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.
I 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.