As for many during this past year-and-a-half, I found myself with more time – time to listen, time to slow down, time to spend in nature, and time to reflect on the important things. My hope for everyone, nurses especially, is that we can embrace this collective time out, this transition period, as an opportunity to take a step back from our chaotic lives and step into what is all around us – nature. Nature reminds us to slow down, nature calms us, and research shows that spending time in nature directly impacts our physical and emotional well being (Ettman et al., 2020).
My name is Kim Allen. I am a nurse practitioner, and I am currently transitioning into the role of a professional researcher while concurrently working as an Emergency Medicine Nurse Practitioner. My research focuses on integrating nature-based and functional medicine into an already overburdened healthcare system. My research asks, How do we integrate nature-based healthcare into clinical practice when we as healthcare providers are already overwhelmed?
When I think about 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, I think of the word exhaustion. People – nurses, patients, clinicians, we’re all exhausted. One of the solutions to this collective exhaustion is emphasizing the importance of taking care of ourselves and others while promoting the health effects of spending time in nature. How can we bring more nature-based healthcare initiatives into the current healthcare system and have it be recognized as an evidenced-based treatment model? In many ways, this idea parallels the large advocacy campaign around nutrition that occured 20 years ago. Once conventional medicine recognized the ill-effects of the standard American diet (SAD) on our physiological and mental health, our entire mindset around health care began to shift to a more preventative model. I feel that nature-based healthcare initiatives are the nexus of a new mainstream healthcare movement.
As we round out this incredibly polarizing year, embrace this global transition period, and step into whatever is next, let’s vow to listen to each other. Let’s promise not to judge others or push them away. Let’s listen objectively with the goal of understanding, and learn to work together. Like Ginni Cook said in the blog before mine, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Radical change starts with you. Drink more water, get more sleep, exercise, laugh more, enjoy the people around you, and get outside in nature.
Ettman, C. K., Abdalla, S. M., Cohen, G. H., Sampson, L., Vivier, P. M., & Galea, S. (2020). Prevalence of depression symptoms in us adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 3(9), Article e2019686.
Kimberly Allen is a family nurse practitioner with extensive critical care and Functional Medicine experience. Her academic and professional background bridges the gap from acute care to preventative health with a focus on Nature-Based Healthcare.
Her clinical experience is grounded in diverse settings, including rural and community hospitals, international relief, wilderness medicine, flight nursing, trauma, as well as technical rescue and international wilderness guiding.
Kim earned her Ph.D. in Mind-Body Medicine with a specialization in Integrative Functional Nutrition. Her quantitative doctoral research focused on nature-based healthcare as a social determinant for global health.