Collective Trauma Integration in Nursing Leadership through Trauma Informed Leadership In a world of collective trauma, personal trauma, and ancestral trauma, nursing is consistently found to be a profession of burnout, compassion fatigue, and most recently, with advances in neuroscience, and amazing research in the area of post traumatic stress, nurses are found to be experiencing secondary trauma stress.
When curious about the most “traumatizing” event a nurse experienced in her career, a poll was created for nurse colleagues and past team members over the years. The response was overwhelmingly from an interaction with a nurse manager. This is not necessarily “nurse leader”, but Manager, Supervisor, Department Head, a person who has legitimate authority over her/him.
Generally nurse managers have been “promoted” from a position of staff nurse, being identified as an excellent clinician. Never having the opportunity to be developed as a nurse leader by their nurse manager. Nurse Manager is the role the nurse has been assigned. A nurse manager is not necessarily a nurse leader, but manager, supervisor, department head. Many are promoted due to seeking to leave the bedside. This new nurse manager most likely experienced being traumatized by a nurse manager in her early nursing career. Collective trauma, passed down in the nursing profession from generation to generation.
There is a fast growing collective trauma movement globally. The world is waking up to the massive impact trauma has on lives, personal, collective, and ancestral. I felt a calling to shepherding individuals and communities through trauma recovery while caring for Veterans at the end of life. Even earlier in my life, my brother was diagnosed with a very rare bone disorder, suffering from the age of ten. Being with him as he had both hips replaced at the age of 29, and as he recovered from alcohol and drug addiction in his 30’s. The world is waking up to the massive impact trauma has on lives, personal, collective, and ancestral.
Once trauma is acknowledged by presencing, held in awareness, in relationship, trauma is integrated. This integration is the responsibility of each person’s ability to respond, not react. The ability to respond is the responsibility of each person, each nurse, each nurse leader, each nurse officer executive. Yet, trauma integration can not happen alone, can not happen in “self-care”. Trauma integrating moves beyond self-care, mindfulness, and meditation, to “we-care”, being in relationship with a self-regulated nervous system, co-regulating with another’s nervous system. “Seeing” the other with eyes all over the body, attuned to what is going on within self, what is going on within the other, and what is happening within the space between the two.
Miracles emerge in this space of witnessing. This will occur in slowing down. This takes time, tuning in with precision to another person. A very subtle capacity. Front line nurses speaking up to the time that is necessary for presencing, creating space for communicating with authenticity and transparency, will lead in contributing to the well being of nurse leaders - those expert clinical nurses, as defined by Patricia Benner in her classic, “From Novice to Expert”. Well-being emerges in a culture of safety, connecting, and presencing. Leading is Movement, the flow of energy through a co - synchronized nervous system. This is the sacred space of Miracles and Manifestations, the space where trauma integration occurs.
With the growth and development of clinical nurse leaders, the paradigm shifts. Listen to their voices, and create a system for nurses to speak up, identify stressors in the system causing chaos, and contribute to the reorder of system transformation. Nurse leaders will emerge, identify what is broken in the system they work in, and make recommendations for changes. Nurses at the executive level will be almost invisible. Is that not what a great leader does? Develop great leaders.