Meet LeAnn Thieman: Serving Chicken Soup For Nurses' Souls
LeAnn Thieman, Hall of Fame speaker and nurse, is the New York Times best-selling author of 14 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, including her newest, “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Inspiration for Nurses,” which has already reached over a million minds, hearts and souls of healthcare workers.
Now her mission is to reach at least one million nurses with her 'SelfCare for HealthCare' initiative. This movement/philosophy aims to create behavior transformations for positive cultural impact, increased employee engagement, morale, retention, patient satisfaction scores, outcomes, and reimbursements.
1. Tell us about your nursing career
I've been blessed to have worked in almost every area of nursing. When I graduated from nursing school, I worked OB; throughout my career, I worked in everything from nursery to geriatrics, plus school nursing and hospice. Before my career change to speaking and writing, I was working OB again!
2. What inspired you to become a nurse?
My story is so uninspiring! After high school, I wanted to be a flight attendant and actually got accepted by United, but I had to be 20 in order to begin the program. So I began looking for one-year programs to fill that gap year. When my high school counselor gave me the list, I chose to nurse; within a few weeks, I knew that this was the career for me. Nursing is indeed a calling and I heard it loud and clear!
3. What inspired you to share your stories?
In 1975, as Saigon was falling to the Communists, I went to Vietnam as a volunteer to escort six babies back to their pre-assigned adoptive homes. By the time I got there, bombs were exploding outside the city and President Gerald Ford had okayed Operation Babylift. I helped load 300 babies into cardboard box bassinets in the belly of a gutted cargo jet so that we could bring them to America. In the midst of this chaos, the baby boy we had planned to adopt in two or three years crawled into my arms, my heart, and my family.
Eighteen years later, I wrote the book on this amazing adventure: “This Must Be My Brother”. That began my speaking and writing career. Then “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” asked me to co-author “Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul” and I began writing everyone else's stories, too! I have since written a total of 14 “Chicken Soup” books.
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4. What/who are the biggest influences in your life? And why?
My mother taught me unconditional loving care of all people, and Mother Teresa reinforced that mission in my life.
5. What was your proudest moment as a nurse?
Sitting alone at the bedside of a hospice patient transcending into heaven.
6. What was the toughest part of your career?
As an LPN, it was hard for me not to go back to school to get my RN when I was pressured to do so. I knew that for me, I could not live my priority of putting my family first and go to school at the same time. When hospitals eliminated LPNs, it broke my heart. Then, when our nest was empty and I was ready to go back to school, my speaking and writing opportunities manifested and thrust me into a new career instead!
7. Why is self-care and balancing life such an important theme in a nursing career?
Nurses are overworked and overwhelmed, so busy caring for others that they often neglect themselves. 36% admit to feeling burned out; 20% plan to quit their jobs this year. We need to care for ourselves as attentively as we do everyone else, to make our self-care a priority in our lives; we cannot give what we don’t have inside. A nurse of a strong body, mind, and spirit will deliver better patient care; that results in better patient satisfaction scores and, ultimately, reimbursements. It’s all about caring for the caregiver.
8. What was the best piece of advice you have been given? Why?
I’ve read extensively the works of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, and others, and I believe in the power of positive thinking. Our minds affect our bodies and our spirits; our minds are computers and we control the input. Positive thinking and visualization are powerful tools that impact our health and happiness.