Taking Care of Me

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

One thing I want to share right off is that doing things to take care of myself is much easier now that I am retired. Before retirement, I awoke and did a short meditation, ate a healthy organic breakfast, made a big organic salad for my lunch, and walked to work connecting with trees and plants along the way. In my workspace, I had many cards and things that were spiritual reminders to be present.

I have also done Qi Gong, Yoga, short hikes, and a small amount of cycling; none of these were done as consistent as would be really helpful, but all when done were enjoyed.  The other big support, both while working and continues to the present, is my practice of Therapeutic Touch (TT). In 1984 I learned TT to support my hospice and home health patients, and it truly was a great tool in my nurse bag. Little did I know then what I know now… that each time I centered (became fully present, peaceful, grounded and connected to source energy) I not only helped the person receiving TT, but I helped myself.

Now that I am retired my morning meditations are longer and include chanting. I find the daily practice of deep peace and stillness, which actually connects me to all that is, to be the most helpful thing I do. Even if it is only for five minutes or two minutes, it makes a huge difference. My TT practice continues with my inner self being more aware of the energetic support that occurs for both my client and me. As the Universal Healing Energy comes through me it is like sipping honey through a straw, some is going to stick to the straw. I listen to music that nourishes my soul, I limit the amount of news I read, and I stay connected to friends and family. I believe joy is our natural state so I spend as much time in joy as I can.

Sending you wholeness and harmony, joy and peace, thanks for reading, Cordy Anderson

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A Sweet Surprise About Holistic Nursing

Submitted by Christina Dynamite BSN, RN-BC, NC-BC
OHNA Conference Coordinator-in-Training

As a new board member I was tasked with writing a sort of “what is holistic nursing to me” blog post and I’ve found myself unable to define that quite yet, so let me tell you about my experiences at my first OHNA conference in 2018 to explore that question a bit more. 

To be honest, I decided to go to the OHNA conference because it would be about $1500 cheaper than going to the APNA conference and both time and money were short.   Besides, when the choices are a short drive to Breitenbush or a flight to Ohio there’s a clear winner!  I had a lot of stereotypes about the “kind” of nurse I would find at this conference since I’ve attended self-help workshops in the past and there used to be some “holistic nurses” bringing oils and smiles to the med-surg unit I worked on, including one who wore a lot of purple.  I knew there would be talk of “energy” but what of “evidence?”  As a new nurse coach, I had a lot of hopes I would meet hordes of holistic entrepreneurs with shared wisdom.  I also had a lot of fears ranging from not being “holistic” enough or learning that I was really that “woo-woo” too and would then fall off the slippery slope of reality and evidence-based practice and lose the respect of my nursing peers.  Of course, I also wondered about the potential etiquette and awkwardness of seeing professional colleagues naked. 

Ultimately, more hopes than fears manifested.  My first encounter with these “holistic” nurses was indeed rather anticlimactic for the fears and stereotypes I held.  At dinner the first evening I found nurses from the OR, community, hospice, med-surg, ER, surgery, and even a high school.   They were at the conference because they were curious about holistic nursing as well, or came because they had education funds to use and wanted to soak.  The nurses that did self-identify as holistic integrated complementary modalities informally into to their practice or even identified ‘listening’ as a holistic modality – it often feels like a luxury to spend time listening in the hospital, isn’t it?   

The opening circle started the shift towards being willing to call myself a holistic nurse.  The familiarity of intentional space setting combined with ritual set me at ease, and it was awesome to see the variety of nurses represented.   There was even one person I knew – and uh, oh, was it going to be awkward to see that person naked?   I should caveat that this was not my first time at Breitenbush.   In the morning, Kathy Bell’s “Introduction to Holistic Nursing” sealed the deal.  Kathy described holistic nursing as a “lens” rather than a specialty, and it made a lot of sense to me – it’s what I had been doing for eleven years.   

Medications and “treatments” alone have never been enough to truly heal someone, though they give the appearance of it.  The only time a day in med-surg felt right for me was if I got to hold a hand or hold space for someone’s emotions and spiritual healing as well.   Recently in my mental health nursing practice, I have begun to integrate more creativity and mindfulness techniques. I’ve begun opening the conversation with clients about diet, spirituality, and the need for courage and risk-taking to facilitate their recovery.   Last year when I started having coaching conversations with caregivers I learned how sick we “healers” are and found these exchanges healing for myself as well, unlike those in the hospital. 

It was well-researched evidence interlaced with the personal journeys of the presenters that opened my eyes about potential therapeutic uses of CBD, illuminated the ways our food is making us sick, and even surprisingly taught me a practical way that astrology could help us understand ways to potentially communicate with clients.   “Energy” came into the story when it was evident a lingering headache was because I was holding back a slew of emotions and allowing my brain to bully my heart into being okay –yet again – and I was indeed called out on this and supported through this healing process, topped off with a massage, lavender oil, ibuprofen, and a peaceful nap. 

As it turns out, it wasn’t any more awkward than usual being naked around professional colleagues because over the course of the conference they had become friends – so I decided to join the ranks!   I look forward to deepening my practice and understanding holistic nursing in action as I interact with our group over time.  Woo!  

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My Journey to “Sacred Selfishness”

Submitted by Breeze Powell Spivey, RN

I grew up in a family where all things alternative and natural were our normal. We always had a naturopath as our family practitioner, and we used plants and folk remedies as our first line of medicine. My mother really taught us to listen to and not fear our bodies. She practiced as a home birth midwife when I was a child. As the eldest of four, I was present for the births of all three of my younger siblings.  As a five-year-old, I had already decided I wanted to become a midwife someday too.

Breeze with her son Izaiah

During my teen years, I was drawn toward different modalities of healing. I learned a lot about crystals and gemstones and their healing power. I apprenticed with an elder friend of our family who was a reiki master. She attuned me to levels 1 and 2. For many years I have studied plant and herbal medicine. I have made my own tonics, tinctures, and salves. I love the magic of making medicine from what grows around us.

After traveling to South America and Asia in my late teens, my partner (at the time) and I settled in Northern California. At age 19 I found out I was pregnant and gave birth to my Son, Izaiah at twenty years of age. I struggled with depression during and after my pregnancy. When my son was two, his father and I separated, and I moved back to Oregon to be closer to my support system. I remained depressed for many years, hiding it very well. I finally reached a point where I felt so hopeless and lost, I opened my mind to trying an antidepressant. I was fearful and had my own biases toward pharmaceuticals. After a while, I started to feel better, but eventually, I felt numb.

Breeze and her husband Michael

I went through some pretty dark times, and with the support of my doctor I eventually weaned off the antidepressants. The process was slow and painful, but I finally came back around to feeling like myself.  It was during this time I started to question what was next for me in life. I was still very inspired to seek an education in midwifery, but which path I wanted to take was unclear. I had a few close friends at the time who were nurses or were going through nursing school. The path seemed daunting and overwhelming. Finally, after some deep contemplation, I reached my decision to go to nursing school. I wanted to choose a path that had many opportunities within it. I felt that for me to be able to serve others in the most holistic way possible I needed to dive into western medicine and gain an understanding and appreciation for a world that I had held foreign.

Nursing school rocked my world. It made me question myself in ways I never had. It tore apart preconceived notions and ideas I had created. At one point I felt like I was becoming a hypochondriac – every subject we studied led to another self- diagnosis! I could feel myself embodying symptoms and becoming engrossed with dis-ease and it’s processes . Often I felt a mixture of inspiration and despair. I wanted so badly to make a difference for the patients I encountered and I also felt so limited by the current system of health care in our country. I joined our student nursing organization and started to work on community projects and outreach. That year I also traveled to the Oregon Student Nursing Association’s annual conference. It was at that conference I visited a table that members of OHNA had set up. I thought to myself, if there is such a thing as holistic nursing, then I must be on the right path. I attended Marina’s class that day about astrology and I was not only inspired, but relieved to finally feel like I would be able to incorporate all the holistic practices and ideals I had gathered thus far, with the new knowledge of nursing practice I was gaining.

Breeze The Surfer

For the past two years, I worked as a nurse home visitor in Lincoln County. My clients were pregnant women and young children. I got to explore my passion for working closely with this population, which I had dreamed of serving since childhood. I have learned so much about myself through this work and about how I want to move forward in my nursing career.

Due to some life changes, I chose to leave my job in October, just prior to this years OHNA annual conference. It was attending this years’ conference that really has catapulted me toward a new way of envisioning and incorporating holism into my life.  I was so moved by this gathering of like-minded healers and nurses. I realized I had been making excuses for years to not give back to myself the way I give to others. This had led me to feel burned out at times. I had made a habit of feeling guilty for making myself a priority. During the conference, I was awakened to a new concept, “sacred selfishness.” This realization that being selfish can be sacred has allowed me to focus on self-care in a new way. This is my new journey, one which I’m sure will last my lifetime. I view holism as tapping into all levels of our being. True healing can occur when we honor all aspects of ourselves; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I feel that I am finally on the path to self-healing.

Though I am currently on a hiatus from practicing nursing, it is my goal in the coming year to incorporate all the knowledge I have gained and find new ways of sharing and learning. I am committing much of my time to homeschooling my son. I continue to teach bellydance to women in my community, and I find solace in the ocean while surfing as much as possible. I am currently building a new business with my mother centered around medical cannabis. I plan to join the American Cannabis Nurses Association.  I would like to broaden my understanding of cannabis as a medicine and the healing powers of the endocannabinoid system. As far as my passion for women’s health and birth, I continue to help facilitate a group for mothers in my community called Womens‘ Connect. This is a safe place for women to gather and share in the experience of pregnancy and motherhood.

I look forward to reaching out to other nurses, students, and healers so they can learn about OHNA.  I am honored to be a part of the OHNA Board, and I am excited to work alongside such talented and gifted women. Cheers to a new year, one full of giving and receiving!

Breeze The Artist

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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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