President's Column: Lessons on Caring From the Hoop Dance

Dec 07, 2020

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December is often a time for taking stock. We look forward, reflect on the past and seek closure. The end of the year is normally marked by a single point on a line — a day on the calendar after which everything begins anew. But this year is different. There isn't closure. As we move forward, we continue to face uncertainty.

As I reflected on this year, I rediscovered a beautiful book, “The Dance of Caring – A Caregiver’s Guide to Harmony,” that explores caregiving through the Hoop Dance, a sacred Native American expression of creation and interconnectedness. I found powerful lessons in this book that capture the essence of 2020 — the Year of the Nurse.

In the Hoop Dance, the wisdom of the circles extends from ways of being within ourselves to families, communities and the world. These circles contract, expand and interact. For me, this year is defined by the strength and importance of circles. I think about my family circle, my circle of friends and colleagues, my extraordinary AACN circle and my COVID-19 bubble. In each circle is the possibility of connection, which Brené Brown defines as "the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued." When I think about circles this way, I don't see restrictions; I see an exquisite gift.

In the Hoop Dance, the dancer starts with one hoop and eventually brings together eight hoops to create and express new things. I see this same creation and innovation captured in the answers to a question I ask nurses as we reflect on the year and look to the future: "What things happened this year that you want to keep?" The most common answer is that new partnerships were created when team members from across the healthcare system came together in purpose-driven action. We have shown that we are stronger when our unique strengths come together and when we connect as a nursing community to overcome challenges and lift each other up.

The Hoop Dance brings interconnectedness to life. Interconnectedness takes on greater importance in light of a recent survey that explored the well-being and mental health of nurses across the country. While nurses reported both negative and positive experiences and emotions, they also reported how they are working to strengthen their well-being. Common strategies include regular exercise, time in nature, spending quality time with family/friends, talking with colleagues and practicing mindfulness and gratitude. The theme that runs through these strategies is connection.

Connections are critical as we face our current challenges, and the results of the well-being survey highlight a critically important message — you are not alone. There are resources, including the Well-Being Initiative, to support you and your colleagues. This Is Our Moment to be All In. All In as one, and All In together.

Finally, a meditation from the book brings to life the energy in circles as we reflect on our current reality and move toward a future of possibilities — a future we can create together:

"Walking can become a meditation practice that helps you clear the challenges of the day and bring harmony to your next steps. As you walk, bring your full attention to the present moment. Feel the ground beneath your feet, notice the sky above you, perhaps a breeze touching your face. Walk slowly, experience each step you take. Now imagine each step as one moment out of all the things that have happened that day, and using each step, allow yourself to gently walk through the moment. Step into the possibilities ahead." — Circle Moment, "The Dance of Caring — A Caregiver's Guide to Harmony"

Please write to me at Tell me the lessons of 2020 that you will take forward to create your hopeful future.