We continue to highlight our Caritas Colleagues and share their contribution and commitment to Caring Science. This month we are celebrating: Cheryl T. Handy MN, RN, NE-BC, Caritas Coach®, HeartMath Certified Trainer.
“If nursing is to heal and is to be an expression of healing for self, others and the culture of our health systems, we need to make our wounds conscious.” ~ Jean Watson
“Please remember, it is what you are that heals, not what you know.” ~ Carl Jung
“Sacred One, teach us love, compassion and honor that we may heal the earth and heal each other.” ~ Native American Ojibway Prayer
My Journey……………. My Story
I, Cheryl T. Handy, want to first offer gratitude for all things and experiences in my life’s journey because it has been through “Grace” in my personal and professional experiences that has brought me to this moment in time.
I am the first Caritas Coach® at the Atlanta VA Health Care System and the first Caritas Coach in the state of Georgia. I began my Caring Science journey in 2008 when I attended my first International Caritas Consortium (ICC) at Amelia Island, Florida. At the ICC, I met Living Legend, Dr. Jean Watson, and I had an amazing experience. At that time, I did not quite understand the Theory of Human Caring; now reframed as the Philosophy and Science of Caring. However, I was so enthralled by the positive energy and vibrations that I felt from every person whom I met at this ICC. The authentic caring and love each person radiated out into the field, allowed me to experience higher vibrational frequencies resulting in me wanting to be a part of this collective Caritas Community. This was what I would call another unspeakable graceful moment that the universe brought this experience of loving, caring spirits to me or me to them.
It was in the fall of 2009 while entering the Caritas Coach Education Program® (CCEP) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that I had an indescribable mystical experience at a “Sacred Smudging Ceremony” among Native Americans in the Grand Teton Mountains that drastically transformed the trajectory of my life. I recall the smudging directions of looking within and welcoming the energy of “within” that is the principle of being connected with all things, for all things are one and all things are related.
What resonated within me during the six-month matriculation process was so phenomenally profound and enlightening, unlike any other experience that I had ever had before. I recall my interest in pursuing nursing studies and I felt it was a calling because of my innate desire to serve as caretaker and help others heal. I spent several years in clinical practice as an oncology nurse, caring for and administering chemotherapy to veteran patients with malignant diagnosis, finding myself so involved in their care and healing that I had little time for self-care and healing. At times, I had the feeling that I had to be this heroine that cared for and assisted in healing everyone. Compounded by all of this, I worked within a culture that already resonated a vibration of pain and wounds brought about from the veteran’s and staff’s traumatic military experiences. After spending years in oncology, I later decided to pursue a role in nursing administration as an Associate Nurse Executive so that I could serve as a conscious nurse leader in fostering an environment for caring and healing among nurses.
My journey through the Caritas Coach Education Program (CCEP) enlightened me to see from a broader lens the essence of humanity; and, the program took me through the soil of life like a lotus flower, speaking and resonating a different language that we are not taught in school, through traditional curriculums that teaches us how to “do” instead of how to “Be”. Immediately upon completing the CCEP, I was on a mission like a heroine, to transform the culture of the Atlanta VA Healthcare System to one of authentic caring and healing from the inside out, one person, one nurse at a time; and, I thought that I could do so having experienced this level of inner awakening during my journey in CCEP. I was also instrumental in ensuring that Atlanta VA had at the time 12 additional nurses matriculate through CCEP and become Caritas Coaches. All of the Atlanta Caritas Sojourners were so passionate about this much needed work in Caring Science at the Atlanta VA and embedding Caring Science in all Nursing activities and policies — from incorporating Caring Science in the RN position descriptions as a practice dimension that was used as a model for other VAs, as well as, facilitated annual Caritas Literacy Skill Fairs incorporating the core components of Caring Science (10 Caritas Processes®, the Caring Moment, Transpersonal Caring Relationships).
The implementation of Caring Science within the Atlanta VA culture was successful for many years and we were also consulted by other VAs for implementation of Caring Science and during that time period, was designated as a Watson Caring Science Affiliate. Veterans and staff alike were experiencing the transformational shift and we all benefited from it resulting in the Atlanta VA being designated as, at one time, a Magnet Designated Facility and received a re-designation.
As the first Caritas Coach, I had authentically embodied and embraced Caring Science in every fiber of my being and had oversight and spearheaded all Caring Science activities with the assistance of my Caritas Sojourner colleagues. The experience for me was like an alchemist experience where I knew that I was not the same and could never go back to old ways of doing, especially since I had embarked on a continuous journey of evolving as an enlightened Being.
Little did I know that after experiencing so many positive and transformational years with Caring Science, being the Atlanta VA Nurses Professional Practice Model that brought about so much energetic light, that a season of lethargy and non-awakened states would emerge within the culture that would test my authenticity and personal commitment to the work in Caring Science. I felt as though a rug was pulled from under us and several of my colleagues left who experienced lower vibrations that manifested as fear, like the uncertainty and unknowns that have been brought about with COVID-19.
Since I was passionately vocal, there was an attempt to silence me. As a result of my inner awakening through Caritas Consciousness; higher vibrations resonated within me, allowing me to be present to deciding with nonresistance, courage and compassion for self and others to become a conscious participant in the unfolding of the higher purpose. Whereby I initially thought my fate was to transform a system, I know now that through this adventurous journey of peaks and valleys, I personally experienced an even deeper inner self-transformation through Caritas Consciousness. Dr. Watson (2008) describes this higher consciousness as “contributing to worldwide changes at personal and professional levels through your own practices of Being; holding an expanded consciousness, radiating different messages, affecting the subtle energetic environment, spreading healing, wholeness, forgiveness, beauty, love, kindness, and equanimity.” Also, it was during this season of non-resistance, stillness, and surrendering that miracles and blessings unfolded, (Caritas Process 10) allowing me to experience a higher, deeper order of life’s phenomena that cannot be understood with the ordinary mind and conventional mindsets. I joined the Watson Caring Science Institute as a Faculty Associate and became a HeartMath Certified Trainer through the HeartMath Institute.
Contribution to the Legacy of Caring Science
“To Realize One’s Destiny Is A Person’s Only Obligation.” ~ From the Alchemist
The inner awakening that I experienced as a Caritas Coach cannot be reversed and I have realized my destiny. My mission is to remain committed to the work in Caring Science/Unitary Caring Science resonating and radiating an evolved Caritas Consciousness for caring and healing affecting the entire universal field of humanity wherever I am present, locally or non-locally. I am currently engaged in educational training opportunities for veterans and staff in Caritas-HeartMath that has been most beneficial especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a WCSI Faculty Associate, I continue to mentor/coach students in Caring Science especially in cultivating their own personal practices so that they can be prepared to carry out the work in ways that are biogenically meaningful, life giving and life receiving for self and others. I am deeply passionate and have an interest in pursuing doctoral studies in the area of expanded human consciousness through Unitary Caring Science/Caritas Consciousness to help prepare nurses for the evolving era in the present and future.
Atlanta, Georgia USA
Handy, C. (2010). “Caritas Literacy Education: Transformation to a Caring Culture”.
Watson Caring Science Institute Caritas Coach Education Program Abstract.
Professional Caring (Caritas) Presentations
Conscious Visionary Nurses on the Edge of Evolution. Inspiring nurses and nurse leaders to create the future of health care. Healing with the Arts co-sponsored by Watson Caring Science Institute. May 2020.
24th Annual International Caritas Consciousness and 40th Anniversary Celebration in Caring Science presentation in San Francisco, October 17-18, 2019 titled, “Self-Transformation through Caritas Consciousness – my personal journey to enlightenment”
Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, North Carolina – presentation to DNP students titled, “Caritas Consciousness and Mindful Practice”, September 25, 2019
Caring Science consultant for WellStar Atlanta Medical Center Integrative Health Program, February 13, 2019
Nurses Week Keynote Speaker, Atlanta VA Healthcare System, May 7, 2018, “Nurses Inspire, Innovate, and Influence through Caritas Consciousness”
Black History Month Speaker, Atlanta, Georgia February 2018, Buckhead Senior Facility, “Radiating Peace and Love through Caritas Consciousness”
Black History Month Speaker, Atlanta, Georgia February 2017, Buckhead Senior Facility, “Radiating Peace and Love through Caritas Consciousness”
Black History Month Speaker, Atlanta, Georgia February 2016, Buckhead Senior Facility, “Radiating Peace and Love through Caritas Consciousness”
Nurses Week Keynote Speaker, Atlanta VA Healthcare System, May 2014, “Nurses Leading the Way through Caritas Transformation”
Caring Conference, Tampa VA March 2014, “Atlanta VAMC Transformation to a Caring Culture”
5th Annual Celebration of Caring, Winston Salem, North Carolina (Sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist) November 2013 – “Transformation of Self and Systems through Caritas Literacy”
International Caritas Consortium, “Caritas Leadership”, Dearborn, Michigan, October 2013
Caring Conference, Omaha, Nebraska (Sponsored by Omaha VAMC) May 2013, “Transformation of Self and Systems through Caring Science Literacy”
International Caritas Consortium, Boulder, Colorado, April 2012 – “Atlanta VAMC Journey of Transformation through Caritas Literacy”
Coordinates annual Caring Science/Caritas Literacy Skill Fairs May 2010 – Present
Transformation of Self and Systems through Caritas Literacy, November 2009 – Atlanta VAMC