The Nursing Manifesto: Aligning action toward living nursing as caring science and wholeness


“Organizations are not changing because people in organizations are not changing” (Cowling, Chinn, & Hagedorn, 2000).

The Nursing Manifesto provides us within the profession a beacon of light and hope toward creating change; it provides a map of sorts leading toward the manifestation of Nursing Qua Nursing. It calls for us to grow, change, and evolve into our professional caring autonomy.

My doctoral dissertation looked at Nursing’s Living Legend, Dr. Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring and how it could be explicated through relating it to other areas of academic disciplines: chaos theory, partnership theory, and transpersonal psychology were all used to support the concepts in Watson’s theory. My overall conclusion after many pages of theoretical writing was that nurses need to be on a journey of self-care and reflection in order to enact the human caring experience that Watson calls for.

“We believe that our journeys to enact this manifesto will certainly require a reuniting of the inner and outer life, accepting our wholeness and owning our freedom – a wholeness and freedom that will strengthen our outer capacity to love and serve” (Cowling, Chinn, & Hagedorn, 2000).

How can one love and serve in their capacity as a nurse? Several years after completing my dissertation, I was given the opportunity to develop an RN-BSN curriculum from a caring- holistic-integral science perspective at the University of Maine at Augusta. The recently accredited program emphasizes self-care and reflection, while students also have the opportunity to explore holistic modalities for use on their own healing paths and to share with others as well. The creation of this curriculum was an act of love and it continues to be a path of service toward the nurses we care for in our program.

For several years, I had a dream of bringing Jean to our students and faculty. Eventually we were able to partner with our local hospital Maine General Medical Center and bring Jean not only to our students, but to nurses and nursing students from around the state of Maine. After a year of planning by a committee of 10 empowered nurses, we were able to bring over 400 nurses together to spend a day with Jean, learning about her theory.

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The Augusta, Maine civic center was transformed by the planning committee nurses to be a healing space; special lighting was used, break time music was geared toward songs that support healing, plants were brought in, and intentions were set by the planning committee for healing space and caring science to emerge. The lunch meal and morning and afternoon fruit offerings were also geared toward support the health of the participants.

Dr. Watson spoke for many hours throughout the day about her transpersonal caring healing moment, the challenges we as nurses face in the current medical-cure based healthcare system, and the 10 Caritas Processes that support the nurse in creating the caring moment. Participants were encouraged to ask questions and share their own experiences with caring and healing. The whole day aligned with the Nurse Manifesto process, in that Dr. Watson focused on Nursing Qua Nursing and how we can move toward a caring science reality of nursing: “It is our firm conviction that there is a body of knowledge that is specific, if not unique, to nursing’s concerns and interests. We think that this knowledge is grounded in appreciation of wholeness, concern for human well being, and ways in which we accommodate healing through the art and science of nursing” (Cowling, Chinn, & Hagedorn, 2000).

Additionally she spoke extensively about the broken healthcare system, which has morphed into an illness system, or as the nurse manifesto noted, “general subjugation of spiritual consciousness to the economics of health care” and “the long-standing ideology (acquired consciousness) of nurses being subservient to other interests, and not encouraged to be deeply committed to their own healing work” (Cowling, Chinn, & Hagedorn, 2000).

Of great importance throughout the day was the emphasis on Watson’s first caritas process: Embrace altruistic values and Practice loving kindness with self and others. The other 9 caritas process revolve around the nurse’s efforts toward enacting the first caritas process, which begins with the nurse learning to care for themselves through self care, or acting in love towards oneself.

Students provided us with feedback after the event, and they stated that the most profound experiences were being able to meet Dr. Jean Watson, and also experiencing the transpersonal caring moment through a listening experience. During this experience, the participants first centered themselves in order to speak or listen from the heart; and then in pairs, they had the opportunity to practice being present and listening without saying a word, as well as reversing the experience and speaking for several minutes from the heart. The students found this to be profound and they realized what it means to be truly present with another person in a caring- heart centered experience. Many nurses do not have the skills or experience in this area, so this is something we must continue to foster in our nursing curricula and healthcare settings. My hope is that the nurses who experienced this event will have experienced some change within themselves that will help foster the change needed in the healthcare system. Love, serve, remember….

I am grateful to also have had media coverage of the event. Media coverage for nurses is of great importance, moving us out of the shadows and away from the invisible nature of our work. The front page of the Kennebec Journal on November 17 read, “Love is What Heals” and included a picture of Dr. Watson at the podium. Additionally, the event was covered by the local TV station, and that can be viewed here: http://www.foxbangor.com/news/local-news/6994-doctor-redefines-practice-of-nursing.html This media coverage is important, because as we know nurses tend to be invisible in the media, our presence often over-ridden by the medical-cure based system. We need to continue to find ways to shine our own unique light of love and healing.

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Reference:

Cowling, W. R., Chinn, P. L., & Hagedorn, S. (2000, April 30, 2009). A Nursing Manifesto: A Call to Conscience and Action. Retrieved from http://www.nursemanifest.com/manifesto_num.htm