Advice to Holistic Nurses from Our Nurse Mentors
by Rebecca Cohen RN, EdD, HNB-BC, eNews Editor

In our February editorial, we talked about learning how to create change from our mentors. The nurse mentors that were discussed included Mary Natschke, Carla Mariano, Veda AndrusLori Knutson, and Marie Shanahan. Each of these individuals talked about the importance of having a vision and passion for the direction you are headed, remaining open to the many possibilities that emerge along the way, keeping your eye on the goal, and overcoming obstacles that you face with perseverance.

This month, as a follow-up to our conference theme (Holistic Nurses: Catalysts for Conscious Change), we would like to share some more of their wisdom:  Their advice to you on what they would do, or not do, again. Each of these nurse mentors looks back on her individual journey to discuss what she has learned. We hope that you will take these lessons with you, making your path a little easier.

Not surprisingly, each of the nurse mentors felt that relationships are key to creating change and achieving our goals. They may have each said it somewhat differently, but the message was clear.  Mary Natschke  RN, BAS, HNB-BC, IAC points out the benefits of relationships and the importance of relating to all people:

"When we engage in meaningful relationships with others, we are offered a rich learning occasion to discover something valuable. Engage with your whole being and seek to 'hear' the messages through all your senses. Relationships offer us the opportunity to be empathetic and see beyond our own limited vision. Seek also the wisdom of children as well as elders, as they have many gifts to share and enlighten our journey."

Carla Mariano Ed.D., RN, AHN-BC, FAAIM believes we should see every person as a teacher and every experience as a lesson.  Marie Shanahan MS, BSN, RN, HN-BC states we must trust our inner guidance and find a community of like-minded others.  She feels it is important to cultivate the quiet inner space one needs to "hear, see and feel" their path, and to act on the guidance you receive. It is important to reach out, mindfully and with intention, to others who will support you along the way because no change is brought forward or sustained without a community to make it happen. These sentiments are shared by Veda Andrus Ed.D., MSN, RN, HN-BC who writes: "It is critical to connect with like-minded companions on the journey. Find a mentor, someone who can serve as a touchstone. Listen to your heart (your inner knowing) and become a role model for others."

Another common theme in the advice provided is that risk taking is important. Mary Natschke believes that all opportunities and challenges along the way give us the possibility to grow, become enlightened and develop the knowing necessary to move forward.   Carla Mariano urges us to take risks, let go of ego, listen deeply to others and ourselves, learn to non-attach to the outcome, and trust Spirit and the Universe.

Taking risks, acting quickly and exhibiting passion, according to Lori Knutson RN, BSN, HN-BC all create the edge by which you find your true self. For her, knowing yourself is vitally important: What is your purpose and what are your gifts? But, it is important for us to know that being a holistic nurse does not mean that we  are perfect: We still experience anger, frustration, judgment, and wrong action. Holistic nurses must recognize that all of this and more exists, and that experiencing life to its fullest means not every moment is joyful. She states, "True leadership requires us to be vulnerable with those you serve, forgiving yourself when you lose sight of the path, and giving gratitude for all the lessons.”  In addition, Lori states that true visionary leadership requires us to "see what others do not and invite them to see what does not yet exist. When others can see the vision, then it becomes real." Finally, like Carla Mariano, Lori believes we must be unattached to outcomes. She believes that "in every choice you make, you learn what you need to do next. Leadership is not about fighting for what is needed, rather it is about a spiritual strategy to gain what you know is right to bring forward what is needed."

Likewise, Marie Shanahan encourages nurses to remember to do the work they are called to do. "While paychecks are important," she feels, "you can have purpose and passion and be paid for it, too. You may have to give up what is familiar for a while, but that's the fine print of a change agent's contract".

And finally, Carla Mariano urges us to remember this: Laugh a lot.

So for a short re-cap of the advice from our nurse mentors. Print this out and carry it with you as a quick reference guide whenever you need it:
1. Build strong  relationships
2. Don’t be afraid to take risks
3. Know yourself
4. Do the work you are called to do
5. Laugh a lot

Editors Note: The holistic nurses interviewed in the above article are just a handful of many who are advocating for change and transforming health care. If you, or someone you know, is currently acting as a catalyst for conscious change, please tell us how (in 50 words or less) and we’ll include it in our “Members in Action” section of the eNewsletter. Email your submissions to


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