Patient Safety / Quality

Quantum nursing

Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanato­mist, experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. On the afternoon of this rare form of stroke (arteriovenous malformation), she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. It took eight years for her to recover all of her functions and thinking ability. She wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (published in 2008 by Viking Penguin). In her book, Bolte Taylor made some comments that both intrigued me and spurred me on to further investigations. Specifically, she said, “…I experienced people as concentrated packages of energy. Doctors and nurses were massive conglomerations of powerful beams of energy that came and went…Although I could not understand the words they spoke, I could read volumes from their facial expression and body language. I paid very close attention to how energy dynamics affected me. I realized that some people brought me energy while others took it away. One nurse was very attentive to my needs…she made eye contact and was clearly providing me with a healing space. A different nurse, who never made eye contact…was oblivious to my needs…her lack of willingness to connect with me scared me. I did not feel safe in her care.” Later in the book, she said, “Remembering that we are energy beings designed to perceive and translate energy into neural code may help you become more aware of your energy dynamic and intuition.

I do not have the space here to make all the connections that must be made, but this is as good a place to start as any. Bolte-Taylor experienced us as “concentrated packages of energy” or, even better, “conglomerations of powerful beams of energy.” Quantum physicist David Bohm describes the human person as intentionally directed energy. Let us take it as a given that nurses bring knowledge and skills to a patient’s bedside. But they also bring something more: their person—that marvelous conglomeration of powerful beams of energy…and they bring their intentionality and their focus (or lack thereof)! And this may be the key difference for the patient: the difference between a competent nurse and a superb nurse.

I don’t know how closely you have been following field of quantum physics, but (indirectly) there is a lot it has to say about therapeutic relation­ships, some of which is clearly foretold in Hildegard Peplau’s work, especially her belief that the nurse used herself as a therapeutic tool. At any rate, here is a very short (some might well say “simplistic”) summary.

Energy, while not material, is substantive, that is has considerable scientific underpinnings, starting with Einstein’s theory of mass energy equivalence: E =mc2, energy and mass are equivalent and trans­mutable. Building on his work, a contemporary, J.S. Bell, uncovered the unity of the subatomic world in 1964, which demonstrates that everything that exists is inseparable. We have yet to grasp the implications of the fact that all-that-is is made of energy in various configurations and densities. In fact, consciousness itself probably is energy. Thus, at the most fundamental level, we are all one—and that One is energy. Science proves this to be true, but we have no understanding of it. Nevertheless, Bell’s work was confirmed again by Alain Aspect of the University of Paris and later by Henry Stapp of the University of California. More­over, the fundamental truth of this theorem has been demonstrated by scientists over and over again across the decades—including actually “viewing” it through an electron microscope. Even the energy in a thought can be caught and used. What you look at something, how you look at it, and what you think when you look at it changes “it.” Moreover, this is not confined to “its”…these implications apply to people, too. The way you look at people, what you think about them, what you intend for them, the words you say to them and about them, and certainly the actions you take change people!

Religious leaders have taught for centuries that we are one: one body, one spirit, one people. Scientists now confirm this teaching. It is what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “…in so far that you have done it onto one of these, at least of my little ones, you have done it onto me.” It is what the Taoist meant when he said, “Cut a blade of grass and the earth trembles.” And why the Talmud teaches that “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.” So, you care for your patient as if you were caring for yourself, or your loved one…for at some fundamental level, you actually are. Then your patients will feel safe with you….

This brings us full-circle. When people are injured, ill or dying, they are particularly vulnerable as their life force (energy) wanes. We bring to them knowledge and skill—certainly. But we also bring to them our life energy, focus, and intention. In fact, it may be the most important thing we do bring. When we understand, we can consciously choose to do it—to practice “Quantum Nursing.”


Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN
Executive Editor, Professional Outreach
American Nurse Today

Selected references

Dr. Leah Curtin, RN, ScD (h), FAAN, is Executive Editor, Professional Outreach, American Nurse Today. An internationally recognized nurse leader, ethicist, speaker, and consultant, she is a strong advocate for both the nursing profession and high-quality patient care. Currently she is Clinical Professor of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health. For over 20 years, she was the Editor-in-Chief of Nursing Management. In 2007, she was appointed to the Standards and Appeals Board of DNV Healthcare, a new Medicare accrediting authority. Dr. Curtin can be reached at LCurtin@healthcommedia.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the ANA or the staff or Editorial Advisory Board of American Nurse Today. Visit americannursetoday.com/SendLetterstoEditor.aspx to comment on this article.

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