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Local Nurse Runs Central Bucks Mindfulness, Meditation Program

Patch logo Patch 5 days ago Kate Fishman
Doylestown Health’s Pediatric Outreach Manager Ashley Heidler at the Sigma Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month. © Courtesy of Doylestown Health Doylestown Health’s Pediatric Outreach Manager Ashley Heidler at the Sigma Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month.

DOYLESTOWN, PA — Ashley Heidler, the Pediatric Outreach Manager with Doylestown Health, is using a mindfulness and gratitude program to help local students.

Heidler, who holds a Masters of Science of Nursing, recently presented an overview of her successful mindfulness program at an international convention, Sigma’s 46th Biennial Convention in Indianapolis.

The Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of developing nurse leaders to improve healthcare. Founded in 1922, Sigma has more than 135,000 active members and 550 chapters at institutions of higher education and healthcare partners around the globe.

Ashley presented, “Namaste the Course…Mindfulness Matters? Lessons Learned in a Pediatric Community Nursing Initiative,” on Nov. 9 at the Sigma conference, attended by 2,000 nurses from 47 countries. Presentations at the Sigma conference showcased clinical innovations, critical research projects and important leadership initiatives.

“It was truly an honor to represent Doylestown Health at an international level and speak on the benefits of mindfulness,” Heidler, who is also a certified children’s yoga instructor and a certified mindfulness and meditation instructor for children and adults, said.

Heidler has combined those skills with her nursing knowledge to bring the benefits of mindfulness to now over 2,000 students and teachers at eight elementary schools in the Central Bucks School District.

"My goal for this initiative was to help students learn ways they can help themselves by putting these techniques to use, promoting physical, emotional, and social wellness," she said.

Heidler conceptualized her programming to address some of the top mental health issues affecting today’s students, including anxiety, depression and behavioral issues. The CB Cares Educational Foundation served as a bridge in connecting Heidler with teachers from a local school, who were interested in mindfulness as a tool to support social and emotional wellness goals in 2018.

In collaboration with teaching staff at Bridge Valley Elementary, Heidler launched a six-week pilot program to teach mindfulness using breathing and children’s yoga techniques — blended with her nursing knowledge and own mix of discussion and engaging activities specifically developed to meet the needs of the classroom she was working with.

The response from students and teachers was overwhelmingly positive, and the program grew to include 60 classrooms throughout the Central Bucks district.

Of course, that was pre-COVID. Since the pandemic, Heidler has adapted her program to be virtual and continues to offer students mindfulness tools that the pandemic has made even more valuable. She has now worked with nearly 100 classrooms.

“In the current landscape people are more aware of how mindfulness, as well as using your breath and words to help your brain and body, can help in daily life,” she said, “and that’s true whether you’re 5 or 95 years old. The program is meant to support kids and help them to help themselves in simple ways, offering tools they can use not only in the short-term, but the long-term as well.”

Throughout the pandemic, Ashley has appeared in videos (“Mindful Moments with Nurse Ashley”) on Doylestown Hospital’s Instagram to highlight how simple mindfulness, breathing, yoga and other techniques can help students cope with stress from both the mind and body perspective.

When the opportunity to present her initiative came at the Sigma conference, Ashley was glad to be able to share her local work with colleagues from around the world.

“It was exciting to speak about ways to support the community and children of the community,” she said. Last year, she shared her mindfulness program at the virtual Society of Pediatric Nurses national conference. “I love being able to speak about what we’re doing, how we’re helping, and to share how to implement such a program.”

She hopes to return to the classroom someday, but for now will continue offering her mindfulness program to classrooms virtually.

“I’m grateful to be able to do this and to make a difference in the lives of children by helping expand their physical, social, and emotional wellness toolbox," she said. "It’s my hope that sharing these techniques and exercises can help them both now and in the future as they navigate the classrooms of not only school, but life.”

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