1. Ernst, Lorraine S. RN, AHN-BC, MS

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As a nurse, taking on the role of a patient is a great deal more difficult than the relaxation CDs claim. When your nametag includes the title, "Holistic Nurse", the pressure is even greater to be all that your identification badge implies. As the calm and collected holistic guru at my hospital, I am usually the one who can relax and breathe serenity into any situation. To me, going from nurse to patient seemed to be an easy transition. With all that I am, how difficult could bunion surgery be?


Practicing what we preach?

The holistic nurse in me believed that when facing surgery, I should be able to stay calm and relaxed, keep my heart rate at a slow, steady pace, and maintain a BP at an even 110/70 mmHg. Of course, the pressure was intensifying knowing that while I wanted to be calm and relaxed, I felt everyone around me was expecting this.


When the day of surgery finally came, I wondered why in the world I had chosen my own hospital for my procedure. I checked in at the outpatient registration desk with all my paperwork and thought I was ready.


After completing my pre-op testing the week before, I used the rest of the time to meditate and practice remaining calm.


The admission process continued, requiring my ID and insurance information. People smiled at me, some giving that I-know-you-from-somewhere look. I told several people that I was a holistic nurse at the hospital.


I was finally escorted out of the waiting room and into the pre-op area, my husband in tow. After I changed into my gown, the traffic began. People came through the curtain with their questions and requests like a changing lane on the highway during rush-hour traffic.


With each visit, I could feel my heart rate rise and my face flush. The harder I tried to relax, the faster my pulse pounded and the higher my BP climbed. I even felt nervous-just for foot surgery. It's not like I was facing cardiac surgery like the patients I work with. I, the holistic nurse known for her calm demeanor and relaxation skills, was losing it! How could this happen?


Help finally arrives

Sitting there as a patient, I knew I needed some help. I was becoming more anxious. Even the surgeon came in and reassured me that I was going to be fine, but it didn't help. The flow of people continued, but it wasn't until I saw a name badge with the title "RN" on it that I knew I was going to be OK. The caring presence was something only a nurse could bring to calm my system and heal my heart.


The nurse sat down in the chair next to my husband and looked directly at me. She was at eye level and smiled. As she introduced herself, I started to feel calm. She then looked at my husband and said hello to him also. Her presence was all I needed. She didn't do anything or say anything extraordinary, but having her there was like a gentle flow of soft warm air that allowed me to breathe. It was the ever-present calm confidence with which the nurse approached me during her interview and nursing assessment that assured me I was in caring hands. I felt immersed in a space that allowed me to take a deep cleansing breath and let it out, carrying with it the nervous tension and stress that I was holding in.


She told me I was going to be OK at the exact moment I needed her reassurance, and it was given out of quiet expertise and genuine concern. I felt that she would look after me and that I really was going to be just fine. Despite having all the knowledge of holistic nursing as a profession, what I needed most as a patient was the caring presence of another nurse. OR