This Nurse Coach Works at The Happiest Place On Earth… Literally!

by | Nov 21, 2019 | Nurse Coach Spotlight Series

Nurse Coach Spotlight Series 

 

Joanna Otero, RN, BSN, HWNC-BC, RYT-200

The Livewell Collective

Joanna Otero, an agent of change, from burned out operating room nurse to self-care preaching health & wellness nurse coach at the Disneyland Resort and Parks.

She has discovered that the path of success is illuminated by the light within.

The lifelong journey of curiosity and self-discovery begins with a single step.

She’s just beginning to explore what’s within reach as a Nurse Coach.

What You’ll Learn:
  • Her journey to becoming a Nurse Coach.
  • What it’s like to work at a plant-based retreat center.
  • How to manage 30-60 clients weekly while taking impeccable care of yourself. 
  • Her experience of working at The Happiest Place On Earth… Disneyland! 

 

Transcript:

Peter
Welcome to the nurse coach spotlight series. I’m Peter Giza, registered nurse, board certified nurse coach and co founder of the Nurse Coach Collective. Today we are in for a treat. I’m joined by joanna Otero, an agent of change from burned out operating room nurse to self care preaching health and wellness nurse coach at the Disneyland Resort in parks, she’s discovered that the path of success is illuminated by the light within that the lifelong journey of curiosity and self discovery begins with a single step. This is going to be a truly awesome conversation that’s going to explore all that’s within reach as a nurse coach. So Joanna, thank you for being here today. I am beyond thrilled to be able to speak to you in this capacity.

Joanna
Likewise, so much for having me, Peter. It’s truly truly an honor to be here.

Peter
Heck, yeah. Joanna, can you start at the top, can you give us a brief overview of your background as a nurse,

Joanna
absolutely, yeah. So, in 2010, I graduated nursing school and I dove right into the operating room where I worked for about eight years and experienced a lot of great things and a lot of bad things and just kind of took it took it all in and believed that all of it was part of the path, the the bad moments, the bad surgeons, the bad surgeries, and also to get with the good memories, the good surgeons and wanted to flip the script. I really wanted to be a part of the change of seeing less patients in the operating room. I think about there’s a statistic that 80% of outpatient procedures are stress related and lifestyle related. So that’s directly with food and environment and stressors and so on and help Everything is connected. And I really felt a calling to dive deeper into that and began my quest as a nurse coach.

Peter
Got it? I love that what you did inside of the OR just led you to nurse coaching. Do you remember what that final push was that allowed you to take the leap and begin your your journey as a nurse coach?

Joanna
Absolutely. So I had been an or nurse for about five years and a top prestigious center in Chicago metropolitan. ortho is kind of my game and hanging out with the sports med guys and it was so awesome. And I had a really bad experience and it led me to wanting to leave Chicago all together and head out to California. I knew since I was a little girl that I was a California girl and began travel nursing and then I started to read Realize that a lot of the issues and the problems were the same from or to OR. And in that time, I started to get really burnt out by taking an extra 20 hours of call per week, sometimes 40 hours of call, in addition to the 40 hours I was already working. And sometimes I’d be up all night working. And then I’d have to start another shift again. And I just became really exhausted and burnt out. And I realized that I wasn’t doing anybody good by going to work tired and risking to make any kind of mistakes. And so as I started to, say, shape, this curiosity of how lifestyle changes can implement, or excuse me how implemented lifestyle changes can really change the course of one’s health and wellness and overall well being started to do that on myself. And I started to implement a plant based lifestyle and I get began a yoga practice and I began to meditate. And I just realized How I was me the whole time and you know do by doing these modalities I was really able to uncover who I truly was the entire time. And as I realized how tired I was and overworked as an operating room nurse decided to skip back and say, Okay, I think I’m done for a little bit. I’m going to switch gears into something else. And I actually wanted to become a full time yoga teacher. Then my mom got sick for the third time with breast cancer. And I found that as a calling to really start to walk my talk and see what was out there and kind of utilize her as my first client if you would, and pull on from nurse coaching and plant based lifestyle and meditation and putting all those pieces together and seeing how one could really change the course of their life by taking action And here we are today.

Peter
So cool. I love to hear that story, Joanna because I, I hear it as you know, you have this. Like you went from one part of the country to the other. But you fell back into the same traps of working probably more than you ever did, historically back in Chicago, and there’s all of these small pieces that come into play. You know, in this moment in time, it’s been years since you’ve been introduced to a plant based lifestyle to yoga to meditation. So now it’s very much a part of your life. But in that moment in time, I imagined it to just be like this. Whoa, whoa, like what? What is this this new world? How did that? How did you have a similar experience when you first started you when you first entered the realm of nurse coaching

Joanna
Absolutely. It’s like, Where am I going to find clients who’s gonna who’s going to be aligned with this? And the more I started talking about nurture coaching, and how amazing it was, and all the positive changes I saw within myself by hiring mentors, and implementing those things in my own life, being an advocate for myself, that inspired other people to become advocates for themselves. And when you become an advocate for yourself, you put your foot down and you say, No, I’m going to get that full night’s of rest or I’m going to choose to fuel my body with this, instead of that, and all these empowering decisions yield really positive change. And I’m not to say that it’s all happy go lucky because of course we all have our moments of downfall and, and things happen but with that awareness that came with this entire career change, I realized that I was really in control of my destiny and my lifestyle and I feel like it just kind of created a domino effect with anybody that I have worked with. And I just can’t even believe the way my life has changed because of it in the past few years.

Peter
So cool. I want to hear about the way that you’ve changed personally. But first, I want to pause and kind of look at you know, since you’re a nurse coach training really has completed you’ve been up to some pretty fascinating things and I know you’ve had just like a multitude of experiences. How have you fused nurse coaching into your practice? Like, where did you start? Where did you start with that shift? When How has it led to the awesome work that you’re doing at Disneyland’s right now? Yeah, just kind of walk me through some of the things that you’ve been up to. And that radical career shift that has also simultaneously empowered you to take more, more better care of yourself.

Joanna
Yeah. So opening myself and my mind More importantly, and really going after that curiosity and knowing that if you try something and it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. There’s probably a reason didn’t work out and how you can shift gears really anytime you want. And I don’t really believe that we are destined to do one thing for the rest of our lives. For some people that, you know, that may or may not work out that as an agent of change, I like to change. And maybe who I was a few months ago is not who I am today. And I know for sure I’m not that 18 year old nursing student anymore who wanted to be a nurse anesthetist, or before that I actually wanted to be a lawyer my whole life and I now that I put these pieces together I realized the reason for that is because I wanted to advocate for people and wanting to advocate for People is what made me a really damn good nurse. And when I had completed my nurse train my nurse coaching training, I had accepted a position at a nutritional retreat center where plant based medicine and food was utilized as medicine and people were treating and reversing disease. I mean, we had some people who are on 200 units of insulin a day and from an eight week period of nurse coaching and movement and obviously being under the care of a plant based doc and also, you know, food protocol. I mean, some of these people went to like 25 units of insulin a day and just made such radical shifts in their in their life. And you know, some people couldn’t even walk up the stairs and by the time they had finished their program, they were running around the neighborhood and it was just so inspiring to see this kind of change. And all of that really, I believe, is from The opening and shifting the dimensions of the mind and just being open that there that there are other modalities. There are other ways. And in fact, I had read an article this morning, which I find really connected, I guess you can say is that the World Health Organization named the year 2020, the year of the nurse, and I’m just so inspired by that because our amazing profession. We are we calculate 50% of the entire healthcare force. And it’s up to us, you know, to really be those agents of change and help transform healthcare, from the broken system to the healing and functional unit that it really can be here in the States.

Peter
That’s amazing. Yeah, I love this serendipity of reading that article. I get chills when I hear things like that because it feels like Yeah. Like, I never imagined myself to be the gung ho person about changing healthcare and elevating our profession and now I can’t get enough of it and I hear so much of that in you and I I just think your story is so fascinating Joanna so you go from intense Chicago or nurse at prestigious learning university to overworking self inside of California hospitals to understanding like wow, okay. I need to change so you implement radical new changes in your personal life and well being you go you help your mom recover from this from her third, third time of being diagnosed. And then you take nurse coach training you go into this the world of plant These retreat centers, what was your role there? Like as a nurse coach, like how did you utilize nurse coaching inside that environment?

Joanna
So I had one on one, confidential appointments with the, with the recruiters. And additionally, we did one week, every week we did group coaching, which was pretty fascinating and interesting to do to engage all the members at one time in group coaching, and I was just so fascinating to see everybody interact and empower one another and lean on each other for support, but also, you know, one person was down the other would find a way to bring them up and inspire that person to bring themselves up and it was just such a really neat experience. And when my time was ending there, I realized that I needed to just fill my own cup again. When I decided to fill my own cup again and slow down a bit and focus on myself, another opportunity came along. And I just feel like those things are really connected and we take a moment to ground and you know, fill our own cup, the most amazing opportunities present themselves. And now I get to work on the corporate wellness team at Disneyland and I work alongside with fantastic dietitians and athletic trainers. And it’s an entire, holistic, complimentary team of people who really just care about all the people who work there and make it the happiest place on earth.

Peter
So wild I love that philosophy of slowing down and seeing how that opportunity presents itself. So at Disneyland presently, can you just describe like what this experience has been like for you and How the role here is different from the one at the retreat center. Yeah,

Joanna
so that’s really amazing. You asked, because when I had taken the opportunity to become a nurse coach at Disney, they asked why why not the retreat center anymore. And what I found was I just wanted to share nurse coaching with as many people as I possibly could. Right? And I know you know what that’s like. And it’s just so exhilarating. And so freeing and to know that you really can design your own life is that’s freedom in itself, and why not share that with as many people as you can. And there are about 30 something thousand awesome employees at Disneyland. And I just think it’s so cool that they have a benefit like that such a great corporate wellness program. And I just I really wanted to share this message of an holistic approach and what I love about that is we’re just looking at everything and how everything is connected, you know, the food we eat the people we talked to how often you know, or how good of sleep are we getting environment that we work in, that we live in, we thrive in that environment, and really understood just as that we open the floor to our client, just let them be them in the most authentic, beautiful way possible. And we just take that holistic bird’s eye view and they really do all the work and and putting those pieces together and we’re just along for the along for the ride with them as their support and their guide and it’s so exciting to see results so quickly. Knowing that you know, they’re the ones totally in control or just like Yeah, you got this and you know, hey, let’s check in Do you need to dial up a little bit you know, dial back, you know, on on your goals and all the amazing change that you’ve implemented in your life. And I know for myself speaking that the only way I have gotten to these great places in my career is by leaning into the fear of change, because change can be scary. But when you you know, seek that in, whether it’s investing in yourself in you know, some sort of training have something that you want to learn about or investing in a mentor or a coach to help you guide through those change. Just, it feels great to have someone really believe in you and, and your gift and your message.

Peter
Thank you for sharing that Joanna. So the experience at the retreat center is I imagine different than at Disney for you know, a number of reasons. One of them that I want to just focus on for a moment is so the people that come to you they are employees at Disneyland, is that correct? Yeah. So this is like one of their benefits, right? They get to work with you and these other places. practitioners, how have you been able to make nurse coaching something that’s accessible to them and exciting to them as opposed to like something that they have to do as part of their benefits package? so to speak.

Joanna
back to the basics, you know, I feel like everything is just back to the basics and minimal and simple for some. So my cast members, we just, we co create goals of, hey, how many glasses of water are you getting a day? Or how much how many hours of sleep Are you getting per night and they’re the ones creating these goals of very basic simple physical needs. And then once they start to see the positive results from that, like Hey, I got so much sleep and I felt so much more relaxed and productive and calm and excited to come to work and started drink more water. And I’m not you know, I don’t find myself reaching for the snacks that I’m not supposed to So when we start to go up the the pyramid, the exciting things, you know, the more exciting the more life changing, goals start to start to take shape. And people are like, hey, I want to start my own business or I want to do this and I want to learn this and just being fearless in the pursuit of whatever it is that they want to do. Maybe someone just wants to hold themselves accountable to book a trip for some new place that they want to see next year. Or some people want to just read a book about something that they’re interested in just having someone to hold them accountable to really anything health and wellness related as it again is, it is all connected. You know, for some this I want to talk to that person anymore because they don’t make me feel good. Or some people it’s, I need help adhering to my medication. Can you check on? Can you check with me? check in on me with that. Um, so it looks different for everybody, and how it’s different from the retreat centers that that was very strict protocol and disease reversal. So it’s somewhat kind of felt still like a hospital setting in a way. And here, it’s just just a lot more light. And I’m going to say it’s also a lot of fun to not to say that the retreat center wasn’t fun, because it was really fun cooking and being with people in the kitchen, leading yoga meditation there. But there’s just something about getting to be on the happiest place on earth and knowing that you are a part of that, being a part of something so big and so awesome. It’s just, that’s exciting. It’s exciting stuff.

Peter
So cool. That’s such a fascinating, fascinating story, Joanna and I really appreciate where the way that you stated that which was getting back to basics. You And starting really small, because I imagine you know, for most people they may have never been to a health and wellness coach before. They’ve never been in a relationship like that they have no idea what to expect inside of that conversation. How inside of like that first session, do you like build rapport? Do you explain what it is that you do? What are those? What’s that first session? Kind of like with with a new person from Disneyland?

Joanna
Yeah, so pretty much just ask them what brought them to the program. You know, again, that looks different for everybody. So I’m it’s stress management. For some it’s working on their plate. For some, it’s reducing their blood pressure, finding ways to reduce their cholesterol. And again, people who just want to maybe incorporate more sleep into their routine, whatever it is. I’m pretty much open with I’m not a doctor. I don’t diagnose. I don’t prescribe that I hold space. And right there people just You know, they just have a sigh of relief and they just feel so connected and happy to have someone intently listened to them for the next you know half an hour 45 minutes whatever whatever time it is that we get to spend together that day and just knowing that the space is totally theirs to be whoever they want to be and you some draw me the wildest imagined Tori pictures of their dreams and seeing them climb that ladder to whatever health and wellness related goals they have. You can’t put a price on that.

Peter
Amazing what’s been your favorite client success story from I guess from what’s different Disneyland since where they’re from Disneyland’s two dates.

Joanna
Yeah, so I have this one client that I would see every couple of weeks and kinda have to convince her to come see me. She’s kind of avoiding me for a little bit. Um, she had high blood pressure. And then when we just started working together, she just religiously comes, doesn’t miss her appointments. And she just is within the first like the first two weeks she was already glowing and just feeling so happy and heard and just started making all these changes on her own that she came up with. And it’s just incredible to see that kind of changing to see it so rapidly also, and seeing people really become their own advocates is is the coolest part. And there’s so many awesome people there that do that and it’s just they inspire me every single day that I get to be there.

Peter
I love that. Joanna, how do you feel or what do you feel has been your biggest area of growth as a professional nurse coach in say, the past six months, like what skill Have you had to refine in order to deepen your practice and to be of the utmost service

Joanna
listening and being present, and cultivating the awareness to truly be present in that session and nowhere else, nothing else matters just that person and the story they have to share the dream of they have to share the this the fence that the fence or the fence is that they have to climb and jump to get to where they want to be and where they currently are. And I find that my mindfulness meditation practice really hold me present to the moment and really holding space for that client. And again, when they know that energy doesn’t lie, and they know that one is they know when a space is safe and when they can be heard. And felt and seen. And there’s there’s empowerment and that

Peter
I want to point out for anyone who’s watching that the your need to grow in learning, learning how to listen more deeply and to be more present is coming from a certified yoga teacher. And someone who just went on a month log mindfulness retreat. So this is an ever evolving process and I appreciate you sharing that because it’s, it’s it is that important.

Joanna
Really is it makes the world of difference, mindfulness.

I don’t know how I live my life without it. I feel like I was just sleeping, you know, so many years and that was another poll for me to become a nurse coach. Is that I really wanted to be mindful and present and just connected to everything and everybody. And the most amazing way we tap into that is simply closing. closing our eyes connecting with our breath and your magically turning on all the brain chemicals and hormones in the body for deep relaxation, their cell reparation, regeneration, rejuvenation that happens in that moment, like pure magic literally happens in that moment. So I’ve been clearly a little bit obsessed with neuroscience and neuro-silence lately.

Peter
I like that neuro silence actually though, it was a cool.

Absolutely I would. Yeah, that’s a good one.

That’s awesome. Oh, man, Joanna as you deepen those practices of your own care on your end and slowing down, practicing mindfulness enables you to listen more deeply. What has been like the like, how do you notice that allows you to drop into the space more quickly? Or? Like how does that allow you to build rapport on a different level with people? Because these are like fundament. The reason I ask is these like fundamental skill sets as a nurse coach, and you just been honing them and practicing them for such a long time?

Joanna
Yeah, like I said before, just to loop back a little bit. I really feel like energy doesn’t lie and like really pick up if you’re there or not. Are you really present? Are you listening with deep intent with what they have to say? Are you listening to the dreams and hopes and fears and all those things that they share with you? Or are you thinking about your to do list and what you’re going to pick up for dinner and you know, so I feel like my mindfulness practice has really allowed me to create focused on the present moment and When you’re really in the present moment, you really can can listen and feel with with that person and what they have to say and what they have to share. And you’re right, it is absolute killer and basic of nurse coaching. And it’s so funny because when I began the program, let’s say 18 months ago, something like that, I didn’t realize how bad of a listener I think I remember writing that and one of the posts of time into our course responses on the lesson of deep listening has been always say, do you have to interrupt all the time like you always interrupt when somebody talks and I realized how bad of a listener I truly was. So the great thing about nurse coaching is not only do you get to hold space for all you know, all these people that you come into contact with, you get to learn a lot about yourself and it’s the the journey to self discovery through the program. is just, again, something you can’t put a price or even a word on, really. So I’m just very grateful for all of it.

Peter
So cool, how much learning can transpire in that arena in such a short period of time? And I know it’s ever evolving, but it’s, it’s amazing. So thanks for giving a timeframe on like how much can transpire in such a short period of time, you know, if in the scheme of life 18 months is just a drop in the pond, but you have created such a radical shift in not only your personal life, but also in the entire way in which you practice as a nurse in that short period of time and something that will fuel you and give you energy and continue to support you for I imagine years to come.

Joanna
Thank you,

Peter
Joanna on a typical week, how many clients would you say that you’re seeing at this point?

Joanna
So if I’m counting just the clients that I’m working with that Disney that could be anywhere from 20 to 45 I’m adding the amazing badass 30 nurse coaches that I get to interact with on a daily basis. Yeah that could be onward working with 20 to 70 people at any given moment within my within my week. So I’m very big on self care and yoga and you know drinking enough water sleeping because I realized how you know how much energy is required to do this work and and I love that because I signed up for it because I love the exchange of energy. But again, going back to as nurse coaches how important it is to truly Walk walk our talk and a part of it is is that self care and maybe disconnecting from social or, you know, our devices for a little bit and just being president and walking with your dog. present that you’re holding deletion action with this amazing creature or the person that you’re drinking a cup of coffee with. So I’m really big on the whole to help self care thing. Like I said, it really brought me out of that burnt out overwork state that I was and just, you know, hang it hanging on to that, that cultivated light.

Peter
Awesome. Thanks for just putting that into perspective. Joanna you because it’s, that’s a lot of energy out. And I did just appreciate your perspective on the necessity of self care inside of this role, and how just vital it is. What words of wisdom would you give to a new nurse coach who’s beginning this path?

Joanna
honor and trust the process. The journey, just just trust your gut is pulling you toward doing a nurse coaching program or changing your career. You’re never too old. It’s never too late. Just stay sheet that curiosity because it will take you on this journey that you you cannot even really imagine.

Peter
So well said.

Joanna, anything else that you want to share in this moments to the listeners?

Joanna
Yeah, make that make delicious lemonade from all those lemons you’ve been given make the best damn tasting lemonade that you’ve ever had.

Peter
Awesome.

Well, Joanna, thank you so much for sharing your story. I love to be able to hear it in this capacity and to be able to just listen to The enormous amount of change that can transpire in a short period of time. I know I’ve heard, I heard you say that a couple of times here talking about the people that you work with. And I see that in you and the enormous amount of work that you’ve done in your personal life that has had a direct impact on your professional life, and just how intertwined those things are. And I am just so grateful to be able to see the work that you’re doing and to hear about it. I know there are a number of other client success stories that you have that you shared with us recently that I think are just absolutely amazing. So from the bottom, my heart, Joanne, and thanks for all the hard work that you do and just for the exemplary incredible example that you are as a nurse coach.

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The Author

Peter Giza is a registered nurse, Board Certified Nurse Coach, and health and wellness expert. In addition to his work with The Nurse Coach Collective, he is an avid outdoorsman, musician, and traveler.

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