Journey to Harmony Hill: A Nurse Coach Reflection

Gcali-768X509Featured Nurse Coach: Gretchen Schodde, MN, ARNP, FNP-BC, NC-BC

Much of my professional life has been about building community, collaborations, and innovations in ways to practice.  I felt called early in my career to be “part of the creation of an educational, recreational, therapeutic community.”  Although it took fifteen years from the time of that calling until I came on retreat next door to what is now Harmony Hill, it has been an amazing journey; amazing people joining in the adventure in this beautiful sacred space. Now being part of the Integrative Nurse Coach® (INC) movement, I feel like my life’s work has come to an exciting new dimension of healing service. I am thrilled that Barbara Dossey and Susan Luck will be coming to Harmony Hill in 2014 to offer the 120 hour Integrative Nurse Coaching Program and have invited Dianna Blom, RN, BSN, NC-BC, CCMHP and I to join them as Associate Faculty.

Harmony Hill was founded in 1986 as a retreat center located on 12 acres over-looking Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains about 2 hours west of Seattle. We have large organic gardens, a greenhouse featuring aquaponics, 5 guest buildings ( with 34 beds) and  the Elmer & Katherine Nordstrom Great Hall which can hold up to 200 guests for day programs. The Harmony Hill  mission is to transform the lives of those affected by cancer and to inspire healthy living for all.  One of our guests shared: “Harmony Hill is  a place to rediscover community, a place to rediscover what is truly important in life, a place of retreat from all that the world challenges us with, a place that offers renewed strength to face those challenges head-on when we return to the larger world.”

Here are a few thoughts from those we serve at Harmony Hill—written comments from attendees of our most recent cancer program –several of whom I had the honor of coaching:

“I feel like I have become unleashed and go forward with my life with acceptance, peace and joy.  Have been reminded of tools to use that I haven’t thought about for a long time.”

“Anyone who has ever had any experience with cancer deserves to come to HH and should come experience the love, support, understanding and beauty.”

“My retreat experience:  It turned clouds into a rainbow.  I know now that I can face whatever my cancer can dish out.”

“You have, through unmerited favor, given the gift of survival through community.  Each time I come I get great joy to see survivors transform …I love you!”

“This was a life changing experience.  I’m looking at life and death differently as well as cancer, nutrition, self-care.”

“This retreat has helped to heal wounds and added fuel for upcoming surgeries.  Thank you for the strength to allow me to be more present for my children.”

“I was searching for people to relate to who were like me.  I was unaware of how much I would heal. “

“This experience has really changed me for the better, opening me up so I could heal inside and gave me tools to continue on that journey.  It was more than I had hoped for.”

Presently, I am coaching a young woman in hospice who is committed to dying in the most mindful, wholesome way possible. I have been using  reflections on “Being Present” from Grace in Practice: Clinical Applications for Graceful Passages- A Companion for Compassionate Transitions as I work with her. I feel these practices are particularly relevant to Integrative Nurse Coaching:

“While in the present…

You are able to hear what is really being said, rather than hearing it filtered through your past experiences or desired outcomes. You are able to truly be with people, as they are, without judging or patronizing them. They feel seen and heard, perhaps more than they ever have before.

You are able to speak from the wellspring of your wisdom and your heart. You trust that whatever you need to say will come through, so you don’t rehearse your response when in conversation.

You enjoy your optimum capacity for service, because in the present your full experience of who you are is available. This is not denying your discriminating and intellectual capability, but allowing these capacities to be in harmony with your empathy and compassion.

You are more open to your intuitive faculties; undistracted by appearance, your ability to sense and feel underlying energy, to discern the truth behind what is presented, is enhanced.”

I was recently asked by an Integrative Nurse Coach® colleague visiting from Texas, how my professional life has changed or been enhanced by being a nurse coach?  The biggest gifts come from an increasing awareness of being fully present.  I am more curious,  my listening skills have grown, I have less “need to fix,” I have enhanced my self-care practices and have increased trust and appreciation for my intuition as well as all of life.

Practices I use for increasing presence include daily meditations (often via Heartmath, and/or Richard Schaub’s Huntington Method) gardening, conscious breathing, walks in nature, cooking healthy delicious foods, listening to music and poetry (John O’Donohue, Mary Oliver and Hafiz are favorites).

In conclusion what I know for sure is this: Healing happens when heard by a caring other.

I once heard this in a title of a sermon I heard years ago:

Thanks Giving + Thanks Receiving = Thanks Living

As nurses we have lifetimes of experiences in giving…the challenge and opportunity is finding balance via receiving (both from ourselves and others) that sets the stage for Thanks Living. Blessings to all of us as we immerse into Integrative Nurse Coaching to help change the world of healthcare!

Journey To Harmony Hill: A Nurse Coach Reflection
Gretchen Schodde
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