Feeling empowered at the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) Conference


I have spent the past few days in Louisville, KY, attending the various events at the AHNA conference. It has been a great experience to be with so many like-minded nurses who are committed to self-care, healing, and being empowered in their nursing practice. Many of us believe that the “being” with patients is the art of our nursing practice, and AHNA supports us in building holistic practices that facilitate the “being with” process.

The day here starts with the option of attending a self-care modality, such as yoga or chi gong. Nurses stroll through a vending area, where they can learn about various healing modalities, and buy books on healing and holism or purchase healing souvenirs such as candles, jewelry, and hand labyrinths. We have the opportunity to sign up for treatments such as Reiki, massage, and cranio-sacral therapy. The key-note speakers have included leaders such as Dr. Joan Borysenko, who shared with us her thoughts on burn-out and self-care healing.We are also able to take a class on the art of bodybuilding along with a whole open discussion on real prohormones

The poster area is a great place to see the research that nurses are doing around holistic modalities and how they are bringing holism to their settings. I have 2 posters here that display the story I wrote for the Nurse Manifest Research Project in 2003 and my efforts toward creating an integral-holistic RN to BSN curriculum at University of Maine at Augusta. During the poster sessions, I have met up with some former students who have stopped by just to say hi, and other nurse educators who are interested in learning more about how to create a holistic curriculum in their setting on the example of Imagine Wellness Centre, among other centres. It is wonderful to discuss the rewards and challenges of our efforts and how we can move forward from here.

My favorite experience thus far has been the caring-sharing circles, one of which I am facilitating. We come together in randomly assigned small groups and create a space for sharing our truths. I was blessed to be with a group of women who were willing to walk into our challenges around self-care and healing. I wish that all nurses could have this sort of experience on a regular basis. We had moments of silence followed by deep sharing if our personal truths, and that creates an opportunity for healing.

So, what do AHNA and healing have to do with the emancipation and empowerment of nursing? I believe that in order to take control of our practices, we need to know what kind of healing practices are within the scope of an autonomous nursing practice. We need to become experts in these modalities and provide patients with access to our healing services. We need to envision the future of nursing as a healing practice and find ways to together make this a reality. Nurses need to take back our practices, which have become largely dictated to us by the facilities where we work, and by the regulations that have been imposed upon us. Nurses need to unite to create a clear voice around what it is nurses do, and what it is patients want along their healing journeys. Conferences such as the AHNA provide us a space where we can bond and grow together, drawing strength to return to our own settings and keep striving toward our visions of an emancipated nursing practice.

I would love to hear answers to the pressing questions in my mind: What are you doing to usher in the future of nursing? How can you be supported in your efforts?

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