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The Parable of the Runaway Horse – Part 2

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You can draw a lot of information from Dr. Olpin’s “Parable of the Runaway Horse.” If you haven’t already learned the parable, go back to the original post and watch the video. Robin Williamson, BSN, RN, wrote more on how it can apply to you as a nurse:

Within our bodies, lies a complex network of nerves, hormones, chemicals and responses who’s only purpose is to maintain physiological norms….a state of “comfort” or “calm”.  It is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).  It is derived from the Latin “para” meaning alongside, and “sympathaticus” meaning having a fellow feeling for.  When the body senses stressors, it initiates a sympathetic response to prepare us to safely deal with that stressor.  The same nerves that cause this evolutionary response run “alongside” the same nerves used within the PNS, to bring us back to a “new normal”.  Every time we encounter a new stressor, our brains learn a new response.  Excluding chronic exposure to repeated and chronic stressors, as in a trauma response, we learn with each new experience; which lessens our initial response with the next similar stressor.

In The Parable of the Runaway Horse, Dr. Olpin demonstrates that while we have little control over the events in our lives; the way we interpret and internalize these events determines their actual outcome.  As you view this story, think of some recent events in your life, that at first encounter, feel very uncomfortable; that stretched you beyond what you previously believed your capacity to be.  When stressors interrupt our “calm state”; choosing to see the stretch AS the “norm”; is what facilitates the growth.

As nurses, we partner with our patients to promote healing and growth.  We have an expectation to model those qualities before we can extend them to our patients.  Within my first year of nursing, 12 years ago, I felt like surviving nursing school was the easy part of my nursing education; and this year, was my real test.  Finding the right balance of humility and confidence in my daily nursing practice; was the most challenging balancing act I had ever encountered.  I felt enormous pressure to prove myself within that year, as the foundation for the rest of my career.  That pressure only led me to daily feelings of defeat, as I surveyed the events of each day, attempting to total my “wins” and “losses” as some sort of barometer for my success.  It wasn’t until I recognized that this year was simply an extension of my nursing education, and therefore an opportunity to have daily “growth and improvement” as my new normal.  I recognized that a comfort zone had not place in my journey through nursing, as growth does not exist within comfort.

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The Parable of the Runaway Horse

Dr. Michael Olpin suggests that “Events themselves are not inherently stressful.”  When I was first introduced to this idea, I hesitated to agree. My first