Lessons from a nursing student

Written by Nicole Leand, who’s pursuing a degree in Integrative Health and Healing from the University of Minnesota

Two nursing students

Over three months, I had the pleasure of working with Amy Quarberg, the integrative services leader at St. Johns Hospital in Maplewood, as I completed clinical hours for my integrative nursing doctorate degree.

Throughout my experience, I gained insight that has positively shifted the way I will approach providing nursing care for the rest of my career. I have experienced what it means to truly practice with compassion and learned skills that will forever shape my endeavors. Thank you to Amy and the entire Integrative Services team across HealthEast, as well as to all of the floor nurses and staff that were so supportive and welcoming.

I’d like to share a few of the significant lessons I have taken with me, as I believe they are applicable to all of us who provide care to others.

 1. Presence is everything

I am continuously in awe at the power intentional presence has while providing care. I had countless experiences throughout my time at St. Johns where I was able to see a dramatic shift in the connection I was able to make with a patient when I consciously shifted my attention to the present moment and put my complete attention on the patient.

Pausing really briefly before entering a room allowed me to center myself, leave previous experiences behind me, and offer a truly healing presence.

After developing this practice, I noticed a significant shift in my sense of personal clarity when interacting with a patient. I was able to assess and meet their needs more readily and felt open to inspiration and connection, which more often than not led to a wonderful and far more effective interaction between the patient and myself.

 2. Leave preconceived notions at the door

It’s easy to be influenced by our past experiences with patients or a previous caregiver’s interpretation of their experience when caring for others. While engaging in the work of integrative nursing, I have had the pleasure of experiencing caregiving from a very different perspective, one that intentionally holds individuals in their wholeness from the beginning, and subsequently invites a welcomed connection in return.

All of us desire to be viewed for our strengths and through a positive lens. Learning to enter a patient’s space with a sense of curiosity and genuine interest, instead of allowing past judgments or the experiences of others influence our perception of the situation, has truly shifted the ways in which I not only practice nursing, but how I try to view everyone I encounter in my day-to-day experience.

Viewing others in this way tends to establish a feeling of comfort and opens opportunity for healing connections to take place.

3. The least invasive intervention truly deserves attention

When first embarking on my clinical rotations, I have to admit I was not fully convinced the integrative modalities I had learned thus far were going to offer significant relief for patients in the acute care setting, where pain is often severe, and stress and anxiety are at an all-time high for many. However, I was continuously surprised at the relief patients experienced when the simplest tools in my toolbox were employed.

Intentionally engaging in care with a healing presence and offering a genuine interest in the patient’s well-being was an incredibly powerful place to start every encounter. Then asking the patient about their experience, needs, and desires, as well as what brings them joy, helped me better understand their story and also offered ample opportunity to provide individualized support.

Lastly, tailoring simple interventions such as guided imagery, a quick massage, and essential oils allowed the patients I worked with to feel a sense of ease that allowed for deep relaxation, feelings of joy to surface, and even severe pain to become more manageable.

Starting with the basics first may make all the difference for a patient and also fills our cup as caregivers when intentionality and connection are at the foundation of our practice.

The three months flew by in a whirlwind. I am so very grateful for the time spent at St. Johns, as I have gained incredible insight that will stick with me forever.

Learn more about our student experiences at Fairview, including HealthEast.

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