“The Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program transformed the trajectory of her nursing career and opened doors to new opportunities. ‘Since graduating from the program, I am now leading meditations for staff, physicians, and patients. I was also awarded the employee of the month and have been featured in two articles throughout my large hospital system. The holistic nursing program gave me everything I need to fulfill my dreams in the holistic nursing arena’.” – Audrey Stoppel, BSN, BA, RN, OCN, RTCN, Summer 2021 Graduate, University of Connecticut Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program
For Audrey Stoppel, participating in UConn’s Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program was life-changing, both professionally and personally.
A True Calling
Since 2006, working with cancer patients has been a big part of Audrey Stoppel’s life. In fact, even back then at the start of her career, she had a passion to work with the oncology patient population. As she says, “I’ve had friends and family members struggle and some pass from cancer. I’ve seen for myself what cancer patients endure and how strong they are. Working with cancer patients is truly my calling.”
Following several years as a staff oncology nurse at medical centers in the Chicago area, she became a radiation oncology nurse at Rush Copley Cancer Care Center in Aurora, IL in 2015. While her primary job is to coordinate patients’ care and provide education, support, and guidance through treatment, she realized that one important element of the care continuum was missing. “I observed a real need for a more holistic approach to care beyond treating the patient’s physical health. I was eager to learn new holistic modalities that would support my oncology patients’ journeys, while also creating a more soothing and healing environment at the cancer center.”
AHNCC Endorsed Program
Toward this end, Audrey knew she needed additional education in the holistic nursing field. She considered getting a master’s degree, but wasn’t sure if she could balance coursework with her demanding job and being a mom of three young children. After doing a search online, she found the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program from the University of Connecticut (UConn). “I really liked the fact that it is endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. After reading about the program, it seemed like something feasible that I could do. Little did I know that when I applied to the program in February 2020, I would be doing it through a pandemic!” In fact, Audrey says she got all her paperwork in for the program one week prior to the March 2020 COVID pandemic shutdown. She started her first course in the fall of 2020 and completed the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program in the summer of 2021.
As Audrey notes, the program has made a tremendous difference in her life, both professionally and personally. From a career standpoint, she says it gave her all the tools she needed to expand her ability to practice from a holistic perspective. Dr. Colleen Delaney, the founding director of the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program, was a wonderful mentor, Audrey says. “She is up to date on all the current research. I hung onto every word she said and wanted to emulate what a great holistic nurse she is. I learned so much from her about the philosophy of holistic nursing, why it’s so important and how to apply modalities to caring for patients.”
Learning from today’s experts in the holistic field
Audrey also greatly appreciated the many guest speakers brought into the program. In fact, during their three virtual class meetings each semester, Dr. Delaney arranged for specialists in the holistic nursing field to talk with students. “While the program was asynchronous, allowing us to participate on our own time, these were actual Zoom calls in real time that were planned well in advance,” notes Audrey. “I was exposed to the leaders in the field of holistic nursing, who talked about how to transform nursing by learning and applying holistic approaches to care. And because these sessions were in real time, we could ask questions. Being able to talk directly with the experts who have developed today’s holistic approaches and theories was incredible,” she adds.
Another aspect of the holistic nursing program that proved to be extremely beneficial was the online platform. Audrey had done her entire RN to Bachelor’s in Nursing degree online, so she was very accustomed to working remotely. As she notes, “All the work assignments had real-life applications. So we were able to apply learnings to actual nursing practice. We were given a syllabus at the start of the program and knew exactly when assignments were due. So other than the Zoom calls with the guest speakers, we could work the program around our own time constraints.”
Opening doors to new opportunities
As Audrey says, the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program transformed the trajectory of her nursing career and opened doors to new opportunities. “Since graduating from the program, I am now leading meditations for staff, physicians, and patients. I was also awarded the employee of the month and have been featured in two articles throughout my large hospital system. The holistic nursing program gave me everything I need to fulfill my dreams in the holistic nursing arena.”
In addition, she just recently began leading monthly meditations at the Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center, an outpatient facility affiliated with Rush Copley Cancer Care Center that provides education, support, and holistic services for cancer patients. As she explains, “Waterford Place brings in outside consultants as well as Rush Copley medical staff to lead programming, to practice Reiki, massage, and other mind-body-spirit holistic modalities. My interest lies in leading meditations to help support patients in emotional distress and help them manage the side effects of cancer treatment, potentially reducing their need for more medications.”
Audrey also credits the UConn holistic nursing program with her being asked to participate in upcoming research studies using holistic modalities with cancer patients and for her being frequently called upon to give educational talks about the benefits of holistic medicine. She is also hoping to expand the wellness program for the nursing staff at the cancer center, especially on the COVID units. “My passion is to share what I’ve learned with my coworkers to help them get what they need to overcome the stress and burnout they face. Meditation is a way to bridge the mind-body-spirit gap that can occur,” says Audrey, who adds that thanks to UConn’s Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program, she was able to sit for the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation certification exam. Having passed the exam, she is now a Board Certified Holistic Nurse.
Her own healing journey
The program has also transformed her personally, says Audrey. She learned a lot about self-care and self-reflection, which she says helped her overcome much of the emotional stress of being a nurse working through the pandemic, while helping with e-learning for her 3-, 7-, and 9-year-old children. In conclusion, she says: “The holistic nursing program gave me everything I need to fulfill my dreams in the holistic nursing arena. I was very sad when it came to an end because it was amazing and life-changing for me personally. I feel like a different person than when I started.”
“I feel fully prepared to take the Holistic Nursing National Board Certification exam (HN-BC) after having successfully completed the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program. Colleen is well entrenched in the board certification exam which tests nurses’ knowledge of the scope and standards of holistic nursing practice. In fact, she co-authored the Holistic Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice 3rd Edition book (2019). Colleen was able to arrange for the CEO of the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation to be one of our guest speakers. She talked to us about the guidelines, topics covered, and how to study. I feel confident to sit for the exam in the near future.” — Renae Martin, Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Summer 2020
Renae Martin has now earned another UConn credential to add to her resume: graduate of the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program.
Renae Martin wanted additional formal education to expand her approach in helping students and staff in the Narragansett, RI school system to prevent the health consequences of stress. A two-time baccalaureate of the University of Connecticut, she had received emails about UConn’s Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program. It struck a chord. What she didn’t anticipate was that the program would tie together all her previous education and professional experience and help her hone in on a new passion—and that it would strengthen her online skills, a necessity when Rhode Island schools were shut down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“How can you positively influence teenage behavior when it comes to drug and alcohol use?” That’s the question Renae Martin found herself thinking about when she took her job as the Project Coordinator for the Narragansett Prevention Partnership (NPP) in October 2014. A substance abuse prevention coalition, NPP comprises stakeholders from the school administration, police department, local lawmakers, parents, youth-focused agencies, and local businesses. “I quickly realized that if you tell middle school and high school students that they shouldn’t use drugs and alcohol, they shut down. They don’t want to be preached at—no one does,” she says.
As she progressed in her job, Renae began evaluating how physical, mental, emotional, and social issues impact student stress, and how that stress influences decision-making. “Taking a different approach that focused on talking with kids about the stress and anxieties they face helped me build a rapport and develop relationships with the students,” she notes. “From there, the conversations flowed more freely.”
With a background as a cardiac nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital and as a cardiac rehabilitation nurse at Temple Cardiac Rehabilitation, both in New Haven, CT, Renae was already very familiar with the negative effects of stress. As Renae recalls: “I saw firsthand the long-term health implications of every day choices, including diet, exercise, and stress management.”
The timing was just right
In late 2018/early 2019, Renae had been receiving emails about the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program from the University of Connecticut (UConn), where she had already received two degrees: a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Medicine/Exercise Physiology in 1989 and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing in 1995. Those emails inspired her to think about pursuing a more formal education in Holistic Nursing and how it could help her learn and implement new stress-relieving strategies with her students. “Stress plays a key role in so many illnesses, and sadly, our culture is extremely pill-oriented,” she notes.
Renae was worried, however, about the time commitment required to participate in the program. “I’m a working mom with two teenage boys. I needed something that was doable. With just three courses (nine credits) taken in sequence over a year, I felt that would be very manageable.”
Online, a bit unsure…at first
In the late spring of 2019, Renae applied for the program—“a streamlined process,” she says—and was accepted for the fall semester. Renae enjoys the dynamic of in-class learning, so she was a bit uncertain about doing a yearlong online program. But thanks to her professor, Dr. Colleen Delaney, she was able to get in the groove quickly. “In the first session of our first course, Colleen walked us through everything,” says Renae. “She took the time to lead us through using the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform. Turns out, I really liked it. And with my responsibilities as a working mom, I couldn’t have done the program if my physical presence was required. Plus, I was in the second course when the Pandemic hit. We never missed a beat!”
Renae adds that despite growing up in the years before online learning, she believes that participating in the certificate program opened up a whole new unexpected skill set that will serve her well going forward. “I had always taught in person. In this era of COVID, I am now skilled in utilizing video conferencing to provide trainings at work. This was not something I expected to learn going into the program.”
Great content, diverse group of classmates
Renae also loved the content and especially appreciated how well organized it was. Each week covered a different topic from self-care and stress management to the nursing process and healthy lifestyles. Dr. Delaney, who taught all three courses, started with NURS 5001 – Holistic Nursing Part 1: Basic Concepts. This course provided a big “brushstroke” look at lifestyles and exercise, along with an in-depth overview of nutrition. In addition to readings in the program’s Holistic Nursing textbook, students read the most recent research articles and were required to record and analyze their personal dietary habits. “That really reinforced the importance of our personal practice of self-care,” says Renae.
The courses included Zoom calls, during which Dr. Delaney facilitated classmates to get to know each other—so important, since they were going through the entire program together as one cohort. “As I read posts from fellow students on the discussion board, I knew who was writing and about their interests and experiences,” says Renae. “Because the program was online, there were people from different places coming together with different ideas. That really enriched the experience.”
Renae finds her passion: HeartMath
One of the attributes that Renae appreciated most about Dr. Delaney was her ability to help students find their inner passions. As she explains: “Colleen was fabulous; her passion for Holistic Nursing is palpable. While she has specialized expertise in the field of Reiki, she taught us about a whole spectrum of Holistic modalities, hoping that we would find our own passion. For me, that turned out to be HeartMath, a program which connects with my background in cardiology and utilizes evidence-based techniques that not only benefit the individual, but also those around them.”
As it’s described online, HeartMath is “a system of scientifically based tools and technologies to bridge the intuitive connection between heart and mind and deepen our connection with the heart of others.” With Dr. Delaney’s encouragement, Renae completed the 20-hour online HeartMath Clinical Certification training over spring break. And today, she has successfully incorporated this program into her position at the Narragansett Prevention Partnership, which she explains was an unanticipated benefit, given the global changes due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Since my students spent so many hours online for school work this past spring, I knew I had to find a different strategy to reach them,” says Renae. “The answer came to me during our final course,” NURS 5003 – Holistic Nursing Practicum. The Practicum, which gives program participants the opportunity to gain practical experience, required each student to provide a holistic community health program to a minimum of 10 people with whom they don’t typically interact. Renae received permission to work with the elementary school teachers in the Narragansett school system, focusing on the HeartMath program. As she explains: “The teachers are dealing with overwhelming stress in this COVID environment. They are juggling their own lives at home, while simultaneously trying to teach students online. That stress is contagious—students can feel it even if they aren’t in the same room. If I can help teachers be a calm respite for their students, it sets up a whole different energy and learning environment.”
As Renae recalls, the principal was concerned that she wouldn’t get enough interest. But after sending an email that introduced the concepts and benefits of the HeartMath program, 26 teachers signed up. Renae first divided participants into two groups and set up Zoom calls with each group. The teachers were able to ask questions and actually practice the techniques in real time. “I thought if they are using it themselves, they can teach it to their students this fall,” she notes. After that initial success, she was asked to train the district’s teaching assistants and is planning to teach HeartMath techniques to the local middle and high school staff. She will then offer the training to other school districts in the state.
Fully prepared to sit for the HN-BC exam
As Renae looks ahead, she is planning to sit for the Holistic Nursing Board Certification exam (HN-BC). “I feel fully prepared to take the Holistic Nursing National Board Certification exam after having successfully completed the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program. Colleen is well entrenched in the board certification exam which tests nurses’ knowledge of the scope and standards of holistic nursing practice. In fact, she co-authored the Holistic Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice 3rd Edition book (2019). Colleen was able to arrange for the CEO of the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation to be one of our guest speakers. She talked to us about the guidelines, topics covered, and how to study. I feel confident to sit for the exam in the near future.”
“The program was absolutely wonderful. I think the world of Dr. Colleen Delaney, director of the program, and the guest professors. I was a little worried at first since I had not been in school since the 1990s. I thought I would be lost in the shuffle, since UConn is such a large school. But it turned out that I truly felt like I was the only student in the entire university! That’s how one-on-one the courses were.” — Alicia Clendennin, Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Summer 2017
Alicia Clendennin found out about the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program just two weeks before the fall session in 2016 began. She was able to enroll as a Non-Degree student initially, later applying to and getting accepted into the program. From day one, she was surprised at how much one-on-one attention she received.
The Perfect Fit
Alicia Clendennin knows firsthand the importance of combining holistic modalities with traditional medicine. Her younger son, Morgan, was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Then when Morgan was 12, her older son, Conner, was in a freak accident, leaving him paralyzed between his waist and chest. His spinal cord was 85 percent compressed and close to being severed. Both of her sons received craniosacral therapy, a gentle hands-on approach that is used to release restrictions in any tissue influencing the craniosacral system (the membranes and fluid that surround, protect and nourish the brain and spinal cord).
As Alicia recalls: “When Morgan was a baby and toddler, craniosacral therapy played a huge role in the success of his development—he even did track during high school, although he did still need braces. He is also a ski instructor in the Berkshires and a mechanical engineer, which is so amazing considering he was expected to live his life in a wheelchair and be mentally disabled,” she says and adds: “Conner also had this special type of therapy while he was recovering at Boston Children’s Hospital. I showed his orthopedic surgeon and neurologist photos of Conner leaping hurdles at the steeplechase in New York City just a year after the accident. They couldn’t believe it—they had told me he would be lucky to even walk again.”
Thankfully, Alicia is a nurse—she had received her Masters of Science in Nursing in 1989—and had the skills to care for Morgan, then Conner after his accident. During the time her sons were growing up, she also worked as an Administrator with Interim HealthCare of Eastern Connecticut in Norwich, a position she held from 1997-2017. Then in 2014, with her interest in Holistic Medicine steadily increasing, she decided to become an independent distributor for Young Living Essentials Oils. She also got certified in Raindrop Massage Therapy, which combines gentle massage and essential oils. “That was it! I was sold on Holistic Medicine hook, line, and sinker! It really turned out to be the perfect fit for me, with lots of opportunities to learn about all kinds of new holistic modalities,” she says.
At the prompting of a friend, Alicia decided to investigate the opportunities to get more formal training in Holistic Nursing. She did an online search and the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate came right up. The first class was starting within two weeks, so Alicia immediately reached out to explore how to enroll into the program.
“The program was absolutely wonderful. I think the world of Dr. Colleen Delaney, director of the program, and the guest professors,” says Alicia. “I was a little worried at first since I had not been in school since the 1990s. I thought I would be lost in the shuffle, since UConn is a large school. But it turned out that I truly felt like I was the only student in the entire university! That’s how one-on-one the courses were. I also loved being in the program with younger students. We all had different levels of experience and areas of expertise. It was so great to share that and learn from each other. And I really appreciated that when the professors asked for feedback, they listened and responded by making changes as necessary.”
For the last course (NURS 5003), Alicia was required to do a practicum. She talked with Dr. Colleen Delaney and told her she wanted to do something completely new. Dr. Delaney suggested she go for a nurse coach certification. “I went into the nurse coaching program with great reluctance because I was already doing the Holistic Nursing program and working full time. But I decided to take Dr. Delaney up on her advice and enrolled in Wisdom of the Whole, which she ended up taking with me. I was able to earn the required clinical hours for both certificate programs at the same time by working at the Center for Hospice Care in Norwich, as well as at Interim Healthcare. I am so grateful that Colleen encouraged me. I cherish the skills I acquired. Having gone through the two programs changed my entire life.”
Ending up at the Center for Hospice Care
Alicia had been thinking about retiring from her job at Interim Health when the facility closed two years ago and devote more time to developing her essential oils business. But a temporary position opened up unexpectedly at the Center for Hospice Care. It was a position that was supposed to last nine months while the Center merged with Hartford Healthcare, but Alicia is still there today. “I have agreed to stay on until the end of 2019, then become a contractor with the Center. I’ve used my nurse coach skills during the negotiation process and continue to use them as we become integrated with Hartford Healthcare. We also started using aroma therapies with some of our patients for whom other treatments weren’t working. So I am able to apply the skills I acquired during the Holistic Nursing certificate program on a daily basis.”
In conclusion, Alicia says, “If you are older like I was, don’t let the online platform hold you back. The professors were so attentive to my needs as an individual, I felt like I was the only student they had.”
“Even though we were all located in different places, we were a very tight-knit group of people who care about looking at health from a holistic perspective. For anyone concerned about the online platform, don’t let that be a barrier. The online structure of the program actually created a very supportive learning environment; you just learn in a different way.” — Catherine (Kate) Johnson, Graduate of the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Summer 2019
The Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program opened Kate Johnson’s eyes to a whole new world of holistic medicine beyond aromatherapy.
Through the Holistic Lens
At 53, Kate Johnson is no newbie to nursing; in fact, she’s been a nurse for over 30 years, working primarily in community and public health, including serving as Public Health Nurse for the Town of Southwick, MA since 2008. In addition, she holds both an MS and PhD in Nursing Education, and an MBA.
But in 2018, she wanted to switch it up a bit. So following a lifelong interest in essential oils—she’s a Certified Nurse Aromatherapist—Kate decided to enhance her skills in the Holistic Nursing arena. When she did an online search for educational opportunities, up popped the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program from the University of Connecticut (UConn). “It was just what I was looking for,” recalls Kate. “It was a total of 9 credits over three semesters, so that felt very doable to me. It was all online except for some real-time Zoom meetings. The times for the meetings were included in our syllabus, so we knew exactly when we’d need to be available for the group video conferences.”
Kate started in September 2018, finishing this past summer. As she notes, the fall semester was very well-rounded, covering all the basics of various Holistic Nursing modalities, from diet and exercise to meditation and the effects of stress on health. The second semester was much more “hands-on,” during which she learned a great deal about Reiki, acupressure, meditation, nutrition, and much more, enabling her to be able to better evaluate which modalities work best for specific symptoms and health conditions. That led right into the last semester, NURS 5003 – Holistic Nursing Practicum, during which she and her fellow students were able to focus on a specific modality or combination of modalities and put their new knowledge to work in a community setting. As Kate notes, “Humans are very complex, and we can’t just look at one piece of the puzzle. The program taught me how to look at traditional nursing practice through the holistic lens. It really opened my eyes to a lot more than aromatherapy.”
Small cohort—strong connections
By far one of the program’s biggest strengths for Kate was its online platform—not surprising, since Kate did her entire PhD online and was very accustomed to the online way of learning. As Kate says, “We had such fruitful exchanges about various topics. And our cohort was nine students. Because it was small, everyone was able to participate, and everyone got a lot of individual attention.”
In addition, Kate found the real-time Zoom video conferences to be extremely helpful, especially since the program’s director and its primary professor, Dr. Colleen Delaney, used the Zoom meetings as a way to bring in outside experts. Says Kate: “As a key member of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) governing board, she was able to get several of her colleagues in to talk about the future of Holistic Nursing, its challenges, best practices, and so much more. We would never have had that opportunity without Dr. Delaney’s outstanding reputation in the field.”
Kate also mentions that it was very beneficial to be in a program with learners who have the kind of passion for Holistic Nursing that she has. “Whether it was the discussion boards or the Zoom meetings, we had a chance to brainstorm extensively about the challenges of bringing Holistic Nursing into a traditional nursing practice and ways to get patients and staff excited and onboard with holistic modalities.”
The Zoom platform also gave the cohort the opportunity to practice certain skills together, such as deep breathing. And as Kate emphasizes: “Even though we were all located in different places, we were a very tight-knit group of people who care about looking at health from a holistic perspective. For anyone concerned about the online platform, don’t let that be a barrier. The online structure of the program actually created a very supportive learning environment; you just learn in a different way.”
Exploring the combined use of two modalities during the Practicum
During the final Practicum, Kate did extensive research on using two holistic modalities together—aromatherapy and the ‘M’ Technique®, a method of structured touch massage developed in the 1990s. “I was very interested in finding out if using these two modalities together could help decrease stress, pain, and/or to help alleviate grief,” she explains.
Fortunately, as a UConn student, she was able to access key databases through the UConn Library for articles that could provide some insight into the use of the two techniques together, including PubMed, CINAHL, and the dozens of other databases that are available to anyone taking courses at UConn. Says Kate: “We had access to millions of articles in the databases, including journal articles specific to Holistic Nursing. You can also search with very specific criteria. I couldn’t have done the research I did without being able to take advantage of those resources. It was absolutely amazing to have those tools at hand.” Using the database resources, Kate put together a solid proposal for the Practicum that focused on how faith-based communities address depression and healing and how aromatherapy and the M Technique used together may help.
After attending a training in the M Technique, Kate set up a seminar at her church in Southwick, MA, showing participants how to do this special type of message in which each movement and sequence is done a set number of times, in a set pattern, at a set pressure and speed that never varies. She also offered a variety of essential oils from which participants chose to make their own roll-on. “I remember one of the women made a lavender essential oil roll-on and used it before she went to sleep. She called me the next day and told me it was the best sleep she had in years!” recalls Kate.
As Kate looks ahead, she is planning to lead more community-based seminars in combining aromatherapy and the M Technique. “After the program I had at my church, I received a call from a woman who wants me to do the program at her church. I love being able to help educate people so that they can make good decisions based on facts. Getting the right products can be very tricky; you really need to read the labels and make sure it is a proper grade of oils. There are a lot of products that are not pure-based. It’s important to know what to ask.”
“Earning the certificate adds a lot to your resume, showing that you have the additional drive to do something beyond what you get from graduating as a nurse or nurse practitioner. And with UConn’s outstanding reputation in the nursing field, you will have a big advantage when it’s time to get a preceptor for the third and final course.” — Devin Pray, Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Summer 2018
Devin Pray feels so much more prepared to help patients at the VA who are interested in alternative forms of medicine, thanks to earning the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate in Summer 2018.
New Holistic Nursing Comes Naturally
After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Rhode Island, Devin Pray went on to receive a second undergraduate degree in Nursing 15 years later, along with two Master’s degrees—an MS in Biomedical Science and an MS in Nursing—all three of which were from the University of Connecticut (UConn). With his MS in Nursing in hand, he began working as a Nurse Practitioner Resident with the Veterans Health Administration in West Haven, CT, where he will complete his residency in 2020. “The VA had offered their patients a wide range of holistic healthcare options. I wanted to learn more about holistic modalities so that I could better support this patient population, with its complex health issues,” notes Devin.
Back to his alma mater
So he naturally turned to his alma mater to see what UConn might offer in the way of additional education in the Holistic Nursing field. To his delight, he discovered just what he was looking for: the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program. In fact, looking back, he recalls that Dr. Colleen Delaney, the program’s director, who was one of his professors when he was in UConn’s accelerated, one-year post-baccalaureate nursing program in 2014, told him about the online graduate certificate in Holistic Nursing.
Fast forward to 2016. At the time Devin had just started UConn’s Adult Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program to earn his MS in Nursing. Despite the rigors of graduate school, he decided to take the plunge and began the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate program about half way through completing his masters. “It was a very busy time, to say the least,” notes Devin, who took all three courses consecutively, earning his certificate in Holistic Nursing in the summer of 2018.
The online platform was key
How was he able to handle such a busy schedule? “Being able to complete all three courses online was the key reason I could go through the program while simultaneously getting my MS in Nursing,” he explains and adds: “The online platform allowed me to be flexible and continue as a full-time graduate student at UConn. I typically did the Holistic Nursing coursework in the evenings or on weekends. It was great to be able to fit the work into my schedule as time allowed.”
Devin has put his new skills to good use at the VA, especially his new knowledge about acupuncture, which he says is used extensively with veterans. “So many of my patients ask me about holistic healthcare options, like herbal medications, acupuncture, meditation, and essential oils. This is not surprising; many patients at the VA have tremendous anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and other issues related to being in active duty.”
Reaching a comfort level
As Devin notes, the takeaways from the program enabled him to better discuss holistic options with his patients. “I learned so much about holistic care and feel equipped to explain various modalities; it comes so much more naturally now. Going through the program also made me a better listener and more prepared to look at my patients from a holistic point of view, not simply a person with a specific disease. I am much more comfortable with teaching meditation techniques, mindfulness, using herbal supplements and essential oils—whatever my patients are interested in, I’m now able to provide a greater menu of options.”
In large part, Devin credits Dr. Delaney for his current success working with veterans interested in holistic medicine. “Dr. Delaney is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about teaching. She goes above and beyond to help students in any way possible. And she’s very kind and caring. She made the program!”
Putting new knowledge into practice
During the third course, NURS 5003 – Holistic Nursing Practicum, Devin and the other students in his cohort participated in a community-based education program revolving around a holistic modality that was of particular interest to them. Devin was able to have Dr. Delaney as his preceptor. His field of interest? Meditation and mindfulness, which are also specific areas of interest for Dr. Delaney. “She gave me additional resources and guidance on techniques, as well as helped me learn how to teach meditation,” says Devin, who organized and led a class in meditation at the Farmington Library in his hometown as part of the final Practicum. “It was a terrific experience putting my skills to use, helping people from my local community. I prepared a survey that everyone took before and after the meditation session. And I’ve continued following up to help participants perfect their own meditation and mindfulness skills.”
Self-care comes first
Devin recommends the program for another important reason: self-care. As he notes, there was a big emphasis on self-care. Students were asked to do self assessments and look at being aware of their own holistic health, like diet; exercise; spiritual, emotional, and physical health; and daily activities. “You must take care of yourself first before you can expect it of anyone else. The program was very helpful for my own sense of well-being,” he says.
When he is asked about the program from other colleagues, he is quick to point out that having the certificate will benefit nurses in virtually any field. “Earning the certificate adds a lot to your resume, showing that you have the additional drive to do something beyond what you get from graduating as a nurse or nurse practitioner. And with UConn’s outstanding reputation in the nursing field, you will have a big advantage when it’s time to get a preceptor for the third and final course.”
Preparation for National Boards
Need one more reason to consider the program? Earning the certificate also helps prepare students to gain certification with the National Board Certification in Holistic Nursing. “I feel much more prepared to go forward with board certification and plan to do that once I finish my residency program in 2020,” says Devin.
“It was so much better than I ever expected of online learning. The Zoom meetings and the discussion boards were phenomenal. I felt like I really got to know my classmates, some of whom I am still in contact with.” —Selina Jose, Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Summer 2018
During the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate Program, Selina Jose became familiar with a wide range of holistic modalities, enabling her to determine which modality or combination of modalities would work best for her patients’ specific situations.
A Natural Next Step
It’s not surprising that Selina Jose ended up earning the Holistic Nursing Online Graduate Certificate; after all, she was very familiar with the University of Connecticut (UConn), having received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UConn in 2017. During her senior year, she had Dr. Colleen Delaney as her professor of NURS 3130 Public Health Nursing. As Selina says: “I remember Dr. Delaney encouraging me to consider the Holistic Nursing certificate program, most likely because of my interest in naturopathic medicine. And I’ve always been very interested in mindfulness and meditation.”
Real-time virtual meetings
In 2017, just after graduating with her BSN that previous spring, she took Dr. Delaney’s advice and enrolled in the certificate program. Throughout the program, she was pleasantly surprised at how much she was able to connect with her classmates. She credits this, in part, to the remote Zoom video conferencing in which the entire class joined together in real-time virtual meetings. In addition, students participated in discussion boards to which faculty members would post questions and students would add their responses and could respond to each other, providing invaluable feedback and insights. “It was so much better than I ever expected of online learning,” notes Selina. “The Zoom meetings and the discussion boards were phenomenal. I felt like I really got to know my classmates, some of whom I am still in contact with.”
During the 9-credit certificate program, Selina especially liked being introduced to the wide range of holistic modalities. “I loved the theories and models we learned. And the textbook, along with such online resources as articles and videos, were great. By the end of the program, I felt very familiar with the myriad of Holistic Nursing principles. The courses also taught me which Holistic modality to use for a specific situation and patient and why that would be the right choice.” Selina adds that she also greatly appreciated the personal coaching she received from Dr. Delaney. “She really cares about each student and engages with you. She doesn’t push her interests on you, but guides you to be the best version of yourself as a holistic nurse,” she notes.
Right around the time Selina enrolled in the program, she had been hired by Connecticut Children’s Hospital in 2017 as a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Float Pool. As a new graduate hire, she was enrolled into the organization’s Nurse Residency Program. As part of this, she was supported to do a research project that would influence practice change. She decided to focus her project on promoting “self-care” for nurses, specifically on looking at ways to help reduce burn out with staff nurses through mindfulness and meditation. She and three other nurses who shared her passion for Holistic Nursing developed an intervention called BREAK, which is short for Be Present, Recognize and acknowledge all feelings, Energize and take a deep belly breath, Accept what is and move forward, and Know your metta sentence, and repeat. (This is a positive sentence that can help people reframe their mind, steering away from negative thoughts.)
“The timing was perfect. I was able to blend what I was learning in the Holistic Nursing certificate program with my research project while influencing my peers,” notes Selina. She was also able to apply the research to NURS 5003 Holistic Nursing Practicum, the third and final course of the certificate program. To date, she has used BREAK with dozens of nurses at the Children’s Hospital. “I’ve had many nurses tell me that they use BREAK on their own; in fact, one of the managers asked me to teach it to her staff during one of their meetings”. Selina is also planning to present her research at the Building Brighter Futures Conference in Westbrook, CT this fall. “Dr. Delaney was so encouraging, coaching me through the process of developing the framework and implementing it here at the hospital. With her guidance and extensive experience in publishing, I am also hoping to get the research published with my team in the Journal of American Holistic Nursing.”