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Creating Resilient Cultures in Healthcare

The Compassion to Care

photoena scaledLast month I had one of the highlights of my speaking career by opening the Emergency Nurses Association Conference in Indianapolis for 2500 nurses. I felt I had really come home, not only because I worked as an emergency room nurse for 23 years, but because I also grew up in Indianapolis.

In contrast, we lost Buckie, our beloved 13½ year old golden retriever. With me since he was 7 weeks old, he provided great joy and support during a very difficult transition in my life, with his unconditional love and healing companionship.

One of the best ways to deal with the difficult times in our lives is to practice compassion. Compassion means to be kind—to yourself and others. Period.

As we waited for the veterinarian to arrive from Caring Pathways to put Buckie to rest, I petted him, fed him ice chips, and told him how much I loved him. Even though part of me wanted to load him in the car and try to fix him, it was a great comfort for me to know the most compassionate thing for Buckie was to let him go in the most peaceful and comfortable way at home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you have ever lost a pet, you know the pain of continuing to look for them and feeling the unexpected waves of grief long after they are gone. Although I will never forget Buckie, the mindfulness practices help me remember these overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness will pass.

The best thing I can do is treat myself with loving kindness and stay with my mindfulness practices of yoga, meditation and deep breathing. I also like taking a compassion break, which calms your mind and keeps you connected to your loving heart.

Whether you have lost a pet or are experiencing any other situation that brings you pain and suffering, it just takes a few moments for a compassion break.

  • Feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
  • Say to yourself:

    This is a moment of suffering.

    Suffering is a part of life.

  • Now place your hands over your heart and feel the warmth and gentle touch of your hands and say:

    May I be free from suffering.

This is a true act of compassion for yourself because you are acknowledging your pain, universalizing it, and then asking for relief from it. Repeat as necessary. It takes the compassion to care for yourself and everyone else in your life.

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