Early in her career, Dorothy Whitton, RN, MSN, AHN-BC, became fascinated by health practices that focus on relieving stress, accentuating the positive, and promoting mental and physical wellness. Whitton, who has been a nurse for 33 years, focuses on holistic nursing at her Nyack, N.Y., Healing Wisdom practice. She says her goal is to help nurses and patients understand the importance of self-care and practicing preventive medicine.
“Over time, I saw that patients were coming back — experiencing a frequency of similar problems. They expected medications or supplies to make them feel better, but I noticed that those things didn’t always make them feel better,” Whitton says.
Starts With Self
To inspire patients to take better care of themselves, nurses must first take care of themselves. “In general, nurses put themselves last,” she says. “Yet even on a plane, the flight attendants tell passengers that to take care of others, you must first put the oxygen mask on yourselves.” That means taking time for oneself by exercising, eating nutritious foods, and staying away from unhealthy habits.
It’s also important that nurses love what they do, she adds. “When you love what you’re doing, your body feels good. When you feel irritated or aggravated, it shows physically and it’s evident to others,” she says.
According to Whitton, nurturing one’s mental health and controlling stress are vital in the overall picture of wellness. She has learned Reiki, hypnosis, guided imagery, and more, to care for herself and her patients. “Especially when people are not feeling healthy or have received news that is not positive, we should expand our nursing model to help them with their emotional needs,” she says.
Power of the Positive
Whitton teaches a one-hour program to help patients get ready for surgery and, she says, to heal faster. The program’s focus is not only on preparing patients emotionally and spiritually, but also on helping them to understand the importance of connecting with other people. She recommends that patients tell people the times and days of their surgeries, so that friends and loved ones can send positive thoughts. “We use a lot of guided imagery, so that they can feel a connection of warmth and love,” she says.
To relieve stress, she also works to improve people’s perceptions. Having a gloom-and-doom perception and fearing pain works against the healing process. Whitton uses guided imagery to encourage soothing images of nature or water and deep breathing.
The idea is to build confidence, hardiness, and resilience so that no matter what happens, people feel they have support and love in their lives. Whitton also says that nurses can suggest that patients start the day with an affirmation. For example, if a patient is going to surgery, he or she could start the day with “I am healthy,” and continue reaffirming that thought throughout the day, even after the surgery.
For Ourselves and Our Patients
A Reiki master, Whitton uses the noninvasive, ancient, natural healing technique to promote relaxation, peacefulness, and calmness in her patients. By using the hands over the chakras, which are physical pathways through which the life force flows, Reiki practitioners allow the free flow of energy to nourish the organs and promote well-being.
“I became certified in hypnosis and use guided imagery and hypnosis for those who want to get rid of old belief patterns or certain behaviors, like smoking,” Whitton says. She offers group meetings and lectures in the mid-Hudson Valley region and runs workshops at Nyack Hospital, Nyack, N.Y.
There are many components to being healthy, including mental, physical, family, relationship, social, and career health. “It’s all related,” Whitton says. “When people interact with nurses, they want more than treatment and a ‘hello.’ They look to us to provide emotional and spiritual support. We have to improve our own self-care and relaxation opportunities. We should do that for ourselves and for our patients.”
Lisette Hilton is a frequent contributor to Nursing Spectrum and a freelance healthcare reporter.
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To read more about holistic nursing, go to http://include.nurse.com/article/20081208/NATIONAL02/ 110060079/-1/frontpage. For more information about Healing Wisdom, go to www.earthswisdom.com.