Thoughts About My Talk on Authentic Caring at SD’s ACNL Conference


Riding the Wave of Innovation

San Diego Chapter of Association of Clinical Nurse Leaders

I spoke on Friday at the SD ACNL annual conference on     Authentic Caring – Its Power, Spirit & Language.

The talk was well received.  There were about 96 attendees, and I was pleased with how many nurse leaders were locked into the topic.

I opened with My Quest.  “I am a nurse leader on a quest.”   How I’ve been confused about how we lead caring in the healthcare industry from the beginning of my career.

Then I went on to describe my journey to conscious caring. There was the …

  • Manuscript I submitted to AJN in my first year of practice that warned nurses to remain true to themselves in the face of medicine and the HC industry
  • My involvement in The Colorado Differentiated Practice Research Project in the mid 90s to study the impact of nurses education on patient outcomes and caring
  • How I learned and loved listening to those researchers (all Jean Watson protégés) talk and teach about authentic caring – what it was and what it looked like.   And how those conversations ended when the research ended.
  • How I went back to school (University of Colorado for DNP)  in the early 2000s, and learned and loved once again to listen to nurse leaders talk about nursing theory & philosophy, nursing’s essence, and our Social Contract with Society.
  • How school became for me a refuge from the harsh realities of work, rather than learning how to retool for work.
  • And how when I ended school, I didn’t know how to integrate my new caring science knowledge in my hospital beyond what we were already doing, which was embedding a nurse theorist and theory into our professional practice model, and teaching classes about caring.
  • I told myself that I was leading caring.

Now fast forward ….  into the winds of change that are happening around us and are changing everything.

  • Patient experience evidence in their HC encounters (from Press Ganey) is telling us that patients are expecting more than we have given them credit for.
  • Our society’s participation in wellness programs is permeating our lifestyles and expectations.  Any person who engages in better nutrition, exercise, stress management, etc, eventually learns that wellness leads to mental and emotional health and the importance of relationships, connection and authenticity.
  • This wellness consciousness is driving changes in the HC market.
  • Jean Watson has recently partnered with Press Ganey in measuring the impact of Caritas sensitive questions in Watson Affiliate Hospitals and comparing the findings with other Press Ganey hospitals.  The preliminary results are positive.
  • This is yet another indication that patients needs and expectations are evolving. And fhe public’s awareness of  wellness, relationships, connectedness and authenticity are within nursing’s core domain of authentic caring.

Think of it this way:

Increased patient acuity →  nurses clinical skills are needed

Increased patient vulnerability → nurses authentic caring skills are needed

And this is where we nurse leaders can expand nurses’ awareness of their existing caring practices by talking about nurses’ connections with patients.   Asking nurses about these moments, being curious about how the nurse felt when connecting authentically with the patient and the patient response?  How the nurse cares for her/himself to sustain inner resources?  What experience soothes the nurse?

These are the topics at the core of Caring Language. 

These conversations between nurse leaders and nurses recognize and affirm authentic caring moments and shine a light on their meaning and purpose of the caring experience with the nurse.


Imagine the Power of Nurses and These Caring Conversations 



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