Nurses over the world celebrated Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, May 12, and 2020 Year of the Nurse, proclaimed by the WHO in honor of Florence Nightingale. The Lady with the Lamp was known as a “radical thinker”, during times of war, Crimean War (1853-1856). The invisible wounds of war, PTSD, became a formal mental health diagnosis in 1980, at the conclusion of the Vietnam War. With nurses on the front line of this war, of 2020, much awareness is surfacing about PTSD in nurses, physicians, healthcare workers, and the anticipated unprecedented need for trauma recovery, healing from the aftereffects of war.
Trauma experiences may cause the mind to separate from the body, with the inability to feel what is really going on within self, making it difficult to be present and feel compassion for another who is suffering. We can only hold space for other people, listen and bear witness to the stories of pain, suffering and trauma, if we ourselves are inwardly present and connected to our feeling self.
The Lady with the Lamp is an illuminator. The lamp shines light, increasing the capacity to see clearly and with precision. Seeing is presencing. Compassion is seeing and being present with another who is suffering and is always energizing. Florence Nightingale is also known to be an innovator, illuminating the way forward, co-creating the future. She is an inspiration to nurses today, for nurses to set the intention that the body wants to heal, needs spaciousness in order to rest and digest, integrating the trauma from the past to feel into the present moment.
Florence Nightingale theory on nursing science was to create the environment for the body to heal. Being intentional that our bodies want to heal, trusting we will find our way, we then are the healers. Taking a moment to for a “Pause”, a check in with yourself, activates rest and digest, and enhances Innovation, ability to respond in the present moment. This place of rest and digest, resets and re-synchronizes our nervous system, enhances innovation. Begin with a 15-minute breath practice. Listening to the rhythm of your breath, and feel your body being breathed, coming back to yourself, with deep listening. Rest in the rhythm.
Compassion Fatigue? Unintegrated Trauma?
What is difficult is presencing, being fully present, seeing the other person, when our life energy is depleted. I propose that this is not due to compassion fatigue, but unintegrated trauma.
We can only hold space for other people, listen and bear witness to the stories of pain, suffering and trauma, if we ourselves are inwardly present and connected to our feeling self.
Compassion is always energizing, never fatiguing. Compassion is the shift in the inner landscape when in the presence of another human being who is suffering. Compassion is connecting and healing, and always energizing.
Energy depletion occurs with suppressing, isolating, and the conspiracy of silence. The elephant in the room that is not talked about. The fatigue is from the energy which is keeping what is frozen, frozen, and suppressed in a black lake of collective trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and primary traumatic stress, and traumatic grief. What are the questions not asked?
What do nurses need at all levels of leadership? As a recent article in JAMA shares, “hear me, protect me, prepare me, support me, care for me”. Compassion. Being seen, being present, holding space for group care. Holding space in group coherence for trauma eruptions, disruptions, dys-regulated nervous systems, and whatever is revealed in the coherent field, and trusting we will find our way. Collective trauma needs collective healing. Collective healing increases our capacity to understand and serve others, increases our capacity for radical innovation 200 years after The Lady with the Lamp.
A place to begin is the Pause, check in, rest, digest, as a team, by synchronized breathing for five to ten minutes!