Dora the self-care explorer: Psychiatric Nursing student aims to improve patient care by encouraging nurses to care for themselves first

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communication

From a near-death experience at birth to a tumultuous time as a young adult, life hasn’t always been easy for Dora Kamau. But the Psychiatric Nursing student overcame her challenges and transformed the lessons she learned into the creation of a thriving self-care community called Bliss Your Heart, where she helps other women on their journey to self-discovery through workshops and events.

With graduation around the corner, we took a moment to talk to Dora about Bliss Your Heart and what she plans to do once she completes her Psychiatric Nursing degree.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a fourth-year Psychiatric Nursing student with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Saskatchewan. Outside of the academic realm, I am the founder of Bliss Your Heart – a flourishing women’s community here in Vancouver – a self-care and wellness artist, and a meditation and mindfulness facilitator.

What led you to Psychiatric Nursing?

As a child, I was very imaginative and I loved to role play. For whatever reason, I gravitated towards playing a nurse, particularly for all my toys or for my clumsy older brother who was always getting hurt. Although at a young age I was drawn to nursing, as I grew older, I realized guts and gore weren’t something I was passionate about. I was however, extremely interested in human nature and how we interact with ourselves and our environment. Both interests led me to complete a degree in Psychology, but I realized after graduation that I wanted to be in a more hands-on profession; psychiatric nursing was the best of both worlds!

What do you plan to do after graduation?

To be honest, I’m at a crossroads right now, where I have my entire nursing career ahead of me, but I’ve also created another path for myself in the community with the work I do.

In my ideal world, I’d love to connect mindfulness and psychiatric nursing, creating a platform for nurses that promotes mental well-being, mindfulness and self-care. But first, my plan after graduation is to travel and continue working in women’s wellness and addictions. One day I hope to attain my master’s and PhD, but for now, I really want to explore the world, see what it has to offer and use my travels as a way to inform my nursing practice.

Let’s talk a bit about Bliss Your Heart – what inspired you to start this project?

Bliss Your Heart was birthed from my yearning for more meaningful and intentional connections and conversations in my life. There was an eight-year period of my life that was filled with trauma, hurt and pain, and though I was able to remove myself from that life, I still carried this narrative of shame and guilt. I felt I couldn’t speak or share my story with others, out of the fear that nobody would be able to relate to or understand what I had experienced. So I decided to create a space for other women like me, to gather and hold space for one another, where we could silence shame by having powerful conversations about self-love, self-care and mental health.

Supporting others through psychiatric nursing and your work with Bliss Your Heart must be tiring – what motivates you to keep going?

The power of community and sisterhood that I’ve witnessed since I started Bliss Your Heart. To hear and listen to others who’ve been impacted by the work I’ve done reminds me that what I’m doing matters. I also recognize the power that my image, as a young black woman in wellness, has. I know how inspiring my position can be to other young black females, and this also motivates me to continue doing this work.

What also inspires me is how normalized stress and burnout is in nursing culture. Yes, we all experience stress, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be accepted as a societal norm. I’m inspired to make a change so that our nursing practice not only places a high emphasis on providing the best patient care, but ensures we as nurses are also being taken care of.

How do you practise self-care?

By meditating and resting, which requires discipline and consistency. I have a morning routine that starts at 4:30am and includes some type of movement, meditation and journaling. I also have a nighttime routine that includes turning off my electronics, changing the colour of lighting in my home and using a lot of aromatherapy before I sleep.

The way I practise self-care is informed by three values that I live by: acceptance, accountability and vulnerability. So the actions I take to maintain my well-being and care for myself are a result of self-acceptance, personal responsibility and my ability to do what’s right over what is comfortable.

What’s your advice for other Psychiatric Nursing students on how to succeed in the program?

Be clear on what you want out of the program, create a self-care system that works for you, sleep, stay organized and be prepared, find your niche in the program and research or get curious about specific topics in that field that spark your interest.

It’s also important to keep yourself surrounded by peers, family and friends who can support you on this four-year journey!

Want a career that matters? Become a psychiatric nurse. Attend an upcoming info session to learn more about the program.

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