Transcript of an Interview with Kathryn Ann Bumgarner
President and Chief Compassion Officer
Tell me about how you decided to help people recover from trauma:
Years ago, after I received my Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees in Nursing, I found myself caring for people who were dying, along with their grieving families. In my role as a Veteran’s Care Liaison, I coordinated the development of programs designed to provide unique care for our country’s veterans at the end of life. This experience catapulted me to learning about PTSD, undiagnosed PTSD and the STS or Secondary Traumatic Stress of the nurses, social workers, physicians, and chaplains who cared for them.
I became curious about the benefits of yoga as a nonpharmacological intervention for PTSD. With weeks to live, psychotherapy and medications were not feasible. I knew of the benefits of yoga in my own life. Being curious, I discovered a whole new field of trauma research and new interventions for PTSD through “trauma sensitive yoga” or TSY. I pursued training to become a Registered Yoga Teacher or RYT. This was a required qualification for advanced certification in WAE, which stands for Warriors At Ease, yoga utilized in military settings, and for teaching yoga and meditation in military communities. I also created trauma sensitive yoga workshops and presentations for the hospice team caring for Veterans with PTSD and experiencing secondary traumatic stress. I remember joking with my team at hospice while pursuing RYT and WAE certifications that as my retirement job, I would teach yoga as a 70-year-old!
Who are your clients?
I help people to recover from trauma and to live fully in the present, co-creating their future with inspirations, innovations, creativity, through transformational coaching, with principles in ontology.
I work with individuals and communities who are living with unintegrated traumatic experiences. Many are not aware of symptoms of trauma, but know they are having difficulty living and relating in the moment, authentically living the life they were created to enjoy.
This is my life’s purpose. And synchronicity, serendipity, and transcendence are the words I live by.
What if you haven’t worked with someone in a particular field or from a certain walk of life?
I use my expertise to guide clients so they attain the clarity, courage and self-awareness for increased confidence in tolerating overwhelming feelings of unintegrated trauma. This is necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
I facilitate my clients’ transcendence from limiting ways of thinking, thoughts, behaviors, physical limitations, into a deeper, more powerful inner knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter, bring the unconscious conscious, co-creating the future. This leads to increasing awareness of unintegrated trauma, of being in the present moment, authentic in relationships, transparent in communication; and also increasing their capacity to understand and to serve others with innovation, creativity, inspiration, and the ability to co-create the future.
How are you different from others in your field?
I am different from mental health providers, or therapists, or health care providers because I offer the safety of a relational field with nervous system co-regulation, co-creating the healing environment for the integration of traumatic experiences so my clients get relief from the symptoms of living in fight or flight mode. Co-Creating safety and calm, with a re-regulated nervous system, is a required step in healing and identifying obstacles and nervous system overwhelm. Clients under the care of a therapist or mental health care provider may find working with me simultaneously enhances the effectiveness of medications and psychotherapy.
And, I help leaders have an increased awareness of deep unconscious trauma that is unintegrated, yet who have symptoms that manifest in relationships with their patients, clients, students, co-workers and family members.
What results can clients achieve through working with you?
Working with me as a trauma recovery coach, I bring an expansive presence to the coaching process, along with the contemplative practices of trauma sensitive yoga and trauma sensitive meditation.
I believe that when you are fully alive, you are flowing energy, once trauma has been integrated. I help persons align their intention and attention with their core values, in a coherent manner and with attunement.
What type of person won’t benefit from your services?
Let me explain this with a brief story.
The two most important days of my life were the day I was born and the day I understood why.
When I retired from a forty-year nursing career, I discovered coaching through the John Maxwell Team, and here found the second most important day of my life: the day I came to understand why I was born. We all need to hold space for suffering, to bear witness to the transcending of suffering and to understand the rhythm of suffering and grace. We need to create an environment for our bodies to heal, and to ethically grow.
If someone is not open to the possibilities of how their lives can become better through this healing, they are likely to be disappointed with their results.
Your journey from nurse to coach seems interesting. Tell me a little about your story.
I was amazed at even being a nurse! There was never a moment early on in my life that I had dreams of being one.
I was studying child development at Eastern Kentucky University, having transferred my sophomore year from Virginia Intermont College, in Bristol Virginia, where I majored in Home Economics and minored in equestrian studies. Once at EKU, I changed majors to Child Development. As a course assignment, I wrote a paper about how I was the sister of a brother who developed a very rare bone disorder, affecting the growth of his long bones. He was told he would not grow when he was 12 years old. I was then 13. Being the two middle kids out of four, and near in age, we were close, sharing the same friends and spending a lot of time together, sometimes simply talking. I could feel his pain. He suffered from physical pain in his hips and his hands and had to crawl up the stairs at the end of the day. He also suffered existential pain as the prayers of a boy went unanswered.
It’s as if you were releasing some of your own trauma simply by writing about these experiences.
The paper received an A, and I wondered how I could write such a beautiful paper about my brother’s childhood and his pain. I wondered where that came from.
The next year, my college roommate was leaving early in the morning for her first clinical rotation, in her student nurse’s uniform. I decided to switch my major to nursing. I had never in my life been so challenged and so determined. I entered the most difficult major on campus. I was in the first class to graduate from the BSN program at EKU. I remember sitting in classes and wondering: Where this is coming from? Why am I so driven? Why do I want this so badly? Out of the 100 students who were in my first clinical rotation, I was one of only 25 who graduated.
And you also have a Masters in Nursing. Was that also from EKU?
Two years after graduating from EKU, I was accepted into the master’s in nursing program at the University of Cincinnati. I pursued the Clinical Nurse Specialist track in Cardiovascular Nursing.
This is when I was introduced to the Nursing Theorist, Dr. Rosemary Parse and her theory of nursing — Man-Living-Health — now known as Human Becoming. Her theory was grounded in phenomenology and ontology. Man co-creates unlimited possibilities. Man lives health, lived experiences is living health. I was curious about the lived experience of “suffering” and “being safe”.
Besides your education, what else helped you as you moved forward in your career and your desire to help others?
At the same time I attended the University of Cincinnati, my brother was so debilitated that he required replacements for both hips. He was only 28 years old, yet his hips were not recognizable on an Xray, appearing crumbled. He had significant pain with every step.
But, the material used for hip replacement at this time was expected to last only ten years. Miraculously, an orthopedic surgeon in Cincinnati received special approval for an experimental trial of replacing my brother’s hips with a new ceramic material. This was before FDA approval. My brother was the first in the US to receive this type of hip replacement. Naturally, this was big news for this Cincinnati hospital and for the orthopedic surgeon. My brother received one new hip and two weeks later, the second. He was in the hospital for a month. He was up walking the day after each of his surgeries. This was a big deal in the world of orthopedic surgeons.
That sounds wonderful . . .
But I received phone calls all night long. My brother could not sleep because he was in so much pain! I went to the hospital to stay with him one night. With the beginning of the 11pm shift, the night supervisor walked into my brother’s room, with her starched white uniform and white nurses cap, and she told my brother, “Now Gary, please do not be on the nurse call light all night long. The nurse can only give the Demerol for pain as prescribed by the doctor, every four hours, no sooner!”
The hour after the injection of Demerol, my brother was comfortable and drowsy. But within the second hour, he was wide awake and uncomfortable again and with the third hour, the pain was out of control. I witnessed suffering. I made several trips up and down the hallway that night, asking for an increase in the dose, if not an increase in frequency. The response I received from the staff was, “these are the doctor’s orders”.
In the early predawn light, my brother was finally resting and breathing easy. I was sitting on the chair next to his bed, with my head resting on the hospital bed side rail. I looked up to see the sunrise behind the steeple of a church in downtown Cincinnati. In the stillness, I heard a whisper: “you will work with people who are suffering”. “No, not me…. “ I thought.
When I heard that small quiet whisper, I resisted. My plan was to help save lives as a cardiac clinical nurse specialist. Interestingly, with the launch of cardiac rehab programs, a new discipline emerged, Exercise Physiology, and with it, my own commitment to swimming, at the Y at 6:00 am three times a week. My plan was to help folks live healthy lives, by identifying risk factors and making lifestyle changes.
That sounds congruent with what you now do as a coach.
Yes, absolutely. And what I earlier experienced in caring for dying veterans, their families, and the healthcare professionals caring for them (who by the way are usually veterans as well), even in the homes of veterans, are what Thomas Huebl calls “trauma eruptions”. Trauma eruptions are symptoms of collective trauma, generational trauma, that we think of as “normal”, because we have been born into this field of trauma. Add to that my experiences in cardiac rehab and the other modalities learned throughout my first career as a nurse and slowly a plan for implementing my passion to help those suffering emerged.
Besides your BS and MS in Nursing, what other credentials do you hold that help you serve your clients?
Aligned with my passion for holding space for the sanctity of suffering, and drawing upon 40 years in the nursing profession, over 20 years in hospice, my own synchronized nervous system, and rhythms of movement, through swimming, cycling, running, training for triathlons, I hold the following certifications, designations, and licenses:
Certification Thomas Huebl Practice Group Leader, practicing Transparent Communication; studying with Thomas Huebl, completion of Conscious Healing Course with Huebl. – increasing the subtle attunement for presencing and seeing in relationship; as Huebl describes, a mystic in the marketplace.
Coaching certification through John Maxwell Method of Coaching
Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hrs.
Certified Warriors At Ease Teacher – Teaching Yoga and Meditation in Military Communities
Member of team RedWhiteBlue (RWB), volunteer yoga coordinator for team RWB Dayton
Coordinated one of the first We Honor Veterans programs in the country, working with the National VA and NHPCO in developing unique programs for our country’s Veterans at End Of Life
Received honorable mention at 5-year We Honor Veterans Anniversary
Honor Flight Guardian accompanying Veterans receiving hospice care on Honor Flight Dayton
Developing process improvement programs caring for veterans at end of life, collaborating with VAHC, developing education for hospice team; Planning annual conference for the community healthcare providers, bringing nationally known speakers – Deborah Grassman, founder of Opus Peace, St. Petersburg, FL; Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flight, Dayton, OH; Wayne Muller, founder of Bread for the Journey Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Certified ELNEC for Veterans Facilitator/Train the Trainer (End of Life Nursing Education Consortium)
Program Development Chair for Hospice Veteran Partnership-OH (HVP-OH)
Speaker at local, state, national level for hospice organizations – “Warriors at Ease; trauma sensitive yoga for PTSD, and STS”, “Honor Flight, Their Last Chance”; “We Honor Veterans”; A Process Improvement Project for We Honor Veterans”.
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)
America Cancer Society – President of local board, and board member for 10 years; received leader of the year award; received volunteer of the year award
Clinical Ladder Coordinator – Bethesda Hospitals (TriHealth) Cincinnati; founded on Patricia Benner’s work, “From Novice to Expert”, promoting clinical nursing in advanced clinical positions valuing their expertise at the bedside.
Sigma Theta Tau, Beta Iota Chapter – Honorary Nursing Society, University of Cincinnati, OH
Chi Omega Sorority, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY