Dr. Rhodes and Dr. Reuben

The Retreat for Nurses is the brainstorm from Dr. Renee Rhodes, clinical psychologist/sculptor and featured myself and Dr. Nancy Reuben, physician/energy healer. Catherine Buchanon led the discussion groups. Readers of this site will remember another creation from Renee, the Gaia’s Lament art show in New London, Connecticut. The first Retreat for Nurses was held October 17 at Renee’s exquisite retreat center in Killingworth, CT. There will be more.

Renee recognized the tremendous strain that nurses undergo on a daily basis and wanted to do something about it. They bring a high level of compassion, caring, and courage into a dangerous, antiquated system that is often at cross purposes with their mission of healing. She felt that Nancy and I could bring new insights and practical tools that would be of value to those on the front lines.

Nancy led off with a condensed description of an energetic view of healing, interspersed with insights from quantum physics and her own research and experience. She balanced her

Dr. Reuben

theoretical exploration by addressing how each of us in the room deals with he stresses of life and work. She successfully integrated her decades of practical knowledge with love, compassion, and humor.

I called my presentation The Kungfu of Nursing, comparing it to my own brand of “love-based martial arts”.  Here is what I wrote to the nurses as an introduction:

The Kung Fu of Nursing

Nursing is an example of the highest form of martial art: a love-based martial art. It seeks to protect and empower not only self but others. It faces up to sickness and death with courage and compassion and caring. It challenges body, mind, and spirit in ways that would overwhelm most people, and must do so even when underappreciated and undercompensated.

As in all martial arts, nursing skills must be developed by “kung fu” (gongfu): diligent practice over time. Nobody gets it from a textbook. It takes time and effort. There are real consequences to actions and inactions, and a nurse must be truly present and engaged to be effective.

The Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that nursing is the third most dangerous profession. (Police officers and corrections officers.) ER nurses are frequently assaulted, physically and verbally. Frustrations with an unfair, expensive, and inefficient medical system are sometimes directed at the most available person, the nurse.

It is a physically demanding job. One study showed that worldwide, the average nurse lifts about 1.8 tons per shift. Some work 12 hour shifts with little change to eat or even take a bathroom break. Crowded work conditions and fatigue often lead to injuries.

Bullying from doctors and other nurses takes many forms and is designed to establish a pecking order. Administrations don’t back up legitimate complaints from nurses, who may be fired from their jobs for bucking the established order.

Old stereotypes about the profession prevail and cause the nurse to be objectified by patients, doctors, staff, and other nurses. This has a dehumanizing effect that undercuts the honest desire to help and can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, and PTSD.

Deaths due to medical error are a big problem in the U.S. How much of that is due to the overwhelming and unnecessary stresses placed on those who are most dedicated to the care of patients?

Simple Tools that Create a Big Effect

RB at Nurses seminar

I have pursued my own kung fu for the past 35 years: Chinese internal martial arts, particularly t’ai chi. I have been teaching for over 25. In that time, I have found many simple tools that produce big results. In this seminar, I have adapted several key ones to the needs of nurses.

The underlying intention of my love-based martial art is identical to that of the kung fu of nurses: Protect and Heal. While I would recommend it heartily, I understand that most nurses don’t have the time and energy to pursue advanced martial arts training. I have isolated some key elements that can be practiced all day, every day, and will only add to your energy and peace of mind.


Which Tools? 

The challenges that face nurses are similar to those of the love-based martial artist:

How do I summon the physical power to protect and heal?

How do I confidently hold my position in space and time?

How do I know what is the appropriate energy and action for the situation NOW?

How do I get out of my own way in order to maximize effectiveness?

How do I respond with Love rather than Fear?

How do I continue to learn and improve and develop my kungfu (gongfu)?

The tools I offered to the nurses were the same ones I teach my martial arts students, and the same ones I write about. I could only offer a whirlwind tour on this day, since time was short. But I wanted to show them what else was possible. It is always important to me to allow people to actually experience the transformative power of this stuff…even if I know that they won’t master it in such a short time. Hopefully, if you see what even a little regular effort will produce then there will be incentive to continue.

The Tools:

Even though we moved at a brisk pace through all this, everyone got a taste. And we had fun. Many thanks to Renee, Nancy, Catherine, and all who contributed to making it so special. One nurse offered this feedback:

“I’ve being learning about mindfullness recently and all the content tied into this theme……..I loved having indepth chats in the small groups……it helped me a lot to realise that i am not alone in my struggles at work……its everywhere!!!!!! short staffing,mean co workers, difficulties dealing with MDs…….I’m not so unique. Nancy and Rick are special people…..and so humble…..they both are super smart and ingenious with their ideas, but yet they are one with the people in the room………so amazing……….so kind……..so calming……..and I learned a lot!!!!!”

The next one is scheduled for sometime in January. I will keep you posted.