Climate Justice, Health Literacy, Nursing, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: The Three Rs and Healthy Green Thumbs™ – The Nature Nurse and The Nurse Farmer!

Spending time in nature is sorely lacking in our hyperconnected world, especially for our children. Nature heals and soothes the spirit as well as the body. This week’s guest blog is about two amazing nurses who are using the healing qualities of nature to nurture those who join them. Meet Susan and Clif otherwise known as the Nature Nurse and the Nurse Farmer!

They have joined forces to develop Healthy Green Thumbs™ an innovative campaign designed to educate and inspire young people to embrace the healing qualities of nature. Given the climate crisis we find ourselves grappling with, understanding the importance of nature must begin in the earliest ages.  Perhaps we would protect our earth if we had a closer relationship with nature! 

Read the story below of how The Nature Nurse and The Nurse Farmer have joined forces to bring nature to school! 

Kids need to be healthy in order to learn. No one knows that better than school
nurses who take on an enormous amount of health challenges that kids face today.
The good news is there is someone special on every school’s PTA always available to
help promote children’s health and wellbeing: Mother Nature. Growing research is
validating what many of us experientially already know; nature helps us heal. This
concept is not new to nurses. Florence Nightingale once said, “Nature alone heals.”

Modern day living, however, has distanced today’s kids from the support nature
gives our minds, bodies and souls. Richard Louv, author of best-selling book, Last Child In The Woods, has termed this unhealthy disconnection-Nature Deficit Disorder. Sure sounds like a nursing diagnosis, doesn’t it?

Nurses are in a pivotal role to ensure that students get their healthy dose of what
Louv calls, Vitamin N. N standing for nature. Let’s take a look at some suggestions,
including the new Healthy Green Thumbs™ campaign created by Susan Allison-
Dean, RN, MS, AHN-BC, CCAP, aka The Nature Nurse, and Clifton Joullian, RN, BSN,
aka The Nurse Farmer™.

First, nature researchers are asking the question, just how much nature is
necessary for our health and wellbeing? A recent large study out of the University of Exeter found that a minimum of two hours a week is needed.
How can school nurses enhance the amount of nature engagement of their

Encouraging plant growing whether it be an indoor windowsill garden, outdoor
school vegetable garden or planting trees can all help students connect with nature.
The Healthy Green Thumbs™ campaign explores all of these topics and more. The
campaign also includes evidence-based information that school nurses can use to
influence school boards decisions, fund-raising and parental involvement. Nature
connectedness is a powerful tool to enhance happiness.

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Can nature improve learning?
A study examining green exposure and its relation to academic performance found
that tree cover, specifically trees being near schools, increased test scores even in
children from urban, high poverty schools.

This is just a taste of how Mother Nature stands ready to help grow healthy kids.
We hope that school nurses will feel better supported to embrace all that she offers
knowing The Nurse Farmer™ and The Nature Nurse™ are here to support them.

Bio: Susan Allison-Dean RN, MS, AHN-BC, CCAP

Susan Allison is a master’s degree-prepared, advanced holistic certified nurse who practiced for several years as a wound, ostomy, continence clinical nurse specialist. In 1999, she felt an intuitive pull to leave hospital, disease-model nursing and explore her passion for nature.

Her new path led her to expand her knowledge of horticulture including working at a garden center and doing an organic internship at Highgrove Estate, private home to Prince Charles.  She explored Caribbean islands, where she got to know whales and dolphins personally in the wild as sentient beings. This led her to volunteer to educate about and advocate for issues affecting cetaceans. Noticing a transformative restoration in herself from being in nature, she started practicing as a holistic nurse-looking at health and wellness from a much wider lens.    

Susan created a garden shop in order to introduce more people to nature and it’s healing power.  Nature holds a central theme to her debut novel series, I Know You’re There & By The Sound Of The Crow.  You can learn more about her writing on her author page, The Nature Nurse is the latest step of her journey to connect with, enjoy, heal from and protect nature, not just for herself, but anyone who wants to join her.  


Bio: Clifton Joulian, BSN, RN  –

 I am a registered nurse and I am also a farmer. I am, The Nurse Farmer! Being a member of the most trusted profession, there is nothing I love more than helping people understand how and why growing our own foods can help us prevent and cope with chronic diseases. Growing fruits and vegetables of our own is a holistic form of exercise. By holistic, I mean benefiting not only our physical health, but our mental and spiritual health as well. Let me explain!

For example, when we grow fruits and vegetables of our own, many studies show that we will increase our fruit and vegetable intake. Experts agree that when we eat more fruits and vegetables, we boost our physical health by reducing our risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Growing fruits and vegetables also benefits our physical health in the form of exercise which helps burn calories, increase blood flow, and relax our blood vessels.

Gardening is equally beneficial for our mental health. Growing fruits and vegetables exposes us to microbes in the soil which stimulates our brains to produce the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, Serotonin, which helps elevate our mood. Growing our own fruits and vegetables can also result in feelings of accomplishment and help boost our self esteem. Having high self esteem can have a positive impact on our mental health.

Growing plants of our own is also good for our spiritual health. Spiritual health or spirituality may have different meanings to different people. Regardless of our beliefs, growing a plant is an opportunity to not only witness, but to also participate in the life cycle from birth to death to rebirth all over again.

Sprouting vegetables from seed, growing herbs in containers, playing in the soil, and even creating yard art are just a few examples of food growing activities that I advocate for promoting our health the holistic way.

Follow me, The Nurse Farmer, to learn more about how and why growing fruits and vegetables is a holistic form of exercise benefiting our mental, physical, & spiritual health!


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