Dr Dossey is an internationally recognized integrative, holistic nursing pioneer, a nurse theorist (Theory of Integral Nursing; co-author, Theory of Integrative Nurse Coaching), and a Florence Nightingale Scholar. She is Co-Founder, International Nurse Coach Association (INCA) and Co-Founder, Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, Miami, Florida; International Co-Director, Nightingale Initiative for Global Health (NIGH); and Director of Holistic Nursing Consultants (HNC), Santa Fe, New Mexico.
She has authored or co-authored 31 books. She contributed to Dossey and Keegan’s Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice (8th ed., 2022; co-author and editor on 1st to 7th editions). Her recent publications include The Art and Science of Nurse Coaching: The Provider’s Guide for Coaching Scope and Competencies (2nd ed., 2021); Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing (2015); and Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer (2010, Commemorative Edition). She has also published numerous textbook chapters and articles, and presented many local, national, and global conference keynote addresses.
She is a founding member of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) and received the AHNA 1985 Holistic Nurse of the Year, and the 2014 AHNA Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an 11-time recipient of the prestigious American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and has received many other awards and recognitions.
“I put all of my attention here, breath into my heart, let go, breathe in slowly. And then I extend that deep love and peace that comes out to the people I’m working with, to the patients that I’m caring for.” ~Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, HWNC-BC
Thank you for listening. We LOVE Nurses!
Nicole Vienneau 00:00
Welcome, everyone, to Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! My name is Nicole Vienneau. I am your host and I am also a Board-Certified Integrative Nurse Coach and I can hardly contain my excitement because we are welcoming Dr. Barbara Dossey back to our podcast again. I felt it was so important to have her voice come to our podcast again. And if you’ll recall, our listeners, Barbara Dossey was on episode 17 — we called it Find Your Nursing Soulmate— back in July 2021.
And it is about time we had Dr. Dossey back on our podcast to share what’s been going on since then. For our listeners who are newer, Dr. Barbara Dossey is the co-founder of the International Nurse Coach Association. She is one of the visionaries of Nurse Coaching. She is just an incredible human being. I am so jazzed to have her on the podcast. So, welcome, Dr. Dossey.
Barbara Dossey 01:12
Oh, thank you so much. It’s so so much fun to see you, to be here with you and just the joy that you bring. And I love your laugh.
Nicole Vienneau 01:25
Thank you. So, we talked about so many fun things in your very first podcast with us. And but the one thing that we never asked were some of the questions that we’ve asked every one of our guests. And so I thought it would be fun to know a little bit more history of Dr. Barbara Dossey before she became doctor, and what guided you towards the Nursing profession.
Barbara Dossey 01:51
Ah, well, I want to say that I grew up in a family where it was a given that college education was important. So I was very blessed that way. How I began to even consider Nursing is that my granddaddy, Montgomery— daddy’s daddy, lived with daddy’s brother, and three of his daughters were Nurses. They were seven, eight and nine years older than I was.
So you know what it’s like when you are growing up, and there are these older people… older… just a few years. I mean, they’re just you know, fabulous. And my three first cousins were fabulous. And when we used to visit, Big Daddy, and we call him Big Daddy because he was 6’7″. Daddy was 6’4″. Daddy’s brother was 6’4″. So they’re… and my twin brothers were 6’4″, so we got tall men in the family.
Anyway, in my junior year, we had gone down to visit Big Daddy, and we’re out on the back porch, and it’s one of those things, you know, when you’ve got about, you know, 25 or 30 of us with all the first, second, and third cousins and friends that dropped by and stuff like that.
But I’m sitting on the back porch, and there are a bunch of people around, and my uncle Haus just looks at me and he said, “Well, Miss Barbie,” — a nickname I’ve had all my life— “Miss Barbie, what are you going to do with your life?” And I went, “Oh, Uncle Haus, no one’s ever asked me that question.” And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I need to think about it.”
And he said, “Well, I want to tell you what I think you need to do.” And he’s pointing at me like this. And he said, “You need to be a Nurse. You would make a good Nurse.” And I went [gasp]. And of course, I had, you know, idolized my three first cousins that were Nurses, and they would come in in their white uniforms and their blue capes and their white caps and their white nylons and white shoes.
And one thing that was very interesting, though, is that their mother, Aunt Kathleen, when my cousins would come home— and back then, if you weren’t married you lived at home. We’re talking about in the 40s, or the 50s. Well, 1960 at this time. Anyway, so they were at home and Aunt Kathleen just said, “Well, girls, okay, tell me how your day was.” And then you know, they would just kind of start talking.
And then before you know it, all three of them— two of them worked in the same hospital and the other one worked in another hospital— but they just start comparing and sharing stories and what they did to solve problems and so forth. And I just, I was fascinated by it. Luckily, when I was growing up, there was no illness in our family and I only, one time, remember visiting someone in the hospital.
So I didn’t have any experience there at all. And so anyway, after that weekend, a week later was time for me to visit my junior counselor in high school about, you know, beginning to look at college and what we wanted to do. And it just popped out of my mouth: “I want to be a Nurse.” Now I had given it no more thought, except what I can say is it was in my bones and blood already, having watched my cousins for years.
And for me to just voice that, and when I voiced it, it rang true. So it never even… I never even thought about not doing it. And luckily, when I went to junior counselor, she was just absolutely thrilled to hear that I wanted to do that. And you know, then she does all my strengths about personality and the way I relate to people, and you know, all that stuff. So, that is my early introduction into Nursing. And I have never looked back. It has been one of the great joys of my life.
Nicole Vienneau 05:52
I love this story. I’m imagining all of your very, very tall gentlemen in your family. And Big Daddy pointing at you, saying you need to be a Nurse.
Barbara Dossey 06:04
Right. Well, it was my uncle that did that.
Nicole Vienneau 06:06
Oh, your uncle. Oh, Uncle Big Daddy. I can’t remember.
Barbara Dossey 06:11
Big Daddy is my granddaddy. It was Uncle Haus. But guess what? The conversation got around before we left, and Big Daddy did nod.
Nicole Vienneau 06:25
He nodded. He gave the approval. I love that. But your cousins were all Nurses, and that conversation about what they were doing at the time, too, in their work, inspired you.
Barbara Dossey 06:39
And my oldest cousin was a supervisor. And then the other Nurse cousin was working on a med surg floor. And then my other cousin, she worked in a prison, which was an introduction to me. I had no idea that Nurses worked anywhere except for, you know, in hospitals. So that became, also, began to, you know, hear different kinds of stories like that.
Nicole Vienneau 07:05
I love it. I love it. And then you never looked back. I love that part, too.
Barbara Dossey 07:10
Never ever, ever. Never ever. And that’s one of the things you can say about Nursing is it invites you to look at all of life. And the beauty of us having the privilege of looking at theories, at looking at protocols, and having frameworks and standards of practice that guide our profession. It’s just extraordinary. And that’s one of the reasons now, what is it, 22 or 23 years in a row with the Gallup poll, that Nurses have been number one of healthcare professionals.
Nicole Vienneau 07:46
The most ethically sound and trusted profession.
Barbara Dossey 07:49
Nicole Vienneau 07:50
Yes. Yes. So, I’d love to, and I know our listeners would love to learn too, a little bit about some of the areas that you enjoyed practicing in.
Barbara Dossey 08:02
Well, and I must tell you that this also is another part of my love and what has driven my work all of my life, is I graduated from school in 1965— and let me also say that when, in 1963, they opened up the first… they did the first open heart surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. This is not the Baylor in Houston, they’re not connected. But Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
It’s a Baptist University. And I went and did my undergraduate at Baylor in Waco and then came up to Dallas to do my last two years. In 1963, they did the first open heart surgery, and they thought it would just go okay, and they would just keep the recovery room open for 24 hours. Well, they did do that, but then it began to look at they wanted to do more surgeries.
And then before you knew it, they were taking a wing of the hospital and creating a critical care unit. I mean, it’s not the fancy one, it’s just like, you know, you take the last 10 rooms of the surgery floor and then it became a critical care unit.
But anyway, early on, because they did not have the staff to do the basic task things like emptying bags of whatever, and hanging things, and running errands and so forth. So they let the student Nurses come in, who wanted to. Well, I could not wait to do it. And I am an Aries. I have a lot of energy. And I think I remember you’re an Aries, aren’t you?
Nicole Vienneau 09:45
I am an Aries. We are two Aries on this podcast together.
Barbara Dossey 09:49
And I have a lot of energy and I just loved the pace of it. I loved the complexity of it. I loved the teamwork. And so that’s where I worked every weekend as a student Nurse, getting the experience. And then that was back in the time where you didn’t have to have any other type of experience, in ’65. And if you wanted to do it, and you had shown and demonstrated that you could do it, you were invited to the unit.
So I was invited to a critical care unit that was brand new by then, because they had spent that two years building a new unit. Worked clinical for 10 years, and then fell in love with it. And then different things happened. I got passed over as a head Nurse. And I thought that I was going to get it. It was one of the great gifts that was given to me.
But one of the reasons I did not get that position is that I was already… I’m the kind of person that is: this is really good, but how can it be better? How can we change this and make it better? So, even though I was in the running for it, my best friend got it. And we’re still dear friends. But what that did, that opened up a place for me.
And it was a… it was a devastating experience because I had never seen myself beyond being the head Nurse on that critical care unit. But one of the things that had happened, and this is where it’s key in all of the work that we do, is model what you believe to be true. And what I loved is having student Nurses, and to be able to shadow and work with them in the unit.
And so one of the instructors from the junior college had— he liked me and I certainly, you know, liked him. He was just a fantastic guy. And he was working at the junior college. He had gotten, with two other people, a grant to take medics from Vietnam and create, and all the protocol and everything, so that they would become bedside ADN Nurses. And he needed a faculty person to work with him on that.
And he came to me about a week after that happened, where I just, you know, I just was… I was confused. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I knew that I would figure it out and continue to do my work. And so he popped in one day, and he said, “Let’s have coffee.” And I said, “Sure.” And so I went to have coffee, and he said, “I have something that I want to propose to you.”
And he said, “I’ve just got a big grant for three years. And we are taking 18… 19 medics, just home from Vietnam, that have been medics out in the field, and doing everything to get them prepared to sit for and to become ADN Nurses.” And he said, “You’re going to have a real challenge if you do this with me.” Because these are guys who have put in chest tubes, done trachs, cut downs, out in the field, you know, began to triage and you know, stabilize broken bones and on and on and on.
It was challenging. It was absolutely thrilling. And so that was my way into education. Then, from there, and then working with those students back in the hospital, where I didn’t get head Nurse, you know, just one thing led to another. And then it became very clear to me, after probably about four or five years, that I needed to get my masters.
And so went back and got my master’s, actually 10 years, I received… graduated in ’65 and by ’75, I had my Masters in Med Surg Nursing. And it was absolutely thrilling— with a specialty in Critical Care. And the thing that I wanted to say about that is all of this, it was steeped in… It just, everything was so new then. We had the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
It was brand new. We used to have, in Dallas, at our critical care meetings, 400 and 500 people each month at our meetings. It was so new, and people were just hungry. And it was thrilling. And it was also a time, on the unit where I worked, before I did that, is there were 13 of us. Only two were married. All the rest of us were single. And we were a pod. We were a tribe. We were loving critical care. We were teaching whoever caught on first, taught it.
And one reason I was good at teaching is because I’m a right brain learner. But oh my gosh, I could hear heart sounds. I could hear lung sounds. I could hear bowel sounds. And I was really good at teaching it as well. And so what was important about that is then it was writing the protocols for that.
And so a thing that I would like to say here, is along with other colleagues, was doing that, and then at the critical care meeting, three colleagues that were good friends, we would always see each other. We worked at different hospitals, we just, it’s that infinity, you know, you meet people and you like them. And it turned out that we went to an early National Teaching Institute, it was probably in about ’76, or ’77.
And to be with— and at that time, there were a couple 1000— now, that meeting is 8 or 10,000, the critical care meeting— but to be with that many critical care Nurses, which is absolutely thrilling. And it was at an early NTI, in about ’76 or ’77, that my three colleagues and I went to the booth to look at all the displays of books and so forth.
And at that time, there were only… there was only one book written. And it was written by physicians for Nurses. And we looked at that little book, and we went it is really good, but it is not the way we would put a critical care book together. Well, you know, where I’m going with that. And so here we had, and we just said our teaching tools are better than this, but what if the teaching tools are with all this stuff that we know.
And all of a sudden, you know, you could just see the light bulbs going off in each of our, you know, eyes and head and spirit. And we said okay, let’s table this. And so about, oh, a month later again, and we just said okay, let’s just go away, and let’s think about it. So, within a very short… within a month, when we were back together, we decided to have dinner within a couple of nights after that meeting.
And we sat down and after three and a half hours, we had really laid out a first table of contents of the way we would do it and what we would do. And so one thing led to another. And so the first critical care book that came out with Little Brown and Company in 1981, it was called Critical Care Nursing: Body, Mind, and Spirit.
It was about 500 pages, it was a big book, it took, oh, it took us about five years, number one, because none of us had published before. But it’s just one of those things. And I will say that’s one of the things that I do. I get an idea, I have no idea how I’m gonna get there, but I get a big idea, and then I love to work with— like you— with like-minded people.
And so, just the way we can spin ideas off of each other, and you know, work it and work it and then you know this is ringing true, and this is the way to go. So, that is one thing that was very exciting about that critical care book, is it was a way to begin to put the voice in there of body, mind and spirit, and to look at complementary and alternative therapies, which was way, way over the top at that time.
People did not… I mean, it was woo-woo if you did it. But we were real clear that we, you know, we were already engaged in some research and using it in our unit. So, I mean, there was literature, not in the Nursing literature, it was in psychology and sociology, in OT and PT, where we could see this, but we were putting in this deeper essence of the holistic framework in the work that we were doing.
Nicole Vienneau 18:30
I’m just absorbing all of this history. And that… was that your very first textbook that you wrote, like first book ever?
Barbara Dossey 18:41
Yeah, I hadn’t even written an article. I had done teaching sheets, and I had taught in conferences in the hospital, but never anywhere except just in our hospital. But I just loved it. And it was just, you know, it was such a… and also it was an exquisite time where physicians had deep respect for Nurses. And we were all learning this together. I mean, physicians didn’t know how to take care of these people.
They just expected the Nurses to do it. But then they recognize that it’s a whole different level of care. And so to be, you know, working with physicians in protocols and perfecting that, and oh, it was just, it was thrilling. And so it’s that camaraderie. And so it is that experience that then has allowed me always to look for my tribe.
And I was very blessed then, in that same time the book came out in 1981, is Charlotte McGuire— that we call Charlie, and she’s on the other side now and she’s blessing all of our work, we know that— Charlie had invited 75 Nurses to come to the woodlands, which is a retreat center area right out of Houston. And she was establishing the American Holistic Nurses Association.
And she called me on the telephone before that, and she said she had heard about my work in Dallas, what I was doing, and she wanted me to be at that founding meeting. And I just said— and the other thing that had just happened is I became real focused, that in order to find the voice of holistic philosophy and standards of care, we needed to have a voice, and I wanted to connect with the American Nurses Association.
So… and that was one of the things, one of the great gifts in my undergraduate program, too, is I could get five extra points by joining the American Nurses Association as a student Nurse. And I don’t know about you, but in undergraduate school, I was always looking for five extra points.
Nicole Vienneau 20:50
Yeah, we all need those extra points.
Barbara Dossey 20:52
That’s right. I can also get five extra points for attending a Nursing theory conference in Dallas. So I got 10 extra points. But those two gifts were just tremendous. And I have always been a member of the American Nurses Association. I have been active in my state Nursing organization, and in my local chapters, all my life.
And, again, just the joy of feeling connected. And that’s the other thing about our profession, is to have all of these specialty and subspecialty organizations where we can continue to learn and thrive and grow and work together to look at how our collective intelligences can become aligned to do this important work.
Nicole Vienneau 21:42
So good. So good. I’m coming back to the comments you said about model what you believe to be true.
Barbara Dossey 21:51
Nicole Vienneau 21:52
And that each step that you took, no matter, at first, not getting the job as the, you know, the Nurse manager or the charge Nurse, and not realizing that that, in fact, was going to lead you to something else. And now you’re seeing it as a gift. But at the time, that was difficult.
Barbara Dossey 22:13
I was just devastated, devastated.
Nicole Vienneau 22:16
And then moving onwards to find your people. But that’s a theme in your life, is finding those people who are… you can connect with that are like-minded, and also different minded, because I know not everyone is like-minded. But those people, those people that you could work with to move the needle, so to speak, in whatever it is that you’re trying to do. And in this world, in Nursing, it’s so important to find those people.
Barbara Dossey 22:44
Right, right. And I will say that was something, early on, that was very important in the work. Is in critical care, I would begin to… at that time, it was just, you could go to a conference— there were 10 or 20 conferences you could go to every weekend— and so I was doing a lot with relaxation and imagery and music, and biofeedback and looking at anything that was transpersonal, looking at psychosynthesis, and putting all those pieces together.
And then I began to do that. The thing is, is once you— and this is, you know, and we’ll have time for this— is that if we’re going to make a change and live our deepest values, we have to experience it ourselves before we can teach it to others well. And so I began a meditation practice, I became very serious about jogging, and just, you know, looking at the environment, and what I was eating, and so forth like that, and putting those pieces together.
But what I wanted to say is as my life began to change, then I would go to work, and then all of a sudden, I found myself listening to patients’ stories differently. And one of the first people, I will never forget it— and it was just one of those things, and just deep courage to do it because nobody was doing it at that time. And this patient was getting ready to go for a cardiac cath. He had had a heart attack.
And he was recovering from that. That was back in the day when we kept people in the hospital for three weeks, and in bed using the bedpan. Yeah, it was just, you know, crazy, crazy. So he was getting ready to go to the cardiac cath lab, and he said, man, he said, “I’m gonna have trouble down there today.”
And I said, “Hey, what’s this about?” And he said, “If anything happens to me down there on the table, oh is my wife going to be pissed.” He said, “I wish I could talk to my attorney, because I’ve made investments that my wife is just going to be dumbfounded when she finds out about it.” And all of a sudden his blood pressure was going up and he was getting anxious.
And, you know, I was wondering is he getting ready to have chest pain again and so forth. And I said, “You know what? You’re not going down there till three o’clock this afternoon. Do you want to see if we can get your attorney in here?” It’s just one of those miracle things, you ask a question. He said, “Could you do that?” And I said, “I can. If you give me a telephone number, I’ll pick up the telephone, and I’ll let you talk to him.”
And that attorney was in there within about an hour and a half. And they got all of that settled. And then after that, it was about time to get him ready to go down to the cath lab, and I just said, “Well, how are you doing right now?” And he said, “I wish I was doing something else besides going down there.”
And I said, “Well, what would you be doing?” He said, “Are you serious about this?” And I said, “Absolutely.” And he said, “You’re gonna think this is crazy. If I had my way, right this minute, I would be dressing to go fly fishing.” And I went… well, I don’t know if you know, Larry’s a fly fisherman.
Nicole Vienneau 22:55
Barbara Dossey 23:35
So I know a lot about fly fishing. And I just said, “You’re kidding. That’s what you would do? And I said, “You want to go fly fishing, right now? He said, “What are you talking about?” And I introduced him to relaxation imagery. Put him through a short imagery script, had him close his eyes, imagine putting on his gear, he found out if he’d like a stream, bank or, you know, how he wanted to do it.
And had him… he was in Southern Colorado, and we had fished those streams so many times. And I said, “Well, are you around Beaver Ponds?” He said, “Yeah, how do you know?” And I said, “Well, my husband’s a fly fisherman.” So anyway, go through that, so I had him, you know, put on his waders, start walking, putting on his, you know, pack with all his flies in it, and, you know, his fly fishing gear and all that stuff.
And so we just went down there, and I said, you know, let yourself just be in the stream. And all you’re doing is you’re just sending it out there and just having the joy of feeling when you just do that, you know, perfect toss. And remember, this isn’t about perfection, but at least you know what I’m saying, you know, when you do it.
And then I got him ready, before he was gonna get on the gurney, read him through just an easy relaxation about breath and breath out. And as you’re going down there, remember to breathe, and then look at the overhead lights on the ceiling, if you want to keep your eyes open, or if you want to close them. He said “I will keep them open.” And so, you know, he’s just that type A.
And I said, “Terrific. Every time you pass one of those lights, it’s a breath in, long hallway, and when you come to the next light, breath out.” And then when he got back, you know, in about an hour after that, and I went in— and in the meantime, I’d been busy doing a bunch of other stuff— and I went in to do his vitals and do all that stuff, post cath, and he said, “You’re not gonna believe it.”
And I said, “What?” And he said, “I caught the biggest trout I’ve ever caught in my life.” So I went… that was one of my wake up calls of oh my gosh, I need to be part of a team that begins to write the protocols for this, because what I had done could have been distorted. And there were many Nurses at that time: “Well, we don’t have time for that.”
But this is the beauty of it, is you connect it and you put it in everything else that you’re doing. It’s like when you put medicine in an IV drip, and it’s pain medicine, you do the relaxation and imagery, you teach them to feel the experience of I’m now putting this medicine in the IV, it’s going to be in your bloodstream very quickly, and just in a moment, and already, you might even begin to feel some relaxation.
And it’s just the, you know, learning to use our voice as another instrument in our art of Nursing. And so this is exactly what I’ve been sharing here, is it’s the art of Nursing. And for all of us, as Nurses to look at that we are artist healers. We are Nurses, and we are artists, and we have a craft, we have a profession, and how do we do it?
I mean, you and I, working in critical care, there are things we would do the same, but there are other things. And the thing that guides what you really do with these imagery relaxation, is catching the threads of that person’s story and knowing who they are and going to that deeper level.
Nicole Vienneau 29:23
So beautiful. I imagine him, the type A, and how many patients are very similar, but then also our Nurses, our fellow Nurses who are also those high energy, those high up, up, up Nurses who are living in that world. And you know, you and I were both critical care Nurses, and we are those people too. But ourselves, having to know ourselves, our interiority, and I know that this is important for you, as well, as you think of the Nursing profession and where we are today.
Barbara Dossey 30:03
Right. I think this is absolute key. You know, there’s so many people that talk about moral distress, soul pain, I can’t take this anymore. And I really feel that when Nurses are caring for themselves at a deeper level, and they can come together to be in dialogue, to share what the stressors are, and when we hear each other’s story, then we can begin to… what I see happening a lot is Nurses are not taking that time to come together.
And they’re not doing their own inner work. But let’s just, since I’ve brought it there, is how can Nurses come together for short periods of time to be in dialogue? And when I talk about dialogue, it’s when you and I, and let’s say if we have three or four more others here, and there’s a lot of distress going on the unit.
If we or somebody’s covering for us, and then we take 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, and then the people that are covering for us then get to take 20 or 30 or 40 minutes to come together, so that we can be in dialogue where we speak our truth. And that is what is key. How do we learn to speak from our heart, and listen from our heart, and then also be concise about what we want to share?
And then let go of what we said, not judging it or anything and be ready to, once again, listen to other people speak from their heart, as we listen from our heart, and being concise so everybody can begin to share. So when we speak about interiority, yes, it’s absolutely key. And the reason that is so important, and this is what’s necessary with all of us is to have some kind of a practice.
And there is no one practice. But I will just share what works best for me. And it is a breathing practice. The thing that allows me to go inside myself, whatever the external environment is, nobody knows what I’m doing. Let’s say if I’m in a meeting or in a busy place, but I can tap in and hear my own voice go: breath in or out— I don’t even have to say it anymore, because I know what it means to have a still upper chest and to let my stomach blow up like a balloon.
So that is one of my deep practices, is how can I slow that breath down. And when I do that, I also like to connect it with what we have in common here, is the heart breathing that we learned through heart math, is how do we connect our fields more quickly, more easily, we’re there. And it is an image of my heart space. It could be in the center of my chest.
But anyway, I put all of my attention here, breathe into my heart, let go, breathe in slowly. And then I extend that deep love and peace that comes out to the people I’m working with, to the patients that I’m caring for. And I will say last night, I mean, the reason for this interior practice, the reason it is so important is like in the middle of the night, last night, I woke up and went to the bathroom.
And got back, crawled back in bed because we turn the heat off at night and it was cold, it was, you know, down in the 30s, maybe even in the high 20s. To crawl in under that blanket, my hubby is sleeping, and I can hear him having a good sleep. And I get under that blanket. And the first thing I did was I went to thinking about the women with their families in the Ukraine.
And there was a part of me that just felt the deep suffering. And that’s part of what we have to do here. And this is part of where I’m going with this interiority, is rather than getting overwhelmed with that, what I did was I registered that, and then I was in bed still and quiet and comfortable and peaceful.
And in order to keep my own interiority and openness and not be destroyed by that suffering, because the images of the war zone and everything came on, it was just the breath in and out. And then one of our practices that we have in Nurse Coaching is loving kindness. So it’s breathing in and out, calm and at ease, and then sending that loving kindness out into the universe.
And that’s one of the things that we know right now, is our consciousness is not just contained in this thing called brain, is that consciousness is fundamental in the universe. And so when we have these thoughts of peace, of resilience, and wholeness, and prayer, sending it out, something does happen at a distance. And it is very reassuring.
Nicole Vienneau 35:11
Very reassuring. It also brings us to ourself, because we… when you were talking about being in your cozy, comfortable bed, and then you’re awake in the middle of the night, and so quiet, you hear your husband, it’s comfortable, and then we think of… it could be anything, right?
For me, it could be: oh, I wonder what’s going on with my mom, you know, or whatever those thoughts are. And sometimes that just… we just go away with that, and then we can’t sleep. And then that cascades into something else, and something else. So, the registering, the acknowledgement of that going on in ourselves, and then a practice to help move us beyond that.
Barbara Dossey 35:58
Right. And the importance of our interiority, going inside, is to look… one of the metaphors I love to use— in Larry and I backpacking in the high country for 45 years— is when you get at the high mountain lakes at 10,000 feet, and you’re just right there at the base of, you know, a 10,000 foot peak, and the water is so still, you can see the image of… you can’t see where the real mountain and the reflection are separate, because it is so still.
And so I like using that metaphor of how can I go deeper inside myself, and not repeat the same old conversation I’m having with myself. But to go deep below the level of the surface, then go deeper— and this is where the breath exercises come in— go deeper and deeper. And then to discover new patterns that are waiting there for me.
The shadow— the things that don’t make sense, that I don’t have an answer to, I don’t know what I need to be doing next. How can I be there, and listen at this level of the conversation, so that when I am there, I can name it, I can see what other work I need to do to go back there to enter a meditation space?
But it then gives me an orientation, about how I take that experience and take it out into the world. How do I model to others my core values and what I believe to be true? How can I stand in my voice of saying I hear you, and may I share a few thoughts with you about where I am right now? So there’s so many different ways to do this.
But it’s that going back and forth, you know, and that’s what it is. And if we look at the theory of integral Nursing, it’s moving into that “we” space. So within that “we” space, it is anybody in that “we” space, when we come together, our collective intelligences and who we are together, we can listen deeply. And in listening deeply to each other, then we discover a-ha, and new possibilities and alternative possibilities.
Nicole Vienneau 38:23
Yes, it is concerning right now, how many of our colleagues are leaving the Nursing profession.
Barbara Dossey 38:31
Right. And what I think is happening here is, I mean, the stressors are enormous. I was speaking with a Nurse yesterday, who works on the front line as a manager, and she was talking about the abuse of patients and families to Nurses. And she said something that, you know, of course, I’ve known, but just she said, “Today I was treated like I was a maid in a hotel.”
You know, it just breaks your heart to hear that stuff. And I listened to her, and I asked her what she did. And she said, “I just was so pissed, I left the room.” And I said, “What did you do when you left the room?” And she said, “I just got madder.” And at that particular point is when I just said, “Is it possible that when that happens again, that you might be able to do this to defuse some of that, so that you can tap into a place, because you have such integrity and you have such resilience.”
And in our conversation about me not judging her what she did, or what was going on there, and knowing the stresses in hospital Nursing right now— they’re just extraordinary— and what she said is she said, “Thank you.” She said, “Thank you, no one has talked to me in a long time. And I have gotten into a lot of bad habits. And I can see that my staff is getting into a lot of bad habits.”
And then we talked for about 10 or 15 minutes about things that she could do. So, this is what I think, and I know is a real important part of this, is if we can bring people in that have some other possibilities to help people on the front lines know how to do that.
Because the thing that happens is whatever has been stressful in the Nursing profession, whatever he or she does next, and anything else, they’re going to combat that, they’re going to confront the same things. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. So, how do you learn these skills?
So I think that that’s, you know, one thing we can do is continue to work with managers and people on the front lines, be willing to have that conversation and not rush it. Just, you know, that’s one of the things that we know in Nurse Coaching, is you listen to his story, and what… being concise, what kind of a little pearl can you drop that can just shift stuff? And just knowing that when we come together with someone else, we’re the container, we’re the container to hold that story.
And many of the young Nurses, and Nurses that are leaving right now, they don’t have anyone to tell their story to. They go and work 12 hour shifts— how we got to this… well, there are a lot of reasons we got to this point, but it’s just exhausting. You know, we know the literature. You can work about nine hours and after that, it’s these next three hours where the burnout and the mistakes happen.
Nicole Vienneau 41:35
Yes, yes. So, bringing Nurse coaches into the hospital realm seems like a great idea. I think of your co-author for the Holistic Nursing textbook, there’s a segment in there on Nursing aesthetics, which you spoke to the art of Nursing. And so for some Nurses, this breathing thing, our listeners are like breathing thing, okay, I don’t do meditation.
And you know, Barbie, I do have to tell the quick story of when I first arrived for my Nurse Coaching training in New York City. In critical care Nursing… black and white, yes and no, protocol driven, I’m going to learn the Nurse Coaching thing. And the very first thing we do is a meditation. And I just said to myself: what the hell is this?
In my mind, in my own, and just the bristles on the back of my neck, and everything up in arms. I did not come here to learn about meditation, I came to learn Nurse Coaching. Tell me that, tell me that. And that’s all I had in my mind at that time. The whole day, same thing. It kept me back from really being absorbed in this community that I was going to now spend the last 10 years in.
And I went to my room and I said, “I’m not going back there tomorrow. This is terrible. I don’t want to learn the meditation. What is this? I want to learn how to coach. I’m not going back.” Meanwhile, I spent time, money, was so excited about this Nurse Coaching thing. And I was in my room just angry, angry, angry in my, you know, I didn’t have anybody to talk to. Nobody.
Called my husband, he didn’t get me. He didn’t understand what was going on. And then I went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night. And I said, “What are you doing, Nicole? What is going on with you?” And I didn’t quite have the pinpoint of what was really happening, but I knew that that was not really me. And that, could I be open to something different?
Could I be open to something, because here I am traveling across the country, investing time, investing money into something that really called to me at that moment— why I signed up. And so I said, “You know what, Nicole,” and I was… I joke to myself, and I knew it was me, because I recognized my voice, I said, “Nicole, you’re going back tomorrow. And you’re gonna get your money’s worth.”
Total critical care attitude, right? Got to get your money’s worth, right? I wasn’t ready yet to take the steps to go more interior. So I’m gonna get my money’s worth. Show up the next morning— Barbie, you’re there. You said, “Can I have a volunteer to come to the front of the class and experience coaching?”
So I shot my arm up in the air— getting my money’s worth. Come to the front. Sit in a chair across from you. Forty other Nurses watching. Silence. Very vulnerable, very vulnerable. And as I talk about this, I feel that vulnerability coming up, and you may hear it in my voice. And you sat across from me and you saw me, you heard me, you took time to listen. And you asked such beautiful questions that no one had ever taken time to ask me.
And this is 10… 12 years ago now. And that opened me up to the journey of which I’ve, you know, I continue to do to this day, of that… the connections that we make. So this value of being listened to by people who understand what Nurses are going through on a daily basis, who have been in the shoes and can really see and clearly identify with that, in a no judgment, no attitude, just hearing and being with someone, is life-changing.
Barbara Dossey 45:48
And then we went… you wound up in the same group with me. And you were the youngest in the group. And you all of a sudden had nine big sisters.
Nicole Vienneau 45:58
I did, and I still do. I still do.
Barbara Dossey 46:05
We loved you. And we just… I mean, you were the epitome of… all of us had been there before. And we, you know, we recognized it, and we just… we knew how fabulous you were. And you were on your journey.
Nicole Vienneau 46:20
Yes, we’re all on our journey. But this connection of Nurses, hearing other Nurses and coming together in small communities to exchange the conversations, is really the beginning of us healing all of the trauma that we experience, all of the sorrow and suffering that Nurses are experiencing on a daily basis. Not just because of COVID. It was far before COVID.
So, learning these tools, and this aesthetics of Nursing, the art of Nursing, which is what I was really getting to, is that it doesn’t always need to be breathing. That was just one practice that you shared. But could it be something that you’re so passionate about, like art, photography, music, movement, poetry, candles, scents, aromatherapy? What are those things that call to us?
Barbara Dossey 47:17
Right. And I think that is one thing that is really exciting. I mean, it’s like Larry and I— yesterday, we went to a museum because they had a new showing. It was just absolutely thrilling to go in and spend, you know, about an hour in the museum. And just, I mean, I’m still on fire with what it was, and I want to go back and see it, even.
But just the novelty of it, to get out of our routine, to do something a little bit different. And it was just extraordinary. And that is what is really important. And what I do think is going to help Nurses stay in Nursing, is to be able to have other forms of creating different whatever it is— the aesthetics of Nursing.
We have to learn how to let our filters down, get deeply in touch with who we are, and then to have at least one soulmate who loves us unconditionally, regardless of what’s going on. Who will not call us crazy, but just will sit there and listen.
Nicole Vienneau 48:16
Yes. Thank you, Barbie. So, in our last few moments, I’d love to ask a question, which is: what is on your heart that you would like to share with Nurses who are listening?
Barbara Dossey 48:34
What is on my heart right now is our beloved Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern secular Nursing. To remember all that she went through. She was born 1820, died 1910. She came into our lifetime— I can say my grandparents were born in 1880, Nightingale born in… I mean died in 1910.
Here is a Nurse who was a healer, a philosopher, the founder of modern secular Nursing, a statistician, a brilliant statistician, a multifaceted complex genius, and a mystic. And for us to remember the legacy that she left us, and how can we be the keepers of that light of healing for the world?
How do we work together so that we have healthy people living on a healthy planet? That is what is on my heart, is to bring Florence Nightingale’s legacy of caring and healing, and that we are the flame keepers. And we have to keep that flame alive in ourselves in order for it to burn brightly out in the world.
Nicole Vienneau 49:47
Thank you, Barbie. I take that all in. I know our listeners are, as well.
Barbara Dossey 49:50
Thank you so much. Happy Holidays!
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