Getting to know Sarah Weaver

For those who work with Sarah Weaver, her recent recognition by the American Holistic Nurses Association was no surprise. But then it wasn’t much of a surprise to Sarah, either. The 2016 Holistic Nursing Rising Star Award recipient has spent the last several years working tirelessly to bring self-care principles to her co-workers at Parkview, and the progress has been astounding. 

Motivated by a passion for promoting peaceful communication and personal health among nursing professionals, Sarah is one of the benevolent, enlightening, nurturing People of Parkview. 

Name:  Sarah Weaver, MSN, FNP-C, HN-BC

Title: Integrative Nurse Practitioner and Holistic Nursing Coordinator

Describe your career journey:  

I started my career as an assistant team leader for AmeriCorps NCCC in Denver. In 1999, I opened Full Circle Doula Care in Seattle, Washington, and, later Fort Wayne. I was the owner and birth and postpartum doula, focusing on advocacy and education as well as direct care for newborns and families. Then, in 2003, I founded the Blue Mountain Project, which partners with rural farming communities in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains to improve the health, education and economy of their rural third world population. I was a Cardiac Telemetry nurse from 2007 to 2009 before moving to a family practice at the Neighborhood Health Clinic. In 2013, I began my career in holistic nursing when I took the role of staff nurse and holistic nursing coordinator. Recently I transitioned into my current position as integrative nurse practitioner and holistic nursing coordinator.

What can you share about your current position?

I have two different roles at Parkview. I spend part of my time at the Integrative Medicine Clinic serving as a nurse practitioner. I meet with patients one-on-one and teach group classes about improving health through diet, exercise and nutrition. The rest of the time I am coordinating Holistic Nursing activities throughout the Parkview system.

What is a typical day like?

Every day is very different. I spend a lot of time in meetings for various projects and in front of my computer writing curriculum, proposals and grants. Currently we have an aromatherapy research study in the works, as well as a resource binder for Holistic Nursing at the bedside. We’re also starting a Code Lavender Program* at PRMC and we’re planning for upcoming Holistic Nurse Certification Prep courses that start in October. This role has really stretched me professionally; I started at Parkview as a bedside nurse on 7 Medical and found myself in the boardroom discussing the future of nursing with leadership in a matter of months. That’s what I really love about Parkview – that anyone with a good idea and the tenacity to make it happen gets the support of the administration.

What are the main differences between traditional nursing and holistic nursing?

The roots are the same. Florence Nightingale discussed implemented holistic care to the soldiers of the Crimean War when she insisted on a clean environment, healthy food and fresh air. Holistic Nursing has an emphasis on nursing self-care and creating a healing environment through the use of self and self-reflection. It recognizes that the most important tool a nurse has is the ability to connect with his or her patient.

Why is holistic nursing such an important part of our care model?

Holistic Nursing is the only specialty that has its foundation in self-care. Teaching nurses to eat better, exercise, have healthy relationships and pursue an active spiritual life reduces turnover and burnout.  A holistic nurse reflects on his or her strengths and weaknesses. They know how to be centered in stressful times. They have also mastered the skill of setting intention to create calm and peace. They use their unique personality to create an environment of healing with their presence. The beauty in Holistic Nursing is it doesn’t take any extra time. It’s essentially how a nurse chooses to think and act with the patient.

What is your favorite practice specific to holistic medicine?

I am really passionate about helping people find better ways to eat. I think it’s fundamental to good health.  I use my training to coach people to set small goals to help them move toward their larger goal.

What inspires you to do what you do?

My early experiences at AmeriCorps NCCC and Koinonia Partners helped me establish that I was going to take the path less traveled. I developed amazing friendships with people that continue to make a difference in the world. Through these experiences I met role models like Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity. I lived in one of the first houses that he built as an experiment before he went to Africa. One of the main values of Koinonia Partners is voluntary simplicity. This concept blew my mind and made me realize that fulfilling work is the mainstay to a happy life.  I became less afraid to take risks and do the right thing. When I was fresh out of nursing school I worked in a very tough environment. Instead of accepting the negativity or quitting nursing, I knew that I could make a positive impact. I found the American Holistic Nurses Association and have been lovingly mentored by the elders of that community. I definitely want to make them proud and continue their legacy.

What are the greatest rewards of your job?

I love helping nurses feel empowered and fall back in love with their career. I recently got an email from a nurse who shared that she was seriously contemplating abandoning nursing as a profession but holistic nursing changed her practice in such a profound way that she is now excited about her work. It moved me to tears.

What most excites you about the future of your career?

The endless possibilities! I am just getting started.

What’s something you hope to accomplish in your career?
I want to make Parkview Health the place in the Midwest where medical providers come to learn more about providing excellent integrative and holistic care.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I am a prepper. I’m not waiting for a zombie apocalypse or anything, but I have been in a couple of natural disasters. There is a big difference between those who are prepared and those who arn’t. I would rather be in a position to help people.  I received survivalist training in AmeriCorps and now always carry a backpack in my car loaded with about three days’ worth of food and water, a water filter, something to build a shelter and clothing. I think this surprises people because I’m always in a cute dress.

What qualities make an exceptional nurse?

Being one’s honest self. Reflection is very important for an exceptional nurse.  It is one of the best paths to profound personal and professional growth.

Were you surprised when you won the Holistic Nursing Rising Star Award?

I hate to say this, but I wasn’t really that surprised. I really worked hard to build the Holistic Nursing Program. It was really unprecedented in the Holistic Nursing community to have a comprehensive program develop like ours did in 18 short months.  I have a good sense of what is happening on a national level with Holistic Nursing and know that what we were able to accomplish is very special. Parkview’s nursing leadership is approachable, visionary and extremely supportive, which made the work so much easier.

What does the recognition mean to you?

This award is an extremely prestigious honor. I consider it one of the highlights of my career.

What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

I love to travel and be in nature.  Sometimes my husband and I will close our eyes and pick a place on the map and spend a weekend exploring that area.

If you could tell people to read one book in their lifetime, what would it be?

Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist, developed Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a communication process that helps people exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully.  “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” is a great place to start learning about NVC.  It has been a game-changer in how I listen and respond.

What would we find on your bucket list and what do you plan to check off next?

I stopped doing world travel while pursuing my nurse practitioner degree.  I am ready to get back into it. I am going to start leading yoga and self-care retreats with Denise Jefferson, my old business partner from the Blue Mountain Project, this fall. We have Jamaica, Costa Rica and Armenia on the radar. The plan is to travel the world for free and help people feel better. 

How do you relax?

I recently took a week off and had a stay-cation. I spent a lot of time outside and just being with my kids.  I love experimenting in the kitchen with new and healthy recipes, mostly because it’s fun to feed the people that I love.

Read more about Sarah’s recent recognition in the Parkview Newsroom.

*Code Lavender is a rapid response to staff stress. A co-worker can initiate this process when they are being overloaded by stress and traumatic events at work. Once a Code Lavender is triggered, the staff member gets a Chaplain consult, aromatherapy, hand massage, snacks, some down time and self-care resources. They will also be given a lavender bracelet to signify to their team that they are having a rough day.


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