As a Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, Michele McNiff utilizes her wealth of nursing experience to promote resilience and healthy living, facilitating an empowered partnership with clients with holistic nursing theories based in neuroscience, optimism, behavior change, and ancient healing modalities.
In her Nurse Care Navigator role for the VEBA Resource Center, Michele works to empower Members to be advocates for their own self-care and helps them navigate their specific issues and health concerns. Michele is a compassionate and sincere nurse whose connection with VEBA Members allows her to get to the heart of the matter. She loves to help people find their joy, and loves that as a nurse she gets to help people during important life events.
Michele was born in Lowell, Massachusetts and grew up in Fairfax, Virginia. Her first nursing job was at George Washington University as an active RN in the emergency room, ICU and transport nursing. She received a BSN in Nursing from Wheeling Jesuit University and holds a Masters in Advanced Holistic Nursing from Florida Atlantic university. She belongs to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, Healing Touch International, Healing Beyond Border, International Nurse Coach Association and YOGA Alliance.
“Giving yourself that space and time. And it’s just like anything, anywhere, we can do that in nature, listening to the ocean, listening to the birds, listening to the wind and the trees.” Michele McNiff
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome, everyone, to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! This is Nicole Vienneau, your host, and I’m also a Board-Certified Integrative Nurse Coach. And today I am so excited because we are going to hear from Michelle McNiff, who is a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, who works with school teachers in California through the VEBA Resource Center. So, welcome, Michele!
Michele McNiff 00:26
Hello, welcome, Nicole, thank you for having me. This is so fun!
Nicole Vienneau 00:29
It is fun! I love this because I just get to talk to my fellow Nurse Coaches about awesome things that we’re doing in our communities and the things that are inspiring us to keep doing the work we’re doing. So, let’s go back in time, because so many of us have an amazing story about how we found the Nursing profession. So, let’s go there. Let’s go there. Just a brief story about your journey into Nursing.
Michele McNiff 00:54
Wonderful. Yes. So, I was middle child in a family of five. And one of my neighbors was going to be a candy striper at the hospital a couple miles down the road. So, I decided to join her. And I really loved the red and white striped dresses and being able to go into the patient’s rooms and help out and just see when a patient’s face lights up.
And, you know, they may be laying in their bed, they’re not having a lot of visitors or however it works. Or bringing people and getting to discharge them home from the hospital and just being able to help make somebody’s day. It was really fun.
When I was a little bit older, one of my friend’s mom worked at a Nursing home down the street, and she encouraged me for a summer job. I used to be a lifeguard in the summers. And then as I was getting older and starting to go to college, she worked at a Nursing home and I decided, yeah, that might be fun.
It was an Alzheimer’s unit. And upstairs was where no people… you know, it’s kind of a skilled facility. So, you go there and you live and then as you’re getting older, they have these places where you can go to for more skilled Nursing. And I just loved working with Alzheimer’s patients. It was an incredible journey to see the deficits and the strengths, and I really loved it.
So then when I went to college, I was thinking psychology. I just loved the mind, how it worked, how there’s so many tools. And my dad was talking to me, saying, “You know, if you go to psychology, you’re gonna have to go to school for a very long time before you can get a job. And, you know, your Aunt Katherine was a Nurse, and you remind me of her, and I think you can really do it.”
So, I never thought I could do the math, the science and actually be a Nurse. And he encouraged me, and I went to Wheeling Jesuit College in West Virginia. And there’s a wonderful community there. And I really feel like it was a calling. It fits in well with my personality.
Nicole Vienneau 02:55
What a wonderful story, starting with candy striping, and then moving into work with Alzheimer’s and people living with Alzheimer’s and finding… I loved how you said, seeing their deficits, yes, but also seeing their strengths, which is so connected to what we do as Nurse Coaches. And then finally going to school to realize, oh, yes, I do want to be a Nurse, and I have the skills to do it.
So, here you are. And now your journey takes you in a different direction. So, please explain a little bit about what you’re doing with your Nursing career now.
Michele McNiff 03:29
So, my Nursing journey now, where I’ve landed, has been a very kind of Kismet opportunity. There was a program being started in San Diego with the school teachers. It was a pilot program for the retirees. And they were offering them acupuncture, nutrition, mindfulness, exercise to having them do, you know, pre and post to this pilot study.
So, I was there at the end of the pilot study, so that’s when I started. I had already graduated Nurse Coaching and I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But this opportunity came up to go back to San Diego and I got to use the Iowa Scale and sit down, have a conversation, I had an hour to speak with each member and as a Nurse, and in the medical field these days, that is a big luxury.
So, I got to form a relationship with these members and see what the benefits of the pilot program that they went through were. And in that time period, the way that they had felt supported, the way they had felt in a community, how they were just able to better handle their life and the challenges of transition to retirement, the transitions that were going on in their own family, it was just a magical way and exploration into that.
And then that’s when the VEBA Resource Center started, and they opened these programs of offering teachers a reboot day. And it was an eight-hour day, and they came in, they got served breakfast, they got a talk about what the day was going to be like, what they were being offered, and then they went into different sections. Some went to yoga, some went to acupuncture, some went to energy healing, some went to myometrics, which is a really fun exercise program.
And they felt — at the end of the day, they got to do lunch, it was a wonderful day — at the end of the day, they would come back and say they slept the best they’ve ever slept that night, they felt like they were at the spa, they’re glad that they gave up their Saturday being teachers, working five days a week.
And then, it was just, you know, we’re really instigating and allowing them to take care of themselves and teaching them that, you know, when you take care of yourself, you’re better able equipped to have the resources to care for other people. So, you’re not feeling depleted all the time. And I think that’s the basis of Nurse Coaching and what I learned in my program.
Nicole Vienneau 05:58
And what a beautiful opportunity, to be able to be immersed in a community at the VEBA Resource Center, where they are really seeing the importance of one: offering such a program for teachers, and two: recognizing the importance of lifestyle and complementary modalities in order to help people find the resources within themselves to better take care of themselves and then better take care of other people.
And I see you in this role and see you thriving. And so, I would love, and I know our listeners would love, to know a day in the life of Michele McNiff at VEBA Resource Center.
Michele McNiff 06:43
Well, these days, it’s really fun because VEBA was right there, March 13th, when everything closed down because of COVID, the schools closed down. Within three weeks, they had virtual classes going on Zoom, for members, to keep them moving, to keep them meditating. And so, a day in the life, now, looks like seeing members, one-on-one, through Zoom. We have a HIPAA compliant Zoom.
And then also getting to teach sound healing classes where we do sound baths, and that’s through my teacher, I was trained through my teacher, Wah! Music, and she does a great integrative sound healing class, it is called her self-care class. And that’s being offered in October, a training, which I did and help co-facilitate. It’s a wonderful program. So, getting to do a sound healing class, maybe a yoga class, depending on the day.
And it is really, I feel like, amazing where I’ve come from after being a Nurse in the intensive care and emergency room and cardiac cath lab for about 24 years. So, it’s really fun to be at the other end of the spectrum, where you can really help people find the resources within themselves, so they’re not completely stressed out, don’t know where to turn. And it’s quite an opportunity.
Nicole Vienneau 08:10
I can tell you’re feeling very passionate about what you’re doing, and absolutely are loving every minute of this.
Michele McNiff 08:18
Yeah, I feel very fortunate for the vision that VEBA Resource Center, and its founders and the board, are being able to provide for the school teachers who work so hard and the students that reap the benefits — they get the benefits of a high quality school teacher that is being supported through their work. So, it’s an honor and a luxury to be able to be any part of that program that helps teachers to help the children, you know, help the world go round a little smoother.
Nicole Vienneau 08:52
I love that. And you mentioned luxury, however, I do know that you’ve worked very hard to get to where you are today. All of the dedication you’ve taken through your whole entire life to develop these unique skills and the skill set that you have in order to be the right fit to work with VEBA Resource Center. And so, tell us a little bit about some of these unique skills that you have.
Michele McNiff 09:21
Okay, we could go back really far. I remember, as a child, we used to go up to New Hampshire and when we would first get there, my uncle would be like, “Okay, jump in the boat. We’re going over to the island.” It was Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. He’d boat us over, land on the little island, and then he’d start rowing away and we’d have to swim back.
It was our initiation to the lake house. And it was really fun. That was just a magical time, as a child, with my older brother and sister. And from then on, I just loved… I always loved the water, going to the ocean and all that.
But one memory I had, that came back to me, was when I would be stressed out or if there was turmoil or something going on, I would go inside, find a quiet place, and in my mind, I would lay down in a canoe and float down the lake. It was powerful guided imagery, or a meditation. And I love swimming, I love diving, I love biking, any activity where you’re just out in nature and doing things. So, that was the start of finding peace within my own body and with my own practice.
And then I’m going to yoga trainings down in Costa Rica — completely drawn towards healing touch at Scripps Integrative and anything with labyrinths and peaceful settings, I was just drawn to it. So, when I heard about Integrative Nurse Coaching on RN FM Radio — driving from San Francisco down to San Diego one year, we used to go down camping there a lot — and I heard Barbara Dossey on the radio, on this podcast, RN FM Radio, and she was describing the Integrative Nurse Coach® practice and I looked up a cohort that was coming up.
When I stepped into that training the first day, we did a meditation… first we did an invocation with east, west, north, and south, had some singing bowls and sat quietly with this group of about 20 people and all our instructors — Nicole, you were there — and meditated for 10 minutes together, silence, and then journaled about it. And then did a little talk about it.
I felt like it was the combination of western Nursing training that I had done, and then the eastern yoga and healing practices that I was into at the time. And threading that all together was magical. It just felt like the right place to be at the right time and really amazing.
Nicole Vienneau 12:07
I remember that very well, as well. I remember us all sitting together, being from all parts of the world, all parts of the United States, and here we all come together, all from different backgrounds, all Nursing backgrounds, from intensive care to pediatrics to, you know, working in clinics.
And here we all sit together, and we’re immersed in this opportunity to one: learn about ourselves, two: learn about each other, and then three: learn the skills and tools in which we could combine all of those skills into this Nurse Coaching process. And it is a magical experience and one I, of course, I biasly highly recommend.
So, do tell us if you felt any transformation through taking this course, through taking the course and really focusing on yourself and your own personal strengths and opportunities.
Michele McNiff 13:12
Right, I think that’s where the magic happened. Being allowed the space and time. You know, you always… at the time, I was just starting my master’s program through Florida Antioch University in holistic Nursing. And one of the first things that we did, one of the first classes that we did, one of the first projects, was a self-care date. And, to me, I was blown away. I was like, a self-care date? What?
So, it was just a different way of being and that’s what holistic means. It’s a way of being and that is your authentic self, allowing your authentic self to shine. And I think that’s what Integrative Nurse Coaching program did for me, is that it gave me the belief and the empowerment to know that exactly what my intentions were feeling as a human being and the healing that I can share with another human being is powerful magic.
Nicole Vienneau 14:20
Speaking of powerful magic, we’d love to know what you think your most powerful magic is.
Michele McNiff 14:29
I think it’s speaking from my heart.
Nicole Vienneau 14:32
An open, beautiful heart. So, tell us a little bit about your self-care practices. You mentioned the self-care date, and then I’m sure it extended further and continues onwards in your life.
Michele McNiff 14:47
Yes, I know. We were living in Half Moon Bay at the time. And I’d always take my dog, Swami the yellow lab, down to the beach or, you know, he’d always be part of my self-care or my day, which is awesome. He’s the best healer I know. So, but that day I decided just to take myself, you know, just a blanket and a book and some water and just relax. So, that gives you that space and time and reflection, being able to process and go, okay.
And as it’s extended, in Half Moon Bay, I actually met my mentor and teacher, Wah!, who is part of, she has Wah! Music, and she is a musician and Yogi and has written a few wonderful books. And she, right now, is teaching an amazing self-care class which integrates ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine and yoga, and rolls it all into a way of tapping, healing, tuning, toning your own body, and it is my favorite self-care date these days. And that is then followed by a sound bath.
And so, with her and my friend, Amanda, I’ve gotten into doing sound baths using crystal singing bowls. And that’s a really fun way to just, you know, I like doing silent things so it’s a way of going internally, a way of processing, a way of healing, a way of connecting to that inner wisdom.
And that’s, like I said, that’s where the magic is because healing is being able to access our own inner healing. And feeling whole is always within us, no matter what we’re going through.
I worked as a healing touch practitioner, and I had a little practice in my studio in Halfmoon Bay and would get clients from Stanford Healing Touch program. And the ability for no matter what you’re going through, if you’re going through cancer, if you’re going through challenges, divorce, you know, in 2021 we can name anything, right?
Daily living, getting up in the morning, turning off the news, having a cup of tea and sitting quiet. That’s a wonderful self-care way of just accessing the inner wisdom within each of us.
Nicole Vienneau 17:13
So, I can’t help but ask, Michele, could you pull out your singing bowl for us and share some of the beautiful sound?
Michele McNiff 17:25
I would love to! We have our crystal singing bowls here and they are set at different… we have a C, we have a D, we have a G, we have a B, we have an F. So, they are set. Each bowl is handcrafted and goes to a different note, which correlates, also, to each chakra. So, as I play, just see if you can see where you feel it in your own body. And we’ll just do a little sample here… (sounds of singing bowls).
Nicole Vienneau 19:07
Thank you so much. I had my eyes closed and I was experiencing different sensations in my physical body. Like, sometimes I could feel it up in my… above my brows. Then I felt it in my throat. I felt it in my, like, my gut kind of area. I wonder what our listeners felt.
Michele McNiff 19:36
I know and that’s perfect. That’s really beautiful. The first bowl was the note of D and that is in your navel, and then the G in your throat, and the B up in your forehead, your third eye, as they say, your insight of intuition. I love the beauty of the singing bowl just to connect to coherent energy.
Giving yourself that space and time. And it’s just like anything, anywhere, we can do that in nature, listening to the ocean, listening to the birds, listening to the wind and the trees. And I think it’s so important these days, with information overload, with news, with any chaos going on in the world, to take time out to go internally and listen.
And it’s where the healing happens, in the present moment. And the power of sending intentions, sending healing through the ethers, through the electromagnetic field, you know, they’re really studying the power of intention and the power of healing through prayer, through thoughts. It’s really powerful stuff. So, thank you for letting me indulge.
Nicole Vienneau 21:06
We are so appreciative that you chose to indulge us. As you were just describing all of that connecting with electromagnetic fields and the ethers, and I couldn’t help but thinking, because you and I both have a background of intensive care. And intensive care Nurses are so protocol driven, black and white.
We know the science, the in and out. We’re so, like, almost like adrenaline junkies in a way. And I can’t help but think, like, what was Michele like back in the intensive care days versus now? And what that transition felt like or feels like for you today?
Michele McNiff 21:51
Right. There’s a lot of slowing down. And it is quite a transition. And I find it these days in my communication. When, if I’m in a meeting, or if I’m trying to explain something, you know, actually, the ER Nurse comes out, like, let’s just do it, let’s get it done, this is what we see.
You know, so there’s a lot of slowing down and having time to look at the whole process, and it’s okay, and the whole aspect of that. And so, I think transitioning from, you know, that acute care. And I smiled when you said, “Well, I wonder what Michele was like?” Because what I remember… one thing is when I was working as intensive care, I was already doing my self-care, and I didn’t realize it, but I would hum all the time.
And I would have just a tune going from starting my day and then ending my day. And I felt really fortunate that that was the default mode. That happened. And I mean, it wasn’t all the time, there’s definitely stressful days and stressful events, but I think that is that default mode of the inner wisdom that’s within you that you may not always realize sometimes until another Nurse says, “Would you please stop humming. You’re driving me crazy!”
But I feel like the patients appreciated it and I know that we just, you know, that’s one of the big healing tools that we have through yoga, that we are sharing with the Bhramari breath. Just humming and whistling and singing your own tune, tuning your own instrument. We can do this through lots of ways.
Nicole Vienneau 23:46
And I feel like when we hum, there’s that vibration…
Michele McNiff 23:58
Nicole Vienneau 23:58
Michele McNiff 23:58
(laughter) Exactly. Yep. It’s that, you know, we’re sending… whatever messages, whatever thoughts, whatever’s going on, those messages are going to our endocrine glands and neurotransmitters sending out hormones from our glandular system. And that’s where, that’s what creates our reality, what our view, what our lens is.
So, you know, we have… by consciously harnessing that healing power within us, we have the ability to move towards wholeness at all times. And, you know, being able to — that authentic self — you need to let it out, you need to scream, you need to whatever it is. You know, we’re dynamic, amazing beings that need to express ourselves in all kinds of ways.
Nicole Vienneau 24:52
Yes, we do need to express ourselves. As you were talking about the glandular… I can’t remember the exact words that you said, but I just was really connected to the power of Nurses doing this work. Because we have so many facets within us, such innate knowledge that we learn through, of course, going to school and then practicing, our own life experience, all of the additional training that so many of us do, because we’re so interested in so many facets of healing. And so, I just wanted to tap into that a little bit, about your perception of Nurses doing this type of work in Nurse Coaching.
Michele McNiff 25:40
Mm-hmm. That’s so true. I love that. And it brings me back to kind of the mirroring, our mirroring neurons. And all of the Nurse theorists, you know, that we are more than the sum of our parts, and all of our pioneers, that Nurses have a deep thirst for knowledge and do lots of certificates and trainings and just really want to get to the root of healing and how that looks for each person.
And with the Integrative Nurse Coaching and the Wellness Nurse Coaching, I think Nurses are dynamically positioned to be able to connect and to relate to patients or their clients in a holistic way of looking at the whole family and all of the dynamics of being in the human condition. And that really sets us up and kind of differentiates us by empowering the Nurse to be able to care for another human being with all their glory and all their might and all their strength is, I think, very powerful.
Nicole Vienneau 26:57
Nurses are very powerful. So, is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Michele McNiff 27:04
I would say if I was a Nurse looking to strengthen my practice or just looking for a connection with an amazing community, that Integrative Nurse Coaching is a beautiful and wonderful way to do that. It’s life changing.
Nicole Vienneau 27:24
Thank you. So, how can we find you Michele? How can we find you?
Michele McNiff 27:30
Yes, on my website. It’s michelemcniff.com. I have up there the soul of yoga, Wah! integrative sound healing course in October. It’s going to be virtual, so it’s able to go through Zoom. I do sound baths, so if anybody’s interested in doing those, that would be a fun exploration. And if anybody has any questions or, you know, just wants to ask anything about Nurse Coaching, what it’s about, what it takes, all that good stuff, please feel free to reach out.
Nicole Vienneau 28:02
Wonderful, and I’m sure we can contact you through your website?
Michele McNiff 28:06
Website, yep. Or my Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Vienneau 28:11
Awesome. Thank you so much, Michele, for sharing your excitement, your knowledge, your passion about what you are doing in your community with Nurse Coaching.
Michele McNiff 28:22
Thank you so much, Nicole, it was my pleasure to be here.
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