Meet Martha - The Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Martha Ketteridge has been a Registered Nurse for 31 years. Her first job was in Orthopedics, prior to transferring to General Surgery and then Surgical Intensive Care, where she worked with Open Heart Patients. She became interested in Holistic Nursing but at that time there were limited Holistic Nurse Practitioner programs. She considered getting a Masters degree in Social Work, and through the suggestion of friends and colleagues decided to get a Masters degree in Nursing, and work as a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry, which she has been doing for 13 years.

Tell me your biggest pet peeve about nursing.

My biggest pet peeve about nursing is that we tend not to take care of ourselves. Our tendency is to put our needs on the bottom of the list. We are the last ones we give compassion to.

Tell me what you love most about nursing.

I love that nursing has so many different areas that we can bring our healing and compassion to and that there are so many ways to make a difference in people’s lives.

What throws you off balance?

I get thrown off balance when I forget to nurture myself. This usually happens when I’m working too much or too busy “doing”. I know because I become easily irritable and find I’m better off staying away from people! I now know that I get thrown off balance when I let my meditation practice slide. I’ve developed a meditation practice that really grounds me and when I lose my mindfulness practice I get caught in judgment, criticism and blame. I start to not like how I am and catch myself not being very nice to my family.

What brings you back into balance?

A way for me to bring myself back into balance is to be in nature. In the summer, I start my mornings having tea outside on my deck. Sometimes simply going for a walk, or some kind of movement-gentle yoga movement through the day.  Since I’m sitting and talking with patients all day, moving and exercise is even more important. And for me, my mindfulness practice always brings me back to balance. I just need to remember it’s always available.

Can you share an interesting or memorable story about a patient?

When I was working in the Cardiac Care Unit, I had taken a few classes on the Therapeutic Touch technique. Shortly after completing the classes, I had an opportunity to use it on a patient I had been taking care of. Despite the unit being open and a place of sensory overload, I was able to create a place of calm and the other patients cooperated by not having any emergencies! The patient was a retired airline pilot who had suffered his first heart attack and he was extremely open to the therapeutic touch treatment. He reported seeing various colors and had experienced a deep feeling of calm and peace. I didn’t know how profound an effect it had on him until a year or so later.  I happened to see him at the hospital when he was visiting someone, and he asked if I ever got a copy of the letter he had written to administration, which I hadn’t. He told me that the therapeutic touch treatment was such a profound experience for him, that he wanted the hospital to know that it had changed his life.

What has been your favorite nursing position?

My most favorite nursing job is what I’m doing now. As a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner I bring all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained, and am able to combine it with my passion for being in service of healing people’s emotional life. I love the autonomy and independence I have in my work and the seemingly unlimited areas of focus- like mindfulness- that enhance my work. I am able to prescribe and treat patients with medications and I also provide psychotherapy, which I love. I find the work so rewarding and I feel really blessed and privileged to work so intimately in my patient’s lives.

What advice do you have for new graduates?

Find ways to connect with yourself. Starting a new career and new job are very stressful. Nurses tend to be very compassionate people and what is really so vital is to learn to cultivate a practice of self-compassion. We tend to be our harshest critics, with negative judgments and self-talk. Give yourself a break- Let go of perfection- Be kind to yourself.