‘Driving the Future’ discusses wellness in nursing

Samara Sands

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Cynda Hylton Rushton addressed the importance of mental and physical wellness for nurses Monday morning in Student Center Ballroom.

“It’s important to know that we suffer just as our patients and family do,” she said. “Just because we have taken on the role of ‘nurse’ doesn’t mean that we are immune. It means that we, too, are vulnerable.”

Rushton, nursing and pediatrics professor at the John Hopkins University School of Nursing, introduced Driving the Future 2012, a national conference in collaboration with the Urban Zen Foundation.

The Urban Zen Foundation focuses on integrating certain healing practices, such as yoga and meditation, into the Western medical field of health care workers.

Donna Karan, fashion icon and founder of the Urban Zen Foundation, also spoke in the Kiva Monday afternoon to address wellness in nursing.

Rushton said one of the key issues affecting nurses is moral distress, which she said is a type of suffering nurses face when they take responsibility for an ethical situation.

“It’s when values are in conflict, there’s usually a lot of emotion, and important outcomes are at stake, including life,” she said. “Many times we can’t fix the problem and that leaves us with a sense of hopelessness and anxiety.”

She said moral distress could also lead to moral residue, which is when nurses experience long-term moral distress.

“If you are experiences these types of situations over and over again, the residue begins to build up and it can become quite extensive,” she said. “The consequences of this are pretty profound and often people who experience these morally distressing situations may wonder, ‘How do I see myself as a healer in the face of death and suffering?’”

She said when nurses have good relationships with their own lives, it can then be reflected onto the patients who they serve.

“Take three questions at the end of the day and explore what surprised you today, what moved or touched you, and what inspired you today,” she said. “It helps to remind us that in spite of the challenges, we can find inspiration, awe and meaning.”

Rushton said nurses can tap into that sense of meaning along with doing some kind of yoga, meditation or any other creative process to help them cope with tough circumstances.

“It invites us to extend the same compassion we extend to others onto ourselves,” she said. “This journey to self-care is an invitation to remember who we really are, why we’re here, and the incredible qualities that we bring to our work.”

Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee, co-directors of the Urban Zen Integrative Program, gave a deeper insight into how meditation can affect overall wellness.

Saidman Yee said people should incorporate meditation in everyday life, even if it is just for 30 seconds between classes.

“For self-care, we really believe that meditation is one of the primary practices that will help you take care of yourself and get you through the day,” she said. “You don’t have to sit down for an hour, you can just learn to take time and get out of your head.”

Rodney Yee added that one of the keys to meditation is to be aware of breathing and utilize sounds instead of blocking them out.

Senior nursing major Ashleigh Tondo said she recently started meditating to help ease stress.

“I think that meditation and using these other methods are good ways in dealing with issues,” she said. “I actually enjoy doing it and I’m trying to incorporate it in every day, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. For me, I mostly use breathing techniques to relax.”

Senior nursing major Chris Fogarty said the conference gave him a new sense of realization.

“It’s opened my eyes to the fact that self-care is not only vital for us as individuals, but for the nursing profession,” he said. “I grew up with nurses in my family, but I never heard once about self-care. It’s really important and helpful.”

He said he also recently realized how important self-care is for nurses in the long run.

“It’s also a continuous process,” he said. “Over time stress can build up and you should take time to be aware of that stress so that you don’t break down one day.”

Contact Samara Sands at [email protected].