Monday, August 06, 2012

Book Review: "Minding the Bedside"

Jerome Stone, a Registered Nurse, researcher, author and practitioner of meditation, has shared his vision of the intersection of nursing, meditation and mindfulness in his excellent book, "Minding the Bedside: Nursing From the Heart of the Awakened Mind". The following is a review posted in advance of his appearance on RN.FM Radio.

In "Minding the Bedside", Jerome Stone offers nurses and other healthcare professionals the opportunity to make a direct connection between how a mindfulness practice can actually transform clinical practice, the nurse-patient relationship, our relationship to our work, and perhaps even our work environments and the healthcare industry itself.

Using the language of nursing coupled with the language and zeitgeist of the world of meditation and mindfulness, Mr. Stone is able to draw a picture for the reader of the ways in which "waking up" to our minds can create a bridge of understanding, empathy and greater compassion for ourselves, our colleagues and our patients.

Stone makes excellent arguments for the ways in which our minds can either enhance or detract from the care that we provide and the relationships that we have with our patients, and he convincingly describes the ways in which these interactions occur.
Our patients sense when we're showing up at the bedside and when we're not, though they may not directly express it to us. Because our intention and motivations can have a direct impact on our patients' well-being, it is imperative that we check our motivation every time we engage with our patients...or really anyone, for that matter! By making our primary motivation to be of service and to create a healing relationship no matter what barriers exist, we instill each encounter with a focused, attentive, and heartfelt presence that can transcend all manner of difficulties and obstacles.
Resigning oneself to the vagaries of work and simply going through the motions can certainly negatively impact patient care--as well as the nurse's relationship with the patient. Stone contends that making a subtle shift within the mind can transform the tenor of the workday, even if the nurse must repeatedly utilize specific practices in order to do so. As Stone says, "we are presented daily with numerous opportunities to see what it is that motivates us in our profession," and he presents the reader with myriad exercises and practices that can serve to improve our experiences at work, strengthen our motivation to be of service, and help us to "show up" more fully.

No work on meditation or mindfulness would be complete without significant time dedicated to the powers of compassion, and Mr. Stone certainly makes an effort to imbue his book with useful and inspiring information about compassion and its cultivation.

Stone shares: 
The compassion that comes with a deep mindful presence is based on the realization that the person in front of me is no other than another me, another human who wished to have happiness and avoid suffering.
Using exercises, reflections, and stories to illustrate his thesis, Stone presents the nurse/reader with concrete tools for cultivating mindfulness and developing a more sensitive and mindful "compassionate presence" vis-a-vis our work as nurses and healthcare providers.

From breathing exercises to methods for increasing self-awareness, "Minding the Bedside" creates for the reader a veritable home-study mindfulness course. With the development of Stone's "three pillars"--awareness, mindfulness and spaciousness--the nurse can become more aware of her thoughts, her thought patterns, the ways that she "checks out" at work, and how to return to a state of mindfulness in spite of the stresses of the workday.

Stone's book reminds me of the reasons so many of us choose nursing as a profession in the first place, and it's helping others, relieving suffering, and being of service that often lie at the heart of being a nurse.
What a gift we can give to our patients to be able to sit with them after making a diagnosis, or performing a procedure, taking a history, concluding a counseling session, or even while they're dying, and help them to work with their minds...after we've worked with our own, of course. What a precious moment we can offer them to find ourselves at the bedside, fully present, profoundly attentive to their needs in the moment.
And as if transforming the nurse-patient is not enough, the author cajoles us--nay, challenges us--to consider how we might use our newly discovered powers of mindfulness, awareness and spaciousness to transform the very institutions where we work.
So, let's take what we've learned and practice diligently. Then, let's change our minds about the spaces in which we work and make the changes necessary to bring about real and transformative change within the halls, patient rooms, and boardrooms of our health-care institutions. Let's not limit ourselves to believing that we can only make a difference in our lives or in the lives of those we care for. Let's remember that a commitment to bring benefit to everyone includes coworkers and really all the people who comprise the very fabric of the health-care system in which we work. Let's return the hospitality and hospitability to hospitals and to the institutions that are so vital and that matter so much to the health and well-being of our patients. Why not? It's all practice. If not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?
Jerome Stone's "Minding the Bedside: Nursing From the Heart of the Awakened Mind" is an invitation to nurses to embrace our work, make friends with our minds, and use the power of our minds and our deep-seated compassion to transform every aspect of our work. Not everyone will hear the call, but for those who do, this book could indeed transform many lives, and quite possibly have a far-reaching ripple effect that will bring many aspects of Mr. Stone's vision to fruition.

This book and its lessons are a gift to nurses and to the nursing profession--not to mention the healthcare industry and the patients whom it serves. For those who choose to unwrap this gift, there is much transformation in store. If not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who?
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