Tapping Into and Cultivating Our Strengths

I have to admit that I was reluctant to spend the time necessary to complete the Strengths Quest Inventory… I purchased the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book written by Tom Rath a handful of years ago.  I had been doing some reading about the power of focusing on cultivating our strengths rather than continually focusing on improving our weaknesses, or areas where we needed development.  I found it particularly interesting because the concept was so counter to the way that our culture thinks and operates.  So, I bought the book.

I think I did the survey soon after, but realistically, I’m thinking that some time had passed.  I took the survey and printed out the results.  I was daunted by the 30+pages that contained my strengths, descriptions, activities that I could engage in to further develop and after a quick glance, I set the report aside until I had “more time.”  Unfortunately, “more time” never really seems to show up on it’s own.  So, I was a bit excited when the inventory was a part of our coursework.  I felt like the “assignment” validated the time that I would spend completing it.

My top five strengths showed up as Empathy, Activator, Input, Connectedness, and Relator.

I gave my report to my fiancé and listened to him laugh wildly as he read and said (over and over) “This is SO YOU!”  Yup.  It is me.

My strengths identified have served me well in past endeavors and, I think, will continue to serve me as a nurse.  Empathy has been noted in the social work research as the “antidote to shame and vulnerability” which is certainly important to clients who have chronic illness, who are unable to care for themselves, and who have general, or specific issue related to their bodies surrounding violence, abuse, and other painful experiences.  My experiences as a patient have fueled my empathy for the needs of a client.  Dignity, choice/control, compassion, respect, attentiveness, and kindness are all imperative and can be challenging to the busy and distracted nurse.  But I see this strength as a gift from the other side of the stethoscope.

My other four strengths seem to have a powerful interplay.  Activating is certainly fueled, in me, by giving input, sharing stories, connecting and relating with others.  Recognizing what other people are, or may be experiencing provides an insight into creating a dialog to support and move them to action with consideration for their fears and concerns.  Using the strengths of connectedness and relator, clients, friends, family, and community members are afforded the opportunity to see my imperfections and know that I recognized the struggles that we all encounter as human beings.  There is no perfect.  There is only moving forward and moving forward and moving forward.  It may be difficult, but understanding that sometimes we all live breath by breath  and creating/holding a space for that can empower the people around me and allow them the space to honor where they are and to creating a space and vision for where they are going.

I look forward to going back and taking stock of just how these strengths interplay and work together.  I have made (or strongly encouraged…) my fiancé and my teenage children to take the Strengths Quest Inventory.  I strongly believe that it has already begun to help us to understand each other by allowing us to acknowledge each other’s strengths and area where we have not understood each other’s actions, or behaviors in the past.  The Strengths Quest Inventory has been a real gift to me as well as my family and I applaud TC3 nursing faculty for including it as part of our curriculum.


“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger


New Beginnings


First, let me say that I am thrilled to have been accepted into the nursing program.  It has been a long time coming for me.  I first applied to the program in 2000 and was accepted.

When I received my letter, I was beyond excited, however, I had two small children at home, I was a single mom working nights to be with the kids during the day.  I was recovering from treatment for ovarian cancer and I passed on the opportunity.  At the time, I had numerous credits that would have transferred.  I had no idea that child care was available on campus and my goal seemed temporarily out of reach.

I had developed a passion for expectant moms and birthing women prior to the birth of my own daughter.  My own pregnancy greatly heightened this passion and I began completing trainings to become a doula, a monitrice and then a lay-support midwife.  I read voraciously and felt like I couldn’t get enough.  I became a legislative advocate for the rights of women and for breastfeeding, both public and private.  I felt like brining my own child into the world had rebirthed me, had given me a cause to have a voice, and had made me love and appreciate my body in ways that I never had before.

At the time, I owned a restaurant and coffeehouse in Bowling Green, Ohio which my husband and I sold in 1997 after the birth of our son to move to Ithaca.  Once in town I aspired to become active in the birth community, but my husband and I separated within 6 months, I went to live with the kids and a family whom I barely knew with no car, no job, no money, and very little self-esteem left.  Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

During and after treatment, I was amazed at the work of some of the nurses in surgery and oncology.  I knew who would be kind, who would laugh at my discomfort-inspired jokes, and who just wanted to knock out their hours.  I could tell who was there because they loved people and loved nursing, and who was there for a job.  The nurses who were filled with compassion, kindness, and caring in the face of a difficult job kept the flame on nursing alive in me.

Years later, after a subsequent diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, a catastrophic spinal injury and myriad late effects; my kids are now teenagers and I am moving toward my dreams and goals of working as a nurse.  In the past 15 years, I have become a staunch patient and legislative advocate.  I have a passion for the young adult (AYA) cancer community and speak nationally and internationally about the special needs of AYA’s living with a cancer diagnosis.  I wish to develop the skills needed to be able to continue to serve my community in the most effective way possible.  I think that as a nurse, I have more to contribute to changing the conversation around cancer, cancer research, legislative policy, and community as well as global health.  I look forward to taking time to go abroad and work with populations who are disadvantaged due to lack of knowledge, lack access to appropriate health care/diagnosis/treatment/medications, cultural norms which prevent care and place an unbearable burden of stigma on individuals and families who are ill.  In my role as a nurse, I wish to serve and I look forward to the opportunities and the challenges which lie ahead and the recognition of self which changes and grows with every new challenge.  I am honored and humbled to be a part of the nursing community.

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Plato, The Republic