Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Mindfulness in hospital

Last week, I reached a milestone for my work. I ran a taster session for staff at the hospital where I work as a nurse, under my business as The Inner Space Project.
It was a seemingly small step, but I was so excited about it. For a start, more people than I had expected wanted to come along and find out about it. The session seemed to go down well with those who had come along, and crucially, they want more! I taught a series of activities based on focusing and visualisation, and ended with a relaxing meditation. I got some appreciative feedback, for which I am grateful for. It was a great session!

You see, I believe my role in nursing goes much deeper than the clinical everyday nursing stuff - this is important, don't get me wrong. But I want to weave the deeper stuff into my work, and I believe that others can do this, too, and have a positive influence not just on themselves or their patients, but within the department they work. I am full of ideas about how I can bring my clinical practice and my mindfulness into alignment, and use accordingly - and I am chomping at the bit to get it going!

The deepest thread amongst everything I do as a nurse (and in life) is to form a connection with others, and teach them to do the same, but also connect with themselves. I feel that our own inner voices often sabotage our good deeds to ourselves, and if that's happening on an internal level, it is being reflected externally, as well. At the centre of everything, the most important things to remember, are that we love ourselves, we are gentle with ourselves, and we forgive ourselves. If we can turn down the white noise, the noise that jeopardizes these kind and essential deeds, then we can start to influence others in the same way. What happens after that is connection, fulfilment and joy. A crazy, hippy ideology, maybe - but who says we can't try?!

If you'd like to find out more, please contact me at

Friday, 3 October 2014

pill-popping or hearts and minds?

Today's news has included an article about a new pill for men and women who drink excessively, to help them reduce their alcohol intake. It has made the headlines and induced discussions in the media, with the slant of being a new "wonder-drug" that will help many people.

That's great, isn't it?

Yes, it is great,

I don't think there is anything wrong with taking medication. I am a nurse, so I spend a great deal of my time administering tablets, medicines, drips and antibiotics to help make the people I look after, better. This is fine.


I do also feel that as a society, we are easily swayed by medications to combat illness. We are conditioned to believe that a pill will make everything better, again. I find myself telling my children that "this medicine will make you feel better", or telling my patient, "this tablet will take the pain away", or "this antibiotic will kill the bug you have". Yes, they may well do, and invariably, that is what happens.


Why do we think that we are only capable of fixing ourselves with a pill? What is it about our fixation with medicines to cure all ills? As a nurse, if I have a patient who is agitated, anxious or confused, the planned route would be to speak to the doctor to get a tablet to calm the patient down.


With increasing frequency, I am using mindfulness techniques in my clinical practice to help my patients. I have had some surprising and successful results, from children to the elderly; from the scared and confused to the acutely ill, climbing-the-walls-with-pain patients.
For example, about a year ago I did a shift in A&E and was looking after a very scared, confused elderly lady. She did not know she was in hospital, and was desperate to go home. She had fallen at home and was very unsteady on her feet in the department, which was dangerous because she repeatedly got up from her chair to try to find her way into the cold, wet morning in her dressing gown and slippers. I sat down with her, did some breathing and focusing work with her, and then did a 5-minute meditation with her. As she relaxed in her chair, she settled, and then dozed off! In the time it would have taken me to either speak to a doctor about getting something to make her less agitated, or tried to get her to sit in her chair by telling her where she was, what had happened to her, and answered the repeating questions, thereby increasing her agitated state, I had simply taught her to relax her body and her mind for long enough for her to fall asleep.


It works! So much so, that I am taking this further, starting with teaching mindfulness and meditation to my colleagues and other staff at the trust I work in.

Coming back to the news today, though, makes me feel a slight disappointment. Not because I don't think the tablet will work, as it sounds very effective; but because it compounds the all-round belief that we can only be fixed with conventional medicine. It reinforces the increasing belief in our society that the NHS can be relied upon to fix everybody, and it increases the "clinical" perception that society's health can only be managed "clinically". We are generally losing our ability to see things more holistically, that there can be some other frameworks that support an individual to take better care of themselves, manage their existing conditions as a "bundle" of care rather than singularly; and that by teaching people to connect within to understand why, for example, they feel the need to drink 3 pints of beer a night, they might be able to reduce their intake and feel healthier as a result.