Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC 4504

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC

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Nurse Finds Wellness in the Face of Illness

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Being a naturally optimistic person is a beautiful gift. But when it comes to healing and wellness, optimism is only half the battle. The other half involves taking action to prioritize yourself and your wellness.

That’s what #healthynurse and ANA Enterprise CEO Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC learned in the 4 years since her 2019 colon cancer diagnosis.

“I'm optimistic by nature,” Loressa says, “but I saw how easy it would be to succumb to the fear and anxiety associated with any cancer diagnosis. In the end, prioritizing wellness gave me hope and a sense of control over something that otherwise could have controlled me.”

Alternative Approaches to Healing and Well-being
Loressa’s prognosis was not great. As a nurse, she knew the statistics associated with colon cancer and recognized that it was a devastating diagnosis. In the 18 months following her cancer diagnosis, Loressa underwent 2 surgeries and 2 rounds (90 days each) of chemotherapy.

She did her due diligence and sought the newest information, the latest treatment, and the most-renowned health providers. But Loressa also knew there were things she could do on her own to impact her long-term chances of survival.

“I took a hard look at my lifestyle and the changes I had to make to prioritize my health,” Loressa says. “We all have limited time. But we can extend the years ahead and the quality of our life by focusing on those things that make a difference to our health and wellbeing.”

To help find balance and promote healing, Loressa incorporated:
  • Acupuncture, which taught Loressa to pay attention to motility (how her body absorbs the food she eats). This is especially important when you have intestinal cancer.
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils to help manage her pain, alleviate stress, and shut out external noise.
  • Healthy eating, by avoiding empty calories and focusing on foods such as proteins and complex carbohydrates, helps her maintain a healthier gut.
  • Mindfulness by using the Calm® app and practicing meditation, yoga, and Pilates.
  • Physical therapy, which uses stretching and breathing to aid healing and recovery.
  • Time in nature, which helps her absorb vitamin D and find quiet moments for reflection and gratitude.

“At that time in my life, these practices didn’t feel hard — they felt essential,” she says. “I found the best way to minimize the psychological impact of cancer was to focus on continued health and overall well-being. I just wish I’d prioritized those things before the cancer diagnosis.”

Wellness at Work
Loressa knew she needed to adjust her work-life balance, especially as she returned to work. As a CEO, her responsibilities require time, focus, and the physical demands of travel and public speaking.

Loressa made minor changes to her workday to help her maintain her wellness practices, including:
 
Sprinkling wellness throughout the day
Making time for wellness can be challenging, especially for nurses. “A piece of it for me was setting aside the time each day,” Loressa says. “I have a very busy calendar.”

But she also knew she could find ways to incorporate her wellness practices into her workday. When a remote meeting doesn’t require her to be on video, Loressa takes the meeting while walking out in nature. While listening to a presentation, she focuses on breathing, standing, or stretching her back and neck.

“If you try, you can always find time for wellness — even when standing at a patient's bedside,” Loressa says. “Work on your posture, perform standing calf stretches, or just be mindful of your breathing while you do the activities required for your job.”

Using break time wisely
Loressa decided to create natural breaks in her day and use them more wisely. She worked with her executive assistant to ensure she had 30-minute breaks built into her schedule. She used those breaks to stretch and practice mindfulness.

“You can spend your break time by going through your bank account or making phone calls,” Loressa says. “But you can also build in time to get in a few stretches in the nurses’ lounge or to take a 10-minute walk in the stairwell. Instead of depleting energy, it can replenish your energy and clear your mind.”

Taking advantage of wellness resources
Many health care employers realize the value of self-care at work. They offer wellness support for employees, such as hydration stations, access to meditation apps, or relaxation rooms.

“Take full advantage of all of the opportunities ANA offers,” Loressa says. “Read the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation blogs and learn what other nurses do in demanding clinical environments to maintain health.”

Attitude Is Everything
Loressa believes a positive attitude goes a long way when facing adversity. She’s been transparent with others about her diagnosis and hopes her optimism and commitment to wellness inspire those around her.

“While I am a cancer survivor, I have not beaten cancer,” Loressa says. “But I feel that all the tools I now have in my arsenal have prepared me to continue this fight. I’m optimistic that my job, medical providers, and those who have helped me embrace and maintain a healthy lifestyle will carry me through whatever else is to come as I continue this journey.”


Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, DEA-BC, is the ANA Enterprise CEO and will retire later in 2023.

Are you a #healthynurse? Share your stories with us in our discussion.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 08/08/2023 9:25am CDT

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2 Comments

 Loressa , you continue to learn and share your journey of recovery With candor .

Loressa, what a wonderful post and gift to nurses across the globe to share your thoughts and advice.  Thank you   Becky

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#healthynurse Spotlight
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The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.

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