“Give (Inner) Peace a Chance” – Transcript
You can be happy and you can find peace even when your external circumstances are far from perfect.
Welcome to Drexel’s 10,000 Hours podcast. Our goal is to mind the stories behind our region’s innovators, inventors, and thought creators. We’ll be talking to experts in subjects from dance to cybersecurity to find out what lies behind the passion for their work, the inspiration for their ideas, and the motivation for their creativity. I’m your host Maurice Baynard.
Jackie Murphy is an assistant clinical professor at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. Jackie’s clinical area of expertise is pediatric nursing. And she’s also a certified meditation and mindfulness teacher.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
No, this was really, it’s a real pleasure. Thanks. So I’m always interested where people get their start. And so I’m wondering if there was anything in your childhood, I’m thinking here like grade school and high school, that was sort of indicative of where you would end up as a professional?
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think reflecting back, and when I think about what other people say when they decide to go into nursing, many people have that story of that person that inspired them or that family member that was a nurse. And my story is a little different but I think it’s important to share because I don’t think we all have that exact same path.
So growing up, I was really– I mean, my parents are amazing. And they really encouraged me. You can be anything you want to be and supported any dream I had, which is awesome, but also makes it difficult to really figure out what path you want. So it’s funny that you’re asking me this today because just over the weekend, my mom had dropped off a huge box of memories from when I was in elementary school and middle school. And I was reading what I wanted to be when I grew up in my middle school writing journal.
And it said I was going to be a CEO of a major corporation. And it’s funny, because that lasted for a long time because that was what my grandfather was. So as we progressed into high school, I decided, I guess I can’t just go and be a CEO. I have to start somewhere. So I really thought, OK, well maybe I’m going to go into business. And business was always an option. And then I was like, maybe I really, I love medicine. I loved my science classes. I loved the anatomy classes I took in high school. I loved biology. And I thought medicine would be another great field. So either a doctor or nurse.
I think lawyer was sprinkled in there and then also teacher. Teacher was a big one. Like I said, I absolutely love biology, loved my biology teacher, and I thought, OK, maybe biology teacher is the way to go. So it got down to when I was trying to decide on a college and was applying. I actually applied a bunch of different colleges for different majors still trying to make a decision as to, what am I going to do with my life? So when it came down to it, I really examined, what is it that I want to be when I grow up? And nursing really stood out to me. It stood out to me because I had so many different avenues.
So even as a high school student, I understood that becoming a nurse would allow me many different paths. So I ultimately selected nursing. And my goal there was to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. I went into nursing school with that goal in mind. So that is starting in my childhood, that is how I made my way into nursing.
But pediatric nurse practitioner seems like such a specific goal for say a college freshman that there must have been something that you were exposed to that directed you specifically in that path.
Yeah, absolutely. So I think I knew I loved kids. I knew I loved working with kids. That was part of the reason I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Kids was always something, a population, that I loved. So I knew that I did not want to work with adults. I knew that I did not want to work with the elderly population. I knew for a fact I wanted to work with kids.
So that was really what motivated me. And I think the nurse practitioner element was I did toy with the idea of going to med school to be a doctor as well. So when I thought about the fact that I could go into nursing, I could get this advanced degree, and still function similarly as a physician, to me that was enticing, being able to combine these interest was what I think really motivated me in that pathway in that direction.
Right. And so where’d you go to nursing school? Because now it seems like you were ultimately absolutely focused on what you would ultimately become. So where’d you go to nursing school? And were you right about your inclination that you would love it?
I ended up going to nursing school at the University of Delaware. That’s where I started. And when I got accepted there, that was my number one school. I applied to many schools because that’s just my personality. So I applied to many, many schools. And but I loved University of Delaware. So got into University of Delaware, was super excited. And I hated it. So it’s a beautiful school. It’s a beautiful program. But again, I was young. I think many people can relate to me.
Some people thrive at college. I was not one of them. And I should have known there were many signs that I would not do well away at college. But that was what I was supposed to do. So I was going to do it. And again, my parents are the most supportive people. So when I called them I think week one and I said, OK, I’m done here. And they said, OK, let’s find a new school for you to go to. And I think University of Delaware, it’s amazing. But it is so big. And I felt so lost. And I couldn’t flourish there. I couldn’t thrive.
So I ended up transferring after the first semester to Gwynedd Mercy. And it’s a small college right about 15 minutes from where I grew up outside of Philadelphia. And it was perfect. It was, like I said, a very small campus. I was able to commute. I had amazing professors, amazing group of peers there, and was really able to just grow there.
So when I was in my second year there, I was hired at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as an extern, which I thought, oh my goodness. I have just landed my dream job. So in nursing, we often have externships. It’s so– it’s a summer program. You really get to dive into it so much more than you do during a clinical experience. You are learning everything about being a nurse. And it was like I said, my dream job. And loved it. And I thought this is amazing. I am on my way to being a pediatric nurse practitioner going to check all my boxes, all my goals.
So I ended up getting hired there after graduation, which was amazing. I was accepted into a pediatric nurse practitioner NP program. Everything was going as planned. And then I realized, oh no. I don’t want to be a pediatric nurse practitioner anymore. And I don’t really like working where I am. It was amazing. I mean, I was at the number one children’s hospital. Who wouldn’t want to be there? I had amazing mentors. There was amazing physicians. So many patients that just still, I can vividly remember. But it was just really a huge place.
And again, I was still super young and I was coming to a crossroads where I realized, this goal, this very specific goal was no longer my goal. And panic set in a bit. So no. I ended up not going in terms of that pediatric nurse practitioner route. But that’s OK. But that’s kind of how I found out that that wasn’t the ultimate goal.
So Jackie, there seems to be a theme developing here. So you started out at U of D. But it was too big. You go to Gwynedd Mercy, it’s perfect for you. You have this dream of being at the number one pediatric hospital in the country, if maybe the world. You end up there, but you realize that’s not for you. I wonder what is it that you learned about yourself in those two sort of circumstances.
I think I really learned that for me, personally, I just really thrive in a much smaller environment. I think that I really benefited from when I transferred and I went to Gwynedd and the classes were smaller, and I really got to my professors. That was huge. When I was at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I had so– there was so many opportunities. But it was so big. And I just I didn’t even know where to start. And it was overwhelming. And when I left CHOP and I went to a small community hospital where I was on a pediatric floor, I was able to thrive. I was able to really embrace being a nurse.
I was able to quickly move up and emerge almost as a natural leader. So while I didn’t have a formal leadership title, just emerging as a natural leader, I was able to take on more responsibility. I was able to get involved more, and connect more. And I think that when I was young, it was really hard for me to connect with people who I didn’t know, especially being in large groups. So I think starting out at that small, smaller hospital really allowed me to develop my nursing skills, develop my leadership skills?
I was able to become an educator there, so develop my education skills, my educator skills. And that was just really crucial. So I think that move was a huge turning point in my career.
There’s so many things that people, I think, get wrong about nurses. I mean, in our current environment, we all agree that nurses are super important in the world. But we also don’t run into them until we’re in some of our sort of most dire circumstances if that makes sense. And I was wondering what you think people who aren’t in the nursing profession don’t really understand about it.
There is so much that I think people don’t understand about nursing. So I mean, just to give you a personal story is, so as I’ve said, I was a pediatric nurse when I worked clinically. And I think there is a concept– there is a misconception even amongst my family to be honest of what exactly I did. So if I said I was a pediatric nurse, I think there was this picture of me holding babies or playing with kids all day, which happens sometimes, which is amazing when you get that benefit of connecting with your patients.
But that is not what nurses do. And nursing is so much. We talk about this in nursing. But there’s an art and there’s a science to nursing. So the art. You have to connect with your patients. If I have a pediatric patient, I might use play to connect with them. I might use play to make them feel comfortable with me. But there is so much more where you have to be a critical thinker. You are the one at the bedsides. You are the last stop before medications get to your patient. You were the last check. You are the one who’s assessing that patient for adverse effects.
You are the one who is at the bedside in an ICU titrating medications. So there is so much critical thinking that goes into being a nurse. And I think that the public doesn’t quite understand what the role of the nurse is. I think oftentimes a nurse is viewed as a trade, something that you can quickly go to school and leave and you follow a physician’s orders. But it’s so much more than that. A nurse is really a partner in this healthcare team. And I think that there’s many reasons that we aren’t where we need to be yet, especially with the perception of the public.
And one of the reasons is the way that we’re portrayed on many TV shows, or in many movies. My husband’s also a nurse. So we’ll often cringe when we watch certain shows. And you just see the nurse following an order simply or being portrayed in a bad light. I think that with the pandemic, it has brought to light the importance of nurses and just how crucial nurses are.
So I guess– but I do– I don’t mean to be controversial, but I wonder how much you think gender plays into our perception of nurses and their role in health and healthcare teams.
Oh I love this topic. So it is such a good topic. And it’s very huge. So gender, I think the fact that the majority of nurses are women. Like I said, my husband is a nurse. And I think, what is it, the Meet The Parents, where they talk about 6% of nurses are men or something. Because in the movie, he’s a nurse. So–
Yeah, right? And they’re making fun of him. So my husband gets that as well. Or when he was at the bedside, it’s people assume different things about him because he’s a nurse. And so anyway, back to the majority of nurses are in fact women. And I’ll give you an example of how this really plays out. So when I was– so back when I was a nursing instructor, so when I would bring students to the floor, I would notice that they would treat the male students so much different than the female students if they thought that that male student was a resident.
So let me give you an example. When I had a male student on the floor and then versus female students, a patient would see the female student and not really move, just like, oh hi. Yeah, thanks for coming in. But then if a male student walked in and they thought that that male student was a resident as opposed to a nurse, they would immediately perk up, shake their hand, be like very wanting to talk to them. And it was always really interesting to see that play out.
Because you could tell that just by the gender of the person walking in, they made the assumption nurse or a doctor. And it was dead wrong. It was a nursing student. So I think that we see this all the time. We see this all the time just on the floor with how they treat a male nurse versus a female nurse. And I think that that’s– so I do. I agree with you. I think that is a big part of the stereotype is that there is still this the majority of people are still, or the majority of nurses are still women. Now I do see a change in that. I do see a change where we are seeing more men coming into the nursing profession.
So that might help to change some of the stereotypes a bit as well. But like I said, the men in the profession, they have it rough sometimes where assumptions are made about them or they’re criticized for their career choice.
This is super fascinating. I mean, you mentioned your husband Glenn. And I really wanted to have a conversation with you about the research that the two of you have done together and the things that you’ve been thinking about. But even as I was reading through your CV and sort of read the titles of your research papers, and realized that Glenn must be your husband, it never occurred to me that Glenn was a nurse. I just made an assumption in my own head that said, oh he must be a researcher, or he must be a physician.
And I just think that that speaks to an ingrained– I mean, I’m going to call it a prejudice that really doesn’t work to either our personal or societal benefit.
It is so true. And that’s so funny that you made that assumption too. And I think that– and it’s so interesting with him because so as a male in the profession, it’s almost like he receives both criticism, oh you’re a male nurse. Why didn’t you go to med school? Whatnot. And then but also it works to his benefit because there are so few men. So a lot of times, places want to increase diversity both different types of diversity, but men being one of them. They want more men. So it works to his benefit as being a male.
And I will tell you, him and I have also seen pay inequities where I’ve been paid less for similar things because he’s a man. So they still exist and those prejudiced and the biases. So it’s really quite fascinating and interesting.
I’d like to focus some time on the research that you’re interested in and what in the ways in which you’re thinking about how meditation and mindfulness can change medical practice. So why don’t you talk a little bit about the way in which you think about meditation and mindfulness and their appropriateness in a medical setting.
Just to give you a little bit of background about how I got into it, which I think will help to understand how I use it now is so I got into mindfulness personally. And it was many years ago. I can’t even remember at this point. But where I just needed something, a lot was going on in my life that I really couldn’t control. And I was looking for a tool. So I just kind of stumbled upon this book on mindfulness in the library and thought, what the heck? Let me give it a try. And it was truly life changing.
And since then, I just started practicing mindfulness, both practicing as in meditation, and yoga, but then also just the principles of integrating them into my life about being in the present moment. And it was, like I said, just absolutely life changing. So it was really, I never set out to be a researcher in mindfulness or to share mindfulness with others. It was really personally. And as I found that it was really, really helpful, when I started my doctoral studies, I was trying to pick a topic. What do I want to study?
And I know I had great mentors. And they’re like, pick something that you are passionate about. Are going to be living this for the next three years. So as a nursing educator, I was gravitating towards the normal topics of education. Do I pick something in simulation? Do I pick something nursing education related and so on? And I said, you know what? I’m going to challenge myself. I’m going to delve into this mindfulness topic, even though I was really scared to do it. Because it wasn’t something I was really an expert in.
But I’m going to do it. And I think they say the scarier– when you accomplish those things you’re most scared of, it’s so much more rewarding, which it was. And while I was in school, I took additional training to be a certified meditation and mindfulness teacher. I started to deliver webinars, webinars to nurses, webinars to students, and then I did my dissertation research on the impact of an open access course with online graduate students, and really looking at their stress, their mind wandering, and their persistence in their academic program.
And ultimately, what I have found through this journey is that really you can easily implement different strategies into your life to really help manage your level of stress, to help you be more present. So currently with our pandemic, and with everything else going on in the world right now, racial inequities, and so on, there’s a lot that we can’t control. And it’s really easy to get wrapped up in that.
So for example, the nurses at the bedside, it’s really easy to let that stress overcome you so when you are at the bedside to be distracted by the thoughts of being nervous that you’re going to get sick, being nervous that you’re going to bring home COVID or what have you to your family, to worrying about what’s going on at home, the kids are home schooled, to worrying about, are you going to lose your job with the current pandemic, or maybe your husband, or your wife’s position you might lose.
So there is so much. I mean, I could go on and on, that we just cannot control. And ultimately with mindfulness, it teaches us that you don’t have to have your life perfect. Because is life ever perfect? No. So you don’t have to have all of your external circumstances to be perfect to be happy. You can be happy and you can find peace even when your external circumstances are far from perfect.
So when I teach people about this, I always preface it that I’m teaching it really from a way of, well, one that’s secular. So it’s not religious. It’s not a philosophy. It’s just a way of living. But also, I dispel the myth. So you do not need to meditate for hours on end to be able to see the benefits. Research shows that in just five minutes a day, you can have decreased levels of stress. So I share that with them. I share the research. Because there is so much research on this topic. So it’s not just something that’s kind of fluffy or nice to do. But it’s something that actually shows that we can change our brain, that we can have decreased levels of stress, increased immunity.
So really, really cool things. And again, just how they can incorporate it in every single day, how they can incorporate it at the bedside. So for example, when they are washing their hands, I say, it’s a great time to be mindful. What was the last time you washed your hands? We do it all the time. But did you actually feel the water? Did you actually feel the soap? Or were you just thinking about running off to the next thing. Before you go into a patient’s room, you take one minute and you do a one minute breathing space. And then you go into the room so that you can be present with your patient so that you can be mindful.
But then also, it’s the same thing for when you get home. How many times are we stuck ruminating on what’s going on, or what happened during the day at work, that we’re not even present with our partner, we’re not present with our kids? So taking a minute, taking five minutes in your car even to center yourself, to focus on your breath before going into the house so that you can disconnect from work. And then just I share a ton of different strategies that people can use throughout their entire day to live more mindfully and to be more present.
Jackie, I really appreciate you focusing on teaching us to pay attention to those things that are not as obvious, including mindfulness, and intuition, and following what feels right. It’s been a real pleasure.
Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Drexel’s 10,000 Hour podcast is hosted by me, Maurice Baynard. Our producers are Shaun Fitzpatrick and Nathan Barack. Drexel’s 10,000 Hours podcast is powered by Drexel University.