In prior episodes, we have talked a lot about the challenges and the harsh working conditions under which nurses are practicing, and how the healthcare system worldwide is literally hemorrhaging nurses. We are, we are voicing our pain and suffering . . .and our longstanding unmet needs . . . with our pink slips and our feet.  Nurses are leaving their roles and the profession in unprecedented numbers.

While we do **sort of ** have a nursing shortage, what we actually have is a staffing situation.  And what is really at the root cause is the sustained mistreatment of nurses that has resulted in a critical mass.  Nurses are just no longer able to sacrifice themselves for a broken healthcare system or toxic workplaces. It’s important to keep this context in mind.

When we start putting our eyes on the horizon and see where we’re going as a profession –as individual nurses and nursing communities — and consider the totality of our lived experience. . .as humans in bodymindessence. And remember, that’s that umbrella term that captures every aspect of your lived experience – your body, mind, spirit, and any ancestral lineages or legacies of suffering that has been transmitted through any number of mechanisms.

Bodymindessence is a broad, encompassing term that we really should start thinking about when we ponder our lived experiences as whole human beings. In the integrative nursing framework, one of the principles is that humans, are whole people who are inseparable from the contexts and systems in which they live and work. And that includes nurses. So today I am going to talk about some terms out of my book.  Shameless plug warning – the title of my book is Nursing Our Healer’s Heart: A Recovery Guide for Nurse Trauma and Burnout.  It’s available everywhere that books are sold.

Let’s start with page 31 because I really need talk today about how important it is that we nurture, nourish, and thrive, not only in our practices, but in life. But given the inordinate amount of avoidable and unavoidable nurse specific trauma exposure, in conjunction with the individual traumas that we have experienced, all of which are in varying degrees of healed-ness within us. . .it’s really easy to get mired in the pain and suffering.  And this pain, this suffering, it’s not just physical pain, pain in any dimension of our being, in the broadest sense of the bodymindessence definition.

It’s really easy to get mired in there and kind of lose sight of the goal and the horizon. So when I talk about nurturing and nourishing ourselves, it’s every aspect of our being, but really starting in our most primal systems, the autonomic nervous system, and the vagus nerve, which as we go through these podcast series together, you’ll see are immeasurably important, the foundation, the bedrock upon which everything else is built, quite frankly, in terms of professional safety and wellbeing.

So let us first talk about on page 31 on my book, what does it mean to nurture? Like when was the last time you were nurtured at home or at work? It’s such a basic primal need, and we are, most of us are just so darn busy that we don’t have time or, or don’t have the bandwidth or the head space to really pause and nurture ourselves. So let’s talk about what that means.

Nurturing is a process by which individuals and nursing communities engage their feelings, attitudes, behaviors, and substances that stimulate foster and support professional wellbeing.

So again, anything really that helps us be held and supported in every aspect when we are at work, and of course when we’re at home. But the focus of our time here together is really in our professional roles. And so the question is . . .how can or do you nurture yourself while working? [Dr. Lorre takes a deep inhale followed by a slow exhale].  There. One mindful breath.  I just nurtured myself. I just nurtured my nervous system. I just set a signal of safety to my Threat Detector and so much more.  And in so doing, I calmed my all aspects of my physiology.

So there’s many ways that we can nurture ourselves, including some of the practices, kind of the appetizer practices that, that I’ve shared with you. Like the MicroDoses Matter practice and The Button Jar practice. Those are just little appetizer, samplers of how we can really nurture and nourish ourselves, even on the busiest of days.. So now that we’re, we’re talking about nourishing, let’s, let’s see what, what that’s defined in.

Again, I’m in the book, page 31. It’s kind of wild reading your own book. I’m not gonna lie, it feels, it feels a little unnatural, but, but yet, here it is in my hand, and we’re, and we’re gonna talk about it. Now that we know what nurturing ourselves entails, let’s contrast that with nourishing ourselves.

Nourish is the active or passive act of providing sustenance to every aspect of one’s being, or bodymindessence, from the mitochondria to the totality of the essence of who you are, even beyond the physical realm.

So again, this has a lot to do with how we think of nourishing ourselves. Of course, we all know to hydrate and eat well and exercise and, and all of those things, but also nourishing our emotional body, nourishing our spiritual body in whatever way resonates with you. There’s no right or wrong way to take your nourishment. You’re, your nourishment is unique to you.

 Think about it . . .what lights you up? What recharges your battery? What restores you? What energizes you? That’s what nourishing yourself is all about. So this, it’s not about a prescriptive, “you should, you know, eat this many meals a day and you should drink this many glasses of water” kind of thing. While that’s important, nourishing yourself is about being very intentional about your needs, wants, and desires. It’s “how do you feel nourished way down to the core of your being. What practices, what activities, what types of people, what types of relationships and communities?”. There are so, so many ways to nourish ourselves.  The goal is to really start thinking about how can you nourish yourself at work when you are so pressed for time that it feels like one mindful breath is too much to do.

There’s so many of us sort of just go into this, this mode, and I’m not judging at all because it’s really where we are as a profession.  We’re literally in survival mode as individual nurses and as a profession. We’re literally in survival mode. This is the, the worst nursing crisis I think that has ever been, or at least that has ever been recorded, right?

In, in terms that we can understand today. And so, how can you nourish yourself at work? You know, is it just taking, is it just taking a moment before you get on the computer to maybe reach into your pocket and, and touch a piece of the earth that you brought with you; maybe a stone or a crystal or a dried or pressed flower in paper. Anything that is from nature will do.  And that of itself, that one small act is nourishing,  

Because of the broken system, understaffing, under-resourcing (and the list goes on) we get into a sympathetic overdrive state where it’s just like we’re on the hamster wheel and we’re running as fast as we can from task to task, to task to task. “I don’t have time to hydrate, and I don’t have time to use the restroom, and I don’t have time to eat lunch”. And that is real. I am not minimizing that that is real for many nurses.  But just because it is real does not make it right.

And a big part of the harsh working conditions that led us to this crisis is that nurses simply cannot continue to be neglected, overworked, and abused in their professional settings. And so, we’re starting.  Starting to take back a little bit of our power here. And when I say power, I mean that in the empowerment sense of the word and not the coercive power over sense of the word.

So anytime I say power, it’s really in that empowerment. Take back our empowerment. It starts with each of us. “I will take at least 30 seconds, if not 30 minutes, when it’s appropriate for me to do so, to nurture and nourish myself.

Now, the last term I wanna talk about today is thrive. Thrive, what a notion. I’ve surveyed hundreds, maybe even more now, I don’t know, several hundreds, maybe approaching thousands of nurses over the years.

And the vast majority of nurses are sort of in this survival mode, or they feel meh about their role, or they’re thinking about leaving the profession. I would venture to say that about about 10% of nurses that I’ve had the opportunity to work with or survey report that they’re thriving in practice. The, the rest, 90% of them are less than thriving. The majority of whom are downright miserable.

Every nurse should be thriving in their practice, right? We, we deliver heart-centered patient-centered care that requires us to be fully present with ourselves and with one another and with our patients. But we’re working in harsh conditions that actually don’t provide for us to be heart-centered, or fully present. And that’s a source of tremendous strife and conflict for a good number of nurses.  That translates to compromised patient safety,  quality of care, outcomes, and patient experience.

So let’s think about this . . . most nurses are in survival mode, right? That like running from task to task to task and that kind of sympathetic overdrive state where we’re just blazing through the day and, and not even taking time to check in with ourselves to see what we need to stay regulated in our nervous system, nurtured, and nourished.

And to be clear, this is not your or any nurses’ fault.  Oftentimes we don’t have time. It’s real. It’s unsafe occupational conditions.  That is what makes nurses feel like they cannot take so much as a few moments, let alone take their regular (mandated by law) breaks and lunch break.

And yet, we, you know, so don’t get me started on all that because we’re staying positive today. We’re staying with these positive terms of nurture, nourish, and thrive. So let me now see the goal, the goal of my work is to help nurses make that journey from being in survival mode, like running on that hamster wheel all day, moving from surviving to thriving in practice.

That’s the healing arc. That’s the journey that I am facilitating not only through my book, but through my breakup with Burnout Academy for Nurses, which is sponsored by my nonprofit organization.

So let’s talk about what does thrive mean?

Thrive describes how we are vital and how we are always open to learning in our personal and professional roles.

Thriving is based upon positive experiences, even those that emerge after overcoming adversity or hardship. Thriving is connected to improved health and wellbeing across all dimensions of bodymindessence. Now, now there’s a, there’s a key phrase in here that thriving is based upon positive experiences. Well, the vast majority of nurses that I’ve surveyed are not having positive experiences in their practice.

This is all due to the avoidable nurse specific traumatization that is secondary to, to healthcare system inadequacies. That’s what I’m talking about. That is what is robbing nurses of the positive experiences that we should be having in our professional roles. And it is a physiological barrier, as you’ll learn in the episodes ahead, when we start talking about the cell danger response theory, what we’re learning is that, that all that nurses are enduring is having very substantial health consequences, not only in our professional lives, but in our personal lives.

So it starts with transcending the negative experiences that, and the harsh working conditions and, and really start to integrate into our very, very busy day more positive experiences. And guess what, that’s probably not going to come from the system.

It’s not in the system’s best interest for them to give us less work. It’s in their interest to stretch us as thin as possible for the sake of profits, right? And so it’s up to us, it’s up to us as individual and collective nurses to get really creative, really innovative about “how can I, as an individual nurse and as as a team member, a unit leader, a, a manager. . .create positive moments and experiences so we can thrive?” Whatever your role is, how can I facilitate that for myself and my colleagues?

And so we can raise the bar, we can raise the vibration independent of what the system is doing, right? And it starts with just micro doses, micro steps. We’re not talking about huge, massive lifts those will follow later. But for right now, just interrupting that sympathetic overdrive so we can put in micro moments of positive experiences so that we can pave the way towards thriving in practice.

So if you are at all curious to learn more, and I hope that you are, here’s that shameless plug for my book, Nursing Our Healer Heart.  It’s available wherever books are sold.

If you haven’t done so already, check out my website for a 60-second self-survey to learn what your nurse burnout indicator is.  There, you will discover if and how you’ve been affected by the harsh working conditions, and start thinking about how you can nurture, nourish, and thrive in your professional role . . .and in life.

Until next time, thank you so much from my healer’s heart to yours for the important work that you’re doing. Namaste. 

Dr. Lorre 💕

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