Self Care and the Radical Act of Feeling

Radical nurses, today this message is just for you.

It is a rally call to invest in yourself and allow yourself to live and feel your experiences. As a nurse, you have had experiences that have touched your soul and shaped the very core of how you serve your patients and their families. I chose “serve” purposefully, because if you are reading this, I know you provide nursing care that goes beyond what is required. You, the radical nurse, have cried, hand-held and wiped brows after hours and during moments when you could have chosen to silently walk out.

Walking this extra mile, taking these extra moments, because of this, I want to talk to you to ensure you are taking moments to self-reflect and to allow yourself permission to FEEL. Yes friends, to feel. Feel every emotion and feel it with every available sense you can. Experience these great moments of profound happiness or sorrow with your entire being. Let it continue to impact you.

Because it is through these experiences that you become the radical nurse you are. These experiences have allowed you to take on the monumental task of fighting both obvious and invisible barriers to equal access and quality care provided in a bias-free and nondiscriminatory manner.

Lastly, these experiences have shaped your nursing practice and they should be celebrated. For you have allowed your personal challenges to aid you in your growth in a courageous and daring way. You have allowed yourself to grow out loud and in front of others, vulnerable. You are experiencing your growth with eyes wide open and, fellow nurses, it is inspiring.

When you march, we see you! When you chant, we hear you. When you demand change, we stand in awe. You live your beliefs and your potential out loud and for that, I celebrate your bravery and your grit. And so, today, I wanted to acknowledge that painful experiences shape us. And while we live through these experiences, I charge you with using them for as much good as you can. Let these moments be your moment to create change, change that is reflective of your beliefs and values. Transformational change that will shape how care is provided to the most vulnerable amongst us. Let our profession, with its personal experiences and journeys, drive the transformation for which healthcare is desperate. We must lead with our hearts full of the same compassion and grace we extend our patients and communities for those who lack understanding or ability to empathize with “the Other.”

My goal today is to remind you that you are heard, seen, and impactful. Please continue to breathe as you move forward, continue to fight for what is right, and continue to experience this world with eyes and heart wide open. Live in the victories and the recoup and recovery through the losses. However, in all things, remember that your work is making a difference, even if it is shift by shift, person by person.


Shena Gazaway, PhD, RN, is a nurse scholar working in Georgia. She studies palliative care referral and utilization in African Americans living in rural communities. Shena is interested in community-based participatory research methods and eliminating health disparities. She is also a graduate of the Integrative Nurse Faculty Fellowship Program from University of Arizona.

Image attribution: Chandar, V. (). The beauty of old age [photograph]. Retrieved from:


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