Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does Storytelling Really Have a Place in Nursing?

Stories are fine for kids when they’re growing up, but does storytelling have a place in a professional occupation like nursing?  Well, I would argue that stories not only have a place, but can be a very powerful tool if used correctly.

A little while ago, I wrote an article about this very topic called The Power of Storytelling in Nursing.  So as not to beat a dead horse, here’s a little excerpt from that post: 

“Stories can be more than just entertainment.  How many of us have learned courage from a little hobbit, love from Shakespeare or friendship from The Secret Garden?  Stories are powerful and they can play an important role in teaching medical concepts.

That’s what inspired the creation of Nurseables.  Amidst the daunting onslaught of information that nursing school throws your way, it’s sometimes hard to stay afloat.  Experiencing the moment, learning from other’s experiences, learning from your own mistakes and teaching others what you have learned all make information easier to remember and comprehend.  The idea with Nurseables is to give tired nursing brains a break by illustrating medical concepts in a story format.  Sure, the tales can be entertaining, but they also help remind, teach and describe some of the amazing phenomenon that occur in the body.  Some in the nursing education community are even adopting the idea of storytelling by encouraging their students to write blogs or keep journals about their experiences.”

But I’m not alone.  Here are some others that think storytelling is an essential tool in our profession.

Coach Scala at Living Sublime Wellness argues that stories are an incredible means of motivation and emotional engagement.  

Jo, RN of the Head Nurse blog talks about how she made the decision to share her personal struggles with cancer when connecting with her patients.

And Brittney Wilson of The Nurdy Nurse brings this topic to a whole new level by encouraging the use of blogging and storytelling as a means to improve the nursing profession as a whole.

Now, if you’re saying to yourself - Ok, I get it, storytelling can be a wonderful tool, but…. I’m really, really, REALLY not very good at that whole storytelling thing… Well then, never fear!  Joyce over at International Nurse Support has just the article for you.  She provides some valuable advice to help you learn how to conquer that skill and become a better nurse because of it.

Want to see these concepts in action? 

Zach G at threw together some inspiring videos from various motivational leaders for your enjoyment. 

Or you can check out the story that was the inspiration behind starting the Nurseables blog:

And that’s all for now folks!  What do you think?  Can stories really help people?  Does storytelling have a place in the realm of nursing?  Look forward to hearing from you!

This post is a collective effort of nurse bloggers as part of the Scrubs Mag Blog Carnival. If you are interested in participating find out more details and sign up here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jekyll and Hyde Nursing: The Tale of Two Lives Raveled Up into One Nurse

Barreling through the door, she yelled: “I’m sorry! I know I’m late!! I’m here… just give me 2 minutes and I’ll be ready in no time!”

The house was unusually quiet. No response. Her dogs didn’t even come to the door, wagging their tails to greet her. Where was everyone?

Tonight was the ‘big’ party. It was her husband’s family reunion and she had rushed home from work… after staying overtime, yet again. Driving home her mind racing, trying to get her husband on the phone, she felt frantic. She KNEW she could make it. But she also knew she’d be late again.

Taking a moment to walk around her home, she realized- they’re gone. No one is here. A wave of doom rushed over her. Did they leave without me? I can’t believe this! Oh, I’m in trouble now…

Her husband’s family lived hours away. There was no way she could drive there now. Let me call my husband, she thought. Maybe they just went out for a walk. There’s no way they left with out me.

Dialing and redialing again and again, when she finally got him on the line he was cold, curt. He simply stated: “You were late. Again. I’m sick of this. We’re almost there. Don’t bother coming.” Click.

Sobbing, she threw herself down on the bed. This job is killing me, she thought. It’s ruining my life, my relationships, my health; it’s eating away at me. I am always sick. I’m constantly tired. I can’t take this anymore.

About 12 hours later bouncing into work she happily sung, “Good-Morning!” Greeting co-workers and patients with a brilliant smile, “How is everybody? What a gorgeous day!

Working along with a grin on her face, a helpful hand wherever it was needed, and words of caring love she hustled through her day. (Now anyone reading this might be asking: “What happened to the girl from last night? How did she recover? I’m shocked that she’s so chipper today! What happened??”).

Believe me… she’s wondering that too.

Here’s what happened. After speaking with her husband she went into a rage. Throwing items from her packed suitcase, she cursed and screamed and yelled. Then she realized, ‘Well… if I’m not going to the party… I can work that hole they were trying to fill.’

After hanging up with the night shift charge nurse she burst into tears, again. Sobbing hysterically, she cried herself to sleep. The night was restless as she dreamed, tossed, and turned.

She got up about 30 minutes before she had to be at work, raced through a shower, and sped into work. As she started to walk towards her workplace she psyched herself up… yet again. “You CAN do this.”

Throwing a smile on her face, standing up tall, and telling herself another white lie she walked into work.

But her inner self, her true sense of being, knew differently. What she struggled with this day wasn’t anything new. She had been leading a double life… for years.


Fast forward to present day and this nurse no longer works at the bedside. In fact, she was forced to leave her job. She had to take a year to gather her up, take a break, care for the one person she neglected for a long, long time: herself.

I’m sure there are nurses out there who are leading a double life, feeling the Jekyll and Hyde of it all. I’m sure there are nurses out there trying to keep the home life together, burning bridges as they go. I bet I’m not alone in how I felt for all of those years: torn inside and out.

On one hand I was this ‘great’ nurse. I excelled rapidly up the clinical ladder. I was a leader on the unit. I sat on multiple committees, led departmental projects, and travelled both nationally and internationally to give poster presentations.

When you ‘looked’ at me: I appeared healthy. Thin, smiling, dressed in a clean, professional way. I was polite and kind, always willing to help out and pitch in. A real team player.

But what they didn’t know was that my home life was a wreck. My social life was non-existent. I had no coping skills and cried all of the time. I felt angry, bitter, and resentful. I was miserable.


Nursing is tough. We care for our patients; we take pride in our work. We want to do it all. The professionalism in us can also lead to our downfall, if we’re not careful and protective of our boundaries.

Since that year off, I’ve made major changes in my life. I schedule my time in first. I drink water all day long; I eat healthy. I make it a deliberate point to get at least seven hours a sleep each night. I practice self-care and cope with change, stress, and emotions. I journal, meditate, practice Yoga, and share Reiki. My priorities have shifted and I no longer live a double life.

Yet I know the Jekyll and Hyde still exists since I still see it almost every day.

I work (part-time now) at the hospital that I left. I interact with nurses in different ways - sharing Reiki with them once a month, teaching Reiki I as a means to self-care, listening, talking, and offering support in a variety of ways. I don’t want any nurse to have to go through what I suffered. And so I’ve dedicated my work to a solution.

Among the many fun and energizing things I get to do with nurses, I also am honored to host a virtual conference that’s all about filling ourselves up. We give to so many people; it’s time we give a little to ourselves!

The RejuveNation Collaboration is my ‘baby’. I host this event each year and welcome hundreds of nurses to participate. The community is supportive, welcoming, and totally energizing. We share a variety of webinar workshops, each diverse in topic, but each the same in one truth: take care of ourselves first so we can best take care of our patients.

It’s a safe space to take a break, be yourself, and have some fun. I invite you to join us this fall. Our new fresh focus for this Collaboration is on the theme: ‘Get Out of Your Own Way!’ The nine unique presenters will share with you easy and quick strategies on de-cluttering, up-leveling, and reclaiming your life. I’m really looking forward to this event and I hope you will too. Go ahead and visit the registration page and see what you think. We’d love to have you!

Thank you so much for the work you do each day as a dedicated and passionate nurse. Now it’s time to feel comfortable and confident you can have it all. You can care as a nurse while caring for yourself first. I hold that belief for each and every one of us out there.

About Elizabeth Scala:

Elizabeth “Coach” Scala, MSN/MBA, RN, is beyond passionate about helping healthcare professionals, nurses in particular, to embody holistic living and embrace self-care. Through her business, Living Sublime Wellness, Elizabeth writes regularly on the topic of self-care, conducts wellness workshops, and offer both in-person and online seminars for busy nurses. Elizabeth is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and a Reiki Master Teacher. Originally from Carmel, NY, she now lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and two dogs. Elizabeth is super excited about the RejuveNation Collaboration and can’t wait to meet and get to know each and every one of you. So, if you haven’t done so yet, go ahead and sign up today.  You won’t regret it!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Celebrating Creativity: Tale Worthy Products

           Whew, it has been a busy couple of weeks!  Sorry for the short, unintended break from storytelling.  Sometimes energy levels are just not what you want them to be, especially when you’re contending with a chronic illness ta boot, but ya gotta keep plugging along as best as you can.  Have you ever been there?  It’s in those moments that I realize even more so how much I need my Savior’s strength to get through the day.  How lucky we are that we can rely on and trust!

          Anyhow… now that things are quieting down a little bit, I’ll be getting back into the swing of writing up some more (hopefully) entertaining medical tales.  However, for the moment I just have to share some incredibly clever products that I've come across in my travels around the web.  I don't know if people just have too much time on their hands or if there's some clever creative genius out there coming up with these things, but they're too fun not to share.  Hope you enjoy seeing these as much as I did finding them!  Leave a note and let me know which one fascinates you the most!


First up on the block, the USB Syringe Flash Drive.  That's right folks, where would we be without a little technological medicine to save the day?


An A&P instructor's dream chair...

Anatomically Correct chair!

'Nough Said, Can you think of a few people you'd like to share these with?  Haha, reminds me of the meme that's been going around saying sorry kids, we don't go to the doctor unless we're dying because Mommy's a nurse!

We need these!

Celebrating a graduation or need a gift for a nurse just because?  What about this adorable dangling charm pin to celebrate a small part of the nursing world?


Heck, why take the time to brew coffee and drink it from a mug when you can just hook yourself up to an IV of caffeine?  Haha, but honestly, please don't try this at home...

Haha, Starbucks IV. I sure hope I'll never have to administer something coffee through someone's veins!

Or what about our Cardiac Nurses?  How does an anatomically correct heart necklace sound?

Anatomical Heart Necklace Antique Silver Anatomical Heart on 32" Gunmetal Chain

A cast only a medical professional would love... but seriously, how cool is that?!  The wrist bone's connected to the...


And last but not least, how does a little defibrillated toast sound to start your mornings off with a shock?  They do say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day...  

The Defibrillator Toaster. Oh, this could get interesting very quickly in a caption contest!

And that's all folks!  At least for the moment.  If you have any favorites or run across anything that you find amazingly entertaining, please share and I'll make sure to include it in the next edition of tale worthy products!

Check out the Nurseables Pinterest page for more fun images!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nurse Snow and her Seven Patients: Thoughts on Therapeutic Communication

                Once upon a time, on a hospital floor far, far away, there worked a young nurse named Snow.  Now Snow was just like any other nurse, working hard to provide the best care she could for the patients in her charge, but she had a little problem… no matter what she did, one of the clients in her care just wouldn’t smile.  In fact, if anything, he was just being down-right grumpy!  After catching up with all her work and checking to make sure her patients had all they needed, Snow did something that rarely happens outside of storybook land… she sat down.  But when she sat, she let out a long, frustrated sigh and plopped her head down into her hands.    

Just as she did, the charge nurse came up beside her and decided it would be prudent to see what could be done to cheer the novice nursling.  “Oh Snow, whatever is the matter?  You’re always so happy to be working on the floor, whistling while you work and seeming to dance along.  It’s just so strange to see you so down, what happened?” she inquired.

“Oh I can’t complain Mother Goose, all of my patients have been just wonderful to me… for the most part that is,” Snow replied as she let out another long sigh.

“Well, how about you give me a little report about them then.”

 “Ok, let’s see, there’s Mr. Achoo in room 3 that came in just sneezing and sneezing away, but now that I’ve got him set up with some allergy medication and a big box of tissues, he’s doing as well as his raw nose will let him.  Then, there’s my funny little gentleman in room 6 that acts a little dopey, but he’s really been the sweetest patient that I’ve had the pleasure to work with.  Oh, and there’s room 4 who’s a bit modest and room 2 who’s always looking up more information about his condition, but once I assured them that I’ll protect their privacy and answer their medical questions as best as I can, they both opened right up.  And there’s room 1 who’s always sleeping and room 5 who’s just pure smiles and laughter!  Who could ask for better patients?”


“But… even though all my other patients have been such a joy to care for, I just can’t seem to accept the fact that room 7 doesn’t like me.”

“What makes you say that Snow.”

“Well, no matter what I do, he just sits in his room being cantankerous and sullen.  It’s like he just wants me to give him his medications and leave him alone, but I can’t do that.  I want to help!”

“Oh Snow, you should know by now that you can’t please everyone!”

“Yes, I know that, but it was the way he got that way that bothers me.  When I first went into his room, I introduced myself and started my normal assessment process.  As I went along, I asked him a few questions about his life, hoping to put him at ease and to develop a good working relationship with him.  Well… he answered a few of them, but then he turned the tables on me and started asking about whether I was married and how many kids I have!  Not that I have anything to hide, but I always learned in nursing school that it’s important to keep boundaries in the nurse-patient relationship, so I turned the conversation right back around to him without really answering his questions.”

“Ah, so then he shut down on you?”

“Yes, that’s about the time he started getting really cross with me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any more time to sit there and try to mend the drawbridges that I’d somehow burned.  So, I finished up my work and rushed off to take care of my six other patients in the castle ward.  Oh Mother Goose, what should I have done differently?”

“You ask that age old question Snow, how do you set up professional, yet caring, boundaries in a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship?  That’s a topic that’s filled multiple books and been the focus of many a study.  I’ll give you a few of those resources so that you can learn from people far wiser than I about preparing for your future interactions, but here’s a little tip I’ve learned.  Don’t be afraid to share a little bit about yourself as long as you’re being safe and not giving out personal information like where you live and such.  Part of your job is to establish trust with your patients and that’s hard to do when you’re avoiding their questions.  Just make sure to examine your motives behind what you share.  Are you sharing to fulfill your own need to be understood, or are you sharing to put your patient at ease and to communicate effectively?”

“So, it’s ok to share as long as I use that to put them more at ease?  Then they’ll be more interested in sharing with me in the future when I redirect to help them?”

“Yes, it’s ok.  Just remember when you start down that path that boundaries are important for a reason.  If you get too close or share too much, it could be detrimental to both you and your patient.  There’s a fine balance that takes a lot of practice, but with time you should be able to get the hang of it.”
“Oh thank you so much for your advice Mother Goose!  I’m so excited that there’s hope and I don’t have to be so distant from my patients in order to take good care of them!  High ho, high ho, it’s off to work I go…” and off she went to try her hand once again at therapeutically communicating with Mr. Grumpy in room 7, but this time with a little more understanding and preparation.


As nurses, we ask our patients all sorts of personal questions not only to develop a professional relationship with them, but also because it’s an important aspect of coordinating their care.  Not only that, but we hold their physical well-being in our hands and demonstrate that as we assess them and provide them with their prescribed treatment.  So, it’s only natural that our patients try to learn a little more about the people who are providing such important care, not only to relieve some of the discomfort, but also to feel reassured that their provider is human and cares.  However, while trying to maintain professional boundaries in the nurse-patient relationship, it seems like some nurses err on the side of remaining very distant from their patients rather than developing a strong relationship with them.  While we want to provide patient-centered care, it can sometimes be very difficult to create that therapeutic nurse-patient relationship.

Now, there are very good reasons for establishing strong boundaries and enforcing them.  I’m not advocating that we should throw those out the window, I’m just saying that in the nurse’s effort to find the right balance, many patients have had a hard time connecting with and trusting their healthcare providers.  I love the description of a therapeutic relationship that Nursing Made Incredibly Easy gives and it’s worth quoting: “A therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is defined as a helping relationship that's based on mutual trust and respect, the nurturing of faith and hope, being sensitive to self and others, and assisting with the gratification of your patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through your knowledge and skill.”  How can you develop mutual trust and respect or be sensitive to your patients if you don’t connect with them?

Image via National Council of State Boards of Nursing
So nurses, don’t be afraid to share some information about yourself in order to foster that therapeutic relationship.  Of course, when you do, be safe with what you share and remember to keep in mind that the motive behind doing so is for the patient’s good, not to fulfill your own personal needs.  Just remember, your patients want to trust that you’re looking out for their best interest.  Distance yourself too much and they might feel that you’re not trustworthy or that you don’t really care about them.  Show them that you’re not just interested in checking off a box on your to do list, and you might just be surprised by the healthy impact that you can have on their lives.

P.S.  To all the patients and families that have touched our hearts out there, thank you for giving us the honor of taking care of you in your most vulnerable times.

What do you think?  Do you agree that you have to share a little bit of yourself to develop trust with people? Have you ever had a hard time communicating therapeutically with your patients? 

Medical Morales to Remember:

  • According to Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, “A therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is defined as a helping relationship that's based on mutual trust and respect, the nurturing of faith and hope, being sensitive to self and others, and assisting with the gratification of your patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through your knowledge and skill.” 
  • Don’t be afraid to share some details about your own life to put your patient and their family at ease, but use it as a way to develop a therapeutic relationship and conversation for your patients.
  • Make sure that the “nurse-client relationship and nursing strategies are developed for the purpose of promoting the health and well-being of the client and not to meet the needs of the nurse” - College of Nurses of Ontario 

Additional Resources:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Laughter is the Best Medicine: Giveaway Results

Congratulations to Pointman2007, the winner of the $25 Amazon E-Card Giveaway!  And thank you again to all who participated and to all who have supported Nurseables!  Here’s a little taste of some of the jokes that were submitted and a couple of my favorites too.  Do you have a favorite nursing or medical joke to add?  Leave a comment below and share it with us!

What is the difference between an oral and a rectal thermometer?... The taste!
-          Pointman2007

Hospital regulations require a wheelchair for patients being discharged. However, while working as a student nurse, I found one elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet, who insisted he didn’t need my help to leave the hospital.

After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let me wheel him to the elevator. On the way down, I asked him if his wife was meeting him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “She’s still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown.”
-          James Nau

Three nurses died & went to heaven where they were met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter. To the first, he asked, "What did you do on Earth and why should you go to heaven?" "I was a nurse in an inner city hospital," she replied. "I worked to bring healing and peace to the poor suffering city children." "Very noble," said St. Peter. "You may enter." And in through the gates she went.

To the next, he asked the same question, "So what did you do on Earth?" "I was a nurse at a missionary hospital in Africa," she replied. "For many years, I worked with a skeleton crew of doctors and nurses who tried to reach out to as many peoples and tribes with a hand of healing and with a message of God's love." "How touching," said St. Peter. "You too may enter." And in she went.

He then came to the last nurse, to whom he asked, "So, what did you do back on Earth?" After some hesitation, she explained, "I was just a nurse at an H.M.O." St. Peter pondered this for a moment, and then said, "Okay, you may enter also." "Whew!" said the nurse. "For a moment there, I thought you weren't going to let me in." " Oh, you can come in," said St. Peter, "but you can only stay for three days..."
-          Colleen (found at

A hospital posted a notice in the nurses’ lounge that said: “Remember, the first five minutes of a human being’s life are the most dangerous.” Underneath, a nurse had written: “The last five are pretty risky, too.”

It’s hard to live with a nurse because…
  • When you forget to flush the toilet, you get a complete analysis with a plan on how to correct any noted problems.
  • Thanksgiving dinner comes in pre-cut small pieces because he doesn’t want to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver and be reminded of work on the only holiday he’s had off in years.
  • You’ve been awakened from a dead sleep in the middle of the night to find her shaking you because your breathing patterns were a little too close to a Cheyne-Stokes rhythm.