The Nature Nurse™, PLLC is honored and grateful to share nurse Megan Culbertson's brave story about how she shifted her life to help serve during the early part of the Pandemic in order to help others, and how nature helped her.
Covid halted life for all of us as we knew it. With the Pandemic surging in various areas around the United States, I opted to quit my steady hospital job and dive into traveling nursing. My husband, who could work remotely, agreed. In four short weeks, we downsized from an 800-square-foot apartment to a 35-foot Recreation Vehicle (RV), which would now be our new home on wheels.
I took my first travel nurse contract in Washington, D.C. We fell in love with the RV life during our six months there. We were spending more time outside- exploring new parks and hiking trails, camping, and sitting by the campfire every night. For two people who love nature, this was our dream!
Nature-based self-care has been associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Working in Covid Units, I was experiencing high levels of stress and trauma every shift. Living in the RV, with nature right out the front door, became the antidote for my work life. Living in an RV naturally lent itself to spending more time outside, allowing nature to ease the stress, and heal my mind, body, and soul.
More Time Outdoors
When you are living in a tiny space- around 200 square feet to be exact, your outside area becomes an extension of your home. Once we started living tiny, I found myself outside even more. Coffee on the porch in the morning, time around the fire every night, cooking out regularly. Our outdoor space is an extension of our home, and we love it.
Camping & Hiking
One of the great things about living in an RV is the ability to take you home wherever you want to visit. We have been able to visit many national parks, state parks, and campgrounds. If you feel you need to be even closer to nature, it’s easy to lock up the camper and take your tent out for a few days. Research has shown connecting with nature by camping, has even greater healing benefits, including helping us sleep better.
Time Near the Water
Personally, being near water is one of my favorite forms of self-care. No matter what type of water- I find instant serenity. The RV life has allowed us to park near various rivers, creeks, and even the ocean. Kayaking has become a regular form of exercise and stress relief for my husband and me. We learned our dog, Declan also loves the beach. Our little family enjoys regular evening walks on the beach at sunset. Exercise, nature, and the sound of the ocean- a trifecta to reduce the stress of even the worst days.
Easier Traveling with Pets
While owning pets can be one of the best parts of life, it can create a barrier to travel. Travel nursing requires staying in a place for 8 weeks-3 months, longer if you extend your contract. Short-term housing is limited and expensive- adding in finding housing for pets and it becomes even more difficult. The RV allows us to easily travel with our pets, allowing us to travel and get outside more. Even if you are just looking for weekends away, an RV allows you to take a pet-friendly place to stay with you. This can enable you to visit family, parks, and new places easier (and many times for less money!)
While living in an RV is not for everyone, I think so many people could benefit from owning, or renting, a small RV to travel in on weekends and time off. The benefits you receive from more time closer to nature are endless!
Megan Culbertson, BSN, RN is the author of the Peace Love Nursing blog. Visit her blog to learn more about RV living, self-care, nursing, travel nursing, and mental health.
Wounded Veterans are doing it.
Kids, even those with autism, are doing it.
People living with paralysis are doing it.
Now, The Nature Nurse™, is on a mission to invite nurses to do it. Surf.
Being on, in, near or under water has been shown to have powerful healing benefits. (1) Surfing allows us to experience all four of these water engagement methods in one sport.
Veterans report that surfing facilitates a sense of respite from post-traumatic stress disorder (2) If surfing can help relieve stress in veterans, imagine what it could do for nurses? Nurses are experiencing high levels of burnout. (3) Could surfing be a tool to help nurses deal with stress too?
I decided to try it out for myself and bring another nurse, Annie, along to see how she would react. I consulted with professional surfer Tony Silvagni, who assured me he could get even me, a middle-aged woman with an old ankle dislocation and fracture injury, standing on a surfboard.
We ventured to Carolina Beach, North Carolina on a hot, sunny Monday-excited and a bit nervous. Tony personally paired us up with surf instructors who had the expertise to get us riding on top of the waves.
Nurse Annie, a former gymnast, was a natural. After just a couple of tries, she was standing on the board and riding it as long as the wave would take her. Our instructors and I chuckled as we watched her do the 'pop up' (the lunge from lying on the board to a standing position). Nurse Annie, rocketed up.
I, on the other hand, took quite a few times to get up, but falling off the board, the way we were taught, made it kind of fun. Then, my instructor, Lenny said, "This is your wave. Start paddling!"
Following his instruction, I paddled and felt the wave scoop me up and carry the board forward as if I had just taken flight. Feeling the momentum of energy around me, I effortlessly rose to a standing position as viewers on the beach cheered. Little did I know I was a source of entertainment for the past half an hour. The thrill was totally worth it! In fact, it lasted well into the next day.
Hear for yourself what Nurse Annie thought about her surfing experience:
Both Nurse Annie and I are excited to continue practicing surfing. Not only as a source of self-care, but potentially so we can help others, even those with medical needs, experience entrainment with the energy of the ocean. We would love other nurses to join us!
Nurses who want to join The Nature Nurse Surf Experience, please contact Susan Allison-Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Don’t you love when synchronicity hits? You’re thinking of someone and they call later that day. Maybe your husband comes home and announces he would like to go see a certain movie, one that you just bought tickets for. Those little moments in life when it seems like we have been sprinkled with fairy dust in order for something wonderful to happen.
Just this week I was thinking about my late friend, Christopher Reeve. His birthday is this Sunday, September 25. I was reminiscing about so many great times and the wisdom he and his late wife, Dana, shared with me on my morning walk. When I got home, I found an email from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation asking supporters, advocates, volunteers, researchers and ambassadors of the Reeve Foundation to shared stories of how the Reeve Foundation made a difference in their lives. It also just so happens to be Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. The stars were definitely aligning. I gave this question some thought and came up with two ways, one personal the other professionally, as a nurse.
On a personal note, I met the Reeve’s after I had moved in to a little cottage next door to their home in Bedford, NY. I didn’t know the home across the pond was theirs. At the time I was trying to recover from complicated grief after the loss of three significant family members the year before. We had just sold our family home, another secondary loss.
As I made my morning coffee each day, I looked out over the paddocks where the farm animals grazed and I would often see Chris’s big black van jet down the driveway, Dana often at the wheel. The fact that they got up each day and stayed active made me realize, alone at my pity party, that at least I can walk.
I began walking. Around the neighborhood at first, then eventually local trails, many of which Chris and Dana once rode horses on. It was their dog, Chamois, appropriately named for her soft creamy white fur, who introduced us. The curious Labrador stole one of my mittens while I was tying my ice skates as Dana and her son were skating on the frozen pond. A friendship that lasted for four years began that day and Chamois started joining me on my long walks. Chris and Dana shared a mutual understanding of loss, but we also shared a lot of laughs and support to live the best life we could despite what we missed. We enjoyed nature, gardening together and comparing what we noticed outside our windows.
As a nurse, Chris’s resolve and belief that a cure could be found for paralysis due to spinal cord injury was the ultimate example of where there is a will, there is a way. I had worked with people living with paralysis for thirteen years before I met Chris. I knew of the days when no one talked about hoping for a cure. Patients either accepted their situation and made the best of it or died of despair. I cared for a man who literally let himself rot to death despite being surrounded by people who wanted to help him. Chris changed all that by being audacious enough to believe there could be a cure. I watched as he participated in various modalities being tested. I often joked that he was in better shape than me as he worked out rigorously every morning. The best part is that today, there really is change due to that hope.
Today, thanks to a breakthrough using epidural stimulation, four young men can move again and have restored many bodily functions. The research is now expanding on this. Take a look at Chris and Dana’s son, Will, explain details of this new treatment in this video.
So was it serendipity that made brought all these ideas together? Or was it, perhaps, Chris’s spirit whispering to us to keep going forward? For those of us who knew Chris, and how intensely powerful his spirit was/is, coupled with how dedicated he was to finding a cure, we probably wouldn’t be surprised if it were the latter.
Susan Allison-Dean is an ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. To learn more or to donate, please visit https://www.christopherreeve.org
A Short Story
The call light at the far end of the dimly lit hallway lights up for the third time.
“I’m in pain!” Mrs. Kane screams out.
Tara takes a deep breath. If only Mrs. Kane knew that it took all of the staff on the unit to lift Mr. Elliot back into his bed after he pulled a Hoodini with his restraints, climbed over the side rails, landed on the floor-fracturing his hip. Tara unlocks the med cart and pours two pain pills into a paper for Mrs. Kane. From the corner of her eye she notices the glow of the sun creeping above the hill outside the window.
“Does anybody care that I’m in pain?” Mrs. Kane shouts, louder this time.
Tara locks the med drawer as she reminds herself that her shift is nearly over, then she heads down the hall to finally relieve Mrs. Kane of her pain. Halfway down the hall, the trickling sound of water stops her. Her head turns slowly from side to side, attempting to zero in on the source of the unwelcome sound. She leans closer towards the door of room 417.
Ugg, someone must have left the sink on, she thinks as she enters the room. A pair of eyeballs, open so wide that they might fall out, stops her in her tracks. She looks up from the gaunt man, with thinning black hair, clinging to his side rails, at the ceiling. Blood erupting from his femoral vein like a geyser bounces off the ceiling creating a red rainstorm.
Tara stuffs the pain med in the pocket of her scrubs, grabs a towel and lunges to the man’s side. With both hands she smothers the artery and screams for help.
“Am I going to die?” the man asks, his voice trembling.
“Not if I can help it,” she responds firmly and stares him down.
Within minutes the two are in the center of a swarm of medical staff that are shouting instructions and simultaneously working their magic as they whisk the man to the O.R.
Tara leaves her shift and heads home not knowing if the man, who wasn’t even her assigned patient, lives or dies. She’s also pretty sure Mrs. Kane will file a complaint against her since it took so long to get to her.
She enters her front door and finds her husband and son eating cereal together.
“Have a good night?” her husband asks.
Tara looks at her son, smiles, “ I made it through.” She runs her fingers through her son’s sandy blond hair in an attempt to disguise the bedhead effect.
“We’ve got to go, buddy,” her husband cheers when he sees the time. They gather their bags for work and school, give her a quick kiss and a hug around the waist, then fly out the front door.
Tara knows what she needs is sleep. She has seven hours between now and when her son’s school bus drops him off. Then homework, soccer practice, ship up dinner and back to the hospital for another twelve-hour shift. Her mind and body play tug-a-war; sleep, no keep moving! She paces the kitchen, washes the cereal bowls and hand dries them slowly. She takes the damp dishcloth and wipes down the counter top. Along the way a box of donuts, already missing two, catches her attention. The voice inside her says, have a couple of eggs and toast. The devil on her shoulder disagrees, no, the donuts will taste so much better. She breaks off a piece, slips it into her mouth and feels the hardened, sweet, sugary glaze melt on her tongue. Before she knows it, she’s eaten half the box, downs a glass of milk, and feels the sugar coma begin to take over. She makes it to the couch, kicks off her shoes, snuggles into the fleece throw blanket and lets go.
Cautiously, Tara scans the patient list, looking for the man’s name. Much to her surprise, and relief, it is there, right next to room 417. Her chest inflates with pride. She walks to the man’s room, peaks in the doorway to find him talking with a woman and two teenage girls. Collectively, they turn and look at her when she knocks on the door.
“There she is, the man announces. “My angel!”
The woman rushes around the bed, grips Tara in a bear hug as she cries, “You’re an angel, an angel! You saved my husband.”
Tara pats her on the back, and then gently encourages her to release her grasp. “Thank you, but I can assure you, I’m no angel. I learned a long time ago that if I take credit for saving your husband, then I will have to take the blame for the patients who don’t make it. I’m thrilled that he is okay.”
What are your perceptions of nurses? If you are a nurse, what are some of your beliefs about your role as a nurse?
When you have a stressful day, what do you do to calm down? Order a pizza, crack open a beer, or do you opt for a walk in the park, go for a swim or a yoga class? We all live with stress around us, how we deal with it can significantly affect our health. We'll continue to look at this topic in future blogs. Feel free to sign up if you like or post any comments below.
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