Gretchen Schodde, MN, ARNP, FNP-BC, NC-BC is the Founder and Executive Director Emerita of Harmony Hill Retreat Center. After attending a retreat at St. Andrew’s House in 1985, Gretchen decided to open a small retreat center and wellness community on the adjacent property now known as Harmony Hill.
In 1994, she founded the Harmony Hill Cancer Program, still the best known program offered at Harmony Hill. Gretchen has been part of almost every Cancer Program workshop and retreat at Harmony Hill, helping to facilitate thousands of individuals through their cancer journey.
Gretchen is a family nurse practitioner, a former University of Washington Assistant Professor, and one of the first nurse practitioners in the State of Washington. She is a board certified Integrative Nurse Coach, an Associate faculty for the Integrative Nurse Coach Association, and also co-facilitates retreats on the sacred Isle of Iona in Scotland.
She has received numerous awards for her life’s work, including being inducted into the Washington State Nurses Association’s “Hall of Fame,” Distinguished Career and Transformational Pioneer by NWONE— the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, the Humanitarian Award from the University of Washington School of Nursing and in 2015 the Washington State Medal of Merit. Gretchen has a life-long commitment to all aspects of health and well-being, loves to garden, cook, and read; and enjoys music in her spare time.
“I think [Nurse Coaching] is where people hear each other in a new way. I’m sure at the end of a shift, if people would have 10 minutes that they could have kind of a Healing Circle debrief, led by a Nurse Coach, they would go home more prepared to rest and renew. Because it’s work that’s hard to not take home with you.” Gretchen Schodde
Resources and links mentioned in podcast
Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing.
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome, everyone to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION. My name is Nicole Vienneau, and I am your host, and I’m also a Board-Certified Integrative Nurse Coach. And today I am so excited because we have Gretchen Schodde, founder, Executive Director Emeritus of Harmony Hill in Union, Washington, who is also an advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and family Nurse Practitioner. So, welcome, Gretchen!
Gretchen Schodde 00:34
Thank you. Thank you, Nicole.
Nicole Vienneau 00:37
I’m so excited to chat with you about all things Nurse Coaching and to bring your light into this podcast.
Gretchen Schodde 00:46
Well, I’m honored to be with you. Thank you so much.
Nicole Vienneau 00:49
Thank you, thank you for spending some time with us here. And I do have to go back to the very beginning to just get a very brief snippet of why you were attracted to Nursing.
Gretchen Schodde 01:02
Well, I wasn’t (laughs). I didn’t want to be a Nurse. I wanted to be a doctor. But in those days, in order to be a physician, first of all, women… hardly any women were physicians. You had to be brilliant, you had to be never interested in getting married, you had to do a lot of things that weren’t part of my life.
And then I had an image of Nursing that wasn’t very broad. And I heard this speaker in college and the church group I was part of, there was a speaker that talked about the broad view of Nursing and what Nursing was really about. It wasn’t just being a handmaiden to the doctor. It was about nurturing; it was about all things that related to that broader sense of wellbeing for people. And that there would be a group of Nurses, eventually, that would have more medical skills, which would be Nurse Practitioners. And then I got intrigued.
So, I really started looking at options and I went to, actually, a Nurse hospital, Nursing school. Then I went to — I was going to UPS. And then I went to the UW (University of Washington) to get my bachelor’s and master’s. And I love being a Nurse. I love it. Because it’s such, you know, there’s so many opportunities for wellness as well as taking care of people that are suffering, that need comfort.
So, I wouldn’t want to be a doctor for all the tea in China right now. I just think they are so… you know, they’ve got such a burden. And I think Nurses are — it’s just been a great blessing in my life to be a Nurse and then a Nurse Practitioner. I love my Nurse colleagues. The Nurses helped start Harmony Hill.
Nicole Vienneau 02:49
So, you loved Nursing all of these years?
Gretchen Schodde 02:52
Oh, yeah. And it’s been a long time. I graduated ’66. So, you know, I’ve been a Nurse for what… 50 years. 60. I don’t know what it is.
Nicole Vienneau 03:01
Thank you so much for your passion and dedication to Nursing. And somewhere along the lines, you discover Nurse Coaching. And so, I know our listeners would love to hear your story about that.
Gretchen Schodde 03:16
It’s a long story and I’ll try to make it brief, fairly brief, but a lot of it has to do with Barbara Dossey. And Barbie, as you well know, is — Barbie and Susan are brilliant, wonderful people that started INCA (Integrative Nurse Coaching). And I love that it’s called integrative because that’s really the whole sense of body, mind, spirit.
Having grown up on a farm, I’m always wanting to be close to the earth for my own nurturing. And Barbie (Barbara Dossey) had had given a talk — this is way, I mean, like, I don’t know, decades ago — at the Washington State Nurses and somehow, she had heard about what I was trying to do. So, she told the whole Washington State Nurses group that they should be having the meeting at Harmony Hill. Which we didn’t even have a big building then, but she was already promoting us.
And then I had the honor of going with her on a trip. It was a Nurse led trip to China, which was really amazing. It was so astounding that the, probably 15 of us that went, didn’t know how to thank her, so we wrote a whole book dedicated to Barbie about our trip to China. I mean, it’s a huge book, took us two years.
But, you know, Barbie and Susan (Susan Luck) have always just been so there for all of us that are, you know, in the world of Nurse Coaching and Nursing and I feel blessed that my life has been touched and really honored in some way by their blessings.
Nurse Coaching really was a natural kind of evolution from that interest in being in a different than a bedside role. I’ve almost never been a bedside Nurse. I mean, I think about my whole career, I became a visiting Nurse, a public health Nurse. And we got to go into people’s homes, and I actually loved that because something about being in someone’s home, you know a lot more about them than you could ever find out just talking to them in a hospital.
So, from that I morphed into the Nurse Practitioner work, which really has been a major part of my life that enabled me to start Harmony Hill, because I had such support, largely, from Nurses. I mean, we had a group called The Voice Nurses, and it was all about vision, opportunity, inspiration for Nurses to become part of the creation of Harmony Hill.
Well, it was a natural evolution, I really think, from already being, you know, a Nurse who was doing things more in the community than at the bedside. I just liked the idea of it. When I was in high school, I was in baseball, all kinds of… you know, and the idea of… kind of the sport of it, the kind of the journey of Nursing in a really active way. To me, Nurse Coaching is really evolving… from Nurse Coaching are Healing Circles and Healing Circles now are incredible. I mean, there’s three or four or five of them.
There’s one on Tuesday nights, that’s for people with cancer, and it’s grown so much that we’re probably going to end up having to divide it in two. And these, in the midst of COVID, to be able to have these… Zoom, first of all, people are Zooming around, that’s how we’re staying in touch. Thank you, Nicole.
And then we have these meetings that, I mean, really, the Tuesday night cancer group is… it’s a lifeline for some of them. They’re isolated, they’re frightened, compounded with having cancer as well as worried about COVID, getting COVID. So, that is a really critical group.
I know there’s one, one of our Nurse colleagues does, with one of the Healing Circle leaders, is for health professionals that is very, very popular. It’s on Mondays. And there are several other groups. And I think it’s a blessing to be able to be with people under these circumstances in this technological way.
Nicole Vienneau 07:10
Right. And so, you’re seeing this evolution of being a Nurse, and then all of your life’s work at Harmony Hill, and connecting that with Nurse Coaching, then connecting Nurse Coaching with Healing Circles, and then now connecting the Healing Circles in more of the technological way for supporting communities in what they need. I love this, all this connection, because you and I both know, I mean, our stories are so vast and yet so connected.
And I love this evolution of your life and your life’s work at Harmony Hill, and connecting fellow Nurses together, and then also connecting people in the community, people who need connections. So, I’m hoping you can talk a little bit about your work in connecting others through your work at Harmony Hill and through Nurses in particular.
Gretchen Schodde 08:13
I feel blessed to live at Harmony Hill. I mean, it’s such a beautiful place. I used to live in Seattle and before that I was — Linda Gasol and I kind of started the Nurse Practitioner movement up in Darrington. That was a long time ago. I didn’t have any gray hairs when I went there. I had gray within the year.
But it was a great honor to be, you know, to be doing a project of that nature. It really set my path to the future to doing that Nurse Practitioner work and to working with a lot of other health professionals, physicians that could get behind us. I think the Nurse Practitioner movement has been a great advance for all of healthcare in this country. Probably other countries, I don’t know.
I feel like the additional blessing, as far as Nurse Coaching, that I’ve been able to be part of, is holding space. And when I initially got into this, I went to New York like three times because all the programs, the Nurse Coaching programs, were in New York. And then, actually, this is kind of corny, but I have this very special pair of, kind of, wild socks. I have to show them to you…
Nicole Vienneau 09:27
This is great! So, for our listeners, Gretchen is going to grab her socks.
Gretchen Schodde 09:31
Well, these are my INCA socks. So, Dianna Blom, we went back and forth to New York several times for the training before then came to Harmony Hill, which has been an enormous, enormous blessing for the Hill and for me and for all those on the west coast to be able to do programs at Harmony Hill. But Dianna gave me these socks. They’re pretty wild. They’re my INCA socks for flying home from New York and they’re called airplay. So, I wear these every night to bed.
Nicole Vienneau 10:09
Well, for our listeners, the socks are, like, burgundy background, but then they have all these circular colors, circles and brilliant yellow, red, blue flowers. Oh, yeah, so cute.
Gretchen Schodde 10:26
And a hole in one toe…
Nicole Vienneau 10:27
Ah, because you’ve worn them so often.
Gretchen Schodde 10:30
So, I still take INCA readiness — you know, going to New York — home with me. I sleep with them at night (laughs). Silly.
Nicole Vienneau 10:39
Gretchen Schodde 10:40
Yeah, so that was the other thing I was starting to say, that I feel like, thanks to Susan and Barbie, you know, and their coming to Harmony Hill, and then our space, Harmony Hill space, growing. And so, then many of the programs evolving so that people could either get them on the East Coast or they could get them at Harmony Hill.
And that’s been a real honor, to be able to host their beautiful work at the Hill. And as the Hill’s grown, they’ve grown. But, you know, we now can hold 200 people in that great hall. So that’s been a sort of a parallel buffing, you know, they’re growing and we’re growing.
And when we started, we didn’t, you know, this book, when Dianna and I went back to New York, there wasn’t any book, anyway. You probably have it, right, Nicole?
Nicole Vienneau 11:25
Oh, absolutely. Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing.
Gretchen Schodde 11:30
You have the other one, the little thin one?
Nicole Vienneau 11:32
Oh, yes. The Art and Science of Nurse Coaching?
Gretchen Schodde 11:35
Nicole Vienneau 11:35
Second Edition just was released. So that’s exciting.
Gretchen Schodde 11:37
Yeah, that’s very exciting. That’s so great.
Nicole Vienneau 11:41
You and I met in New York City. We met as Integrative Nurse Coaches in cohort number four.
Gretchen Schodde 11:48
Oh, yes, we were in four, that’s right.
Nicole Vienneau 11:50
And so, we have been in sisterhood since then. To me, that’s one of the most wonderful things that has come from the International Nurse Coach Association. Through Nurse Coaching is the sisterhood that we have developed since meeting. And then we connect to fellow Nurses who have also graduated from the program through different events and different opportunities.
And last year, we celebrated our 10th year as International Nurse Coach Association and Integrative Nurse Coach Academy. And we celebrated it at Harmony Hill.
Gretchen Schodde 12:29
I know, it’s fabulous. It’s totally fabulous.
Nicole Vienneau 12:32
Totally fabulous. And so, we had something like 50 Nurses that came to that reunion and celebration of our 10th year together as Nurse Coaches, and it was wonderful to be at Harmony Hill and have your amazing, amazing healing space, in Union, Washington, really support us in our continued journey through life and through healing ourselves.
Gretchen Schodde 12:58
Yeah, it’s our honor, really. To be on that space it’s… clearly on that property, the sacredness of the whole area is found there as well. I have one friend who is not at all interested in this idea of energy or anything and she drives up there and she says, “I don’t know what it is about this place, but there’s something… it just feels like it’s sacred.” I say, “I think you’re right.”
Nicole Vienneau 13:20
Yeah, I think you’re right, too. And I guess this leads me to my next question for you, which is related to self-care and taking care of self. And I know our listeners would be very curious to know what kind of practices you have, as far as caring for yourself.
Gretchen Schodde 13:41
That’s a really, really important and vital question. A lot of my self-care is related to getting grounded, staying grounded, and in many instances, that’s literally grounded in the garden. Like today, I just realized I live two miles from Harmony Hill now and I live where there’s all these deer and they’ll just gobble up everything and I am trying to find new things that I can plant. So, I’m going to make a special cage to plant some sweet peas in. See if I can get sweet peas in a case that the deer can’t just have for an appetizer.
So, the garden. You know, walking. I used to teach swimming. I still do love to swim and that was how I earned my way through Nursing school. I would actually wear my red bathing suit, lifeguard bathing suit, under my Nurse’s uniform, student Nurse uniform, and at noon, fly out of the Nursing thing and drive up, whip off my Nursing outfit, have my lifeguard thing on and pray it would rain so I could study.
That’s a part of my background that I hardly ever tell anybody. Through doing that, I got a little Volkswagen car paid for. Anyway, everybody finds their own creative way.
Nicole Vienneau 15:03
Absolutely. And so, gardening and being out in nature sounds like a very healing practice for you.
Gretchen Schodde 15:11
Right now, I’m just looking at… I have like three birdhouses and some hanging, so I’ve got all these birds here that are really, really happy. I have a huge garden up here — dahlias. And so, I have a little garden spot at Harmony Hill.
And Lois is a gardener there and she’s fabulous. And they have gardens up here, like a community garden that has a 12-foot fence. So, I’m gonna put some roses up there because, you know, the deer won’t be able to get to them. I love being able to pick my own fresh roses, but I can’t have it by my house because they’ll be gone in two seconds.
Nicole Vienneau 15:45
So, where you’re at, you have the deer gobbling everything.
Gretchen Schodde 15:49
Yes, they do a good job at Harmony Hill, too, because we have apple trees. I remember one time, this is gonna sound crazy, but I was so frustrated because we kept trying to gather apples so we could use them, and the deer would come and eat them.
So, I thought, okay, alright deer, you get first dibs. So, I made a huge bucket of apples, and took it halfway up the hill and left it and I thought, well, maybe that will satisfy them for a few days. They were back that afternoon. I didn’t give them enough.
Nicole Vienneau 16:21
We’re gonna keep coming back so we can keep on getting big buckets of apples given to us. How nice this lady is!
Gretchen Schodde 16:29
They’re like, oh boy, lady!
Nicole Vienneau 16:32
You moved, recently, into a new space and I recall you having an altar?
Gretchen Schodde 16:37
Nicole Vienneau 16:38
In your last space. I was curious if you organized something in your new space?
Gretchen Schodde 16:43
I knew no one was going to use it back behind my old space. So, Michelle kind of fixed it up, and she and Kenny brought it up here. So, I have it on my back porch. So, I light candles. You know, I’m always saying to people, I’ll light a candle for you, and I got the space now right in my back porch, which I love. Because it’s been a lot, probably hundreds, if not 1000s of candles have been left there over the last 30 years.
I mean, Harmony Hill is 35 years old this year, this blows me away. And we have such an incredible team. I’m completely prejudiced, but Cheryl is an amazing leader. And the whole staff there is just, like, top notch, all of them. So, I’m happy to feel like everything’s not only going well, it’s thriving, you know, which is… in this terrible time of a pandemic… we have been doing, I mean, Zooming everywhere, and lots and lots of activities.
And we’re now going to start, slowly, start bringing people back to the Hill, as long as it’s done safely. And everybody’s trying to get the vaccine. So, I have had both mine. I think that definitely helps if you can get your vaccines.
Nicole Vienneau 17:48
Yes, absolutely. So, tell us where you think Nurse Coaching is leading to in the world?
Gretchen Schodde 17:55
Well, I think it is on the leadership horizon. I think it’s right in there with the best of them. Because I think about Nurses on the front lines now. And we have a lot of Nurse programs that we do at Harmony Hill. Again, almost all have been all virtual this past six months, but we’re gonna start opening up to support the people on the frontlines.
Because I think this kind of thing is where people hear each other in a new way. I mean, I’m sure at the end of a shift, if people would have 10 minutes that they could have kind of a healing circle debrief, maybe led by a Nurse Coach, they would go home more prepared to rest and renew. Because I’m sure it’s work that’s hard to not take home with you.
It’s so timely, that we have a broader variation of what Nurses are able to do. It’s just been impressive, really, how much, with COVID, Nurses have been acknowledged for being, you know, they’re right there in the thick of it. They’re the ones that put the ventilator on.
I mean, it’s a tough, tough time to be on the frontline. So, I think everything we can do, those of us that are into Healing Circles, that are into Nurse Coaching, to support those on the frontline, is really, really vital right now.
Nicole Vienneau 19:16
I agree. Our fellow Nurses need all the support that they can get. What else would you like to share before we say our goodbyes?
Gretchen Schodde 19:26
First and foremost, Nicole, I want to thank you because I think this is really timely and vitally needed. I think Nurses’ voices need to be heard. I think all of us that have been in this for a while are looking at elderhood and how do we best preserve our minds if we can, you know, as the aging process starts.
I know I’m much more forgetful now than I’m comfortable with but I’m also working on taking daily medicines, you know, anti-Alzheimer’s and there are a lot of things that can be done. There’s so much more about aging, now, that I’m trying to take advantage of in the process of aging. One day at a time, right?
Anyway, how to make the best and how to continue to stay healthy and present for people in a way that’s meaningful. And, you know, feel like I still have some use. I think a lot of times that depression in elders is because they no longer feel like they have any value. And I don’t feel like that, I feel like I have a lot of great experience, especially in all that… even before Harmony Hill, but just been blessed with opportunities. And however I can share them without making it tiresome. You know, there’s a lot to learn in the process of aging.
And I’m really glad, Nicole, younger people like you, with bright, bright minds, are moving things forward because this work is so needed. I mean, the Nurse Coach and the Integrative Nurse Coaching, I love that it’s integrative. It’s a vital lifeline right now for people in terms of the healthcare system because of people that aren’t needing medical care as much as Nursing, nurturing, kind of care. Nurses have it to give.
Nicole Vienneau 21:11
Well, Gretchen, I am thankful for you and for all that you have done before the younger generation showed up, because you have laid the roots and nurtured the roots that have come before the younger generation and have created a path for us to be able to travel on with confidence and with wisdom. And we are definitely grateful for all of the things that you have shared with us along the way and I’m also grateful for our friendship.
Gretchen Schodde 21:45
Yes, me too. Thank you so much, Nicole. Blessings for all that you’re doing. It’s needed.
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