Nursing From Within: An Interview with Elizabeth Scala

Read more about the incredible nurse, Elizabeth Scala, who recently published her latest book, Nursing From Within.
NurseGrid Blog

Have You Read Nursing From Within Yet?

I could tell you more about this insightful book that delves into innovative solutions to well-being for nurses, but instead I'll let the nurse behind the book fill you in. Elizabeth Scala (@ElizabethScala), a nurse entrepreneur who is constantly working to transform nursing, is here to answer questions about nursing, entrepreneurship, Nursing From Within, and provide advice for anyone interested in the incredible world of nursing. From author to leader, even Reiki Master, Elizabeth is a great example of a multi-job nurse working to teach and change nursing as we know it.

Tell us a bit more about your background as a nurse!

Well, the funny thing is I never actually wanted to ‘be’ a nurse. I wasn’t one of those people who felt drawn to the profession at a very early age or was ‘called’ into practice. This is actually the opening section of my book, so I won’t give it all away, but my career path was pretty much chosen ‘for’ me.

My nursing profession started out in inpatient psychiatry. I worked for five years at a large academic medical center in Maryland at one of the busiest and most acute inpatient psychiatric units. While I enjoyed my work with the patients, I wasn’t taking very much care of myself during that time. So after I graduated in 2009 with my dual masters’ degrees in business and nursing, I decided to take a very risky leap and leave my full-time job.

I then worked part-time at a local wellness center, in order to make the time I needed to take care of myself. I actually ran a physician referred exercise program and was the Registered Nurse at the facility overseeing these clients’ two-month programs. It was a lot of fun and a very unconventional way to practice nursing (what I needed at that time).

After I got my own health and happiness back in order, I went back to the hospital and took a part-time job as a clinical nurse research fellow. In that role, I assisted the hospital nurse researcher on a wide variety of research studies and was integral in helping bring nursing research to the bedside.

I now am a nurse entrepreneur and love the freedom (and hard work) it allows me. I get to practice ‘nursing’ in the best way that I can as the nurse I have become. While I never ‘wanted’ to be a nurse, I am now 100% grateful for my life path. In my daily gratitude practice, I give thanks for such a wonderful career with enormous amounts of opportunities to help people on a daily basis.

What inspired you to start using your nurse background to coach and teach?

Yikes, great question. I guess it was my own lack of coaching and teaching. As I mentioned above, when I left the psych floor—I was a mess myself. I realized it wasn’t so much from the actual nursing work that I was ‘burned out’ from—it was from how I was living my own life.

Once I realized that I needed to eat properly, exercise, get adequate sleep and develop a daily spiritual practice—I never looked back! And since I had some firsthand experience (seeing the nurses I worked alongside with for so many years)—I knew that it is hard work being a nurse.

"I realized it wasn’t so much from the actual nursing work that I was ‘burned out’ from—it was from how I was living my own life."

So I decided to utilize what I learned in my health coaching certifications and Reiki Master teaching and share these tools with other nurses. To me, we can’t all do what I did and get up and leave the bedside. We still need great nurses working in our clinical areas. And frankly, not all nurses want to leave our clinical roles. So, it was a very easy decision to set out to help other nurses do what I have done: be able to lead healthy, happy and meaningful lives while taking care of others as much as ourselves.

I guess you could say it was my own challenges, hardships, and struggles that led me to teaching other nurses to be well!

What has been one of the biggest struggles in your time as a nurse?

Hmm… I don’t really think I have had any ‘struggles’ as a nurse. My career was always a positive one and I’ve always been very proactive to engage myself in leadership roles in whatever it is that I do.

I guess if I had to give an answer to this question it would be the way that I chose to live my life while I was working in my clinical role on the floor. To this day, I say to people: ‘I bet I could go back to the floor and stay!’ To me, I have come to realize it wasn’t my manager, coworkers, the organization or anything else I was ‘blaming’ back then for all of my hardships and dissatisfaction. It was me.

So my biggest struggle in being a nurse was getting away from what keeps me well. By not making the time and space for my own self-care, I really did a disservice to myself, my profession and the patients I cared for.

Tell us more about your latest book! What inspired you to write "Nursing from Within?"

Thanks so much for asking; I love the book! While this answer could be very long, I will try to keep it as brief as I can. Some of what I shared about in the previous question has a lot to do with the book.

To me, I feel that as nurses we sometimes run the risk of ‘losing ourselves’ in our profession. There are loads of stressors and there is never enough time. We go into nursing for very altruistic reasons, only to find in the realities of healthcare that human touch we dreamed of may be out of our reach.

And then—think about nursing. We travel in groups. We learn in specialties. We speak the same language. What happens if someone you know goes back to school for an advanced degree? We think we need to too! Or what if we hear about a colleague getting a specialty certification? We think we ‘should’ too. We tend to lose our own unique identity the longer we wear the ‘hat’ of a nurse.

So ‘Nursing from Within’ is about reconnecting to the nursing spirit inside each and every one of us—in whatever individual way that is for you. It’s about being mindful of our heart’s desires, letting go of those things that no longer lift us up and allowing ourselves to appreciate who we are as authentic human beings.

In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing healthcare world—we need a way to ground ourselves in our nursing practice. ‘Nursing from Within’ helps us to rekindle the relationship we once had with our inner nurse and can allow us to enjoy our nursing careers again.

Do you have advice for anyone interested in nursing, and for recent nurse graduate?

Oh boy. I could go on and on about this. Great question with so much opportunity for an answer! Let’s keep it short and sweet and say this: be yourself.

It sounds simple—and I have come to find out that what’s simple isn’t always easy.

As I have described above, a lot of what has happened to me in and through my nursing career was about choices, lessons learned and rising out of the challenges that I was faced with. Yet when I really take the time to reflect on it, a lot of the struggle (and subsequent triumph) has come down to when I have/have not been my authentic self.

Nursing is hard work. It’s physically demanding, emotionally exhausting and energetically draining. Try to avoid the ‘yes’ world of pleasing others and doing things that don’t resonate with you. Make time and space for your hobbies, activities, and things outside of nursing that light you up. Be yourself and you will surely be the best nurse that you can be.

Are you a nurse with a story to tell? NurseGrid would love to feature you! Send an e-mail to with a little bit about yourself.

As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. Elizabeth is here to guide your staff or members to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. You can find out more by stopping by Elizabeth's website or by checking out Elizabeth's most recent book 'Nursing from Within: A Fresh Alternative to Putting Out Fires and Self-Care Workarounds'.

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Zach Smith

Zach Smith