The Lady With the Lamp. On May 12, the nursing profession will celebrate the birthday Florence Nightingale. She was born 201 years ago. The World Health Organization designated the year 2020, the Year of the Nurse, in recognition of her 200th birthday. March 2020, a global pandemic created a catastrophic nightmare for nurses, especially those who worked in direct patient care, finding themselves on the front lines, in a war zone.
As nurses were being celebrated, the 2020 Year of the Nurse, the profession being celebrated was on the battlefield, and not on social media receiving celebratory messages. A profession in “nervous system overwhelm” with trauma and moral injury. They were being lifted up as heroes, but as soldiers returning from war, they just want to “come home.” To be seen, be heard, their stories of war being witnessed.
A year later the nursing profession, returning from the frontline of war – the war zone – is in need of a collective healing from trauma, post traumatic stress, acute traumatic stress, moral injury, and traumatic grief. Nurses are not ok.
Nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers. Yet, at the bedside, with the expert nurse intuition, her presenceing, her attunement, is where miracles happen. Miracles are the reward. Energizing compassion opens the space for more healing and more miracles. This is a sacred space. Presenceing, and holding space, space required for allowing the manifestations of miracles. Those who have had the privilege of caring for our country’s veterans at the end of life, know that when holding a space for a story of war, there is a sense of standing on holy ground.
Patricia Benner describes the intuition of the expert clinical nurse in her book, “From Novice to Expert”, published forty years ago. The expert nurse’s intuition, presencing, sensing, attunement, with eyes all over, to what is going on within, what is going on within the other (patient, family member, team member) and what is going on within the space between them. Subtle capacities, so easy to miss the opportunity for healing if not fully present.
Compassion is seeing the other person with a shift in the nervous system that co-synchronizes with a person who is suffering. Compassion is always energizing. Miracles happen. The expert nurse, the image of the Lady With the Lamp, illuminates and brings to light what needs to be brought forth to be healed.
Healthcare as we know it is crumbling, no longer sustainable. The intuition of the expert clinical nurse leader, the leader in the new paradigm of healthcare, bottom up and systems based, knows the way, and shows the way forward. The nurses’ voice is the voice to be found, to be heard, to be brought forward to lead the transformation of healthcare.
With over half of my nursing career in hospice and palliative care, I am moved by the words written by a Palliative Nurse Practitioner who works in the Colorado University Palliative Medicine Program. The words she writes could easily be written with our profession as being the one in need of the palliative care nurse. The nursing profession is guided by evidenced based protocols, but nursing is living during the time of coronavirus pandemic, with uncertainty, in liminal space, as one who is dying. “How one dances gently along with the rhythm, guiding here, prompting there, probing here, helping one another feel seen, heard, and understood.” And eventually arriving at difficult decisions which hold the expert nurse’s values and beliefs strongly as center. “Using our own body’s intuition as a tool.” Nancy Robertson, DNP, Palliative Care NP, CU Anschutz.
Nurses individually and collectively are in need of care. The profession is in need of trauma integration. Healing, with trauma integration, offers a transformed culture of spaciousness, of holding space. It is time for nurses to speak, find their voice, to receive from the founder of the nursing profession, the Lady With the Lamp. May she illuminate our way forward, as we heal as a profession from collective trauma.
Healing trauma restores compassion. Compassion is always energizing. Compassion is never fatiguing. When trauma becomes unfrozen through integration and healing, it is like ice melting. Twice as much energy becomes available.
Compassionate leadership creates the systems for nurses to be fully present and supported.
My work as a trauma recovery coach brings trauma informed awareness and trauma sensitive practices to the coaching relationship, bringing forth trauma integration and energy, healing, awareness, openness and spaciousness allowing for an increased capacity to understand and serve others.