On excellence in holistic nursing education

I am currently at the American Holistic Nurses Association national conference in Norfolk Virgina, and the conference as usual has been enlightening, refreshing, and heart opening. I was honored yesterday by the American Holistic Nurses Association as having developed a nursing curriculum that exemplifies “excellence in holistic nursing education”.

The journey toward developing a curriculum that supports students knowledge of self-care and the use of holistic modalities for self-healing and the healing of others continues on. In retrospect, when I look back at the last 3 years of developing and implementing the curriculum, the main rewards live in witnessing students undertake their own healing process and return to a place of caring in their nursing practice and in sharing the healing journey together as a community. So many of our RN-BSN students at University of Maine at Augusta recover from burn-out and begin to find ways to implement self-care, which begins with a very clear reflective process that is threaded throughout the program. This approach to curriculum building is in partly based on Barbie Dossey’s Theory of Integral Nursing; and I believe more then ever now in Jean Watson’s theory of human caring, where she imparts to us the importance of the nurse being on his or her own spiritual-healing journey in order to be able to create caring and healing bedside interactions that are sustainable.

In order to develop a holistic nursing curriculum, the educator has to be on their own healing path and committed to supporting the healing journey of the students who come to us with their own healing needs. The curriculum must also thread through the scopes and standards of holistic nursing, while supporting students in finding ways to live the holistic nursing ideals in the healthcare arena. 

If nursing is about holism and healing, then I believe we as educators are called again and again to exemplify and role model self care and healing for our students. We must walk the journey with them, and provide them with the motivating resources to enable them to begin to let go of putting themselves and their own needs for healing so low on their lists of priority. We can no longer afford to hope they take care of themselves as we watch graduate nurses slip through our hands and leave the profession within a few years of becoming a nurse. We can no longer tolerate angry, burned-out, stress filled nurses that have somehow forgotten the healing path and the interconnection with humanity and the universe at large. And lastly we need to support students in finding their voice within and for professional holistic nursing, in setting their intentions and goals for living holistic nursing and caring, and for building their capacity to create sustainable caring-healing bedside practices.

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