ACEs, Adverse Community Environments, school nurse, School Nursing, Social Determinants of Health

The Relentless School Nurse: Wrestling Ghosts – An Experiential Film


Last June, I had the honor of speaking in a panel after the screening of the documentary Wrestling Ghosts at the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Conference in Denver. Wrestling Ghosts explores the impact of childhood trauma and provides a rare opportunity to witness the healing process. I sat among 1200 school nurses from the US and abroad, and the experience was memorable and deeply transformative. There is a trauma epidemic in our schools. There is a trauma epidemic in our country. A majority of us have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs, but few of us understand how these experiences affect our health and well-being throughout our lives. Wrestling Ghosts uncovers the “why” of much of the behaviors we are seeing in our students, and in ourselves. Wrestling Ghosts reminds all care-takers of the need (and the how!) to heal our own childhood wounds, not only in order to be happier in our own families and lives but to be present for the children in our care.

The film illustrates the impact of childhood trauma from a mother’s perspective. The story delves into the most intimate struggles of family life, even more, complicated by the mother’s own history of childhood adversity. This film is shot through the lens of a survivor parent who is working to overcome the childhood that continues to impact her parenting. The multi-generational story of Wrestling Ghosts provides an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding and a renewed compassion not only for our students, but for their caretakers, and with that, more capacity for responding to our students and their families in ways that will truly support them.  

The screening at NASN inspired many nurses to organize their own screening of Wrestling Ghosts in their school district, to spark or continue the conversation about how to best respond to the trauma epidemic and how to best support the educators, nurses and others care-takers so that they can best support their students. I hope you will watch as well (it’s available for home-viewing) and bring this incredible movie to your community.  All information is available on the Wrestling Ghosts  website (see below). 



Wrestling Ghosts provides a rare opportunity to witness the healing process. Wrestling Ghosts is an experiential movie: the audience gets to feel themselves move from judgement to compassion, to reflect on their own lives, and to observe the ups and down of recovery. – Ana Joanes, Director

       Ana Joanes

Ana Joanes is a documentary filmmaker dedicated to inspiring conscious action and systemic change through film. Her previous works include Generation Meds, an exploration of our fears and misgivings about mental illness and medication, and Fresh, which celebrates the farmers, thinkers and entrepreneurs who are reinventing our food system. Ana is the mother of three children, and with Wrestling Ghosts, she hopes to contribute to a shift toward a more compassionate world.




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