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Why Audrey Boyce Coaches Fellow Nurses in the Art of Self-Care

Discover Audrey Boyce's journey from a young girl in Guyana to a nurse and wellness coach in the U.S., championing self-care.

As an eight-year-old girl growing up in the South American country of Guyana, Audrey Boyce had an epiphany of sorts.

“I helped this blind man cross a very busy intersection,” she said. In her country, people were taught to be afraid of those with disabilities. Not only was the man blind, but he was missing a hand.

“When I went across the street to get him to the other side, he had his cane in one hand; on the other hand, there was no hand–just a stump. He pushes it out for me to grab and help him cross the street,” she recalled.

She and her siblings were headed home for lunch, and she was concerned that she’d be scolded for stopping and interacting with a stranger.

“But my mother understood because she was also a caring person,” said Boyce. “It was that day that made me realize I wanted to be a nurse.”

But there were obstacles in the way.

Overcoming adversity on the way to success

She applied to nursing school and was told that she’d have to serve in the military before attending. At the time, Guyana was taking its cues from Cuba and leaning toward socialism. Like other small countries, it required military service for its youth.

Boyce’s parents told her that teaching would be a safer path. Yet, after completing her teaching courses, she was still called to serve a stint in the army. Since she was pregnant at the time and was on light duty.

“I never held a gun. I never got up to go to the muster in the morning,” she said. That made many of the officers dislike her and accuse her of using her pregnancy to get out of duty.

“It wasn’t something I did on purpose,” she said.

Boyce wasn’t married at the time.

“We didn’t have contraceptives back then,” she said. “And he’d been my boyfriend for two years. My parents were so disappointed because they had great hopes for me.”

Her boyfriend broke up with her, and by then, her parents had already moved to the U.S.

“That was a very defining moment for me when I had my son because it put a certain amount of resilience within me, and I don’t think I would have ever come to know that I had so much strength,” she said. “I told myself …  my revenge was that I would be successful. And that was my goal.”

Once Boyce joined her parents in America, she couldn’t believe all the opportunities in her adopted country. While watching TV one day, she saw a commercial for nursing school.

She went to apply and was told she had to be in the country for an entire year before being eligible for financial aid. So, she became a nurse’s aide during the nine-month wait.

Directly out of nursing school, she went straight to work in a surgical unit.

“That was in New York. Straight out of nursing school, I had 15 patients every day. And I saw just about every kind of surgery,” she said.

Life as a nurse

Boyce worked as a nurse in New York for two more years. In 1992, she moved to Georgia and applied to Emory Hospital, Northlake Regional Medical Center and DeKalb County Medical.

She was offered positions at all three. She ended up at DeKalb Medical for eight years and eventually worked at Emory for seven years as well.

During those times, she didn’t just work one job, though.

“Nurses don’t always have one job,” Boyce said. “I was doing home care … working at different hospitals. … I worked with babies. I worked in psych[iatric]. … I worked in rehab. I worked in telemetry. I worked in four or five specialties. When I went to Emory, I worked in research and neurology.”

Although she loved what she was doing and found the work fascinating, it began to take its toll on her well-being.

“After working for many years doing so many things, I experienced burnout,” she said. “I was going to work on a Friday night, and I felt so overwhelmed, exhausted, overcommitted and just couldn’t do it anymore.”

She pulled into the parking lot at work and wanted to turn around and go back home.

“But I still kept going,” she said. “I got to work that night and did everything for my patients. But I realized I’d lost my joy for nursing. I was burned out.”

The next day, she took a break to clear her thoughts. She sought out a coach who helped her realize that she wasn’t unique. She was going through what many nurses deal with.

“I was so exhausted and began to realize it was a kind of depression,” she said. “But it wasn’t just physical tiredness. It was also an emotional and mental tiredness.”

After nearly 20 years of nursing, she felt like quitting.

Everybody needs self-care sometimes
Friends and colleagues would suggest a vacation, but that was just a temporary fix. After a week away, she’d end up coming back to the same situation.

“No one talks about things like self-care,” said Boyce. “In the nursing arena, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re tired, just call out for a day, take some time off.’”

Nobody was addressing the underlying causes. Nobody was looking at ways to prevent burnout or ways to alleviate it.

“I didn’t understand that there were certain things I could do to help prevent that burnout,” Boyce said.

She then began working with a life coach.

“She said, ‘Girl, you are going through stuff that people go through, and it’s burnout.’  And I did not even recognize that it was what it was.”

She wasn’t a therapist and told Boyce that she may still need to see one, but as a life coach, she vowed to help Boyce move forward.

She suggested focusing on one area and taking more breaks from work. She told Boyce that she’d be no good to others if she didn’t take care of herself first.

A new path forward

Boyce went back to work but kept the idea in mind to pursue something different. She found it online–a new nursing specialty called faith community nursing. It’s a field where nurses work in churches on an outpatient basis.

“You intentionally care for someone’s spirit,” said Boyce. “I had never heard about that, but I went, and I became a faith community nurse.”

Boyce said it was her most intriguing work and helped her move toward what she’s doing today.

“For the past ten years, I want to say I started my own business,” said Boyce.

She was doing contract work for a few senior living communities.

“I would go in there and be a wellness coach … to help the residents live healthier lives, following doctor’s order. I talked to them about how to care for themselves and manage their chronic conditions.”

Once the pandemic hit, the senior communities were concerned about liability. They didn’t want someone from outside the community potentially bringing in COVID-19 or contracting it from the people living inside it.

Although she was away for just six weeks, Boyce said she saw a significant decline in her patients.

She could work with them by phone and other telehealth options and saw improvement. But she didn’t expect to see the high rates of burnout with nurses across the spectrum.

“I was in two social groups online, and I would talk to these nurses. And they will be saying they can’t even get a break,” said Boyce. “They’d work a 10- or 12-hour shift without even a bathroom break.”

Nurses were leaving the profession because they were overworked, overextended and overstressed. That sounded very familiar to Boyce.

Audrey Boyce LLC is open for business

On Feb. 7, Boyce cut the ribbon on her new venture, Audrey Boyce LLC, Leadership and Wellness Coaching Services. She coaches nurses in self-care practices and ways to handle the stress of their jobs more effectively. Some sessions are one-on-one, and others are group classes.

“A lot of people think self-care is like going for a massage. That’s self-care, in a sense. It’s maintenance or a facial, but true self-care is any activity that supports your physical, emotional and mental health,” she said.

“For example, sitting and listening to music is a form of self-care. Practicing mindfulness is the first part of self-care because when you practice mindfulness, which is paying attention on purpose, you’re aware of what’s going on in your body,” she explained.

Boyce has also written two books on the subject. The first one offers broad solutions, and the second one is more tailored, she said.

“I think an important part of the definition of self-care is being intentional, but also as more of a maintenance, you know, not looking at is added as a birthday surprise, but that maybe it’s every month you get a massage, or whatever brings you joy,” she concluded.

To learn more, visit audreyboyce.com. And check out Boyce’s first book, Top 10 Mistakes Overwhelmed Nurses Make, and her second, Empowering Nurses Through Self-Care.

Featured photo caption: Among those present were Marissa Brown (Audrey’s daughter), Yanick Hicks, PharmD (The John Maxwell team), Greg Kaziyev, Andrew Hylton, Phil Sadd (City of Peachtree Corners councilman), Audrey Boyce, Lisa Proctor (PCBA Board), Allison Reinert (PCBA Board), and Donna Linden (PCBA Board).

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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