Friday, June 26, 2009

The Nurse as Coach

Life coaching has become big business, and now health and wellness coaching is hot on its heels as the next big wave of wellness for the masses. So, why would a nurse make a good coach? What would give a nurse an edge when it comes to coaching willing clients through the process of getting well, maintaining wellness, or increasing one's aptitude for health, wellness and well-being?

Nurses are trained to examine patients/clients in a holistic manner, taking into consideration myriad aspects of an individual's "biopsychosocial" self. From the beginning, nurses are trained to look for areas of both strength and weakness, and nurses are then taught to assist patients in learning new skills which will allow them the maximum amount of independence and quality of life possible.

Coaching and nursing seem to be a match made in Heaven. Coaching is all about helping people to maximize their health and well-being, create a wellness plan, be held accountable for their actions, and produce concrete results in their lives.

As a case manager and a visiting nurse, I have worked with the sickest of the sick, those with multiple life-altering illnesses, and underserved inner-city populations struggling with cycles of poverty, poor health, chronic illness, substance abuse, and institutionalized racism. On a personal level, having removed myself from that front-line world for more than year, I am now ready to work with the well, with those who are motivated and anxious to improve their health, those strongly desiring to take their level of wellness and personal well-being to the next level. Coaching seems to be one of the ways to do such work, and it feels like the right fit at the right time.

Nurses are coaches, for all intents and purposes, and grafting professional coach training onto a nurse's education seems to be a fail-proof avenue to create a new way to make a meaningful living in the world while serving others. If there are any readers out there who have had a positive (or negative) experience with a health and wellness coach, I would love to hear about it. And if there is anyone who would like to experience coaching with me for a very low introductory rate, I am very willing to work with any person committed to their health and open to engaging my services as I power up a new and exciting vocation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Natural" Beauty

Looking at different natural health and yoga magazines, I am sometimes shocked (perhaps unnecessarily) at how the publishers of such magazines follow the lead of mainstream fashion magazines, ubiquitously populating the pages of their publications with beautiful, flawless young women with clear skin, taut muscles, ample cleavage, exposed bellies and long, tan legs. 

One would think that so-called "natural" magazines would be more apt to use "real" people for their ads and articles, but in this culture dominated by a fascination with youth and beauty, I shouldn't be surprised. 

Perusing the pages of one such magazine, my wife and I were both independently struck with the fact that the pages of this "natural" magazine were filled with nothing but young white women, all of whom were displaying some combination of the attributes described in the first paragraph of this post. 

This type of natural lifestyle is not necessarily just the purview of the young, white and beautiful, yet, if I were an alien and happened to pick up several of these magazines soon after landing, I would be convinced that anyone who did yoga or drank soy milk had the legs of a gazelle and blinding pearly white teeth. If the same alien went to a yoga class, he or she might be disappointed that many of the yogis and yoginis did indeed sport some modicum of body fat and hints of cellulite. 

Alien visitations aside, I am simply appalled that yoga and natural health magazines all need to jump on the homogeneity bandwagon, delivering a bland and culturally narrow image to the soy milk-drinking masses, subtly convincing their readers that the products sold amidst their pages will deliver beauty, smooth skin and glowing health to anyone who happens to be young, white and female. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Coaching Myself

I am moving closer to making a decision about becoming a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. This training would help me to synthesize my training as a nurse, massage therapist, yoga instructor and Laughter Yoga Leader into a vocation that can assist others in achieving optimal wellness and self actualization. 

Nurses are natural coaches in that our training revolves around creating care plans that target aspects of health and wellness in need of strengthening, support and change. At its core, nursing is about health promotion, and the heart of health and wellness coaching is the promotion of optimal health and wellness. Taking that alignment into consideration, becoming a coach seems to be a very intelligent career move for any nurse intent on hanging a virtual shingle, so speak. 

As I explore the world of coaching, I can see that there is a vast amount of room in this burgeoning field for innovation, entrepreneurial development, and personal fulfillment. Even more, coaching is work that is 100% portable since most coaches provide their services by phone, email and web-based applications. 

If I move forward with the training over the summer, I may be searching for subjects willing to receive free coaching sessions during my 13-week course, so stay tuned for the day when I send out the call. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Swine Flu Fears

Over the last few weeks, I've received a number of calls from tourists planning to come to our region for vacation but fearful of contracting the H1N1 virus, previously known as Swine Flu.

Although the outbreak has now been classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization due to the number of countries involved as well as other epidemiological factors, the virus is still no more virulent than seasonal influenza. This may change, of course, as the virus mutates and develops in the months prior to flu season, but for now there are no travel restrictions or advisories for any region of the United States.

Still, the calls keep coming, and the nervous visitors fret that they may wind up acutely ill and hospitalized when visiting our sleepy college town.

When these calls come in, my consistent response has been the same: H1N1 is relatively mild at this time, cases are coming to light slowly and steadily, and the number of severely ill patients is small. While there have been several deaths, we must bear in mind that seasonal influenza kills approximately 36,000 American per year, something that can help us all keep the current outbreak in perspective. I also remind the erstwhile travelers that flying on a commercial airplane---with its recycled air and passengers coughing and sneezing---is probably much more risky than a visit to our town could ever be.

Now, my tune may change if H1N1 evolves, mutates and becomes more virulent in the autumn, a potential outcome that may indeed come to pass. Realistically, there are germs and bacteria and viruses everywhere, and I see no reason to live in fear. But for those for whom fear is the paramount factor in the equation, perhaps they should just stay home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bat in a Basket

So, there I was this afternoon, innocently playing the part of Public Health Nurse Extraordinaire, when I decided to reach for my laptop and sync it with the town network. But, lo and behold, a furry little bat had decided to make its home on my laptop bag, and as I stood, aghast and dumbstruck, it began to crawl and creep in its inimitably bat-like way around the top of my file cabinet.

Closing the door behind me, I calmly made my way to a colleague's office. He's a health inspector and sanitarian, level-headed and pragmatic, and I recruited him in my bat-catching endeavor.

Meanwhile, while said colleague ran in search of heavy-duty gloves, my boss and our administrative assistant insisted on seeing the bat, peeking in behind me as I reopened my office door.

"Don't touch it, Keith. You can't. Please don't," said my boss.

By now, the bat had descended to the table next to the file cabinet and I feared I might lose him. I dashed to the kitchen, found a small wicker basket (the size that might, for reason of illustration only, hold two medium-sized lemons) and rushed back to my office to see the creature still lurking (in quintessential bat fashion, I may add) on the aforementioned table.

At the very moment my favorite health inspector/sanitarian arrived with heavy duty gloves donned, I raised my basket into the air, took three steps---not two, but three---and trapped the bat with a rapid descending basket-like arc.

The bat immediately began to squeal like an otherworldly creature from the Lord of the Rings, and my sanitarian colleague slid a piece of cardboard beneath the now quivering basket. Holding our prey tightly between the cardboard and wicker with our four hands, we traipsed through the Health Department to a blessedly large window intelligently opened by our boss, and the bat in question was released into the cool June New England air, landing with a confused yet simultaneously gentle thud on the roof below. Moments later, he (or she) lifted into the air and vanished into the trees.

Resting on our bat-catching laurels, we returned to our individuals duties, each to his or her own desk once again, and the bat summarily forgot all about us and its adventure inside a local municipal health department.

They don't teach you this stuff in nursing school.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grand Rounds at ACP Internist

The newest edition of Grand Rounds, the venerable blog carnival of all things medicine, nursing and health care, is up at ACP Internist. Both Digital Doorway and The Adventures of Bob the Nurse are included. Cruise on over if you have a moment to spare.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Surviving Stress

These days, it seems that stress is the #1 factor impacting my health and the health of many others that I know. From financial worries to chronic health conditions to the multifaceted and fast-paced aspects of modern life, many of us are suffering from stress on some level or another, and I submit that stress universally impacts the health of millions, both as a cause of disease, as a symptom, and as a 21st century illness or syndrome in and of itself.

Many subsume their stress with alcohol, sugar, caffeine, unnecessary spending, and various forms of addiction and emotional sublimation. We all feel the effects, and we all react in our idiosyncratic way to the vicissitudes of life.

On a personal level, I have lately turned to acupuncture, herbs, supplements, meditation, exercise, and dietary and nutritional changes to assuage the effects of stress. Further challenging myself to pursue optimal health and wellness, I have engaged the counsel of a wellness coach who helps to keep me on track as I navigate some challenging personal times.

All of these changes and approaches have indeed decreased the severity of my Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, improved several aspects of my health, and pointed me further down the road towards optimal wellness. Still, certain chronic conditions continue to rear their heads, and I struggle to make more headway in those areas.

The pace of life frequently seems largely untenable, and we manage our lives as best we can amidst the tumult. We eat well, keep hydrated, exercise, seek leisure and fun, connect with family and friends, pursue creative projects and spiritual renewal---all in the name of balance and wellness.

It's a bumpy road, and all too often we lose sight of our own self care as we focus like a laser beam on our latest to-do list and the unending tasks before us.

Personally, I need to take an enormous breath, sit back, and reassess what's really most important in my life. Failing to do so would simply be an invitation for the stress monster to sink it's teeth deeper. In my commitment to wellness and optimal health, it's ultimately a commitment to creating the healthiest, most satisfying and productive life possible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Of Tetanus and Fishing Line

"I heard you have free shots here, and I think I need a Tetanus shot." He is a friendly middle-aged man with a thick accent.

"Well yes, I usually do, but I don't have any Tetanus today. I'm sorry. But call me in two weeks and I'll have some for sure. Is it urgent?" I ask.

"Not really," he says. Pulling up his sleeve, he reveals a fairly large slice on his bicep, sewn together with blue fishing line.

"I work as a carpenter, and I often cut myself," he explains. "Whenever I do, I get out my needle and fishing line and stitch it up myself." He is obviously proud but simultaneously nonchalant.

"Wow. That's impressive," I reply, examining his needlework and the reddened area around the wound. "Do you know when your last Tetanus was?"

"Not really," he replies, "but I'm sure I'll be OK."

"You can go to several places that offer free care. They may have Tetanus in stock."

"No thanks. I'll call you in a few weeks and get it then. No problem."

I give him my card and tell him to call me in a week or so. My vaccine order is late this month and I feel badly that I wasn't able to make the order in time for this month's clinic. His DIY stitching was indeed impressive, but it drives home the point that there are millions of Americans just like him who have no health insurance and no way to receive even the most basic medical care without a great deal of effort and expense.

So, this man carries fishing line and a (sterile?) needle in his toolbox when he's on the job. How many people walk around with poorly healed wounds, unnecessary infections and God knows what else while corporate executives make off with billion-dollar severance packages?

It's enough to make me want to go fishing and leave it all behind.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Health Coach?

As I contemplate ways to make money and do good in the world without reporting to an office every day, I've been scanning my list of skills and credentials and coming up with some ideas.

Reviewing my vocational history, I am a Bachelor's educated Registered Nurse with 14 years of experience of case management, hospice, ambulatory nursing, home care, community health, and public health. I have skills as a writer, blogger and editor, and have been published in several books.

Beyond nursing, I am a Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor, a Certified Practitioner of Swedish Massage, a Level I Reiki Practitioner, and a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader.

With some expertise in the areas of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, case management, and chronic illness management, I find that people often ask me for advice, be it medical, nursing, or simply about life in general.

So, I frequently wonder about the possibility of "hanging a shingle" as a coach, perhaps as a professional health and wellness coach. While the idea is still germinating, I'm working with a health coach myself, experiencing the benefits of such a relationship, and realizing that I have the skills to do it.

Interestingly, a friend called tonight and asked me for urgent medical advice. While I don't picture myself soliciting business for a personal "ask-a-nurse" hotline, I can see that my nursing can indeed be parlayed into a relationship wherein an individual in need of guidance and advice might benefit from the holistic intervention of a coach with a nurse's education.

Speaking of nurses, I have also considered running workshops for nurses on burnout prevention, and perhaps there's a new niche market in being a health coach specifically for nurses and health care providers. After all, we caregivers can be horrendous at taking care of ourselves, so there may indeed be very specific ways that someone like me can help nurses and others figure out how to make the most of their lives, care for themselves well, and optimize their health and wellness.

The wheels are turning, and we shall see how they continue to turn.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Surviving Nursing School

Today I met with a new friend who just finished his first year of nursing school. Listening to his (almost universal) story of the travails of nursing education, my mind wanders back to just how difficult it all was, even as the rose-colored glasses of time filter out the suffering that such an experience entailed.

It's funny how one cannot altogether remember pain. Even women who have been through childbirth often say that they know it was the most painful experience of their lives, but they simply can't conjure up the intensity of the moment. The human brain and body are so self-protective. We easily allow the vicissitudes of life to be covered over with the mental cobwebs of forgetfulness, and I guess that's a good thing.

So, back to nursing school. Why do nursing professors so often make it a living hell? Why does it have to feel like boot camp? If nurses still eat their young, is it assumed that it's best to prepare nursing students for their eventual consumption by roasting them alive as they're educated?

Even though I can't remember my specific complaints about nursing school (and there were two different schools through which I ushered myself), it was indeed a painstaking experience peppered with struggle and angst (especially as an Associate Degree candidate).

All nursing students have my sympathy as they ride the waves of nursing education, often faced with jaded professors and clinical preceptors. Still, there are always gems amidst the stress and heartache, and there were several educators for whom I had the highest esteem and regard.

Yes, we are the most trusted and respected professionals in America, but the process of becoming a nurse can often be rather difficult and distasteful. As Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies once sang: "It's not as bad as eating one's own liver, but I'd like to think that there are better methods."