The fall semester for most nurse educators is well underway. We may be delving into grading papers, doing our own research, providing community and university service, and guiding student learning processes. All of these endeavors and the many tasks of nurse educators can lead us to living in a stress response state, where our amygdalas are firing and our sympathetic nervous systems are enacted on an all too regular basis.
As I have written of previously, it becomes our responsibility to care for ourselves to enact a parasympathetic response or top down response where our brains are responding from the prefrontal cortex. Eliciting the relaxation response and changing our neural response happens when we enact self-care activities across the spectrum: from the basics of exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a low inflammatory diet to practicing meditation, prayer, providing service to others, acupuncture, therapy, and yoga.
We as nurse educators serve as the role models for our students. I would like to share a brief example of this here.
I was in my office on campus during office hours, when I received a phone call from a student. She asked about a recipe I had posted in the online classroom: a sugar free pumpkin spice coffee recipe as an alternative to all of the sugar filled coffee drinks available at a variety of coffee places this time of year. After we spoke of the recipe, she said she wants what I have, she wants some serenity.
I spoke at length with her about my healing journey and I shared some of my own challenges in this area. It is very important that we as educators also make it evident that healing is a lifelong journey, that we move in and out of peace and serenity just like any other human being, that we use these modalities of self-care and healing for ourselves. I would call this authenticity. We also can support our students in knowing that we care for them, we honor the work they do and the healing path they are on. We can value healing and self care directly in our curricula. In the curriculum I have developed, approximately 20%-30% of the academic graded work is based on self-care and reflective work.
We can realize that people change either be crisis, trauma, or choice and then we can support the students in creating change from a place of choice.
The student left the phone conversation with a plan to try some yoga classes offered at her local yoga center. We looked up the classes together online and spoke of her preferences and what might work well with her.
And so this is the reward of education; knowing that this nurse in need of healing and is starting on her way; knowing that she can change the way she works as a nurse and how she interacts with her family; knowing that as an educator, we can impact the lives of so many beyond our students.