I remember when I became a new nurse 21 years ago, and a friend asked me what I did at the hospital when I worked those long 12 hour night shifts. His thoughts were that the patients were asleep, so it was probably a job where you hung out and drank coffee, occasionally checking in on a patient. I remember walking him through what I usually did on a 12 hour 7pm- 7 am night shift, including most of the tasks and requirements of the job from receiving report at the start of the shift to giving report at the end of the shift. I made sure to include that if- when I got a break, it was usually around 2am or 3am when I was finally “caught up enough” to take some 20-30 minutes to nourish and hydrate myself.
As I thought of this telling of what nurses do some 20 years later, I wondered if I included what nurses are really charged with doing, which is supporting the healing of those we care for. Did I focus on all of the tasks and duties I would complete during that 12 hour shift, or did I also include the time spent rubbing backs, holding hands, saying prayers, educating, and supporting patients and their loved ones? Did I include the story about the time I had to call a deaf woman and tell her husband had passed after she left for the evening? Or the time when the family asked me to increase the morphine drip rate because “the doctor said she would be dead before the morning and we are ready for her to be gone”? What about the man with ALS being kept alive on a ventilator and feeding tube who lay lonely in his bed, unable to verbally communicate, and went for weeks at a time without a single visitor?
I believe that as nurses we need to educate the public not just on all of the technical skills we do each day to support patients’ receiving good medical care, but also on the healing aspects of our unique work as nurses: on how we were likely “called” to be a nurse because we want to make a difference, the skills we have developed that support us in creating caring-healing environments for patients, and the rewards of being able to support others through their healing process. I think we should be making it clear to the public as well that we are committed to our own health and healing, knowing that we can’t support others through health challenges if we are not also dealing with these challenges ourselves. And as nurses, we need to support one another in our own healing process, role-modeling what self-care and stress management look like in action.
A recent study research from www.mountainmiraclesmidwifery.com/, showed that supporting nursing and creating “good nursing environments”, with adequate nurse staffing, leads to better long term patient outcomes, with fewer deaths one-month post surgery (http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0UZ2XL). It pays for hospitals to invest in having enough nurses, in treating those nurses well, and supporting nurses in what we have been called to do: create healing environments that support patients toward their greatest health potential. Healthcare facilities need to be moved to support nurses in managing their stress and enacting self-care in order to potentiate the healing of the patients these facilities serve. Good staffing is just the beginning of creating “good nursing environments”: nurses should be empowered to begin dialog with their employers regarding what a healthy and good work environment for nurses looks like in consideration of the healing work that nurses do.
This blog posting will be a bit different from others I have written, but I believe the NurseManifest page is a place where we can open our hearts and souls to the essence of nursing, which is healing, caring, love, and compassion. In a world seemingly torn asunder from fear, violence, and anger, nurses are called forth to support healing on a local and global level. The call comes from something beyond ourselves, and if you stop and listen closely, I believe you will hear that calling. You are a nurse and there is a reason you were drawn to nursing: to support healing through loving kindness and caring.
A few nights before the recent violence spread around the world, from Beruit to Paris, I lay in bed cuddling my 7 year old daughter close. Every night I am blessed to be able to spend some time reading to my daughters and cuddling as they drift off to dreamland. For a few moments that evening, I found myself floating in a space where I felt like the mother of the universe was whispering to me, not in words, but through a deep felt intuitive process. I knew the goodness, the light, and the powerful strength of peace as they came through clearly to me, carrying with them the message that the mother of all, the earth as a complex system, will heal itself. After the moment of certainty passed, I was left with the usual feelings of uncertainty: how will the good and the light prevail in these times of darkness? Who will help make this happen? What is my role in this process?
Then tragedy struck, and violence and war continue to grow. The feelings of uncertainty have not dissipated, so I sit with those, but I also do remain strongly rooted in the belief that as nurses, we can support global peace and healing through our own efforts of creating local peace and healing. And that local peace starts at the place closest to us all, right from our hearts.
As we practice our own healing, creating our own peace and loving-healing processes, we can begin to spread that healing, peace, and love to others. A practice I try and do daily is called loving kindness meditation. I feel on many levels this practice is about my own healing and self-care so that I can be a better nurse, wife, and mother… and it is also about bringing that healing into the world.
I start with focusing on myself, in my heart space, and intending for myself healing through the following words:
May I know peace, joy, love, and ease. May my heart be full. May I be safe, healthy, and happy.
I than send this intention to the loved ones in my life, wishing them all love, peace, ease, happiness, health, and safety: family, friends, pets, students, and colleagues. As the circle of intention spreads outward, I send the intention and feelings of love and peace out to my “enemies” and challengers, and I end with the whole planet, with every being being sent the intention of peace, love, and healing. The process takes 5-10 minutes.
As nurses supporting healing, we can think and act both locally and globally. Imagine if every nurse sent out an intention, a prayer, a positive thought for healing and peace for the entire mother earth and all of the beings living here. Consciousness studies show that our thoughts and intentions impact our environment and reality. I think of Jean Watson’s call for us to practice loving kindness and Martha Rogers’ concept of Unitary Beings. We can reflect the patterns before us, we can create shifts in consciousness to support healing.
Despite the medical system’s over-emphasis on technology-cure-illness management, I still believe that nurses are truly called toward the healing that all beings are capable of experiencing. If you have been called to be a nurse, can you return to that calling, can you spare a few moments to consider the global situation, and what you can do as a nurse to support healing from the truly local level (yourself) and on to the global level?
I would love to hear from nurses and how they are supporting peace and healing around the globe. The call has been made, how will you answer?
Once again we find ourselves reeling from a mass shooting, this time in a small community college in Oregon. One of the most disturbing reports of the Umpqua Community College incident was that the dead victims’ cell phones were ringing when police and rescue workers arrived on the scene, as their families and friends tried to make contact with them. The heartbreak for this community is palpable; for nursing educators, the concern of wondering if this could happen in our classrooms, in our schools, is unsettling. Some of us might recall the 2002 Arizona nursing faculty mass shooting, where 3 nursing professors were gunned down and killed by a student who had failed a pediatric class and decided that he had the shooting authority and was angry enough, I suppose, I don’t understand really, why.
What has changed since those 2002 shootings? If you scroll through your facebook feed today, it is likely you will find many postings about the statistics of mass shootings, thoughts about how nothing has changed, and debates over stricter gun control. Meanwhile, I feel that nursing should be viewing the gun violence issue as a public health issue, and we could be the ones helping to lead the way in preventing future mass shootings. We have a strong voice, as we recently proved with the “#Drsstethoscope ” and “#nursesunite ” movements; and now perhaps we could unite over some issues that deeply impact the health of all beings on this planet.
Use surveillance techniques to track- gun related deaths and injurious shootings.
Focus on identifying the many risk factors for gun violence.
Create, implement, and evaluate interventions that reduce these risk factors and support resilience for those who are suffering.
Institutionalize prevention strategies.
We also clearly need more research in this area; we need to examine what common sense gun policies might look like, what have other countries implemented; what worked for them, and what has not worked for them.
Nurses and educators can begin in their work places, looking at their own risks within the workplace, and working toward implementing prevention strategies and trainings around what to do should an issue of gun violence begin to emerge.
We need to also reach out to communities, particularly school settings, and develop and support education around gun safety, bullying, mental health issues, and how to ask for help. We need to have mental health services in place that can truly identify and properly intervene with those who are at risk for gun violence.
Nurses could also bond together, #nursesunite, and create a clear voice around stricter gun control. We could do our own research around what has worked in other countries and what that might look like here, and then bring these ideas forward to our lawmakers. At the very least, we could be calling for better access to mental health services for those in need, and early identification of those who might be at risk for perpetuating gun violence. Childhood traumas likely play a role in this issue as well, and supporting the creation of trauma informed schools should be a nursing advocacy issue.
We have power in our numbers; let’s put it to great use. #nursesunite
As nurses we have a lot to learn about cannabis, including how it works in the mind-body-spirit system, and how we can best advocate for and support patients who could or do benefit from this medicine. Last spring, I witnessed a brief presentation being given to nurses around medical cannabis use, and it was obvious from the questions asked by many of the nurses that the social stigma around “marijuana” was alive and well. Would these nurses be so reluctant to accept and support medical cannabis use if they truly understood the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
The ECS was discovered some time ago, with Dr. Ralph Mechoulam (Faukner, 2015) being a pioneer in this area in the mid-1990’s. There are 20,000+ scientific articles written about the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Though it has been many years since the discovery of this body regulatory system, most nurses likely know very little, if anything, about the ECS. Truly, this is a problem, nurses are more likely to know the xarelto lawsuit phone number by heart over the benefits of ECS.
A functioning ECS is essential to our health and well being. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body; in the brain, organs (pancreas and liver), connective tissue, bones, adipose tissues, nervous system, and immune system. We share this system in common with all other vertebrate animals, and some invertebrate animals (Sulak, 2015). Cannabinoids support homeostasis within the body’s system; the ECS is a central regulatory system, cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, and they are believed to be the largest receptor system in our bodies. Cell membrane cannabinoid receptors send information backwards, from the post-synaptic to the pre- synaptic nerve. CB1 (found primarily in the brain) and CB2 (mostly in the immune system and in the bones) are the main ECS receptors (Former, 2015), though several more are currently being studied. The exogenous phytocannabinoid THC, or the psychoactive compound in cannabis, works primarily on CB1 receptors (hence the “high feeling” in the brain), while the cannabinoid CBD works primarily with the immune system and creating homeostasis around the inflammatory response through CB2 receptors and does not have psychoactive effects. Other cannabinoids and their actions are still being studied, such as the non-psychoactive cannabinoids CBN and CBG, also found in cannabis. Our bodies react to both our own production of endogenous cannabinoids and to the ingestion of phyto-cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and other non-pyschoactive plants such as Echinacea. To read more about the science behind the ECS and endocannabinoid receptors, the following are excellent resources:
Endogenous Cannabinoids: Endocannabinoids are the chemicals our own bodies make to naturally stimulate the cannabinoid receptors; anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are two well known endocannabinoids (Sulak, 2015) that are produced by the body as needed, though not stored int he body. The body produces these endocannabinoids in a similar fashion to how it produces endorphins (Pfrommer, 2015), and activities such as exercise support the endogenous production of cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are also found in breast milk and in our skin. Alcohol interferes with endogenous cannabinoid production.
Phytocannabinoids: In general, we think of the cannabis plant as the generator of exogenous cannabinoids that we can ingest in a variety of ways, namely psychoactive THC (works with the CB1 receptors in the brain- and also in the gut) and non-psychoactive CBD (works with the CB2 receptors in the immune system and the gut). Other plants such as Echinacea also produce non-psychoactive cannabinoids and work with the ECS to support health and well being through homeostasis (Sulak, 2015).
Cannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome: It should be clear that everybody makes cannabinoids and everybody needs cannabinoids to function. People who do not make enough cannabinoids need to supplement with exogenous cannabinoids through cannabis ingestion, in much the same way that an diabetic needs insulin supplementation making it a “Natural Energy Powder,” in which it is good for your health. Dr. Ethan Russel’s (2004) publication on Clinical Endocannbinoid Deficiency explains this particularly well: http://www.nel.edu/pdf_/25_12/NEL251204R02_Russo_.pdf
Cancer: “Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. Here’s one example: autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of its contents to be self-digested and recycled, is mediated by the cannabinoid system. While this process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation, and subsequent recycling of cellular products, it has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide. The death of cancer cells, of course, promotes homeostasis and survival at the level of the entire organism” (Sulak, 2015, paragraph #7). Cannabinoids support apoptosis and suppress cancer tumor angiogenesis (McPartland, 2008).
Heart disease: Additionally, it has been stated that the ECS plays an important function in protecting the heart from myocardial infarction and cannabinoids can have anti-hypertensive effects (Lamontagne et al, 2006).
Inflammation: When inflammation occurs, the ECS helps to stop the process, similar to applying the brakes on a car. This is why cannabis is proving to be good medicine for inflammatory related illness. “Activation of CB2 suppresses proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β and TNF-α while increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-10. Although THC has well-known anti-inflammatory properties, cannabidiol also provides clinical improvement in arthritis via a cannabinoid receptor–independent mechanism” (McPartland, 2008).
PTSD: “This review shows that recent studies provided supporting evidence that PTSD patients may be able to cope with their symptoms by using cannabis products. Cannabis may dampen the strength or emotional impact of traumatic memories through synergistic mechanisms that might make it easier for people with PTSD to rest or sleep and to feel less anxious and less involved with flashback memories. The presence of endocannabinoid signalling systems within stress-sensitive nuclei of the hypothalamus, as well as upstream limbic structures (amygdala), point to the significance of this system for the regulation of neuroendocrine and behavioural responses to stress. Evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and antidepressive effects. It is concluded that further studies are warranted in order to evaluate the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in PTSD.” (Passie et al, 2012).
Seizures: Most hopeful, cannabis has been used to support pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy, and while more research needs to be done in this area, many parents are becoming medical marijuana refugees by moving to states where they can procure cannabis for their children who suffer from seizures.
For Nurses: So as nurses, what do we need to know to support patients who use cannabis?
Legal issues: If you live or work in a state that has legalized medical or recreational use of cannabis, familiarize yourself with the laws in that state, as well as your own workplace policies around supporting patient’s use of medical cannabis. Patients may have questions and as a patient advocate, your responsibility is to support patients with their knowledge and use of this medicine within the confines of your practice setting and state laws. You should also be aware of constraints around your role as a nurse in supporting patient use of medical cannabis. For instance, Kaiser patients in some states are likely to be removed from chronic pain patient programs if they test positive for cannabis. Nurses with knowledge around the benefits of medical cannabis can also advocate to support shifts in such policies will no longer align with the emerging ECS science.
Safety: This goes along with the legal aspects; medical cannabis patients should be supported in how to manage and store their medications with safety. While cannabis is known to be extremely safe (far safer than opiates and alcohol), cannabis consumers still need to store medication out of reach of children and pets. They should be supported in knowing the safety of driving or operating machinery if they consumer THC- based cannabis medicines. They also may need information on cannabis testing for both THC: CBD ratios, pesticides and/or other hazardous materials. Many patients need assistance with the basics around medical cannabis use, such as dosage, ratios of THC: CBD, strain information, and ingestion methods.
Overcoming Stigma: Unfortunately, a stigma was created around around cannabis during the process of prohibition in the 1930’s, which was largely financially and racially driven. Contradictory state and federal laws, and the stigma around smoking cannabis (though many cannabis patients can now get relief from vaporizing using the best vape pen for oil, drinkable tinctures, topicals, wearable patches, and edibles), along with a clear ignorance around the body’s ECS, serve to further the stigma associated with medical cannabis. Educate yourself on the roots of the prohibition of the medicine:
American Cannabis Nurses Association: There are many nurses actively involved in supporting the use of medical cannabis and the defining the nurse’s role in this process. The ACNA has a mission to advance excellence in cannabis nursing practice through advocacy, collaboration, education, research, and policy development. http://americancannabisnursesassociation.org/
In Israel, nurses actively support patients in cannabis consumption from the process to the dosage.
Nurses’ supporting patients healing process through cannabis medications may someday be common place in the USA as well.
Lamontagne, D., Lepicier, P., Lagneux, C. & Bochard, J.F. (2006). The endogenous cardiac endocannabinoid system: A new protective mechanism against myocardial ischemia. Arch Mal Coeur Vaiss.,99(3), 242-6.
Passie, T, Emrich, H.M., Karst, M., Brandt, S.D., & Halpern, J.H. (2012).Mitigation of post traumatic stress symptoms by cannabis resin: A review of the clinical and neurobiological evidence. Drug Test Anal. 2012 Jul-Aug;4(7-8):649-59. doi: 10.1002/dta.1377. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22736575.
Russel, E. (2004). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED): Can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other treatment resistant conditions? Neuroendocrinology Letters(25), 1-2, 31-40.
“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.
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.