TED-Ed Lesson for TEDxTalk “How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure” is now available!

For all nurse educators, managers, leaders, bookclub facilitators, or bedside nurses looking for a guided way to talk about work-related grief with other nurses:

I have created a new TED-Ed lesson based on my original TEDxTalk, “How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure.” It includes some introductory prompts allowing for people to share about their work-related grief experiences as well as their perspectives towards grief. The lesson then provides additional insights and references to other authors who have addressed grief and self-care in less traditional ways. Finally, the lesson concludes with closing discussion prompts to help participants consider how they can begin reframing their perspective towards work-related grief in nursing.

Participants do not currently need a TED-Ed account to participate in the discussion, as my desire is to reduce all barriers for voices to be heard in this conversation.

Please share this lesson with nurses, nurse leaders, managers, administrators and educators. It is my deep conviction that these conversations need to happen for the betterment and well-being of nurses who regularly encounter suffering, death and dying, and all the accompanying emotions.

Click here to access the lesson, and thank you in advance for contributing to this vital conversation!

Help Bring the Voice of Nurses to the TED/TEDx Table

I love hearing people’s stories about their lives – their work, their family, their experiences of joy and of sorrow. Hearing the stories helps break down my misconceptions and false assumptions. The stories give me a deeper appreciation for life experiences that are far removed from my own. They teach me more about the depth and breadth of life.

This is the power and beauty of TED/TEDx Talks. People share stories and ideas in succinct, digestible talks that challenge your thinking about politics, culture, medicine, family, autism, psychology, technology, you name it.

But nursing? One of the top most trusted professions? The profession that brings nurses into such close contact with people during some of the most profound periods of their life? A search on the topic of nursing in the TED library brings up a beautiful Tribute to Nurses done by journalist Carolyn Jones, but otherwise the options that come up are only indirectly related to nurses and our practice.

If the general public is to understand, appreciate and support this profession that they trust and rely on so strongly, they need to hear our stories. They need to hear the real thoughts, the real experiences, the real heart of nurses.

This is why it is such an incredible privilege for me to have a TEDxTalk about nursing to share with the world: “How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure.” Would you help strengthen my nurse voice by watching my Talk below (just under 10 minutes), and then sharing it with others (you can click on the right-facing arrow on the top right corner of the video, and choose your platform to share the video)? The more views I can get for my TEDxTalk, the greater chance I have of getting the Talk curated to the main TED site, which will finally bring a direct voice about nursing by a nurse to their library! For all we do, and all we bear in our hearts, we need our own clear voice to tell the world what they may not have fully considered or understood about this profession they trust so much.

Watch the Talk here, and then please share away!

YouTube Link for my TEDxTalk “How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure”

On Sept 30 of this year, I had the incredible opportunity to give a TEDxTalk with TEDxPasadena on “How Grief Can Enable Nurses to Endure.” This talk is for all healthcare professionals, but nurses in particular, who have grieved with and for their patients and families, and have went home wondering what to do with this grief we bear in our hearts. This is not a standard inspirational talk with an underlying “You’re doing great!” tone. Rather, it is one that I deeply hope gives validation and voice to our humanity as nurses, and then gives a different perspective that allows us to live with our grief in a way that is honestly painful but ultimately life-giving.

Here is the link. Please share, for all the caregivers in your life, or perhaps, just for you.


FAQ After TEDx Talk Day

Just like my pre-Talk blog post about my journey with my TEDx Talk, I will now try to answer some of the more specific questions about what it was actually like to deliver the Talk in a FAQ format.

Were you nervous?

I was #11 in a lineup of 13 speakers for the day, which started around 10:00AM and ended close to 5:00PM. This meant I didn’t deliver my talk until around 4:20PM. I thought I would be extremely on edge from the moment I woke up until I was on stage, but I actually slept decently the night before, and only felt low-grade butterflies through the majority of the day. When I arrived at the venue around 8:30AM, it was a completely different experience to see the audience arriving, the venue decked out with décor, and the interactive space inviting everyone to enter into the theme for the day, “RISE.” The energy from the crowd and environment shifted my own internal energy from pure nerves to more of a deep excitement and passion to finally deliver the words I’d been working so hard to find and express in just the right way.

After I got makeup done around 3:00PM, however, I couldn’t stay in the “green room” with the other speakers for long to chat or watch other speakers on the screen. At that point, I needed quiet focus, which meant I mostly spent that last hour just pacing the hallway and muttering my Talk a few final times.

How was it when you got on stage?

I took a few moments to close my eyes and center myself before walking onto stage. I felt decently relaxed as I started talking, and it was amazing to finally be talking to a crowd of engaged listeners, rather than the walls of my bedroom or a theater of empty chairs. About two minutes into my Talk, however, I hit a built-in pause, and then the dreaded happened – my mind went completely blank. I felt my lips move in awkward silence but my mind was literally empty. It felt like an eternity, but hallelujah, thanks to the endless hours of practicing the Talk over and over, the words returned just before I ran off the stage screaming, and I was able to go on.

That was enough to throw me, though, just enough so that I felt like I moved in and out from a strange out-of-body experience for the rest of the Talk. I remember feeling really connected at certain points, and really out of body at other points. Overall it was just incredibly surreal. All of that said, I felt it was going really well and I felt especially thankful for my dear friends and coworkers scattered throughout the audience, whom I could always redirect my eyes to when I needed to ground myself again.

How did you feel afterwards?

I felt as though the entire world was lifted off my shoulders! Going for three straight months on nervous, stressed energy was a lot. It felt so great to finally have the Talk done, and to feel that it went well overall.

I felt, and still feel, a profound sense of gratitude – and calling – given that of all the medical professionals who applied to speak for this particular TEDx community this year, I was not only the only female, but also the only nurse. This is incredibly telltale to me, that nurses remain so underrepresented even amongst the applicants. It is also amazing that I have dreamt so long to both grow and be a voice for nurses, and now I had this opportunity as the sole nurse applicant. What is more, of all 13 speakers, 12 were discovered or invited (though they still had to go through the application and review process), so the one spot remaining for “outside” applicants went to me. This is incredibly humbling, and truly testifies to me that this opportunity was an absolute gift from God.

Curiously, one remaining feeling I have had since the day of the Talk is a good amount of regret that I did not stay out on that red spot for a longer period of time after I finished, to more fully receive the applause that the audience was giving. This is not about vanity. It is about receiving an expression of openness, response, acknowledgement, engagement, and thanksgiving from this crowd who generously opened their hearts and ears to listen to a challenging talk about a heavy topic. Their applause was a gift, an acknowledgement of my words, my message on behalf of all my beloved nurse colleagues, and I deeply wish I had stayed out there longer to fully receive it, and to fully thank the crowd for their gift of attention.

When can we see the official YouTube video?

I am not sure, but I am estimating perhaps another 1-2 months before it will be available. I will be sure to post it when it is up!

Thank you again for all the support and encouragement. This has been a tremendous experience, and it’s not over yet! I truly hope the YouTube video will be a helpful and powerful resource for other nurses and healthcare professionals to look at grief in a very validating, and also very different light.


FAQ about my TEDx Talk journey

It’s been lamentably quiet here in my blogging world, as all my energy to articulate clear thoughts has been poured into preparing for what is arguably one of the biggest events of my life – giving a TEDx Talk. It is 11 days away and it still feels incredibly unreal, despite the fact that I have been immersed in preparation ever since I got that incredible “Congratulations!” email in late June.

The writer in me wants to compose a smoother reflection on the experience thus far, but efficiency and quite honestly, exhaustion, drive me to share some thoughts via the “FAQ” format for now.

How did you even get the opportunity to do a TEDx Talk?

Those who know me and who have been following my journey awhile know that I’ve had a growing passion to build – and be – a voice for nurses, to begin and develop conversations about the internal things nurses experience as we care for people all along the spectrum of health and illness, hope and despair, deep love and profound loss. One day, I posted on Facebook about how appalled I was at the lack of books and video resources that hit on these topics in a more honest, gritty, deeper way. Somewhere in that Facebook conversation, I said I would love to do a TED Talk about nursing. A friend saw the comment and connected me to her friend who just happened to be the Director at TEDxPasadenaWomen as they just happened to be looking for applications for TEDx speakers. It was May 28, three days before the deadline and my parents were over to help with my kids, so I jumped on my “free time” and threw together an application, including a one-minute selfie video of me talking about my Big Idea. I submitted the application and held my breath for a month, playing all kinds of mind games with myself. I swung between “You’ll be relieved if they say no! Less stress and less work in your already full life”, and “You really, really, REALLY want to do this!!!”

It was a Saturday at work when I fully did NOT expect to hear back since it was a weekend. I checked my email and my jaw dropped as I saw the word “Congratulations!” from the TEDx Director. I was literally shaking, and quite honestly for a good five minutes, I thought to myself, “I can still say no! … Who am I kidding, I can’t say no!” And so, the incredible journey began.

How has the process been to prepare a TEDx Talk?

The writer in me loves to find words for deep thoughts and issues, so that passion translated over into finding words for a Talk. However, it is an altogether different process to write out a text that you will be speaking, as naturally and conversation-style as possible, rather than putting on paper for people to read. I had to learn to write for speaking, which required a lot of reading out loud, and video-taping myself, to get a sense of what works with speech versus written text.

I also had to learn how to talk about nursing for an entirely different audience. Up until now, my main audience really has been nurses, though many non-medical friends follow and seem to understand and appreciate my blogs about my nursing experiences and reflections. But for the first time, I had to think about how to concisely talk about a very big topic to a very broad audience (aka anyone and everyone!).

This leads me to the next challenge I encountered, which was probably the most arduous of all. I had to learn how to shift my mentality (and all my training, really) about speaking on a topic the way I would present a lecture to a class or at a conference – talking about one topic but with 1.) usually at least 30-45 minutes; and 2.) the liberty to address one general topic but touching on multi-faceted ideas. I had to go from this traditional style of public speaking, to the most razor-focused (and thus intense, and most agonizingly thought-through) 8-9 minute Talk on literally one idea, not one topic with multi-faceted ideas. At one point in my process, I had to essentially revamp my entire Talk, which was terribly painful at the time, but after working through it, so much better because it is truly so much more clear.

How do you feel about this kind of public speaking?

I actually love public speaking, which is funny because in person, I tend to be a rather quiet, somewhat shy person who is very uncomfortable with much attention. But I love the ability to impart thoughts – and hopefully some wisdom and inspiration – to a crowd of people. Something about it is exhilarating and life-giving to me.

I do have to memorize the Talk, which actually hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. This really does help me feel like I will be speaking to the live audience, and the camera, from my core, which is an entirely different feeling than presenting a lecture from notes. It’s an indescribable connection to seek both with my own self, and with others.

What other things have stood out to you about the experience?

I have been fascinated with how the TED/TEDx experience truly seeks to draw out the authentic person behind the speaker. Of course, they want the “big idea,” but they also want it to come from the speaker’s own voice, the speaker’s own style of dress (What?? I can wear jeans to this instead of a business-style dress??), and all things that reflect who the speaker truly is.

I have also been challenged to work through how I handle a whole new level of “fame,” for lack of better words (because honestly, I don’t feel famous!) beyond what work I’ve already done for the American Journal of Nursing. How much attention do I take away from my sweet family to pursue this kind of dream experience? How much do I let it get to my head? How do I fare under the stress and pressure? I’ve written a separate reflection about my spiritual life in this whole TEDx Talk experience here; but for now, suffice to say, I have deeply appreciated the immeasurable support and grace that my husband, kids and parents have shown me as I have at times really struggled to navigate this new level of experience.

The Talk is 11 days away! How are you feeling?

I actually feel good! Nervous and excited of course, but I feel that the Talk is really engrained in me, and my test run with a smaller audience a couple days ago went very well. As I received positive feedback and very helpful fine-tuning tips from my friends and some of the TEDx team, I really just sat in awe of the fact that this was all coming together. I really just felt a sense of God’s generous purpose over this, and felt amazed that He helped bring this together at what has felt at times to be the worst time to be trying to do such a big project (I’m a working mother with two very young children! There is nothing about my life that feels focused enough to generate this Talk but somehow it happened. It has been the sheer grace of God.) It feels so cliché to say, but I truly just feel that I have been called to this, and because of that, God has made the way.

If I can’t attend, how can I see the Talk?

It will be live-streamed that day, and will be up on YouTube later. I will be sure to come back here and post links!

Thank you for your interest and support! 11 days and counting!

On the Verge of a Dream

It’s such a curious place to find myself in, on the verge of a dream.

I’ve seen this gap in terms of available resources to help nurses deal with the internal struggles triggered by what we deal with in our profession. While I appreciate the current journals, books and videos that tell some of the story of what nurses do, I also continue to long for something a bit different, a bit deeper. I was appalled by the sheer lack of TED or TEDx Talks on nursing. There are a good handful of medicine-related talks, but really only a limited few on nursing or nursing-related topics. With all that we see, experience, and grapple with, I simply cannot understand why nurses have not sought out or created more of a voice for who we are, what we do, what we struggle with, what we need. I’ve wanted a voice to exist. I’ve wanted to have a voice in that collective.

And now, I do. I’ve been granted a couple of opportunities to contribute to Off the Charts, the blog for the American Journal of Nursing, and this has been amazing to be a part of the conversation with a broader audience of nurses. And then I recently got accepted as a TEDx Talk speaker for TEDx Pasadena Women! I still can hardly believe it. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying. There can be fear and burden with blessing. Who knew.

The writing feels a bit easier to work with. I remain relatively anonymous, and I have a bit more space and time to create the piece I want. Having a wonderful editing experience is extremely helpful too. Somehow, it feels safer.

The TEDx Talk really kicks it up a notch. The TEDx team prepares you really well with fantastic coaching and guidance over three months. But public speaking in and of itself is just an intense experience, and this platform for public speaking feels crazy. To have to pull it off in front of a live audience on a rather big stage, and then to know that the video will be put out there for anyone and everyone to see (and scrutinize)…it’s just really hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m actually going to have this as a part of my story.

I have no idea where this is going to go. It could go terribly, it could be mediocre and fizzle out with little “fanfare,” or it could launch into something even more. Even in being received well overall, there will be plenty of critics, I’m sure, and that’s something I’ll need to be prepared for. Am I ready to take on the Internet trolls?

I suppose it’s true when people say that this is kind of a big deal. Not everyone gets a chance to be on the TEDx Talk stage and speak about something they feel really passionately about! And yet I think it’s important to actively fight to maintain perspective. I want to enjoy it for all the amazing blessing it is, and glory in the Lord for His grace and generosity to me. Yet big picture, I remain a small fish in a big pond, just doing my part. I can already feel all the lure of supposed success, the lie that says “If you invest in all of this potential success, then you will be Someone. Not just the part-time bedside nurse otherwise cloistered at home picking up toys and changing diapers.” I’ve got two littles at home who don’t understand TEDx or journal publication – they only understand love and humility and presence from their Mama. I’ve got to keep asking, what matters more at the end of each day? The world can promise fame and fulfillment and then it can turn against you on a dime, find something irrelevant to criticize you about, say you’ve grown out of date and then you’ve gone from Someone to No One. Lasting fulfillment only comes from resting secure that I’m already Christ’s Beloved, already called for the greatest purpose of knowing Him, called to love the most important people He’s put right under my roof. All the rest, all this growing ‘success,’ it’s given as a gift for me to enjoy and share, and what God chooses to do with it, that’s up to Him. My core purpose remains.