classes anywhere in Oregon.

Namaste, CordySept blog photo4

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Welcome to Our New Blog

Please stay tuned for new posts in our new blog.

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