UConn Campuses Chapter Of The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA)

Members of the UConn Campuses Chapter of the AHNA participate in wellness opportunities like yoga, forest bathing, meditation, and an annual conference.

We are pleased to shine the spotlight on the UConn Campuses Chapter of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), an exceptional Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™  Champion.
About 5 years ago, when Karen Wexell, MSN, RN HNB-BC, founded the UConn Campuses Chapter of AHNA with support from Robin Miller, PhD, the intents were similar to ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge (HNHN). AHNA focuses on both the nurturing of self and patient. So it’s only natural that the chapter strives to connect and engage with nurses and help improve their health and wellness.

“We started out by focusing on student nurses so we could capture students in the process of education,” said Wexell. “Our goal is to develop their skills and awareness when moving into their careers.”

The initiative began with a chapter meeting at at UConn Avery Point, where attendees were given a survey. They answered questions like, “What are you interested in?” and “What are you passionate about that you want to present to your peers?”

From there, Wexell looked at themes in the answers to find what wellness initiatives members preferred. Then, she catered meetings and programs towards members’ areas of interest.

For example, yoga was a common interest among members. Wexell has presented on the benefits of yoga, ways to incorporate it throughout the workday, and where to take classes locally. She’s also shown easy-to-learn yoga videos during meetings. On various UConn campuses, she invited local yoga studios to offer classes at the chapter meetings, free of charge to AHNA members.

Nature and Wellness
There’s a central theme to the activities members like best: being outdoors.
“The students prefer to be in nature because they’re inside so often,” said Wexell. “Any activity we do outside, whether it’s beach walks, forest bathing, or something else — the students love it.”

Forest bathing (shinrin yoku) is particularly popular. Wexell invited the group to a local nature center where they walked into the forest with the intention of being present. It’s all about using your senses — smelling the smells, feeling the earth beneath your feet, and engaging consciously in the process of being in the forest.

The group encountered a beautiful terrain punctuated with tiny spring wildflowers and a fresh forest scent. They silently walked near a soft-flowing stream, a purple bridge, and a rock wall. Occassionally Wexell would stop and ask the group questions on what they were feeling and experiencing. Then they’d continue walking quietly through the woods.

“Contemplative practices like forest bathing help nurses develop a therapeutic presence,” said Wexell. “It teaches them to be fully engaged with a patient during a patient encounter, instead of their minds wandering.”

Something for Everyone
That’s not all — the UConn Campuses Chapter of  AHNA has multiple wellness initiatives to ensure everyone finds something they enjoy:
  • Health fairs during finals week offer coloring, reiki training, and meditation training
  • Yoga in the park for International Day of Yoga on June 21
  • Guest speakers covering topics like tapping and stress relief
  • The Annual Holistic Nurse Conference, featuring unique presenters like a laughter yoga expert, wellness workshops, and optional walking tours
  • Offsite group meetings in scenic locations, such as the cabin belonging to Renee Rhodes, PhD, in the woods featuring a herb garden and labyrinth
Wellness isn’t just about self-care, but about giving back, too. Chapter members collaborated with the LGBT student organization at UConn Avery Point to survey students and determine the language for a Peace Pole. The Peace Pole has multiple sides with the phrase “May peace prevail on Earth,” written in different languages. Chapter members donated the pole to the student section at the Avery Point campus.

Knowing members favor outdoor activities and yoga, Wexell continues to incorporate these themes into regularly-scheduled chapter meetings. And the popularity of the UConn Campuses Chapter of AHNA is growing. Today, the chapter has spread to every UConn campus and, in 2019, UConn Health.

Learn more about the work of our Champion partners here and become an HNHN Champion. Join us today!

Have you joined the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) Grand Challenge yet? Join us today

Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Jul 9, 2019 1:37 PM America/Chicago

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