Jodie believes that a difference is made when there is a soul-to-soul connection between humans and animals. People often ask, What is a visit and what do therapy animals do? Jodie’s reply: “At every visit , when others meet our special animals, there is joy, laughter, smiles and sharing of unconditional love…that is true healing.”
It is through Jodie’s passion for animal therapy and the selfless love of the SOUL Harbour Ranch volunteers, that individuals throughout the Chicagoland area are able to experience incredible SOUL: Sharing Of Unconditional Love.
Jodie and the “SOUL team” visit those in need with their registered therapy animals, partnering with locations such as Rush University Medical Center, Loyola University Medical Center, The Garlands, Journeycare, NISRA, Marklund, GiGi’s Playhouse and Barrington High School. They also offer on-site visits at SOUL Harbour Ranch.
“As a Nurse Coach, I’m able to do mindfulness exercises as we walk along our soul path, and as I help people to connect more completely with our therapy animals in a mindful and peaceful connection.” ~ Jodie L. Diegel, RN, BSN, MBA, LNC
Roadrunner Animal Spirt defined… “Roadrunner teaches how to find the hidden humor in situations all while showing you the path to greater productivity and efficiency.”
Coaching with HEART: Healing, Energy, Awareness, Resilience, Transform in the Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing textbook
Thank you for listening. We LOVE Nurses!
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome, everyone, to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! This is Nicole Vienneau. I am your host, and I’m also a Board-Certified Integrative Nurse Coach. And I have the pleasure of welcoming Jodie Diegel, who is a Legal Nurse Consultant.
And she is also the president and founder of SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program. And she’s all the way from Barrington, Illinois, which is fun. And I’m just really excited to speak with her and have her here and have her share all of her wisdom with us today. So welcome, Jodie.
Jodie Diegel 00:38
Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Nicole Vienneau 00:40
So Jodie, we’d love to take a little trip down history lane and discover why you decided to become a Nurse.
Jodie Diegel 00:48
So I am a very giving person. And you know, quite honestly, when I was in high school, my counselor said to me, “Well, you’re great with people, you’re a very positive person, you love to help people, you’re great in the sciences, you should be a Nurse.”
So I truly didn’t have a distinct direction at that time. And as I started looking into the Nursing programs, I realized it was a perfect fit with my personality, and really what I wanted to do with my life. And so I ended up going to the University of Iowa, and graduated from their Nursing program.
Nicole Vienneau 01:27
I love that, how you had someone see your strengths right at a young age— you’re positive, you’re caring, you enjoyed the sciences, and you were good at them. And they saw that in you and said: hey, you should become a Nurse. And you’re like: let’s check this out. Yes, and so what brought you into legal Nurse consulting? How did that path go?
Jodie Diegel 01:47
So for many years, I worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and I worked a combination of medical surge, as many of us did. I also worked in labor and delivery for the majority of my career. And I actually started teaching an ethics course at the junior college near me. Interestingly, I wanted to teach in their Nursing program.
However, I have a master’s in business, so I wasn’t qualified, per se, to teach in their programs. So they said to me, “Well, you can either teach Introduction to Healthcare, or you can teach Healthcare Law and Ethics.” And I went, “Wow, that’s quite an opposite type of decision there.” But I literally would read the book all about the many, you know, ethical issues and legal issues.
And then I would teach to the students with the many stories and the ethical discussions that had developed through my years in Nursing. So I started becoming very interested in the legal field, even thought about maybe going back to law school, but I thought I really wanted to use my Nursing knowledge. So that’s how I got started, I started looking for a Legal Nurse position and was hired within a law firm. And that’s been about, it’s been about 12 years ago.
Nicole Vienneau 03:16
I love how Nursing is so evolutionary. And we are exposed to different things, so many different things. And we could take a trip down any road that comes to us, and how exciting that you discovered Legal Nurse Consulting, and then now we’re like, okay, well now, where does this… where does Nurse Coaching fit into all this?
Jodie Diegel 03:37
So with my Nursing background, and my love of animals— I already had several dogs, I had two big horses. And thinking back to 2010 when I started doing dog therapy, I happened to see a little video clip online about miniature horses visiting as therapy animals. And at that moment, I knew that I had to start a nonprofit. I was working full-time, so I needed to bring other people on board.
But what a great way to surround yourself with like-minded people. And I started a nonprofit with three miniature horses. And it just kind of evolved into this healing, loving, connected, soulful type of work that I love. It really combined my love of Nursing, my love of animals, and my love of helping people. So to then find Nurse Coaching, and that there was an actual program and even the certification, it was the absolute perfect fit.
Nicole Vienneau 04:52
I’m imagining you on your ranch with all the animals. Like, how many animals do you have and what’s a day look like at Jodie’s work when she’s at SOUL Harbour Ranch doing the animal therapy? I mean, so many questions and so many images are coming to my mind.
Jodie Diegel 05:09
So interestingly, my husband is not even a horse person. LOL, right? So, but what started with one dog, then two dogs, then one big horse, then two big horses, and then three mini horses. It turned into the current situation of us moving to five acres in Barrington, building a barn, having four dogs, 10 miniature horses, four mini donkeys, two big horses, two mini pigs, and we just added a giant Flemish rabbit to the herd.
So any and all of them can become therapy animals. We use all of them here at the ranch for the many therapy visits that we host on site. But the animals that we do take off site, that are registered therapy animals, include our therapy dogs— not only mine, but we have about 50 volunteers.
Many of them have their own registered therapy dogs that we’ve helped along that journey to go out and help more people. And then our miniature horses— so people become registered with my miniature horses, and again, they go out to make those soul to soul connections.
Nicole Vienneau 06:26
Oh my gosh, I’m feeling like I need a road trip to Barrington, Illinois, to come and visit you and just be absorbed with all the animals. I do have to ask, though, where are the cats? Where are the cats?
Jodie Diegel 06:40
We do have feral cats. So, that’s the one thing, my mother is extremely allergic, so we cannot have any chance. But we did have a therapy cat team. Sadly, that cat passed away. She was an older cat, but really a fabulous, fabulous cat. So, we are definitely mindful about our cat owners. And we are always looking for volunteers to join us with their own well mannered animal. So, we know that there’s going to be another cat or several cats in our future as therapy animals. Don’t you worry.
Nicole Vienneau 07:15
Oh, good. Oh, good. Yes, I’m definitely a cat lover, so I was like, what about the cats? So, okay, so it sounds like you do some of your therapy on the ranch. And then it sounds like you’re also taking animals to people. And so help us understand a little bit more how the therapy and how Nurse Coaching combined— how does that all work?
Jodie Diegel 07:41
A typical day for us here not only involves getting the animals fed and the barn cleaned and cared for, but we do a lot of training with our animals. So the therapy dogs, the therapy horses, and you know, everybody’s animals. We have all of our volunteers go through special training here on site at our ranch, so that they are able to complete all the skill assessments that are required by the national therapy animal organization called Pet Partners.
So, Pet Partners is the national gold standard for animal therapy. I was mentioning dogs and horses and donkeys and rabbits and pigs. Well, all of those types of animals— and cats, don’t worry, cats— but they can all be registered as therapy animals through Pet Partners. So that is really what we try to make our goal with all of our volunteers, they will become registered handlers.
So, you mentioned both on site and off site. So, we take out our animals to hospitals and Nursing homes and schools and libraries. We work with veterans. We work with all different demographics of those with different abilities. We actually are a presentation at the Abilities Expo here that is every year in Chicago. We have done national presentations for AARP National via Zoom.
And, you know, I guess, thinking back to COVID, and what we all learned and how we pivoted and were able to do all of these things, like we’re even doing now— more podcasts, more Zoom calls, more Microsoft Teams— we’re able to reach more people. And so we do both on site, off site, and a lot of Zooms, and virtual visits. And in fact, every Friday, if people follow us on our Facebook page, they’re able to tune in for a virtual visit.
And we do our Friday Live at Five. We are able to show everybody all of our animals. So if you’d like to see our menagerie, you’re able to tune in every Friday, just tune in on our Facebook page, and you’ll start to stream live. So, we do reach all different demographics. The onsite visits will be with different types of groups. Today, in fact, we are hosting a Gratitude Gathering.
So, thinking about the combination of Nurse Coaching and what we do here at the ranch, today’s Gratitude Gathering is a perfect example of partnering with two counseling centers here in the Barrington area. So, Barrington Youth and Family Services as well as Samaritan Counseling Center. The three of us— SOUL Harbour Ranch included— are able to then combine forces to bring different elements of healing, and, you know, improving mental health, which is so important as we know in today’s life.
So Coaching is the perfect way to kind of bring it all together. We’ll have gratitude jars, we have a gratitude walk. Myself, as a Nurse Coach, I’m able to do mindfulness exercises as we walk along our soul path, and as I help people to connect more completely with our therapy animals in a mindful and peaceful connection.
Nicole Vienneau 11:19
So beautiful to align all of those pieces together. Ah, I’m just imagining. So, I am sitting here in my space at home in Tucson, Arizona, and as we’re talking, there is a roadrunner who just came to the window— not to the window— but just walking by the window and he stopped and he looked in. He’s like, oh, they’re talking about animals in there. Jodie Diegel, I know her, I’ve heard about her. Such a blessing.
Jodie Diegel 11:54
Well, and you know, isn’t it interesting that an animal spirit like that just happened to stop by while we’re talking about this. I love, with the Nurse Coaching, one of my favorite elements that I really brought home to the ranch was Coaching with heart and soul. Because soul is all about sharing of unconditional love. That’s our tagline. So how interesting that heart then was able… we were able to incorporate all those acronyms.
And you know, thinking of H, when I think of H, I think of happiness and hope and horses and healing. And that is, you know, really how we love to start out each session. And I think, too, like when you talk about, you know, heart, the healing, the energy, the awareness, how can you be more resilient, and then how can you transform into different, you know… and face different challenges where you truly experience bliss and joy and deep love.
And by pulling heart and soul together, it really culminates in a sense of gratitude. And I think that’s the perfect circle, as we are talking about, like even today, with our session of doing a Gratitude Gathering. Our property itself, and on five acres, there is this amazing healing property. You can’t describe it until you’re here.
And there is this sense of peacefulness that we really try to let people just absorb. And so sometimes it’s very silent. Sometimes it’s facilitating with the communication of our animals, and having them really just take it all in in whatever way they need to. It’s really just… it’s unbelievable. I don’t even know how to describe it in words.
Nicole Vienneau 14:00
It sounds like a place where we could all imagine and we would imagine it in our own way. And using the acronym heart, and then heart and soul— SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program. It’s just such a beautiful, beautiful resonance, and the vibration is very high for healing and then combining nature, animals, Coaching, community, all of the pieces that Nurse Coaches are really striving to do within their own approach in how they use Nurse Coaching in their communities.
So, Jodie, I’m telling you, roadtrip coming up soon. Or Friday Live at Five. Now that is also something else to look out for on Facebook, to check that out. So, as you think of your journey through learning Nurse Coaching, through your experience in the program, what thing— besides heart— really stands out for you that’s helped you become and create this world that you’re absorbed in now?
Jodie Diegel 15:13
I think one of the key pieces, which we first learned, is just going through the IHWA assessment. I often wondered how would I help people? I’m a Nurse already, I am great at listening and communicating, but what gives me the ability to kind of transcend their soul and understand so many different aspects of their life and how I could help them?
And that tool was really the key to getting started, and to understanding how we communicate, and how we listen to what they need help with that they can identify themselves as we facilitate. I believe that the one-on-one practice sessions that we had— as difficult as that was at first, and a little disconcerting, almost, because you aren’t maybe genuine at first, you don’t know how to start, how to even get into that mode— but even just as we’re doing right now, Nicole, the conversation becomes very organic.
And it really starts to come from your heart, and you both really begin to start to have a dialogue. Or maybe if you’re doing a group session, it becomes more of a dialogue and very organic, and you don’t have to force it. And I think that that was the biggest challenge at first, was, oh my gosh, I have to force this, I have to come up with these questions, I need to do this case study, I need to bring in a sacred object, I need, I need to, I need to, I need to.
And I think when you step back, and you realize that you don’t need to, but rather, you just listen and use the many skills that you learn, and it then develops organically. And all of a sudden, you’re both on the same wavelength. And you mentioned vibration, I love that word. I think we all need to get that vibration where we feel as one and everything just flows.
Nicole Vienneau 17:27
So good. Yes. I wanted to just circle back to the IHWA for our listeners who are like, what the heck’s an IHWA? This is an assessment tool that we have, it’s called the Integrative Health and Wellness Assessment. If you would like to know a little bit more about it, you could go to iNurseCoach.com. And just, you can see, we actually have it on our website.
And you can actually do the assessment yourself, if you’re unfamiliar with it. And it helps you, like it helps me as a Nurse Coach, it helped me to focus in on things that, you know, maybe areas that I wasn’t focusing on or hadn’t even thought of. And it brings things to our attention, and it also helps us with our clients, because sometimes they don’t know what they actually even want, either.
And so it is a nice place to begin. And what I also heard you say was, instead of Nurse Coaches… like, at the beginning, you’re right. I mean, we all thought, oh, we’ve got to do it like this, because it’s like Nursing, right? We’ve got to find the protocol and we have to follow the steps. And we must do this and do it perfectly. And I laugh because I so remember that, just being so focused on doing it right.
And now as I’ve gained more experience, more confidence, of course, as we evolve, things become… we become more at ease, more at ease, letting things flow, allowing the energy to be, the awareness, the resilience, the transformations— those things to just open up and come forward without us trying to make it happen. So, thank you for bringing that to our awareness.
Jodie Diegel 19:15
I absolutely love, you know, that you just kind of really clarified for everybody, just so that everybody is aware. But, you know, talking about life balance and satisfaction, relationships, your spiritual wellbeing, your mental wellbeing, and emotional health— how are you recognizing your own feelings and emotions? I’m talking about your physical aspects of life and nutrition, and are you exercising? As well as environmental factors.
So, I think that that is, you know, as we get into… if any of you do take that assessment— which I think both of us would highly recommend, all of us Nurse Coaches would like you to do that— but it really does help you to focus on what you can do for your life that is, maybe you need a little bit more in one area, and you’re doing well in other areas, but it helps you to really focus on those issues.
Nicole Vienneau 20:13
Yeah. And also, I think I use it as a strength tool, as well. Areas that you’re doing really well at and boosting those ones up. Because so many times we’re so hard on ourselves. Ah, I didn’t, you know, ah, look at this, I scored low on this section, I’m bad, you know. And meanwhile, every other section is perfect.
So, I love to focus on strengths, which I know you do, too. But it is a really nice tool to check out. So I do encourage, we encourage, Jodie and I encourage all our listeners, if you’ve never done the Integrative Health and Wellness Assessment, pop onto iNurseCoach.com to check it out. Ah, I love it. So, let’s see, what else would you like to tell us about what you’re doing, Jodie?
Jodie Diegel 20:56
Oh, goodness. Let’s see, what else. Well, we have offered several retreats here at the ranch, which have incorporated yoga, and singing bowls, as well as working with our therapy animals. And with that, what we say like the soul to soul connection, we have found that there’s been incredible healing and joy and love and positive happiness.
It’s just such a healing place that I am thrilled to be able to share the Coaching, share the animals, share the many types of healing that we can do that help us to focus on mindfulness and gratitude every day. It’s very funny, some of our new volunteers, they come in and we teach them how to feed and clean.
Now, you know, shoveling with the pooper scooper, you wouldn’t think would be the most fun work to be doing in a barn, but it is very necessary for the health of our animals, and there is an aspect of mindfulness and mindlessness. And it’s a very mindless thing that you’re doing, but at the same time, it’s extremely mindful.
And I think you can take that little aspect of doing something like that, finding that in every day. Maybe it’s doing the dishes, maybe it’s cleaning, you know, your house, and it’s mindful, it’s mindless, but focus on the full. And I think that you will then be filled with more gratitude and happiness and satisfaction over the littlest things.
Nicole Vienneau 22:47
Thank you so much for that.
Jodie Diegel 22:49
Yeah, we really… we have a couple of new volunteers and they’re excited to go scoop poop!
Nicole Vienneau 23:01
I love it! Well, it takes it to a different level, right? You go into your backyard, you’ve got to clean up the poop. It’s not only just to clean up the poop, but it’s also for the health and wellbeing of your animal. And you can turn it into a mindfulness practice.
Jodie Diegel 23:16
So, if there’s anything that Nurse Coaching has helped me with, it’s really taking those mindless moments and turning them into a mindful moment.
Nicole Vienneau 23:27
Yes, yes. I agree. Yes. As I clean my cat’s litter box tomorrow, I’m going to be thinking about you, thinking about how do I make this mindful? But all the little things that we do in the day that are potentially routine.
Jodie Diegel 23:50
Nicole Vienneau 23:51
And we go through the motions. Yeah, yeah.
Jodie Diegel 23:53
I think that with Nurse Coaching, it helps us to go through the motions, but recognize those motions more than we might on an every day, you know, aspect. When I started my Nurse Coaching, I really tried, every day, going into work— I work in Chicago, and I, you know, drive two hours sometimes to get there, and I might be a few minutes late, I might be rushing— but every Monday, I stopped to take a photo of the gorgeous floral arrangements that are in the Prudential building at work.
And every single week, I make sure that I take a picture and I stop to look. And that was really a moment where— and it’s really because of Nurse Coaching— that it allowed me to have that moment where I thought alright, I’m going to stop, I’m going to appreciate the beauty.
I may be rushing, I may have to get to work, but stop and take that moment for yourself. And I hope that all of you have a chance to do that. We get a chance to do it with our animals, and one another. We, again, we’ve got these amazing about 50 volunteers.
We also mentor a high school program, so we’re helping high school students learn to handle our animals and become registered handlers. But again, it all comes down to being aware of the moment, being mindful, being filled with gratitude for what we do have, and recognizing that even in those challenges, there’s joy and growth.
Nicole Vienneau 25:37
Yes, and healing.
Jodie Diegel 25:39
And healing. As I said, Nurse Coaches are healers, and we go back to that first H. H is for healing. And that is so important in all of our lives. And that is what we try to help, as Nurse Coaches, to help people have the, you know, reach their potential to be healed. And that brings us to the T, right? The transformation.
Nicole Vienneau 26:05
Yes, beautiful. So, I would love to understand better, if I was seeking your help with an animal for animal therapy, what would that look like?
Jodie Diegel 26:21
We usually host groups or we go out to visit groups. So we may have several volunteers that are handling two of our miniature horses. And we may have several volunteers that have their own therapy dogs. And an example would be going to the hospital for stress relief for the staff. We will walk in with our two miniature horses and our two therapy dogs.
The therapy horses need to get their sneakers on and their vest. The dogs will put the vest on. And then the 100 people or so that are standing there waiting, gasping with oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you feel the palpable joy as you walk in. And then people start visiting and hugging and petting, and literally gazing into eyes, and taking selfies.
And you know, so there’s this, sometimes, a quiet moment. We were with our dogs and our horses at Highland Park hospital the day after the shooting, and the week after the shooting in Highland Park, it was the Fourth of July parade, and the weeks that came after that, we were there. So, we’re there to provide the healing of our animals.
And it can be in a very fun, loud, crazy atmosphere, but, you know, it can also be in a very quiet, one-on-one, where we walk into a child’s room, who might be on chemotherapy, at Rush Medical Center. We walk into their room and bring one of the horses or the dogs, right to the bedside, for them to have a healing quiet moment. So it really looks different on our many different visits.
Some might be a literacy type of visit, where we’re reading a book, or the child may be reading a book, or the adult reading a book to our animals. It may be an exercise initiative, where we bring out all of our therapy animals and we walk within the shopping center, we get people out moving.
It might be a hospice visit. It might be with our veterans. So, really, so many diverse demographics that we meet. But the bottom line is there’s love and joy and laughter and connection. And that is the true healing. We’re truly honored to be on the other end of the rope at each of these visits with our animals and the people we’re visiting.
Nicole Vienneau 29:07
I just want to give a hug now. Lots of hugs. I’m imagining the horses with running shoes on. Hopefully, Jodie, you could send me a photo of the horses with running shoes on and we’re going to add that to the podcast somewhere.
Jodie Diegel 29:24
I would definitely recommend, as we talk about what we do and what a visit is like, I would definitely recommend that you go to our website at SoulHarbourRanch.org. And on the homepage, you’ll have a chance to watch a six minute video clip that we had produced. I do want to warn you, you’ll probably need a Kleenex. It’s a very touching type of video.
You’ll see us as we walk into the hospital. You’ll see us as we walk into the hospice here at JourneyCare, which is local. You’ll see the connections that some of the high school kids have made with the dogs and the horses. We don’t have our cat in the video. Unfortunately, it was produced before we had our therapy cat team.
But you’ll get a sense. It’s not only a describing of what we do, but you get a chance to feel what we do. And you’ll feel how the animals connect, to facilitate that healing. We, as a Nurse Coaches, do that by helping people to identify internally, you know, what their strengths are, what we can maybe help them focus on so that they can heal from within. But our animals really are there to offer that quiet healing. And you’ll feel it in that video.
Nicole Vienneau 30:49
I look forward to watching the video. And of course, we’ll share these links in our podcast notes.
Jodie Diegel 30:55
You’ll also see in the video the little sneakers.
Nicole Vienneau 31:00
Oh, yay! It’s gonna make my day, I know it. I’ll go back to the video quite often, I’m sure. So, Jodie, in our last few moments here, I’d love to have you tap into your heart. Considering Nurses in our communities, and what they go through on a daily basis, their work, their home life, their communities, and I just wanted to ask: what is on your heart that you would like to share with our Nurses?
Jodie Diegel 31:36
First of all, I want to thank all of you, my colleagues, for the wonderful care you provide to those in need, whether it may be teaching new students, whether it may be at the bedside, whether it may be in what I do, is looking through medical records, and helping families to understand what happened, you know, in a legal sense.
Maybe there was something that happened, maybe not, but we’re there. So, we all have so many different skill sets, and that, again, I think you mentioned earlier, Nicole, just the diversity of Nursing and how lucky we are to pursue so many different avenues. But yet, we’re all Nurses. So our heart is truly that of a Nurse. Whatever you may be doing, I want to thank you.
The pandemic has been so challenging for so many. As a former ER Nurse, you know, the challenges on that front line. Those of you in the ICU taking care of those patients. And again, whatever you may be doing as a Nurse, as a Nurse Coach helping facilitate healing, I do want to thank you.
Nicole Vienneau 32:50
Thank you. I take those words into my heart.
Jodie Diegel 32:56
Well, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this, and I thank you for doing what you do.
Nicole Vienneau 33:03
Thank you. I love talking to our fellow Nurse Coaches. It is so inspiring to hear how we are pairing our skills in Nursing, the art of Nursing, the caring of Nursing, and then combining it with our passions that may not even be related to Nursing at all.
And yet we’re able to combine all of these things with Nurse Coaching. And we are evolving our world and helping to make it a better place, yes, and also honoring those who are healing, which is all of us. So, thank you so much, Jodie, for being on our podcast today.
Jodie Diegel 33:41
Thank you very much. I am very grateful. I’m filled with gratitude. Thank you again. Have a wonderful day, Nicole
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