A Member’s Journey: Finding My Voice

Submitted by Lee Anne Hellesto, Nurse Practitioner

I really started down my path in my fifties (and no, you don’t have to wait that long!!). I had just finished NP school and had a good job in Internal Medicine treating the elderly population. I felt strongly I was in the right place and helping people who needed help. After several years, I noticed I was feeling “flat”, not depressed, just no juice. I tried to fill up with life activities to “energize” myself but the feeling persisted. One day I mentioned it to a friend and she suggested I try a workshop she and another friend were putting on about midlife and what was next. That workshop and the ones following changed my life.

The workshop was about opening to hear my inner voice, to understand what I really wanted. Boy did I struggle!! I had spent so many years doing everything the way I was “supposed to” that I really did not know what I wanted. I came to understand deep down I had been treading water, waiting for some unknown something. That one workshop cracked my heart open. Two days after the workshop I went for a drive on a beautiful fall day, turned on Celtic Women, singing to I Am The Sky and The Sun and cried for 45 miles. I just kept the song on repeat and let the tears flow. On my return home I did the same thing. After ninety miles of crying, I went to my friend and demanded, “What the hell did you do to me?” Thus began my foray into the world outside the conventional.

I signed up for more workshops searching for me, digging deeper under all the layers of resistance I had built up. I went to the National Wellness Conference and found other professionals who approached medicine entirely differently. My world was opening up and I encountered Integrative Medicine with its Holistic approach. I was returning to my roots and what I had learned in nursing school.

At the same time, the Universe had other lessons for me. As I opened up I started feeling other people’s symptoms in my body. I experienced muscle weakness, neurologic symptoms, and profound fatigue. I was completely freaked out. I reached out to my friends trying to understand what was going on. This led me to my first energy teacher who helped me manage what I was experiencing and introduced me to Energy Medicine. I worked with her for the next five years. She was a phenomenal healer the like of which I have not found since.

I found myself in two worlds: practicing Integrative Medicine with a holistic focus and being strongly aware of the energetic nature of the disease process. I started quietly practicing some energy techniques in my office and getting amazing results. One example was dropping a pain level from a 6/10 to level 2/10 in 4 breaths. I was blown away.

Still, I struggled with stepping forward to be the real me. I strongly felt I had to stay in my head and do medical care according to the rulebook, according to the ways other providers had proven worked. But my heart told me symptoms had simpler solutions with Energy Medicine. This struggle with duality, staying in my head as opposed to leading with my heart, has continued for many years.

Again the Universe had a different idea on how to reveal my path. Clients kept showing up at my door for Energy Medicine and the results we were getting had no medical explanation. The results ranged from bringing brain function back online five years post Traumatic Brain Injury, to healing chronic pain, to releasing frozen shoulder; and the results were rapid!

Yet, I struggled to even name what type of Energy work I was doing (I have since found Intuitive Energy Medicine!!! Yea!). I read, researched, considered many classes/workshops/programs trying to find my answers. Ultimately, every time, it came back to a quiet answer from inside me that I had all the knowledge and training I needed.That sentence bears repeating: a quiet answer from inside me that I had all the knowledge and training I needed. This sentence may strike home with those of you reading this.

Get quiet, get still, ask the question and listen closely to your heart. You are here on this planet now to bring your unique gifts to this time and you are the only one with your extraordinary experiences and talents. Come and join us.

Lee Anne

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A Member’s Holistic Journey – “Suddenly Awake”

Submitted by Anita Stewart, RN

My back was broken, my legs numb. Lying in the hospital bed I pondered the recent series of troubling events.  One morning while putting on my riding boots I had a premonition; a vivid movie in my mind showed me being thrown off my horse and breaking my back. In disbelief, I went riding that day only to experience this premonition coming true.

A broken back, fractured skull and scapula left me incapacitated for four arduous months. While reading a book my spiritual nurse buddie brought over, “Quiet talks with the Master”, an amazing event took place.  As I read the page entitled “Be Still and Hear my Voice,” I angrily shouted out, “OK God, if you want to talk to me, then make that clock stop ticking.”  Suddenly my grandfather clock went utterly silent; the room was like a sensory deprivation tank.  Then a loving voice said to me, “My child, you have many questions and I am here to answer them.”

What! Is that God talking to me!?  Before the questions were formulated in my mind the answers came instantaneously. Time stood still as a deep abiding comfort came over me. Even though we were in the throes of financial ruin, I had complete and utter trust.

I was told I would be used as an instrument of healing. Of course, the left-brained nurse in me said, “What do I need to study, what books should I read, what classes should I take?” He answered, “You need only show up, allow the energy to pass through you, and get your ego and personality out of the way.”

In the months following this event, I did nothing on my own volition.  Tuned in and listening, I heard His voice directing me in every situation. It was fascinating and surreal, but temporary.

After four months of rehabilitation, I was able to return to my job in the ER. I continued heeding God’s guidance, which brought great clarity and peace to my life. When God spoke, I listened. It was not hard.  I was told to buy a healing table and invite friends over to experience the “Energy.”  My friend Rachel, also a nurse, was my first guinea pig. As she lay on the table, my movements were not of my own. I was guided by unseen forces. Although skeptical at first, she said she experienced an intense heat coming from my hands. As my hands were hovering over her pelvis, I stated, “Rachel you have endometriosis!” (This was later confirmed by her doctor.) Her periods had previously stopped for three months without explanation.  The day after the healing session she called and said, “My period started at 2:00 a.m. this morning!”

And so it began.  There were many amazing results from this healing energy work flowing through me. With complete trust and faith, I just showed up.  I let go and surrendered to Divine Intelligence that knew where and what was needed.  Messages came through for clients. It was as if this “Unknowable Force” was speaking, using my voice.

The words of others humble me: “She pushed me through my self-inflicted limits…”- “Beyond any expectations…” – “I feel super relaxed and low stress…”

Others had profound changes: one overcame a fear of flying, resolved after one session.  Another, in a bad marriage, gained the strength and courage to leave her famous rock star husband. After just one session, a diabetic woman on an insulin pump discovered her insulin requirements dropped by half – unexplainable in human terms.

Suddenly, after about eleven months, silence! The voice was barely discernible. I felt the bubble had burst. Speaking one more time I heard, “These things I do through you, you too can do. But first you must do the inner work.”

I felt empty, devoid of ability or direction. But this undeniable experience ignited a passionate search for more answers, like those inner truths that had been freely given. An unimaginable journey to re-discover this “Great Mystery” was set in motion.

Today I have inner peace, unshakeable faith, and a life filled with grace and wonder. This awakening returned me to my innocence; a child comfortably at play amidst the mysteries of Spirit and consciousness. I have come to a place of KNOWING.  Aligning with the mind of God, receiving Divine Intelligence, requires complete and unmitigated Surrender. Only in our Silence can we come to know the Truth.  To quote Meister Eckhart: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me. One Seeing. One Knowing. One Love.”

Bridging hands-on energy practices with allopathic medicine became my passion. Patients loved the experience, stating it gave them a sense of peace and tranquility otherwise missing from day to day hospital tasks. Some were able to release tension, headaches, anxiety, fears, and body aches not relieved by pain medicines. I used Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch on co-workers also, helping them get grounded and centered.  It’s truly what nursing is all about.

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A “Novice’s” Journey to Holistic Nursing

Submitted by Alie Oyster, BSN, RN
OHNA Secretary

Alie Oyster

Nine years ago, I completed a yoga teacher-training program. Tuning into my body through the physical asana and mind via my readings of the yoga sutras, I discovered a lot about myself. I learned to slow down and work from my inner strength. This gave me the clarity to reevaluate my goals. With a degree in Product Development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and a career in the fashion industry on the rise, I began to ponder my future. Chief aspects of my character were not being nourished by my chosen profession – my concern with wellbeing, my passion for health and exercise, and my interest in people. Furthermore, the demoralization, poor environmental practice, and mistreatment of workers that are typical of the fashion industry were in disagreement with the practice I was so intent on, that of ahimsa (“do no harm”). A change had to be made. With that, I moved from California to Oregon to complete my prerequisites and apply to nursing school.

Alie’s favorite yoga space

My journey through nursing school was filled with angst. I questioned going into a field that seemed so focused on treatment with pharmaceuticals. I was appalled by the food provided in local hospitals and unsettled by the environment. If I felt on edge and fearful, how did my patients feel? If acupuncture, yoga, and meditation helped me with these feelings, why wasn’t it readily available to my patients? I questioned leaving the field entirely but quickly found a supportive community. I joined my school’s Holistic Health Club, which I eventually went on to lead. With likeminded peers, I was able to explore various integrative modalities and was overcome with hope that nursing is more than passing meds and following orders. Through that group, I came to discover this organization. My involvement with the community and attendance at the yearly conference has propelled me through various milestones. Those began with graduating nursing school, to starting my first job in corrections, transitioning into community health, and most recently, stepping into a role as an RN at a residential treatment facility for pregnant women and those with young children. The Oregon Holistic Nurses Association (OHNA) has provided me with a source of solace in a tumultuous healthcare environment. My participation in the organization has deepened my connection to self and put me in touch with the type of nurse I want to be.

Bamboo Forest Bathing on a hike in Hawaii – ‘Nature-Nurturing’

When it comes to a holistic practice, I am frequently asked: What is your modality? The truth is, I do not have one. I have studied yoga and bring breath work into my practice, but I do not currently lead classes (more to come on that at a later date!). I have done some training in Therapeutic Touch and hope to integrate that more in coming months. But I am also content with the exploration, and unattached to becoming an expert in any one area. There is value in being a generalist. I embrace the various tools that exist to bring us more wholly into practice and to guide patients on their healing journey. To me, holistic nursing is an attitude. It is about being present and recognizing the connection of body, mind, and spirit in the healing process. It is about truly listening. With this approach comes creativity. Whether it be nutritional guidance, breathwork, movement, or intentional touch, I seek to bring my patients into greater connection with their bodies and minds, freeing their souls. That is certainly what this work has done for me.

My hope is that nurses exploring the realm of holistic nursing are not intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of learning a specific modality. I have had moments of questioning my “credibility” as a holistic nurse without an attached specialty. What I have learned along the way is that, while the tools are useful, what’s most important is establishing presence and connection, with oneself and those cared for. From that place, healing work can be done.

Alie & her beloved ‘pooch’ – ‘Animal-Nurturing’

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The Thread of Therapeutic Touch Throughout My Life

How the holistic practice of Therapeutic Touch (TT) has impacted my life.

Well, believe it or not, my story must start a long time ago, when I was just a child; well ok, let’s say a teenager. For reasons I won’t go into, I felt there was some hypocrisy in my church. I heard people say what they did all week long and then “were good on Sunday”. So by the time I was in my mid 20’s, I was not connected to any specific religion or belief system (1967ish). When I checked inside myself, I had a feeling of some kind of Higher Intelligence, or something bigger than me, but I did not know where to go to understand it.

In 1969 I graduated with my BSN and became a nurse. I initially worked in pediatrics, and then in the neonatal intensive care unit. Seeing new life was amazing; at the same time, seeing young lives not make it was tragic. I began to understand we do not live forever.

Now jump to 1984. I learned Therapeutic Touch when I began working with home health and hospice patients. It is such an honor being with patients and their families when someone is facing death, and for sure I learned a great deal. One of the things I learned was Therapeutic Touch (TT) to help folks who are facing death. Little did I know at the time how much my life would change because of this simple, yet elegant healing modality.

During the first two years I did TT, I could not feel a thing when I would assess someone’s field; but the patient would relax and be able to sleep, so it seemed helpful and I kept doing it. Slowly over time, my hands began to feel “things” – sometimes temperature, sometimes a texture, sometimes even prickles. Sometimes I would “feel” feelings that I knew were not mine. An example I experienced that you also may have is the feeling you might get when entering a room and you know the people inside have been arguing, or perhaps you’re visiting a friend and you feel their sadness. We pick things up energetically all the time, but we may not always recognize that’s what is happening.

Therapeutic Touch is defined as a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being. The practitioner uses their hands to assess and balance the energy field of the person they are working with. This involves becoming peaceful and very present as well as grounded and connected to the universal healing field (source energy).

This practice of doing it time and time again for over 30 years has given me a tangible experience of how connected we truly are. We do not stop at our skin. Our human energy fields are infinite. We, as energetic beings, are always interconnected to each other as well as to the sea of energy that is our environment. This awareness has influenced me and my interactions with not only other people, but with nature, planets, especially Mother Earth, and even the stars.

When I began to really understand this energetic connection, it gave me a deeper understanding of what has been called the body-mind-spirit connection; that is, seeing the world more holistically. I began to understand that my thoughts, my beliefs, and my ability to be at peace affected my overall well-being and influenced the well-being of others.

In the early 2000’s, I was asked to speak on what my practice of Therapeutic Touch meant to me. I was to cover what I had learned and how it had influenced me. During the preparation for that talk, I had a HUGE AH HA! This connection that I was experiencing through Therapeutic Touch–becoming peaceful inside, connecting to my inner self and to source energy, then connecting to my clients–was helping me deepen my spirituality. This didn’t happen by way of reading a book or following a teacher but from a deep knowing and understanding.

Tears came to my eyes. Gratitude filled my heart. I had a deep recognition that religion and spirituality are not the same thing; in that moment I did not need all the answers, but I had peace in my innermost essence and knew that indeed I was and am connected to all that is. I was, and am forever, changed.

Cordy Anderson BSN, RN, CCMHP
OHNA Treasurer

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A Board Member’s Holistic Nutrition Journey

Tammera 2017

What Holistic Health and Nutrition Has Brought to Me
Contributed by Tammera J Karr, PhD BCHN, Director-At-Large

My journey into the world of Holistic Health began in the late 1970s when a great aunt gifted me with an herbal nutrition book. At sixteen, I intuitively knew the movement into a natural, grounded, self-sustaining lifestyle was my salvation.  It would be decades before I learned the root of herbalism reached back four generations in my family. The connection to this cellular tradition was as strong as ancient ponderosa pine, facing seasonal change anchored in bedrock.

Tammera’s Blue Cornchip Nachos

One single event involving the quality of life and health for a loved one propelled me to learn more about nutrition and how it would help my family and clients. With ensuing years, I have worked with a wide variety of clients and conditions. In natural health, especially in Holistic Nutrition, the name of a disease is not the focus of care. The focus is the client, their story, and their journey.  Many illnesses share symptoms and begin with nutritional deficiencies that trip the DNA switch into illness. So many of these degenerative and chronic illnesses could have been prevented with real food and optimized nutrition and lifestyle, if utilized earlier in life. Today, holistic health providers are at the forefront of knowledge on healing chronic health conditions with food, herbs, nutrients, compassion, and energy.

Tammera using family cast-iron to cook mushrooms

I know “our cells carry the memories of our ancestors,” and by 2017, genetic studies were published on nutrition and life events of grandparents that affect the health of children and grandchildren.  This validation has added a new level of dedication and drive to my vocation of Holistic Nutrition. Every year, science opens more doors of understanding into the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors. Now science supports my ancient intuitive knowledge, and that is spiritual food unsurpassed and humbling.

I believe our history, tradition, and passion are the keys to moving forward on a journey of health,  where we are strong in the knowledge that we can make a change; a change that empowers us and one that moves us forward into a new place of strength.

Tammera in period clothing presenting at the 2016 NANP Conferenc

As a new non-nurse member of the Oregon Holistic Nurses Association, I am very proud of the work being done by OHNA members, as well as by my primary accrediting body, the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP). As a member of this community of professionals, we build credibility together with a commitment to community. Through advocacy, education, and tradition we are vested, and empower those around us.

What have I gained? I know absolutely with the aid of Holistic Nurses, Nutritionists, Herbalists, Energy Workers and many others, we can regain lost knowledge, stand firm in confidence in our role as healers in the present, and plant healthy seeds for the future.

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The Bohemians

By Toni Gilbert, RN (ret), MA, ATC

“I know what you are!” my friend Lynn Keegan exclaimed on her second visit to my home. “You are a Bohemian!” I blinked in surprise. “What was a Bohemian,” I wondered. I had heard the term but wasn’t sure if it was a compliment. I knew Lynn was interested in my lifestyle and my work but this was her first assessment.  As a holistic nursing consultant, she had traveled from her home in Washington State to be a guest at our Oregon Holistic Nurses Association (OHNA) held each year at Breitenbush, Oregon. I noticed that she was always looking around and seemed to wonder out loud about some things but she blew me out of the water (sorta speak) with this pronouncement.

I did some research: Bohemianism emerged in the early nineteenth century France when artists moved into the lower-rent Romany (gypsy) areas of Paris as they sought out alternatives to bourgeois expectations. Artists from all over the world, most with very little income, tried to make their art and eke out a living in this part of Paris. A feature of this lifestyle is that the pursuit of wealth and other traditional indicators of success were abandoned in favor of a creative life and an active engagement in the search for alternative ideals of beauty.

Breitenbush Lodge              Photo credit:                Debra Newman

Yep, she got that right, that is me, an artistic hippy or artistic alternative practitioner.

Deep in the heart of the Cascade Range lies a wonderful forested retreat and conference center named Breitenbush. Who would guess that holistic nurses meet at this Bohemian lodge with its simple rustic design every year? This intentional community is blessed with beauty and magic and there is artistry and creative expression everywhere.  Many artists and craftsmen live right there on the grounds…many have lived there over the 40 plus years of its existence. On the other side of the river, from the lodge, is a community of small homes where the Breitenbush employees live and love. There are a number of yurts of all different sizes and materials plus older cabins. I understand that they are building more uniquely designed structures for their growing needs.  In the sunny areas of this community, outdoor gardens of vegetable and flower dot the forest landscape.

10th Anniversary Cake      Lynn Keegan, Toni Gilbert, deonne wright

On October 22, 2017, the tenth anniversary of the Oregon Holistic Nurses Association, holistic nurses gathered together for a wonderful time yet again. Many of the original team was there and some are still on the governing board. As the founding director of OHNA I helped to build the infrastructure such as the basic web site, a brochure, gathered the first board of trustees and brokered communication relationships with Breitenbush staff. After three years, Deonne Bone Wright took over from me bringing her knowledge of nursing education to move the nurses’ retreat into the arena of a conference as well as a retreat. Since then it has flourished and we are all very proud. Currently, Marina Ormes, an evolutionary astrologer and retired holistic nurse, is the director. She says that whatever theme OHNA offers next year will be according to her astrological interpretation. That’s all I know. We will have to wait to see what that turns out to be.

Anita Stewart, a newer member of OHNA, introduced several of us to a group in Eugene with the name, Authentic Messengers that could help us put together a book; “Nurse Sparks” an anthology of nurse stories. Some of the authors were at the conference along with the finished book. The words on the back of the book say it all:  Every Nurse has an event in their career that changes the way they practice nursing; an experience that moves them to tears or ignites soul. “Nurse Sparks” is filled with stories of nurses from across the nation, stories that reveal what it feels like to be working in a field that takes all of your heart and soul on a daily basis. A career that sometimes takes one to their knees, sends one home crying, exhausted, and spent of all energy. Or one that uplifts, opens the heart, inspires and illuminates. These events connect nurses to their inner resilience and touch the lives of so many in enormous ways. Each contributor to this book has a story that forever changed their life in a way that influenced their personal nursing practice and the lives of their patients. Purchase the book and their worlds will inspire you as well.

Our friend, Lynn Keegan one of the founders of the holistic nurses movement, again for the third time, made the arduous seven hour trip down from Port Angeles to be with us. She graciously gave us her stamp of approval by writing the forward to the “Nurse Sparks” book. She is great fun, maybe she should consider moving closer.

Nurse Sparks Authors, deonne wright, Toni Gilbert, Anita Stewart, Marina Ormes

All in all it was a creative time with superb presenters and soaks in the natural hot springs, book sales and an evening of sharing our healing arts. Breitenbush and the surrounding natural cathedral forest calms and relaxes us which helps to invite the healing process into our lives.

Yep, we are a bunch of eclectic free-spirited Bohemian nurses and proud of it.


Picture description and credit:

  1. Breitenbush Lodge by Debra Newman, RN
  2. Lynn Keegan, Toni Gilbert, and Deonne Wright with a cake that Deonne baked for the 10th anniversary
  3. Nurse Sparks: Nurse stories to illuminate, inspire and ignite
  4. Nurse Sparks Authors at the conference: Deonne Wright, Toni Gilbert, Anita Stewart and Marina Ormes
  5. Blakeney, J. (2015). The New Bohemians: Cool & Collected Homes. New York, NY, Abrams..
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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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