Ep. 30 – Coping through Storytelling & Music – Carolyn Phillips, PhD, MSN, BSN

We continue the celebration of our survivors with today’s episode on coping, grieving, processing, storytelling, & music. As a part of caring for our survivors, sometimes we encounter grief & grieving, even outside of the death & dying experience. In order to care most effectively for our survivors, we have to process our grief in a healthy way. Carolyn Phillips, PhD, MSN, BSN is revolutionizing how oncology nurses cope with professional grief & is producing amazing results, including that the well-being of the healthcare provider is intricately linked to the patient’s outcomes. I first heard about her research at the Cowtown Oncology Nursing Symposium earlier this spring: what an experience, & I couldn’t wait to interview her!

“Oscillating between expressing & avoiding our emotions is the healthiest way of coping with professional grief, & allows us to be able to find meaning & transcend the loss we’ve experienced.”

“Coping is the umbrella term. Grief is one of the experiences.”

2:50 Carolyn’s research: processing grief through storytelling & music

8:00 What is coping? What is grieving?

12:59 Telling our story over & over again in song

19:55 Suggestions for those new to professional grief

23:34 Carolyn’s advice for new & aspiring oncology PTs


Song – https://soundcloud.com/mandyrowden/pecosita

Pop Tarts

Story description by songwriter – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqJpz169CCg

Song – https://open.spotify.com/track/3MyDKoMiJHbCf3eeRbbhd8

Carolyn Phillips, PhD, MSN, BSN

Carolyn Phillips graduated with her BSN from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2002 and received her MSN from the University of New Mexico College of Nursing in 2011. She is a board-certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner as well as an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner.

Dr. Phillips’ entire career has been in oncology, as a bedside nurse, nurse practitioner, educator, and leader. In 2015, she received the Innovative Ideas in Healthcare Award from SVH Support in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ms. Phillips used the grant funds to build the infrastructure for a Community Nursing Research Center at the community oncology clinic in Santa Fe. In addition, she piloted a program, Songs for the Soul, which aimed to support the well-being of society’s professional caregivers through storytelling and music in order to foster a culture that celebrates and sustains compassionate care. After the successful pilot program, she turned Songs for the Soul into a 501(c)(3), Texas-based non-profit.

She recently graduated from the University of Texas-Austin School of Nursing. Her dissertation research was “A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Feasibility of Storytelling Through Music to Improve Well-being in Oncology Nurses.” In the Fall, she will join Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to continue her research.

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