By Marlena Chavira-Medford
In today’s health-care industry, spirituality tends to be an afterthought. Carmel Valley resident Nadine Kassity-Krich, however, aims to change that. She and longtime colleague Dr. Jamieson Jones recently co-authored “First, Heal Thyself: How to Survive Spiritually in the Healthcare Industry,” a book that examines how the soul intersects with caretaking.
Kassity-Krich has worked as a neonatal nurse, an outreach ambassador at Children’s Hospital, and she is a graduate of Leland Kaiser’s Integrative Fellowship Program. She met Dr. Jones while working at Children’s Hospital, and after discovering that they shared a mutual interest in the role spiritually plays in the world of medicine — or the lack thereof —the pair began collaborating, often teaming up for lectures and presentations.
The duo has now combined their knowledge, as well as some anecdotes, into this book. Here, Kassity-Kirch talks about the impetus behind this book and what she hopes readers gain from it.
Why did you want to write this book?
We initially wrote this book for health-care providers to re-instill the focus on why we all went into this business, before it got muddled with business, government and HMOs. A lot of colleagues get burnout because they’re facing life-threatening situations on a daily basis, so it’s an emotional roller coaster. But if we can shift our perspective, then we can see our work as a spiritual learning experience instead of something that drains us. If we can teach the patient something and, in turn, we can take a spiritual lesson from the patient, then it’s a win-win for both parties. I call it reciprocal healing. And it doesn’t matter what faith you are, we can all take spiritual lessons from each other.
It sounds like a neat concept. Do you think it’s applicable to others outside the healthcare industry?
Yes, I do think there’s something for everyone in this book. As I got deeper into the writing process, I realized that this book is really applicable to everyone because all of us have been caretakers at some point — whether it’s been caring for a young child, an aging parent, or just ourselves.
What do you think the healthcare industry would look like if spirituality were in the equation?
It would not be chaotic or based on crisis-management, which I think it is right now. If you look at indigenous cultures, which do involve spirituality in their healing, there is a peaceful acceptance of life’s challenges and the passing of life. I think we could learn something from that. In our culture, we’re so wound up, so busy all the time. Most patients get about 7 minutes in the office. But if we learned to be more connected, to honor each other's feelings, I think the whole experience would change. In the end, I think all patients really want to be heard, and to feel connected and honored.
Having worked in the healthcare industry for many years, I imagine you speak from experience. What have been some of the experiences that brought you to that realization?
There was a baby boy born with heart defects, who I will never forget. His parents were very involved in his care, and as a result I got to know the family quite well. The baby went into cardiac arrest and I was able to save him through CPR. Two weeks later, he died of pneumonia. His parents sent me a card that said, “Thank you for being a life preserver.” I never expected that, but it was big teaching experience. It taught me that there had been a healing that had taken place. And that even though he was gone, we had shared a connection, and that meant a lot to his parents. I was able to let go, and I think they were, too. It’s experiences like these that have taught me that, at times, patients just want you to sit with them and be present. Sometimes the most you can do is simply bear witness.
What kind of feedback have you heard?
I received an email from a woman on the East Coast who read the book while she had a family in hospice care. She shared the book with her family, and she said that even in that pain it helped bring them all comfort and an understanding about their loved one passing on. If that’s the only thing this book ever does, I’ll be happy.
What do you hope people gain from this book?
I hope they find something that will help them in their journey through life — and inspire them to collectively help the planet become a more peaceful, compassionate place that’s focused on honoring the human race. It’s a big wish. But what can I say? If you’re going to dream, dream big.
For more information about the book and its authors, or to purchase a copy, please visit