Tag Archives: Effective Communication

Top Ten Tips to Thrive in Nursing School

Top Ten Tips to Thrive in Nursing School is based off of a lecture I gave last February to the nursing students at Anoka Ramsey Community College. I wished I had some of these insights while I was going through nursing school myself, it would have made my experience a lot smoother. My intent is that you can find the space to receive the information and better yet, start to implement some of the steps listed here to make your life and time in school more enjoyable. As in most learning, laying a good foundation is an essential first step. For nurses, self-care is good care.

Be compassionate to yourself.

Do not compare yourself to others under any circumstances.

Action steps:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Recite an affirmation daily that helps you, for example, “I am learning exactly what I need to learn in exactly the right timing and the perfect opportunities are showing up for me.”

Beef up your support system.

Connect with people whom adore you and will support you, but also help you stretch when you need a swift push into your fullest potential.

Action steps:

  • Get an accountability partner who is in school with you so you can study and offer support to one another.
  • Ask your loved ones if they are willing to offer you extra support during this time and if they agree, suggest ways they can help you, such as babysit your kids, do your grocery shopping, help you clean your house.

Practice grounding techniques at least once a day.

This will keep you grounded in your physical body so that you are more in tune with what it is that your body/emotions/spirit needs, which makes coping with stress easier.

Action steps:

  • Practice mindfulness meditation-setting the intention to try this and sitting quietly for even five minutes to observe whatever comes up for you without placing any judgement on those things-emotions-physical sensations-thoughts. Practicing mindfulness will reduce your tendency to react and will improve your general awareness which can reduce stress.
  • Start a yoga practice-yoga is simple and can be practiced anywhere that you can find a chair or a space large enough to roll out a yoga mat. Start with the basics and build from there.
  • Breath Work-shift your focus inward and notice your breath. Just doing this causes you to relax a bit. After a few minutes of noticing your breath pattern, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this ten times very slowly. We tend to use a shallow breathing pattern in our day to day activities. When you take deep belly breaths it actually helps you relax by sending a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system that it is ok to relax. This is very helpful when you are running on a chronic stress pattern in the body.
  • Get out in nature and reconnect to the planet. It is even better if you are able remove your shoes and feel the earth, dirt, water, and sand on your feet. The feet have a lot of information to share with us about our health and wellness. Just connecting with nature can remove the level of overwhelm we feel at times. It is a reminder that the universe is always supporting us and that everything is probably going to be okay.

Move every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Exercise is a great way to decompress and manage tension, stress, and anxiety.

Action steps:

  • Get up and stretch in the morning.
  • Park your car farther away than usual.
  • Always take the stairs when you can.
  • Dance with you kids or your partner.
  • Do little micromovements with your body while you are driving.
  • If you are sitting all day, get up at least every hour and pretend you are jumping rope or do some stretching.

Eat one meal a day for your immune system.

Imagine a meal that incorporates all the colors of the rainbow-the bright colors represent phytonutrients-the parts of food that help us stay well and fight disease.

Action steps:

  • Make smoothies a few times a week. (Save time by placing all the ingredients in a ziploc and store in the freezer until you are ready to make the smoothie, then just toss what’s in the ziploc in the blender and you are ready to go.
  • Eat all veggies for a meal.
  • Buy and prepare (wash and chop) raw veggies so they are ready to grab and go from the fridge. It is easier to make healthier choices when you have already done the work and are short on sleep and high on stress. When you provide your body the right fuel, you are less vulnerable to getting sick and your energy level with be higher.

Be a master at time management.

Chances are, there are pockets of time in your day that you are unaware of. When we don’t have awareness or boundaries around how we spend our time, things like surfing social media or netflix binge watching can easily eat up an hour or more.

Action steps:

  • Take the time to go through the process of charting how you spend your time now. Literally document what you do for an entire day and for how long. If you can afford it, document a typical week this way. Then create your schedule in a way that works for your style and include everything you need to do from attending class to studying to working out.
  • Get in a routine and you will become very efficient and you will be surprised when you are diligent how much you can get done.
  • When you are doing something give it your full attention. Distractions are rampant and just because you are good at something, like multi-tasking, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Cluster like activities together and schedule them that way. Grocery store/ meal plan/prepping, laundry/cleaning, phone calls/emails. Color code your activities if you are more visual.

Covet your “you time.”

At least once a week make a date with yourself on your calendar to nurture your creative nature.

Action steps:

  • Try Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ book that recommends journaling for fifteen minutes first thing in the morning when you wake up.
  • Take a detox bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender and use epsom salts.
  • Dance in your living room or at a class.
  • Go see a movie.
  • Check out a local museum.
  • Go to an art exhibit.
  • Take a pottery class.
  • Pick up your old paint brushes.
  • Draw.

If you get stuck, reflect on the things that brought you complete joy as a child and do that. Use this time to nurture your creative side that tends to get lost as we enter into young adolescence and adulthood.

When we fill our cups on a regular basis we are essentially filling our tanks, just like placing our own oxygen masks before placing it on another. If we are expected to be role models we must be able to walk the talk, I believe that means nurturing our emotional, physical, and spiritual selves and committing to taking the time to do so. Exhibiting to the world that we are worth it. It also gives others permission to do the same and it’s healthy.

Honor your body’s sleep requirement daily.

Getting adequate sleep is paramount to overall health. Adequate sleep refers to sleeping long enough to engage in rapid eye movement, the cycle of sleep that offers deep rest and the opportunity for the brain to assimilate all the information that it has processed during the waking hours. Without this sleep, the brain gets backed up and can cause premature aging and an overall feeling of forgetfulness. People who do not get adequate sleep can also have dysregulated hormonal regulation of leptin and ghrelin. These are the hormones responsible for appetite and satiety (satisfaction). This means if you don’t sleep enough, you will probably wake up hungry and no matter what you ingest, you will never be satisfied.

Action steps:

  • Develop healthy sleep hygiene habits that signals to your body that it is time to start unwinding and preparing for sleep.
  • Restore the body and mind before hopping in the bed with things like a cup of warm sleepy time tea.
  • Do some gentle stretching or yoga.
  • Shut off the technological devices at least two hours prior to sleep.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Enjoy a good book that is not too stimulating. A famous neurologist once said, “we have to learn to put the brakes on before we get into the garage.”

Keep close tabs on your energy balance.

Energy imbalances cause illness. Your energy includes everything from your “subtle” energy which includes your thoughts and feelings all the way down to your physical energy. Abstain from relationships and people who pollute your life with their toxic and unhealthy ways. Pay attention to how your nutrition affects your mood and your health.

Action steps:

  • Set really strong boundaries and do not let negative people seep their toxic energy into your energy field.
  • Be respectful of others and demand respect of yourself from others as well. If others cross that boundary, be sure to address it in a respectful way, but let them know you will not engage with others that do not respect you.
  • Nutrition is a great way to maintain good energy balance. Be aware of how much caffeine/sugar/processed food you are eating and how it makes you feel.
  • Drink plenty of clean water and avoid using plastic bottles. Use glass if possible or BPA free options.
  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible and avoid foods that are processed and full of genetically modified organisms.
  • Practice dry body brushing once a week. Buy a body brush from your local drug store and run the brush over your arms, legs, torso, chest, and back in a motion that is working towards your heart on dry skin just before you take a shower. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and invigorates the lymphatic and circulatory system.
  • Get rid of any bath/home/beauty products that contain harmful ingredients like parabens or phthalates. Check out environmental working group’s website for all the latest safety info on food, skin, and home products. www.ewg.org.

Saving the best for last. If you don’t take away anything from our time together, remember this:

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ask if you are ever unsure about anything.

Chances are, ten other people have the same question but are too scared to ask. There is never a dumb question.

Action step:

  • Asking questions is courageous and the right thing to do; especially when it comes to caring for another person’s health. You will be faced with numerous situations as a new nurse, that will be scary and if you ever don’t know the answer or how to do something, it’s always safer to ask than to just assume you know how to do something if you aren’t 100% sure.
  • You must give yourself permission to put yourself first. Your health and vitality is a choice. Choose wisely now, because your choice will affect you today, tomorrow, and in the next ten years. You are worth it to take care of yourself.

I can help you do that. Head over to my About page on my site and complete the contact form. Knowing how to care for yourself is an art form, and not one that is always taught in nursing school.

Nursing is soul work and to do soul work, you must practice effective self-care techniques that provide you the space and nourishment you deserve that will keep you well as you take care of others.

Nursing is not only soul work, but it is superhero work and it certainly isn’t for sissies. If you have made the commitment to attend, complete, and pay for nursing school, you can’t give up now.

This is where the rubber meets the road. It is your time to shine.

Please share other tips that you feel have helped you thrive in nursing school or in your career.



Nurse Boss-a blog series for nurses

Welcome to the 10th installment of Nurse Boss. A blog series dedicated to nurses.

I was guided to create this series after a spark of creativity within my soul felt that it would help thousands of nurses.

My hope is that these interviews will ignite a spark in you or stir your inner landscape in a way that propels you to dream big and go after what it is that you desire in life and career.

A Nurse Boss is a nurse who has created a lifestyle that aligns their passion with their natural gifts and energy style in a way that helps others while also honoring their own body, mind, and soul. A nurse boss walks their talk and they are open to receive the abundance that is theirs.

I am delighted to share the work of Nurse Boss, Beth Boynton. We have not met in person, but her energy and passion are pervasive. I love her promotion of  the empowerment of nurses and bringing “Improvoscopy:Serious Play for Safe Care” into healthcare. What a great way to teach excellent communication skills in difficult situations in a fun, laid back manner.


1. What are you doing now?

I’m developing, promoting, and providing workshops that use improv techniques to teach emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to healthcare professionals. I’ve been teaching and writing about communication etc for over a decade and these experiential techniques are lots of fun and the learning can be profound.

I believe that all healthcare professionals and organizations should have access to some of the fundamental experiences because they can help us make healthcare safer and more compassionate. For patients and ourselves! Not all have time or money to afford hiring a consultant so I want to build a free website that will help others to teach a few improv activities. I have a crowdsource funding project going on right now and am asking for help in promoting and backing. It’s called “Improvoscopy: Serious Play for Safe Care”. (If you can help I’d be very grateful!)

2. Did you always have the desire to do what you are doing now or did someone or something create a spark in you that made you realize this was your calling?

I love this question. I don’t think consciously, but on some spiritual level, yes. My undergrad degree was a BS in biochemistry with a minor in theatre and communication. That was before nursing! 🙂

My Mom passed away a few months ago and I’ve been reflecting a lot on my journey and family and do believe that helping people communicate, collaborate, and manage conflict more effectively is my life’s work. I remember over 20 years ago, as an Occupational Health Nurse trying to start a business that focused on avoiding adversarial relationships between injured workers and management! 🙂

3. Why is nursing a great launchpad for nurses who want to create their own lifestyle doing what they love?

There are so many specialties and career paths not to mention work opportunities all over the world 24/7/365. Nurses who know what they love or are figuring that out can earn a living and do meaningful work and weave that in with their life circumstances. I’ve written 2 books and developed my consulting business while working per diem in home health and long term care for many years!

4. What is the ultimate characteristic of a nurse boss?

The ability to inspire (and support) others to do and become their very best and as you say in your wonderful definition, while taking good care of themselves too. Respecting self and others seems integral and no surprise that both are part of emotional intelligence.

5. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced to get to where you are now? How were you able to overcome them?

There is a lot of resistance to nurses being fully empowered. More complicated because it involves a shift in power from dynamics that are very old. Gender, social norms, religion, history, even survival are in the mix!

Part of my success is persistence and a compelling sense of purpose. I’m also continuing to learn that it isn’t my job to “make” people listen or speak up, it is my job to use my gifts, skills, and wisdom to provide resources to those wanting to develop the skills. This interview is an example of time well-spent for me and I appreciate those who are curious and interested in my story.

6. What does your current job allow you to do that traditional nursing did not?

I can be healthier in mind, body, and spirit. I almost left healthcare in the early 2000s because I was learning about being assertive for myself. (I was always good at being assertive for patients but not so great at identifying and speaking up for my own needs.) I found it very difficult to practice my new ‘self-care’ skills in toxic cultures. Soooooo, I went to grad school for organization and management. I focused on group dynamics, coaching, organizational development, emotional intelligence (EQ) and the like. My practicum was a model that used theatre activities to build emotional intelligence in children. I did that for a while and then had a chance to teach a graduate course for healthcare professionals.

I got turned on to healthcare again by the privilege of working with some passionate students and realized that we need the same stuff in nursing etc! In my textbook, “Successful Nurse Communication: Safe Care, Healthy Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers”, I have a whole chapter on self care. I mention this because the publisher, F.A. Davis has been so supportive of me being honest and so indirectly are supporting the work nurses do. It helps me to keep the faith that positive change is happening and support is out there as I become better at looking in the right places and knowing what I’m looking for!

7. For nurses who feel stuck in their careers what words of wisdom do you have to help inspire them to break out of their status quo?

Make yourself a priority! I think it is super important to do at least one thing that gives you joy or at least supports something that feels important to you. Know that you deserve to work in a culture where you feel supported and that if you don’t, you are not alone. Changing that may be tough with financial demands or life circumstances and getting unstuck may be a long process of discovery. Get help from your friends and family. I had a lot of help from a psychotherapist and feel that the work we did together continues on and has been very powerful.

8. What resources can you share for nurses wanting to explore creating their own gig that actually pays them?

The National Nurses in Business Association is a great starting place. There is a FB page for nurse entrepreneurs too. It can be wise to keep your “day job” as it can take a while to get your business off the ground. Passion about your goal and patience will help too!

Now for fun:
9. What book or publication is currently on your nightstand?

    The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. A 3-generation saga about the struggles of a young boy and his eventual wife and some history of India, Burma, and Malaysia. (A special book b/c I was visiting my son in India when he bought it and then loaned to me!)

10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

Extra crispy fried chicken! Emmmmmm!

11. How can we get in touch with you?

[email protected], www.confidentvoices.com,


How becoming a yoga teacher helped improve my communication with doctors and made me a better nurse

I am sure you are curious about what yoga has to do with my nurse career……everything!

Never in a million years did I think that completing yoga teacher training would improve my nursing career or make communicating with doctors easier.

Then it happened.

I have practiced nursing for seventeen years. Ten of those, I spent working in a busy electrophysiology lab (that’s the circuitry division of the cardiac catheterization lab).

These were by far some of the best days of my practice! For those of you who practice in an operative type setting are aware of the relationships you create when working in this environment.

For those who do not work in this type of environment, I will share, that when you work in this type of setting, you become very close with all of the people who are part of that team. The doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians, device company clinicians, and others who support all the equipment you use in your day to day operations treating patients. For me, it was patients with heart rhythm disturbances. Working in such conditions, gives you a back stage pass to all the ins and outs of these team members’ lives and their idiosyncrasies.

Every human has their “buttons.” When under stress, a time crunch, or just having a crummy day these buttons get pushed and depending on the person (and whether or not they’ve had their coffee, it’s a full moon, or mercury is in retrograde), the people on the receiving end may receive an unwarranted dose of yelling or personal attacks.

It is ok to be crabby once in a while, but when people start yelling at others or throwing instruments, that crosses the line.

Prior to my yoga experience, whenever a physician was starting to engage in showing their frustration or anger by yelling, I would shut down and start to tread lightly, as if I were walking on egg shells. It never got to the point that I would not interject or interrupt the doctor on my patient’s behalf, but it always made me feel uneasy and like I was on high alert. It was as if they had some special power over me, and that I should be afraid of them.

This is never a good feeling to have as a nurse, because it can influence whether or not you speak up for your patient, which is never a good outcome.

Fast forward to my yoga teacher training. One of the doctors that I worked with agreed to be my “student” for yoga teacher training. I was both flabbergasted and ecstatic. A busy doctor taking the time and energy to help me complete my teacher training! Score! The exam went swell and after I received my certification the relationship that I had with said doctor changed forever.

I don’t know if it was that he had more respect for me, or what, but after that, I never every felt threatened, afraid, or worried about walking on egg shells again. It was as if we were now on a level playing field. I knew more about something than he did, and we were now equals in my mind.

At times when I could tell he was getting frustrated I would say, “you’re going to have to drop and give me fifteen chaturanga dandasana’s (a complex yoga move) if you keep it up.” That queue became his barometer for when he needed to cool it with his negative vibes. In an instant he would lighten up. That relationship spilled over into all of my relationships with doctors and made communicating with them so much easier.

I had this epiphany, that just because someone has MD after their name, does not give them the right to talk to me in a way that feels threatening or unkind.  I realized that we were on a level playing field and that they put their pants on just like me, one leg at a time.

This helped make me the best possible nurse, because I no longer stressed or walked on egg shells in certain situations. When we are under stress; especially chronically, we are far more likely to make errors. This puts us and our patients at risk. I had less stress (less potential for errors) and felt even more comfortable speaking up on behalf of myself and my patients (patient advocacy is crucial in great care, nurses are the eyes and ears of our patients and it is our duty to speak up when there is a change in their condition or a need to re-evaluate a previous plan of care). A win-win for all.

I respect and honor the hard work and schooling that doctors go through, but I will not allow a doctor, or anyone else for that matter to be disrespectful or rude to me. Having more education than me is no grounds for that type of behavior.

So, if you are feeling afraid or like you have to walk on egg shells at work, I get you. The great news is that you don’t have to go through yoga teacher training to change how you interact with people who are difficult. This applies to anyone who is being disrespectful to you and it doesn’t have to be at the workplace. No one deserves to be mistreated or treated disrespectfully.

The same goes for you, if you are the one treating others poorly. It goes both ways. You do not have the right to mistreat others.

When people are projecting that behavior, it is because they feel bad about themselves and use it as a way to make themselves feel better. Stop taking the bait.

The person being disrespectful is no better than you and they do not deserve your time or energy when they are speaking down to you or being disrespectful in some way. The best solution to this is to call them out on their behavior and say something like, “I can see that you are upset, however, I do not deserve to be treated this way and I am happy to give you my time and attention when you can treat me respectfully.” Then simply walk away.

Like attracts like. When we focus on our internal power (self-respect), we attract more power (respect). When we focus on our weaknesses, or what’s not “right” with us, we attract situations that highlight our weaknesses.

We all have parts of ourselves that we can improve upon. I call these opportunities. Continue to work on your “opportunities”, but also try to focus on what’s good and right with you, not on what’s not. You will attract positive, healthy, and empowering opportunities on your path. This will further empower you.

Please let me know what you are doing to improve your relationships with difficult people on or off the job and what has been successful for you. This post is for uplifting comments and encouragement. Let’s hear what’s working for you.

Sending you love and empowerment in life and work,


Three Crucial Lessons I Learned About Being A Healer, That Nursing School Could Not Teach Me

I feel so blessed by my nursing career and what it has allowed me to become (A Healed Healer). I offer up this post in gratitude on this day of Thanksgiving. I hope that you find some treasure in it that may serve your life in a positive way.

Nursing school is set-up to prepare nurses to take care of and guide patients. Nursing school gives nurses the skills and experiences in simulated and live environments to become master observers and assessors. Teaching students to be able to pick up on the obvious and subtle queues in hopes to prevent or stop a patient’s condition from going from bad to worse. This is no small task.

My introduction to the medical world first came from my father who was a physician and my mom who was a nurse. My parents divorced and eventually both remarried. Between them, were three physicians and a nurse. I got to see so much about health care.

I did not set out to become a nurse but decided after graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in exercise science that becoming a nurse would provide me with both opportunity and flexibility which were important to me, because someday I wanted to have a family.

Coming from a lineage of health care practitioners, I thought I would breeze through nursing school having had so much exposure to the medical world as well as my degree in exercise science. It turns out, my assumptions were way off base.

Nursing school was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I ate, drank, and slept nursing school. My entire focus was learning as much as possible so I could graduate and start practicing. The irony is, nursing school is essentially a big stress fest. I suppose in a way, it is just preparing nurses for the stressors of the job.

I wish there was a way to make nursing school less stressful. I don’t believe people learn as much when they are stressed out. I can remember many stressful times during my time in nursing school, that involved both stress from the classroom wondering if I would ever be able to remember everything and the fear of harming a patient during clinicals.

One such event sticks in my mind like it was yesterday, it involved skills lab and learning to give intramuscular injections.

My lab partner was absolutely petrified of giving shots. She demonstrated beautifully for me, how not to give an injection. As I sat waiting for her to inject my thigh with sterile saline, it was obvious she was terrified.  The fear was palpable in her facial expression and guarded body posture. This made me feel very anxious. She would reach toward my thigh, acting as if she was going to give me the injection, and would then freakout and pull back. I remember saying to her, “really, you have to just do it” and all the while I was thinking, you can not do this to a real person, because they would run away from you! That was a great lesson for me about the importance of body language and the importance of exuding confidence in front of your patients, even if you are frightened to death. In reflection, this is actually funny to me now, but at the time it was stressful for both of us.

I feel like I received a wonderful nursing education and after practicing nursing for seventeen years, I can say with confidence that there are three crucial lessons that nursing school did not teach me that would have been really nice to know.

Effective Communication Is the Cornerstone of Great Care

Effective communication is the cornerstone of good care. As patient advocates, a nurse absolutely must know how to communicate effectively and with ease. As they say, communication is everything. Effective communication involves both the written and spoken word and can mean the difference between life and death. A nurse must be able to communicate effectively with every person on the care team; but most importantly, their patients.

The Importance of Good Self-Care and Setting Boundaries

Nurses must be aware of the importance of setting and practicing firm boundaries and the necessity of practicing routine self-care. When a nurse has firm boundaries they are protecting their own health and not allowing external circumstances or people change how they care for themselves. Firm boundaries are also a crucial part of healthy communication with others. Nurses with firm boundaries demonstrate self-respect and when treated disrespectfully will respectfully communicate to anyone who is stepping over that boundary that they are doing so and will not engage with them when they are treating you in such a way. When nurses have weak boundaries it makes everything harder, especially making self-care a priority. Nurses are by nature, givers and sometimes prefer to give than receive. To navigate a career in nursing, that ensures the health and wellness of mind, body, and spirit, you must be willing to receive care for yourself and have firm boundaries.

A Nurse’s Job is Not to Fix People

As a nurse, it is not your job to “fix” people. Rather, the nurse’s role is to hold the space for patients to heal by reminding them that they have the capacity to heal and that nurses can help guide them. Caring for patients is stressful as it is and carrying the burden that it is the nurse’s job to fix patients sets nurses up for disappointment and feelings of failure. Nurses are guides and role models. The more nurses can model healthful living, the better it is for all.

Life is about the journey, not the destination. I have been a registered nurse for seventeen years and I have just come to the realization that I am far more than a nurse, I am a healer. I believe that a healer is a practitioner who poetically weaves evidence based science and compassionate care into the journey of a person’s life without so much as a second thought. I believe a healer also models a lifestyle that is holistic in nature and understands the interconnectedness of emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing. Living in such a way acts as a mirror for what others can do to optimize their own vitality.

This revelation or stroke of insight came from life experience and my own healing journey. I feel my journey may have been easier had I started out knowing these three lessons, but I also believe that we learn the lesson we need when we are ready. Either way, I feel blessed.

I wish only the best for you on your life journey. Remember that you already possess exactly what you need to thrive, sometimes you just need a gentle reminder.

What has your nursing school experience been like? What lesson has life taught you that school could not?

Peace and abundance,