How I Thrive: “I try to find ways to encourage everyone I meet”, with Ming Zhao & Tina Marie Baxter

I also find some way of being of service outside of the medical and business field. Can I just sit and be a friend to someone? Listen to the senior who wants to tell me about her grandchildren or the young child who wants to tell me about his day at school? I try to […]

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I also find some way of being of service outside of the medical and business field. Can I just sit and be a friend to someone? Listen to the senior who wants to tell me about her grandchildren or the young child who wants to tell me about his day at school? I try to find ways to encourage everyone I meet. A smile can go a long way in healing a broken heart.

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.

As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tina Marie Baxter, nurse practitioner and legal nurse consultant. Tina M. Baxter is an advanced practice registered nurse and a board certified gerontological nurse practitioner through the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC), who resides in Anderson, Indiana. Mrs. Baxter has been a registered nurse twenty (20) years and a nurse practitioner for twelve (12) years. She is the owner of Baxter Professional Services, LLC, a consulting firm which provides legal nurse consulting services, wellness and chronic disease management coaching, and customized educational resources to healthcare organizations. She also maintains a clinical practice at Adult & Child Health in Indianapolis and is part-owner of HIS Solutions Healthcare LLC, where students are trained to be home health aides, certified nursing assistants and qualified medication aides.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

I started young, in junior high and high school, working with older adults and the developmentally disabled. My mother was a lay church nurse and one of the few people who was CPR certified at the time in the congregation. She also worked in public relations at a children’s home for the developmentally disabled. In our house, if mom volunteered somewhere then you automatically became a volunteer. We would visit the nursing home and hold a church service for the seniors living there or while at church, attend to the health needs of the congregation by providing water, mints, and CPR if called upon. We also volunteered at the children’s home with the residents, some of whom were profoundly mentally affected, who lived there full-time. It was through those experiences, that I developed a compassion for those who were sick and developed an interest into the healthcare field. In high school, I had the opportunity to work with a program provided by the Medical College of Ohio to allow students to work during the summer in the lab as an intern. I did that for three years. I had great experiences and actually got to the place where they would let me test some specimens independently with the pathologist completing the final check because they were short-handed. They didn’t want me to go but I had to go back to school with the summer over!

I took honors classes in the sciences so I could prepare for college. Originally, I had planned to got to medical school (there are a lot of nurses and doctors in my family), but in college, I realized that I wanted to connect with the patients in a different way. So much to chagrin of my parents (after spending five years at an expensive private college and taking the MCAT twice), I changed my mind. I have to say what did it for me was that I realized I would be spending all of my time in school, then working and I would not have the time to pursue the other passions such as art and music, and I could not spend the time I wanted with the patient, so I chose nursing over medicine. I enrolled in nursing school. I would say it was there in my first nursing class that I realized I had found my tribe as they say and the rest is history. I love being a nurse. I love having the privilege of being there when my patients are at their worst and seeing them get better. Nursing is truly an art and a science. I know that every day I make a difference. I get to hold the hand of someone who is dying or hug someone who is crying. I take the science of medicine and help it make sense to the patient who is being discharged from the hospital or to explain how and why the medication they are taking helps them get better. It is a great privilege.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

That’s a tough one. There have been a lot of great and not so great experiences. I will say I had this one patient when I was young nurse working in the psych and addictions unit at the hospital. The first time I met this patient, who was detoxing from alcohol, he cursed me out so bad, I had to use the dictionary to figure out the meaning of some of the words he said to me. The first three times he was admitted and subsequently checked himself out, I seemed to be the one always on duty when he came in, each time saying it was the last time. He cursed me out at every admission up until his last admission. About the fourth time, he seemed to be fed up and ready for a change, so he came in and was very humble. I remember watching him go through detox, rehab and then into outpatient community care. He definitely made an impression on me. I found myself praying for him off and on. He was a very kind man when he was sober and he did very well. About five to six years later, when I was working in another hospital, he came in with his teenage son to get him help with alcohol abuse. He was devastated and felt guilty that his son was following in his footsteps with abusing alcohol. He was angry with his son because he didn’t want to be there and did not want to engage in services. He said to me, “I can’t believe he is doing this after all I went through. I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to get help.” By this time, we had developed a rapport, so I looked him in the eye and said, “Do you remember the first time we met?” He said, rather sheepishly, “No.” I replied, “You cursed me out six ways from Sunday every time you came in until one day it clicked and you wanted to be there. You have to give him some patience and give him time to get there. He saw you do it, so he may one day come around.” I still pray for this patient and his son off and on. I don’t know what happened to him, but “Dewey, if you read this, it was a great privilege getting to know you.”

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

Yeesh! This was when I was a brand new nurse and it something I have never forgotten. I was new to working in psychiatry. I had a female patient who was the same age as my sister, who was addicted to drugs and happened to be pregnant. She was on my assignment so I took care of her in detox and outpatient. We developed a rapport and eventually it drifted to a more casual relationship. I would visit with her on the unit and we would laugh and joke about things as were not that far apart in age. She was really funny. Well, she eventually was discharged and she came back to visit us after she had her baby. She was showing us baby pictures and she looked great. She told us that she was moving to another city so she would be away from her drug dealer. I was finishing my charting and looking down, when I chimed in, “You may have to move to another state.” She paused a moment and said laughing, “You bitch!” The other staff looked horrified. I looked up in shock, realizing what she thought I meant, and starting laughing with her. She had actually thought I was saying she slept with every guy in the state and I was just concerned that her dealer would track her down and she would be in danger. We laughed over that and I had to explain it to the other staff. What I learned in that moment was that I had become too close with the patient in order for us to sync like that. Upon further exploration and reflection, I realized that I was projecting my feelings onto her because I was grieving the loss of the relationship with my sister, with whom at that time, I was not speaking terms. I had made her a replacement sister. I learned in that moment, that to be effective in mental health, you have to deal with your own issues and have healthy boundaries. It is a lesson I have never forgotten and I use it as an example with my students.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

I am going to say “Have fun!” Why should work be a drag? I try to find ways to get my team to work together and have fun. At my clinical practice, we have a friendly holiday decorating contest. I have gotten the medical assistants to work together to decorate because we want to win! It more than just bragging rights. My win is that we learn to work together in a non-stressful environment. In my days of working in the hospital as a supervisor, I learned to be in tune with what is going on with my staff and my patients. One very hot summer day, the air conditioning went out on the unit. We had industrial fans set up but it was very humid and tempers were short. I went out and bought all of the staff and patients popsicles to cool off. We need to pay attention to what is going on around us and recognize that our staff members are human and if we meet their basic needs, then we build an environment where they and we can all thrive.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

One important thing that I do is take a Sabbath. Not necessarily in the religious sense but in a more spiritual sense. I recognize that we all need a day to rest and rejuvenate. I make it a point of periodically taking a day for spiritual renewal in whatever form that takes. I may go for a walk, watch a great movie, read a great book, or take a day to meditate on my current life and where I am headed. I spend time in prayer and reflection. I highly recommend doing that periodically.

Another self care routine is that I go to the spa once a quarter. I spend the day with my phone off, getting a manicure, pedicure, massage and then I have my hair done. I do not schedule meetings that day or phone calls. Then I usually go to a show and out to dinner with my husband.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I’ve learned to use my time wisely. On my commute to my clinical practice, I have an hour drive each way, so I use that time to listen to inspirational music, sermons or messages, TED talks, podcasts, you name it. I often get great ideas on my drive and it releases the stress of the day by the time I get home.

I also am an avid reader. I have books all over the house and in my office. What I love is that with ebooks as well, I can take a ton of books with me on my phone or tablet. I will read a variety of books. I’ve read some great business books, novels, history, anything that interests me at the time. This is a habit that I had developed since grade school. I have always been reading. I would sit in the tree in the neighbor’s back yard and read all summer. I am proud to say that while in school I earned a gold medal in the reading Olympics at the local library. I think I was in the fourth grade. My parents still have my medal displayed in the living room by the way.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I am a Christian and an evangelist. As I said earlier, I will spend some time in prayer, reflection and Bible study. I wake up each morning saying “Good morning God. Thank you for today. What are we going to do today?” I pray about the day and ask God to help me find the people He wants me to help that day.

I also find some way of being of service outside of the medical and business field. Can I just sit and be a friend to someone? Listen to the senior who wants to tell me about her grandchildren or the young child who wants to tell me about his day at school? I try to find ways to encourage everyone I meet. A smile can go a long way in healing a broken heart.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

I use essential oils in my practice and I keep my diffuser going in my office at all times. I wear my aromatherapy necklace every day. If I am having a stressful day, I take 5 minutes to clear my mind, breathe and smell my oils. My staff often visit my office to escape the stress and take a minute to be calm. My clients often comment that they like coming to my office because it is inviting and homey. I try to make my environment comfortable and conducive to wellness.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

I feel like a rockstar when I help someone else achieve. Whether it’s getting a patient to feeling better, helping someone start a business, or engaging an audience when I am speaking where I can feel through their energy that we are synced and they get it, I feel that I have reached someone. I find that to “get there” you have to be genuine and fully present. If you are distracted, you can miss the opportunities that are in front of you. Mindfulness is the key.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

When I am down, I go back through my prayer journal and reflect on how far I have come through the years. I look at how far God has brought me and I realize that although on some days I have failed miserably, I have survived. I am still here. Tomorrow will be a better day. I do as David did, and I encourage myself. I will play an uplifting song, watch a movie that inspires me, call a family member or friend, or just rest. There was a sign in my junior band room that said, “Everybody makes makes mistakes.” I have always remembered that saying.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

I remember once in high school, we had this leadership session for the student leaders and I was invited to participate. I come from a very strict religious background, so I did not a lot of experience at this time with meditation and alternative therapies. The school contacted this wellness coach to come and give us a guided imagery relaxation session. This was in the 80s with all the concern about subliminal messages and backward masking. The school’s guidance counselor just told us to show up to this room and didn’t tell us what was going to happen. You have to understand, I went to a predominately Black high school, and we didn’t have a lot of exposure to therapy or yoga or anything. She proceeded to help us “relax” and we all thought we were being monitored by the administration and they were using us for some experiment to “brain wash” us. To put it into context, we had been protesting some things with the school administration prior to this and engaging in some sit-ins so we thought we were being set up. The wellness coach told the school that she couldn’t work with us because we were too paranoid and suspicious. I can laugh about it now.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

It’s tough. In my consulting business, my husband is my business partner so it definitely drifts into our personal time. I purposely plan activities and time for us to do things as a couple and not as business partners. Because I love what I do, nursing just sort of “spills out of me” at times, so I have to remember, I am a wife, an aunt, a daughter and not just a nurse. I will say that my family has been very supportive. They all know that when I die, I want to be buried with my white nurse’s uniform, cap and Red Cross pin so it makes sense that I live it every day. Besides, they love coming to me for free medical advice, which I often say, “You should see your primary care provider for that.”

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

Gosh, there have been many. I read Daymond John’s “Rise and Grind” and I keep his Grind Points and Shark Points on my wall. I also listen to Nick Looper (Hey Nick!) with Side Hustle Nation podcast. I get great ideas listening to him talk to other entrepreneurs. I am also in a few Facebook groups that helped such as the Black Nurse Entrepreneur group and the Ladies of Justice group, the Nurse Practitioner Faith Group.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to start a movement of kindness and grace. Do simple things like return the cart to the store after shopping, replacing the toilet paper roll if its empty, shovel your neighbors walk. Choose to do these simple acts of kindness every day. It only takes a few seconds. Say thank you and please. Let someone go first in line. Pay for the veteran’s groceries. Do that. Be sincere.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). If we remember to do that, our lives are richer. We don’t have to compete with each other. We can help each other achieve. One of the reasons I mentor others with Pass the Torch Foundation is so I can pass on what I have learned and to encourage other women to thrive. We all can win. I look back on so many of the students I have taught and precepted through the years, I see some of them have surpassed me. That is great. I wish them well. I am proud of them and for me, I humbled and grateful that I may have played a small role in their successful journey.

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am on Twitter, LinkedIn, Alignable, Shapr, Referral Key, Instagram, and Facebook. Here is my LinkedIn address:

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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