Ep28: Breaking Silos with Nurse Coaching- Denise Ervin, BSN, RN, NC-BC

About Denise Ervin

Denise ErvinDenise Irvin, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Being a nurse taught me how to help others care for themselves.

I am trained as both a Registered Nurse and an Integrative Nurse Coach. I hold a BSN (Bachelor of Science – Nursing), received my board certification as an Integrative Nurse Coach in 2014, and have worked as a nurse for 20 years in the areas of Cardiology, Intensive Care, and Oncology

I utilize my experience as a nurse, my advanced training as an integrative nurse coach, and a focus on emotional intelligence to empower others to find personal fulfillment while answering their professional calling.

While my holistic approach to empowering others began through my experience in the medical field, the coaching and training that I provide brings value to any profession.



Ep28: Breaking Silos with Nurse Coaching- Denise Ervin, BSN, RN, NC-BC Highlights

“I realized the silos don’t work. The barriers don’t work. We have to have partnership, we have to have integration, we have to come together as community, as healthcare professionals, so that we can then have the resources, the strength, and the energy to support what the system changes need, as well as what our community needs.”  ~Denise Ervin, RN, BSN, NC-BC

Ah-Ha Moments

  • If you want to learn more about yourself, have courage to keep on pursuing what is missing for you. In fact, book a few sessions with a trusted Nurse Coach to help you develop an individualized plan.
  • The Universe will allow you to connect the dots if you are open to it
  • Nurse Coaches can be embedded into hospital and Nursing culture. No one cares for Nurses or understands Nurses like a fellow Nurse
  • If you want to offer Nurse Coaching in your facility, do some research about what is happening in your place of work, what are they offering, how can you compliment that, or take it a step further?
  • Use your ‘high equity relationships’, those people who you know and reach to them, have courage, no one will know what you have to offer until they hear from you!
  • Make connections with Nurses that share your same beliefs and then keep that connection alive, because it can be very lonely doing something new and innovative, plus they’ll help you get through those ‘scary spots’
  • Connect to your heart space. Who are you?  How do you want to lead as a Nurse?

Links & Resources

Larry Dossey and Barbie Dossey

Theory of Integral Nursing

Theory of Integrative Nurse Coaching

Battling Burnout with Nurse Coaching:  Stories from the ICU AHNA article

The Nurse Coaching Process in Comparison with the Nursing Process AHNA article

Ep28: Breaking Silos with Nurse Coaching- Denise Ervin, BSN, RN, NC-BC Transcript

Nicole Vienneau  00:00

Welcome, everyone, to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! And today is a great day because we are welcoming Denise Ervin, who is a board-certified Nurse Coach and owner of Infinite Well Beings.

She is in Michigan, and that’s a fun place to be. She also is an amazing human being. We are so happy to have her here. Welcome, Denise.

Denise Ervin  00:27

Thank you so much, Nicole. It’s such a pleasure to be here. And I just enjoy our time together, as well as with other Nurses.

Nicole Vienneau  00:37

Yes, I know, I love being together. It’s almost like we’re having virtual tea.

Denise Ervin  00:43

Exactly, exactly. The beauty of the internet and Zoom.

Nicole Vienneau  00:49

I know, I love it. So, for our listeners, we always love to take a journey back in history and learn a little bit about why you decided to become a Nurse.

Denise Ervin  01:01

Yeah, so it really kind of started with… in high school, my dad was very ill; he was diagnosed with leukemia. We were told he had two weeks left to live. And I’m happy to say now he’s 74 years old and thriving. I always have to add that to my story.

When I was really kind of in this contemplation mode of what do I want to be when I grow up, and I can no longer take these pre-reqs, I have to make a decision, I really started thinking like: I want to influence people. I want to help people like the Nurses that helped my dad and helped our family. And they really made a footprint, not only on my dad’s heart, but my entire family’s heart.

And so that’s what led me to Nursing. After I graduated with my bachelor’s, I was like super excited, as everybody is, to jump into, you know, the hospital acute care setting. And early on, early on I started to question like: something’s missing here. Something’s missing. And in our undergrad education, we learned about art and science, but as I was my first job into the hospital, it was so much the medical model.

And I kept really searching like: what’s missing? What’s missing? So, that led to many years — I’ve been a Nurse for 22 years — that led to various areas of critical care and trauma and oncology. And along with that, led me to this curiosity of discovering: hey, what’s that missing piece that was there and I haven’t found yet in the real world, per se.

And that led me to working with some naturopath physicians, becoming a Reiki Master, entrepreneurship, integrative healthcare consulting, fellowship program at Nurse Coaching, and actually most recently led me into my Doctorate in Health Innovation and Leadership at the University of Minnesota.

So, I’m beginning to find that pearl, find that gem, find that missing piece through this growth and learning and how to implement that now. That’s my little two cent journey on my brief discovery.

Nicole Vienneau  03:14

I love the discovery. I loved how you realized, very early, that something was missing for you. And then you began that self discovery, to say, “Okay, what is it? What is it?” And all those pieces — like all of the time that you spent in your career in critical care, and journeying through that.

And then uncovering that there’s more, there’s more and seeking out what could that more be. And tapping your feet into naturopath and then Reiki and then, oh my gosh, the journey. And now, as you’re coming into completion of your doctorate, maybe tell us a little bit about that journey.

Denise Ervin  03:56

Yes. So, a lot of that led, really, into the entrepreneurship and kind of where I’m at right now with Nurse Coaching. And we’ll talk more about that later. But as I was growing and learning and discovering:

‘hey, this little piece matches this little piece, and this little piece matches this little piece’, it really led me to really wanting to learn the framework around how do I begin to incorporate some of these pieces more in a system level.

And using a system level and partnership model, which that’s what led me for my DNP. And I chose health innovation and leadership at the University of Minnesota because it does give you that framework, but also, with the title Health Innovation and Leadership, it also has that discovery piece in it, as well.

Nicole Vienneau  04:48

Life journey of discovery, right?

Denise Ervin  04:50

Yes, definitely. Definitely.

Nicole Vienneau  04:54

Which makes me think like: I should ask about how you discovered Nurse Coaching.

Denise Ervin  04:59

Yes. So, that actually is a very intimate, personal story to myself that I actually love to share when I’m asked. So, one thing I didn’t mention in my my Nursing background is I also taught clinicals and Nursing education and from the clinical side, and I was teaching leadership students — it was their very last semester.

And within a month or six weeks, they were actually getting their wings and going to be on their own. So, the Nurse in me said, “I have to pull back. And I have to allow them to spread their wings and come to me when they need help versus standing over them, making sure they’re doing it right. They’re not beginning Nursing students. This is a leadership course in clinical.”

And so, in order for me to do that, I actually had to step into the break room. I told them: “Hey, I’m right here, but I’m just gonna step in here. And if you need me, I’m right here.” And I turned on a podcast. Christiane Northrup was interviewing Larry Dossey, and they were speaking about Integrative Nurse Coaching.

A Nurse called in, was burned out and describing her story, and I immediately felt like that Nurse. And Larry Dossey shared Integrative Nurse Coaching — Barbara Dossey’s work. I immediately went to the website, came home to my husband and said, “This is my next step. I need to become a board-certified Nurse Coach.”

And that’s how I became a board-certified Nurse Coach. And a cute little addition to that, or an awesome little addition to that, is I then had an opportunity to meet Larry Dossey and share this story with him and Barbara.

Nicole Vienneau  06:43

I love that. I love that as you were telling me the story of how things seem to align, right? You were allowing your students to spread their wings. And then almost you didn’t know that you were also going to allow yourself to spread your wings.

But as you were telling the story, I was getting chills because I was like: wow, this is so amazing how the universe allows us to connect the dots if we’re open to listening for it.

Denise Ervin  07:19

Absolutely. We both spread our wings after that experience.

Nicole Vienneau  07:25

That’s so great. So, let us know what you’re doing with your Nurse Coaching today.

Denise Ervin  07:30

Yeah, so currently, I own Infinite Well Beings, which is an integrative coaching and consulting business. I work mainly with organizations to provide coaching, individual coaching or programs to their employees, specifically healthcare organizations, hospital settings, and really focusing on the Nurses as well as the leaders.

Nicole Vienneau  07:53

And how did you come to determine that?

Denise Ervin  07:55

I had a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to the employee wellness program. And at the time, the employee wellness program was developing a coaching program in which they would offer coaching to the employees. And I came in early on to just bring the Nurse’s voice to that.

And then as it grew and expanded, and then I grew and expanded by receiving my certification in Nurse Coaching, I revisited them. Then we came together and started to bridge the gap between human resources and employee wellness programs and the Nursing departments.

Nicole Vienneau  08:32

And so, as you were developing those relationships, what did you see as a need for the organization with coaching?

Denise Ervin  08:42

They actually developed a robust coaching program with health and wellness coaches, and one of the pieces they were missing is the Nurses. They didn’t have, at the time, a Nurse on staff within their department, nor were they reaching the engagement of the Nurses and the Nursing leaders.

So, that’s really where I saw an opportunity to how do we infiltrate this also into the frontline staff as well as the Nursing leaders — the coaching piece. And because of the coaching training and having the theory of Integrative Nurse Coaching and the coaching process model, it was easy to speak to the Nurses to describe the Nurse Coaching to them versus maybe a more traditional health and wellness coach.

Nicole Vienneau  09:35

I love this. And I love how you were able to see the missing link. And it makes sense to have Nurses, in the Nurse Coaching role, actually coaching fellow Nurses. There is no one who completely understands Nurses like another Nurse. So, what are you seeing as opportunities within that realm today?

Denise Ervin  09:59

Actually, opportunities are pretty broad and almost endless right now. One area is, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has really brought light to some of the darkness in some of the areas that weren’t getting addressed. And so, I see Nurse Coaching as an opportunity to kind of fall into two buckets.

The first bucket is really around population health and health equality and community outreach — how to do that piece. And then the other bucket is really the bucket that I’m in right now, and providing coaching, group coaching, and professional development to the Nurses, Nursing leaders, Nursing educators, so that they can have a better understanding of what is a Nurse Coach?

And how does a Nurse Coach fit into an organization? And how do we leverage that? And so, some of it is education and exposure, and the other is practicing and training and guiding them to… guiding and informing them of what’s out there and what’s available to them.

More specifically related to that question, I’m currently working in conjunction with my DNP to provide a peer support program for Nurses. And it’s really going to look at the Nurses, Nursing leadership and education, and using the Nurse Coaching process.

Nicole Vienneau  11:28

Ooh, that sounds exciting.

Denise Ervin  11:31

Yeah, yes, it’s very exciting.

Nicole Vienneau  11:33

What is your hope for that?

Denise Ervin  11:35

My goal of that, actually, is fostering the recovering and well-being of the Nursing leaders to provide them the resources, the support. And how do they apply these resources and the support that’s valuable to them through me being a coach, but using the coaching model. How do they apply that to their everyday life?

Nicole Vienneau  11:56

Hmm, yeah, it’s interesting, in my experience just receiving coaching, how I then see myself. How I can evolve as a human, as a professional, as a sister, as a wife — but that evolution because of coaching.

And it’s interesting through the Nurse Coaching model, having Nurses who are fully engaged and have a clear understanding of health and well-being and disease process and medical model — the breadth of knowledge and the breadth of awareness from them that I received because of the coaching.

And, you know, I just imagine that in the model that you’re speaking of, as you plan to do this for your DNP. So, it could be very exciting to see what the outcomes are going to be for the people that you’re with.

Denise Ervin  12:53

Yeah, and I’ll actually mirror that a bit, Nicole. I’ve also received coaching since I became a board-certified coach in 2014. Every year, every other month, you know, often, I am also participating in receiving Nurse Coaching for myself.

And I hear that, I second what you just said. And it continues to teach me and show me how valuable the Nurse Coaching model is, and how much I appreciate it and how much it continues to allow me to grow personally and professionally.

Nicole Vienneau  13:31

Yeah, I just can’t say enough about it. You know, we could be a little bit biased because, you know, we’re both board-certified Nurse Coaches, but it’s true. I mean, I just cannot even… I recall myself, and as you spoke of your history as an intensive care Nurse, and should we…

we probably should disclose to our audience that… okay, so first of all, fellow Nurses and audience out there, Denise and I knew each other for years before we had ever even met in person because of Nurse Coaching.

And we had developed a relationship. We used each other for coaching, for touch points, for friendship, for so many incredible experiences that we shared. And we even wrote an article together in Beginnings Magazine, for the American Holistic Nurses Association, on how Nurse Coaching can help critical care Nurses and how it helped us.

So, you and I have like a great history together. And you know, it’s so fun when I was: Denise, will you be on the podcast? And you’re like: “Ummmm…” And then, finally, she says yes!

Denise Ervin  14:49

Yes, absolutely. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful connection. Definitely.

Nicole Vienneau  14:58

Yes. And that’s a testament to the program of the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy and the friendships that we make and the connections that we make, because we find our tribe — people who really understand what it is that we’re doing, and how we can positively affect the universe, ourselves, our own communities, and so forth.

Denise Ervin  15:19

Yeah, and actually, you know, when I became a board-certified Nurse Coach, I was the first in Michigan. And so, after I left the training, I felt a little isolated. And it was that relationship with you, Nicole — and I can lists many, many others — where I said, “Oh, I have to stay connected. And I have to continue to be in this community and foster these relationships.”

Because oftentimes, as Nurses, we want to go back in our silos and work in our silos, but in this case, it was breaking that silo and saying: no, as a Nurse Coach, we’re a community. And how do we build that and stay in community together? So thank you, Nicole, for growing with me.

Nicole Vienneau  16:08

It’s been a wonderful growth that we’ve experienced together. So, I’d love for you to share a little bit about, you know, you mentioned the whole process of you knew that your organization was starting the coaching program, they were using wellness coaches, then you came into the picture to offer the Nurse’s voice for that.

And then, you know, circling back with them after you achieved your board certification in Nurse Coaching, you took the initiative to go back to them.

And I’m curious to know the process for other Nurses and Nurse Coaches who are trying to bring more health and well-being into their environments. What could they expect? Or what are some things that you learned through that process to, you know, to share?

Denise Ervin  16:56

Yeah, I think the biggest initial step is taking that step to see what is the organization offering now? What are they offering, whether it’s through their employee wellness program, their EAP, or Nursing professional development? What is already being offered, whether that’s, like I said, in HR or under Nursing?

Reach out to those individuals that are already offering opportunities around health and well-being, and make that connection. And then from that connection, really bring the Nurse Coaching process into that. Allow yourself to trust and believe that this secret sauce of Nurse Coaching model can be embedded into already existing programs.

And it’s actually oftentimes a missing link that is not being provided. So, again, I would discover within your organization, what are they already doing for their employees around health and well-being? Or professional development? And how can you bring in Nurse Coaching into that framework?

Nicole Vienneau  18:15

So, this requires Nurses to go into their place of work and actually ask. I know that sounds so basic, but that can be very intimidating to, you know, find the right people. How did you do that?

Denise Ervin  18:29

Yeah, and it can definitely be very intimidating. How I did it is I actually went back to the organization’s website and dived a little deeper into what are they offering? What does it look like? Then I actually sent an email to the director and picked up the phone and called the director and said, “Hey, you remember me? Or this is what I’m doing now…” Or kind of creating that connection with them.

I was fortunate enough that the director remembered me and knew me, so I had already kind of created that introduction five years prior. Somebody that doesn’t have that experience, I would encourage them to go to the organization’s website, see what they’re doing on the intranet, and have some courage and bravery to introduce yourself. Oftentimes, that can be scary, but we never know what might come of that.

Nicole Vienneau  19:32

Oh, it’s so true. And if we don’t express what it is that we would like to do or like to see, to be of service — and the service is so needed right now to help with healing and rebuilding the spirits of healthcare workers — if we don’t take that step, then we’re missing out on that opportunity, yes, but so are our fellow colleagues that we could be really helping and being part of their lives.

Denise Ervin  20:03

Yeah, and I’ll add to that, too. I did use Nurse Coaching to get over the fear and gain the courage, you know, to do that. But I also would really say to every single person, whether you’re a Nurse Coach or Nurse, connect with your Nursing community.

Connect with other Nurse Coaches. You know, we’re here to help each other move into those “scary spots.” And the more we do it as individuals, and a profession, like Barbie Dossey says, it has a ripple effect of the pebble in the pond.

Nicole Vienneau  20:41

Yes, I call those relationships, you know, those people that you know, have known through the years and potentially met them once and then maybe come back to them again when you need them, kind of thing, those high equity relationships, right? Those are the people that you can easily tap into. And I love that they can remember you.

Like, they’ll remember, they’ll remember you. And even if they don’t, it’s kind of a new opportunity to say: hey, ah, oh, I remember you, and this is what we did, and so forth. And then it’s like recreating the relationship. And I really do feel anything in business and developing connections and all of that is so important in order for us to feel successful from our heart space, as well as into business space, too.

Denise Ervin  21:34

Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely relationship and partnership that helps us move into these spaces.

Nicole Vienneau  21:43

So, I know that in your work, throughout your whole career, you’ve talked a lot and worked a lot on breaking down silos. And you mentioned this earlier — creating and establishing inter-professional relationships that are meaningful. You know, breaking down the barriers. And I’m curious if you could speak with our listeners a little bit more about your thoughts on that?

Denise Ervin  22:08

Yeah, actually, that drive originally came from my first stages of burnout. There was a time, you know, early on in my career where I believed I had to do it all on my own and I had to have all the answers.

And as I relay back to saying, “Wait, something’s missing here, this piece is not quite… this piece doesn’t quite feel right,” in all honesty, I was attempting to align the hospital model or environment with who I was as a person, and what I gained from the art and science of Nursing.

And in reality, the more I tried to align with a system or belief that was not mine — ie: silos, non-inter-professional, non-partnership, more dominating type model — the more I got burned out, and the more I had to overcome my own health challenges due to burnout, which then really led me to live in this way, is not my way.

And my way is breaking down these barriers, and inter-professionally and partnership versus the silos and what was really not working for us. So, I had to really kind of connect to that heart space, like, what’s my heart space? And who am I? And how do I want to lead as a Nurse?

And early on in this discovery, I made a promise to myself if I ever became cranky and, you know, kind of, not that, you know, co-worker you wanted to work with, then I really had to dive deeper into myself. And the more I dived deeper into myself, the more I connected with my own heart space.

I realized the silos don’t work. The barriers don’t work. We have to have partnership, we have to have integration, we have to come together as community, as healthcare professionals, so that we can then have the resources, the strength, and the energy to support what the system changes need, as well as what our community needs.

Nicole Vienneau  24:25

So, what it really comes down to is the relationship, is the connections and coming from the heart space, instead of us always being so protective and barriers and silo. You know, I think, imagine the silo is just straight up and down. It’s concrete. It’s hollow on the inside, and we can’t even see up and out because we’re so contained into that.

And when we can come from heart space, that is very vulnerable, yes, but it allows so much more growth and so much more evolution and so much more meaning to the work that we do.

Denise Ervin  25:13

And I would also really say: is it Nursing without that? Is it Nursing without the heart connection? Is it Nursing without the relationship?

Nicole Vienneau  25:30

Alright, Denise, let’s shift gears, as we have just a few more minutes together. And I’m curious to know what is on your heart that you would like to share with our listeners?

Denise Ervin  25:44

Be brave. Be brave, be curious. Find the person that you feel comfortable with, and begin to bring the Nurse Coaching model to them, whether it’s professionally or personally. As we take that micro step, that baby step to becoming more authentic, living our purpose, aligning with why we became a Nurse, the system and the world needs us. The system and the world needs Nurse Coaching.

Nicole Vienneau  26:20

Yes, the system and the world needs Nurse Coaching. Thank you. Thank you for sharing from your heart. So, how can people find you, Denise?

Denise Ervin  26:32

Yeah, I can be found at: www.infinitewellbeings.com. That’s my business website. Or denise@infinitewellbeings.com. Feel free to reach out. I love connecting with other Nurses.

Nicole Vienneau  26:48

So, we will share all of your links for our listeners. And yes, reach out to Denise, she’s a world and wealth of knowledge. And thank you so much for being with us today, Denise.

Denise Ervin  27:00

Thank you so much, Nicole, for inviting me. What a pleasure it’s been.

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