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Home Healthcare and Self-Care with Keith Carlson

With 17 years of nursing experience, Keith Carlson works mainly as a home healthcare provider; yet, his skills and interests extend far beyond nursing. Keith is also a certified yoga instructor and personal coach, as well as an expert blogger and radio show host.

Hi, Keith! Can you explain your current position as a Home Healthcare Agent?

Currently, I work part-time for an agency that has a contract with the federal Department of Labor to provide in-home care for injured mine workers. We help these men to live at home with nursing and personal care support. I provide nursing assessments, treatments, and other supportive nursing care, as well as the supervision of PCAs and LPNs.

I also work for a private home care agency that provides personal care assistance and limited nursing services to clients living at home and in assisted living. In that position, I train and supervise home health aides, train and supervise other nurses, and visit clients in their homes to monitor quality of care and provide basic nursing assessments.

What do you find to be the benefits of working in home health care vs. working in a hospital or doctors office setting?

In home health, I enjoy a significant level of autonomy, as well as the ability work one-on-one with patients in a relaxed home setting.

Tell us about your blog that you currently maintain.  What types of articles does it feature?

My blog, Digital Doorway has won many awards and receives a fair amount of readership by nurses and healthcare professionals. I began it as a personal exercise in 2005, but it has morphed into a very focused nursing blog, and it provides me with an endlessly satisfying creative outlet.

What are your favorite types of topics to write about?

I like to write about nursing and healthcare, especially trends and topics that highlight the challenges and rewards of nursing and allied professions. I also like to address topics of interest to nurses, especially in terms of self-care, wellness, and burnout prevention. Since I am a coach who coaches nurses on self care, the blog is the perfect “mouthpiece” for my opinions, stories and suggestions.

You are a yoga enthusiast, and are a strong advocate for using yoga to de-stress and better health. What have you found to be the top benefits of practicing yoga?

I am a Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor but do not currently teach yoga. Due to a back injury, I’m currently practicing Chi Gong, a gentle martial art similar to Tai Chi yet much simpler and easier to master. That said, yoga is a great source of stress reduction, physical fitness, increased lung capacity, mental focus, and has the potential for increased spiritual wellness and connection.

Can you explain what Laughter Yoga is and how it differs from other types of yoga practice?

Laughter Yoga was founded by a medical doctor—Dr. Madan Kataria–in Mumbai, India in 1995. He combined his knowledge of health and medicine with his wife’s expertise in yoga, and he believes that laughter—whether authentic or “fake”—has the capacity to heal the body, mind and spirit.

Scientific studies have shown that the human body cannot tell the difference between “real” laughter and “fake” laughter, thus the person laughing receives the same physiological benefits (increased oxygenation, abdominal massage, release of dopamine) whether the laugh is real or not.

Laughter Yoga involves specific exercises that elicit laughter, and when laughing in a large or small group, the forced laughter often becomes real due to the absolute ridiculousness of the event! Laughter Yoga is now offered in more than 80 countries. (If you Google “John Cleese Laughter Yoga”, you can see a brilliant short film of John Cleese from Monty Python interviewing Dr Kataria and experiencing Laughter Yoga in India.)

What exactly is a Laughter Professional?

Laughter professionals bring the benefits of laughter to schools, community        groups, corporate environments, hospitals, and other venues. They offer coaching, group facilitation, and other services. Remember “Patch Adams”? He is, in essence, a laughter professional with a medical degree!

You are also very much into Life Coaching and self development. I saw that you are a Certified Professional Coach.  What exactly does this mean?

I hold one certification as a life coach and will soon be a Board Certified Nurse Coach (NC-BC) under the auspices of the American Holistic Nurse Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC).

Coaches offer various services for a broad range of clients, including but not limited to laypeople, executives, nurses, writers, entrepreneurs, and others. Coaches help clients to set goals and achieve results in their lives, but they do not delve into pathology, diagnosis and other psychotherapeutic areas that are more appropriate for psychotherapy and psychiatry.

Consider a personal trainer. You hire a trainer so that he or she can help you set goals and hold you accountable to your plans (or help you to reevaluate and rewrite your plans). Think of a coach as a personal trainer for your life!

What are the benefits to nurses who hire a Professional Coach?

Nurses who work with a coach can expect to be guided towards evaluating various aspects of their lives, setting goals, and moving forwards in areas of personal and professional importance. Some nurses may work with a coach on interview skills and career development, while others may focus on burnout prevention, burnout recovery, personal development, and wellness.

What types of experience or education did you need to receive this type of certification?

My first certification and training was through several small coaching organizations that offered training for those interested in life coaching. Currently, I am undergoing a more rigorous process of receiving mentoring and training to achieve certification through the AHNCC (named above).

Coaching is an unregulated field, and anyone can “hang a shingle” as a coach without any training whatsoever. Various organizations are jockeying for position as certifying bodies, and there are some organizations that lead the pack in terms of credibility and influence in the wider coaching industry.

What are some of the benefits of working in a female-centric field?

Being a “sensitive” man, I have always been personally comfortable in the presence of women, and I enjoy working in a female-centric field in many ways. I also enjoy the slow growth of the presence of men in the field. I believe that women are empathic by nature, and I also feel that men who enter nursing are special indeed.

Do you feel there are any disadvantages to being a male nurse?

I don’t personally sense any disadvantages to being a male nurse, but I do see that our culture has been slow to embrace the idea. We are sometimes laughed at, especially since a male nurse was scorned quite openly in the person of Ben Stiller’s character in the movie, “Meet The Fockers”. This reinforces negative stereotypes.

I also feel that people sometimes wonder why a man would become a nurse rather than a doctor, and a frequent refrain might be, “You’re too smart to be a nurse. Why aren’t you a doctor?”

Of note, it’s my opinion male nurses often achieve higher status, higher pay and greater career mobility and influence in this male-dominated world. Thus, I feel that female nurses are still at a disadvantage in the context of the wider culture and its values.

What advice would you give to men who are considering a career in the nursing field?

Be clear about your motivations, and be clear that you are comfortable in a female-dominated workplace. Be aware of your value as a caring man, and be aware of the ways in which you can change the cultural zeitgeist by embracing a profession that is mostly female. Do not use your “male privilege” in ways that subjugates or otherwise overpowers your female colleagues’ ability to advance their careers.

What inspired you to focus your career on helping current nurses to live healthier lifestyles and to offer them life coaching?  Was there a defining moment for you?

I experienced burnout about 8 years into my career as a nurse, and I felt that being able to use my skills to coach nurses on how to care for themselves would make a significant contribution to the quality of nurses’ lives, as well as to the quality of care that is delivered. Healthy, happy nurses are able to provide better care, thus my coaching of nurses can have an enormous impact on individual nurses’ lives, patient care, the healthcare industry, the nursing profession, and society as a whole.

Would you consider nursing to be a higher stress job than most?

It is certainly a high-stress job, similar to medicine, dentistry, social work, law enforcement, firefighting, etc. I would rank it in the top 10-15 most stressful careers.

What types of projects can we expect to see from you in the future?  Do you    have any books you’re planning on releasing? Any new websites, blogs of case studies?

RN.FM Radio is a weekly live radio show for nurses, and we air every Monday at 9pm EST. Our shows are archived on our website and are also available as free podcasts on iTunes. We interview nurses who are thought leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, filmmakers, specialists, coaches, healers, and others. Our mission is to lift up the profession, raise awareness of the power of nursing and the ways in which nurses can expand beyond the bedside, if they choose to do so. We recently partnered with Scrubs Magazine and we have no doubt the show will continue to grow exponentially in both popularity and reach.

I am beginning to expand my availability as a public speaker for conferences and meetings. This year, I will be speaking at the Southwest Emergency Nursing Conference in Albuquerque, as well as the annual meeting of the National Nurses in Business Association in Orlando, Florida. I am also in negotiations for several other speaking engagements later in 2013.

In terms of my writing, I continue to write for Working Nurse Magazine of Southern California, as well as blogging for LPNtoBSNonline.org. I have been published in several anthologies of non-fiction by nurses, and I am currently pursuing further opportunities to contribute to books about nurses and nursing.

With my coaching practice at Nurse Keith Coaching, I am now offering individual coaching and group coaching—both in person and via phone or Skype—and am expanding to coaching and motivational speaking in facilities and hospitals.