Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Nursing: Professional Presence and a Healing Environment

Achievement of success is reliant upon a winning merger of professional and personal life, and maintaining the healthy balance between them. One way you can attain this balance is to develop a professional presence plan that can be used to bridge the two worlds. Professional success in nursing depends upon the nurse’s self-knowledge and awareness, as well as the technical training and experiential practices. Various personality tools can be used to identify your your personality type, which can provide insight about how you think, plan, react, and self-manage.

This post will help you to explore self-awareness practices to increase the presence of mindfulness in your life and health care practice, by encouraging you to understand your strengths and weaknesses. It will also focus on professional presence, mindfulness practice, and healing environments. Utilizing the awareness gained from analyzing your thoughts, beliefs, and values, as well as your activities, relationships, and experiences, you can transform... and create a healing environment through the use of self-knowledge, active listening, authentic leadership, and mentoring.


Models of Health and Healing

According to Larry Dossey there are three eras of medicine between the 1860’s and current times (Koerner, 2011). Initially, illness was thought to exist as a physical response to brain functions. In the 1950’s we began to understand that illness presented with the culmination of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental aspects, internal to the patient.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the care models began to integrate external, social and spiritual components and how this metaphysical energy, both intangible and invisible, has a direct impact on patient health and healing. The core differences can be identified in the approach to care.

In Era I, providers sought only to reverse or correct the physical properties of the illness and used scientific facts and objective data to provide care. In Era II, providers began to understand that the subjective data the patient provided also had an impact on care—how and what the patient thought, felt, and understood resulted in variant outcomes. In the modern era of practice, there is a deeper understanding of the impact that the environment of care has in patient healing, and the patient’s own power in healing.

To be human is not just to have power over the mechanical or chemical components of the brain. It is the culmination of the physical, mental, spiritual, social, emotional, cultural, theoretical, and mechanical components that pertain to that patient.

Era III ushers a practice where there is greater consideration for the environment of care, and in order to promote a “healing environment” we must consider the human, and all that this means, to positively impact on patient’s health. The core difference in the eras then is based on consideration of internal versus external powers and the persuasion they have over the outcome of healing.

Models and Professional Presence

The environment of care has such an impact on patient outcome, as does the patient’s current human state. “[Mind-mediated phenomena] should inspire doctors to find more ways of treating the ills of the body by taking advantage of the powers of the mind and convince patients that those powers are always available to help restore lost health” (Weil, 2004, p. 234).

The Era I practices are comparable to the practices you have as a novice nurse, where you use a mechanical, textbook approach to care. You are not yet experienced enough to incorporate anything other than completing tasks, recording and reporting data, and advocating for patients in small ways. You may have since progressed through the levels of nursing experience to become a proficient clinician, and may have emerged to practice with intention, incorporating the needs of the patient and family in a meaningful way to promote an environment of healing.

Does your practice recognize the multitude of factors affecting patient outcome, including your beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes, and those of the patient? You must not allow your own beliefs or attitudes to obstruct the progress of patient healing, because your sole purpose as a nurse is to advocate for the patient in any way necessary.

Influence on Nursing Practice

Certainly your professional presence influences your nursing practice. If you are perceived to be competent, calm, self-assured and poised, it will promote an environment of trust and collaboration, which will in turn result in an increase of self-assurance, poise, competency, and composure. When this is perceived by the patient or fellow staff, it promotes a healing environment.

Many principles are used to promote healing presence in nursing practices. With self-knowledge, you begin to understand how you perceive your surroundings, and how you tend to react to situations. Knowing your personality type can be of great benefit as you learn to facilitate a healing environment. Knowing your personality traits as determined by the Meyers & Briggs typology test, enables you to be mindful in your practices. Use the principle of authentic leadership to influence the practices of others, and to unite in the common purpose of providing a healing presence to your patients.

Koerner defines healing presence as “the difference between safety and quality,” (p4 Koerner, 2011). I disagree with this definition and believe that healing presence is the bridge between safety and quality, not the difference. When I ask myself ‘what is the difference between the two,’ I think about how I define the two terms in this context. Safety, simply stated, is determined by the technical or mechanical aspects of providing patient care. Quality can then be determined by how that care was provided, focusing more on an emotional or mental application. Therefore the nurse’s healing presence does not differentiate between safety and quality, but rather bridges the obvious gap between the two.

Whole Person Goals

Mindfulness in essence, is self-reflection-in-action (Sherwood & Horton-Deutsch, 2012, p.80). In developing your own practice of mindfulness, you can create a plan to strengthen your health and balance in the physical, vital, mental, and spiritual bodies/aspects.

To be more mindful physically, it is important that you nourish your body and provide it with adequate exercise. You could prepare a menu on a weekly basis, to increase the opportunity to make smart and healthy food choices rather than fast food or processed foods.

To be more mindful in the vital/rhythmic aspect, you can institute a specific curfew for yourself by setting an alarm on your phone/watch. At that time, you would stop what you are doing and begin your bedtime routine. This cut-off time for you nightly, will enable you to achieve the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep each night.

You can also begin the practice of meditation using a phone app like Headspace. You can use the app daily as it suggests, and evaluate the effectiveness after seven days. Meditation will help to ease anxiety and focus your thoughts, and can help to prevent burnout as a nurse (Lichtenberg, et al., 2013).

To account for the mental and emotional balance, you can incorporate breathing exercises as an adjunct to the meditation. You can integrate the use of the 4-7-8 (Relaxing Breath) breathing exercise several times throughout the day and thoughtfully begin to practice it when you recognize that your stress level is high (Gonzalez, 2016). The act of intentional breathing is a “bridge between the conscious and unconscious minds” (p62, Weil, 2004). You can also read books for pleasure, to gain mental and emotional balance.

To achieve and maintain spiritual balance, you can look into attending church weekly, or complete daily scripture readings, or daily religious/gratitude journaling. This will help to restore a positive attitude and bring the realization that you are loved, cared for, and watched over.

Achievement of Goals

The wholeness of being human, involves attention to all of the aspects of mind, body, and spirit health. In order to achieve the goals you set for myself, you must continue to grow in the understanding that only balance among those aspects will bring ultimate health and allow you to help others in their pursuit of health and wellness. You can make a chart for yourself, to help sort the practices you plan to implement and to help meet the goal of mindfulness. Here is an example of a goal chart:


To adjust to the changing of your “whole person,” you will have to keep in mind why you chose to observe mindfulness. In order to become an agent of change you need to carry out changes in your own life.

Healing Environments: Best Practices

There are two facilities I have found in particular, that stand out in their patient care optimal healing environments. Their goal is to promote healing environments that reduce stress, anxiety, to speed healing, to shorten hospital stays, and to reduce the need for additional medications. Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) offers many different benefits in internal (spiritual care, meditation room), interpersonal (massage therapy, essential oils, café and dining options), behavioral (guided imagery, art therapy), and external environments (healing garden, bird aviary) (Grinnell Regional Medical Center, 2017).

The Johns Hopkins Hospital works to reduce the stress of hospitalization for the patient and family, incorporating artistic and aesthetic elements into the environment of care. They have rooms designed to be filled with sun, public spaces that are peaceful and elegant, ceiling tiles that absorb sound over patient care areas, gardens that are lush with landscaping designed for reflection and meditation, an art collection on display throughout their buildings, and animal sculptures in the children’s center. They have even included art images on the window shades in private patient rooms (Hopkins, n.d.).

Professional Presence Promotion

You can apply self-awareness and insights from review of the healing environments that were discussed, to promote professional presence in your current health care setting. As discussed in Management Learning by Becker, Jordan, and Messner in 2009, reflection plays a key role in organizational learning and has been based more on reflection-on-action than reflection-in-action. To engage staff in learning, it is important that they be enabled to learn and reflect as they go, so allowing time for review and reflection is a necessary element. Staff should be offered education on mindfulness practices, and encouraged to develop their own sense of mindfulness.

In the optimal healing environments discussed above, noise reduction was a key component to promotion of the healing process, both for the patient and for the family. Partnering with the patient, and allowing them time and space to “sort through the issues of the day, offering understanding and interpretation along the way” (p138, Koerner, 2011) is imperative to patient healing. You can begin to offer a quieter, safer, more supportive environment to your patients as a result of this research. There are areas where we can reduce stress for our patients through noise reduction on the unit, during changes of shift and nurse-to-nurse reporting practices. We can create an enhanced healing environment simply by ensuring that the patient room and bedside table are clean and free of debris and clutter.

We can begin to guide patients through their own mindfulness practices, and teach them non-medicinal techniques to manage their stress and pain – such as breathing exercises, meditation, darkening the room, decreasing environmental stimuli, or repositioning. There are many ways to initiate the use of mindfulness, self-awareness, and healing environments in your organization.

In Conclusion


Achievement of success is reliant upon a winning merger of professional and personal life, and maintaining the healthy balance between them. Adhering to a professional presence plan can bridge the two worlds. There is power in knowing that professional success in nursing can be secured through your own self-knowledge and awareness, as well as the technical training and experiential practices you have and those you will encounter.

In using personality tools to identify your personality type, you can explore self-awareness practices to increase the presence of mindfulness in your life and your health care practice, by understanding your strengths and weaknesses. You can more clearly focus on your professional presence, mindfulness practice, and the healing environment. You can transform and create a healing environment through the use of self-knowledge, active listening, authentic leadership, and mentoring.

References
George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A.N., and Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering your authentic leadership. Harvard Business Review. Reprint R0702H.

Gonzalez, B. (Ed.). (2016, May). Three Breathing Exercises And Techniques. Retrieved November 5, 2017, from Andrew Weil M.D. website: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/

Grinnell Regional Medical Center (Ed.). (2017, December 9). Optimal Healing. Retrieved from https://www.grmc.us/patients/optimal-healing-environment

Gustafson, C. (2016). James Gordon, MD: The Potential of Mind-Body Self Care to Free the World From the Effects of Trauma. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. 15(2), 54-60.

Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). A healing environment. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/the_johns_hopkins_hospital/about/enhanced_facilities/healing_environment.html

Jordon (2009). Reflection & mindfulness in organizations. Management Learning.

Matsuo (2012). Leadership of learning and reflective practice: An exploratory study of nursing managers. Management Learning.

Koerner, J. (2011). Healing presence: The essence of nursing 2e. Springer Publishing Company. New York, NY. ISBN: 9780826107541

Lichtenberg Heard, P., Hartman, S., & Bushardt, S. C. (2013). Rekindling the flame: Using mindfulness to end nursing burnout. Nursing Management, 44 (11), 24-29.

Mendes, A. (2015). The role of nurses’ and patients’ beliefs in nursing care. British Journal of Nursing (Mark Allen Publishing), 24 (6), 345. Doi:10.12968/bjon.2015.24.6.345

Rassin, M. (2008). Nurses’ professional and personal values. Nursing Ethics, 15(5), 614-630 17p. doi: 10.1177/0969733008092870

Reid Ponte, P., & Koppel, P. (2015). Cultivating Mindfulness to Enhance Nursing Practice. American Journal of Nursing, 115(6), 48-55 8p. doi:10.1097/01.NAJ.0000466321.46439.17

Sherwood, G., & Horton-Deutsch, S. (2012). Reflective practice: Transforming education and improving outcomes. Indianapolis, IN, USA: Sigma Theta Tau International. ISBN: 9781935476795

The Myers & Briggs Foundation (Ed.). (2017). The 16 MBTI® Types. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from The Myers & Briggs Foundation website: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm

Weil, A. (2004). Health and healing: The philosophy of integrative medicine. Houghton Mifflin Co, New York, NY. ISBN: 9780395344309

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