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Meet Claudia Wong of Mindful Nurses in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Wong.

Claudia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, and Sound Healer from California. For my very first nursing job in 2006, I worked as a Registered Nurse in Glendale in a Cardiac Telemetry Unit. Being a new nurse, I got very anxious about even stepping into the hospital to start my shift. I often skipped meals and went long periods without going to the bathroom as I would overlook my own basic needs to put my patients and their family members first while busily running around taking care of patients. Things improved as I got more accustomed to managing my time and prioritizing the needs of patients. From there, I worked various Nurse Practitioner positions such as visiting home-bound patients all over Los Angeles and then worked in dementia care seeing patients with all different types of dementia and guiding family members throughout the ups and downs of taking care of a loved one with a terminal condition.

I found that although working as a nurse was extremely rewarding, it could also be physically and mentally draining helping with difficult patient situations, navigating around healthcare system limitations, documenting lengthy and time-consuming medical charting, and worrying about the health and well-being of patients.

In 2018, being a wanderlust, I took the opportunity to take a pause in my regular routine and 9-5 position to travel and explore the world. I saw many wonderful sights and participated in many adventurous excursions. Completing my 200 hour Yoga Teacher training in Venice, California with Holistic Yoga Flow, It opened my eyes to a whole new world of spirituality and finding my center and balance within myself. During my trip, I went to Bali and studied more yoga and also alternative holistic healing methods. During my 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training and Reiki Energy Healing Course, I met my Janel Smith, a Nurse Practitioner and Yoga Teacher from New York. Finding out that we had similar interests in nursing and holistic healing, we bonded instantly. Being a nurse and undergoing intensive yoga teacher trainings learning about mindfulness, meditation and yoga both in Los Angeles and throughout my travels in Asia, I knew that these practices and ways of thinking and being would be extremely beneficial for my nurse colleagues and for also family and paid caregivers of patients. During the Radiantly Alive Yoga Teacher Training, I had a final project to bring self-care and wellness to those who care for others, such as nurses and caregivers. Janel also shared the same vision as I did. In April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was worsening globally, healthcare workers including nurses were faced with enormous amounts of stress and were exposed to traumatic scenes of people on ventilators and dying due to the Coronavirus. Feeling the tremendous stress building up all over the world, that is when we knew it was the right time to begin the project to help the physical and mental well-being of nurses.

From there, we created Mindful Nurses, a community and platform to promote the self-care and well-being of nurses with holistic healing practices and talks. We launched the “Mindful Nurses Free Online Wellness Series” on May 6-15th during National Nurses Week and International Nurses Day to celebrate nurses and give them useful tools for self-care. We had holistic wellness facilitators from across the globe hold live, online sessions for nurses to help provide practices on how to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression as well as methods to help to physically and emotionally decompress after witnessing potentially traumatic situations, as seen in the medical field. We also had discussions on healthy eating and the importance of self-care practices and routines. Sessions included Tibetan Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation, Restorative and Gentle Flow Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Somatic Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique for Stress Relief, Reiki, Self-Love Massage, Plant-Based Eating for Immunity, Trauma Prevention, a talk on Self-Care and Routines, Breathwork, and I facilitated a Sound Healing session with Tibetan Singing Bowls. All were welcome to participate free of charge!

In the future, we will hold in person wellness events and retreats for nurses to refresh and renew themselves and be able to “Nurse themselves first” so they can continue to take care of others with compassion and prevent burnout.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being Nurse Practitioners and Yoga Teachers, Janel and I did not have much experience in the virtual realm in terms of holding a virtual series, Facebook and Instagram advertising to notify nurses of the events we were holding, designing social media posts and event flyers, handling and storage of videos of the sessions, and website building. It was great having the two of us to bounce off ideas, troubleshoot, and to split tasks. We were able to learn all of it along the way and so future events will be technically smoother for us.

Please tell us about Mindful Nurses.
Mindful Nurses is a community and platform which promotes the self-care and well-being of nurses through holistic wellness practices and discussions. We have online wellness sessions such as yoga, meditation, breathwork, trauma prevention, Emotional Freedom Technique for Stress Relief, and Sound Healing to help decrease anxiety and depression among nurses. We will also have in person events and retreats in the future.

We facilitate weekly “Wellness Wednesdays” sessions where we hold virtual holistic wellness practices and talks on mindfulness and self-care for nurses across the world. Nurses are welcome to follow us on facebook (Mindful Nurses), instagram (@mindfulnurses), and our website (www.mindulnurses.net) to find out and join the events!

Being in the healthcare field, the focus of course is on patient-centered care. I did not see much available that focused on the physical and mental well-being of nurses or other healthcare providers. Recognizing this need for self-care for healthcare providers and taking steps to create balance in the lives of those taking care of others, will in turn create a healthier and happier healthcare workforce and healthier and happier patients. A win-win for the healthcare system.

What were you like growing up?
I was born in Lima Peru and then moved to Northern California when I was two years old. I was the youngest of 3 children.

Growing up, I was a shy and sensitive kid that liked to play and explore. I would play football with my brother and dabble in team sports such as softball, soccer and volleyball.

Later on, I went to the University of California, Davis for a Bachelor of Science in Biology and developed some close friendships in the small college town. I had known I wanted to help people in some way and discovered the role of a Nurse Practitioner during a college internship and decided to pursue that career path.

In 2006, I moved to Los Angeles to obtain my Master’s degree in Nursing and fell in love with the vibrancy and diversity of Los Angeles. I moved to different parts of Los Angeles including Alhambra, Echo Park, West Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. I was always an explorer and would seek out different hiking spots, nightlife, and cafes. I decided to stay in Los Angeles working as a nurse and a Nurse Practitioner. I also started doing more yoga and acroyoga and traveling more domestically and internationally after I became a nurse. I enjoyed exploring new cultures, meeting new people, and seeing beautiful sights.

Being in the healthcare field, I started to have compassion for not only my patients but also the caregivers that took care of the patients and the healthcare workers that took care of them both. I taught a yoga class for the UCLA Physician Exercise Program, for caregivers in Mount Maunganui in New Zealand while I was traveling for two years, and created the Mindful Nurses platform to promote the well-being of nurses.

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