Spark

Perspectives, news, and announcements from the Center that will ignite your passion for wellbeing.

Empowering Healthier Lives

May 5, 2015

LAURIE KUBES, DNP Sometimes, patients require more than just medical advice from their healthcare practitioners. That was the case for many of the patients Laurie Kubes, DNP, saw at the Minneapolis VA hospital. Her patients knew the information, and they were well cared for, but their chronic conditions remained constant burdens to them. She recalls patients with diabetes struggling to even check their blood sugar daily. “Often, it was the same visit over and over. The patients were tired and losing hope,” Kubes said. But years later, patients have taken control and are living more rewarding lives. “My patients finally understood, ‘this is for me, not my provider,’ and I was able to be a part of that realization," she said. Kubes had changed the way she interacted with patients. That new approach led them to take charge of their wellbeing. She was embodying the principles of integrative nursing, and with it, she saw immense improvements in not just one patient – but many. She was empowering change. Figuring out how to inspire patients wasn’t a particularly easy feat. It required guidance and education, which Kubes found through the Center for Spirituality & Healing. “My training through the Center provided me with the foundation for a life that is meaningful and matters to me,” Kubes said. “This helped me better counsel my patients about their own wellbeing.” Kubes was part of the first cohort in the University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in Integrative Health and Healing program, a collaboration between the Center and the School of Nursing. A fellow VA nurse, Judy Wagner, DNP was also in that cohort, and after graduating, the two sought to apply what they learned in their own units at the Minneapolis VA hospital.

JUDY WAGNER, DNP “Everybody wants to be as independent as possible, so it’s crucial for veterans to gain confidence in their ability to take charge of their own care,” Wagner said. “We want them to recognize that they don’t have to be reliant on someone else to heal. We can partner with the veteran and support them on their healing journey. As nurses, we want to offer them the tools to do that.” At the end of the DNP program, Wagner and Kubes realized that they could impact not just the veterans they worked with every day, but the hospital as a whole, too. Last winter, Kubes, Wagner, and several other nurse leaders led a session on integrative nursing at an annual training seminar for more than 900 nurses. They discussed self-care and integrative therapies that can improve wellbeing or help manage chronic conditions. “By the time the class was done, everyone had taken something away from it,” Wagner said. Today, Wagner and Kubes are co-directing a newly-formed Integrative Health Program for the entire hospital. Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder and director of the Center, and co-coordinator of the DNP-IHH program, finds it rewarding to see students initiating systems change to make integrative health more accessible for patients. “The VA is very committed to providing whole person care and our veterans deserve nothing less than that,” Kreitzer said. Each person walks away from the Center with a different perspective, but all strive for the same goal: to improve the lives of others. Not only the veterans, but their co-workers, too.

JACKIE BLOOD, RN “Taking care of ourselves makes us better nurses, physicians, therapists, etc.,” said Jackie Blood, RN, who works in the VA Oncology unit. “If we aren’t implementing integrative health and healing into our own lives, how can we apply  it to our patients?” Blood, like Wagner and Kubes, is working to keep integrative healing moving forward at the VA. She writes a column for the quarterly newsletter, PRN Paper, and gives insight from what she is learning as a student in the Center's Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching master's degree program. She’s already seen how her education at the Center has impacted the way she cares for patients, and in turn, has impacted their wellbeing. “In the oncology unit, it can be a hard to cope with a diagnosis,” Blood said. “But when somebody is an active participant in their own healing, they become empowered to make lifestyle choices from their own inner wisdom. That could be choosing an integrative therapy that alleviates stress or pain, or whatever it may be that helps them live meaningful lives. But we aren’t telling them what to do. We just facilitate the conversation.” It’s pioneers like Blood, Kubes, and Wagner that spread the Center’s mission. Each cohort includes passionate and committed students, who continue to initiate positive systems change, said Debbie Ringdahl, DNP, RN, who is the co-coordinator of the DNP-IHH program with Kreitzer. “There are people, and nurses in particular, who work by the bedside but also in leadership positions, that have the capacity to understand both patients needs and the need for system changes,” Ringdahl said. “They have the opportunity to introduce a different option of care that looks at the whole person.” The Integrative Health Program is young, and still developing, but seeing the change these women have helped lead at the VA in the last few years leaves Ringdahl and the others hopeful for a larger, systemic change in healthcare nationally. “One of the students in our second cohort said that ‘DNP,’ for her, meant doors of new possibilities,” Ringdahl said. “I think about that, and that’s what these students are doing. They’re opening up new doors every day. They go back to their jobs, or they go to new institutions with new roles, and they create change from the ground up. Seeing that change in my lifetime, and the relative speed of it in the last five years… It doesn’t get much better than that.”

When Kubes, Wagner and other nursing leaders started educating nurses at the Minneapolis VA hospital about integrative health and healing, there were more than 900 nurses to train, and only so much time. They found a valuable resource at the Center for Spirituality & Healing. The Center produces online modules with integrative nursing scenarios as well as learning modules covering numerous integrative therapy topics. After nurses completed the educational sessions, they were then able to complete the Center’s online module on Clinical Aromatherapy as the final requirement before being able to practice with essential oils in a clinical setting. “Because it’s through the Center, we know this is high-level training,” Kubes said. “It exposes practitioners to other resources, too. There are so many modules on the site that they can use to deepen their understanding of integrative healing and become aware of the options available for their patients.” The modules are free and online, making integrative therapies more accessible for nurses and their patients. “We know this is a source where our nurses can get good, evidence-based information,” Wagner said.

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Mandala is a biannual magazine produced by Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing. It captures the core aspects of the Center: reflection, transformation, spirituality, creation, and the ongoing journey that continues to shape what we are to become.

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The Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing blog covers a range of integrative health and wellbeing topics. For more information about our blog, contact us at csh@umn.edu