The Theory of The Nurse As Wounded Healer:

Finding the Essence of the Therapeutic Self

Nurses and other health professionals become wounded healers after recognizing, transforming and
transcending the pain of trauma in their lives. In the search for wholeness, traumatized individuals may
pass from the stage of walking wounded to wounded healer. Wounded healers become able to use
themselves therapeutically to help others. This transformation will have a positive impact on the
health care system, society and the nursing profession as a whole.


  • All human beings experience trauma in their lives
  • For nurses, trauma may be of a personal nature, a professional nature, or a combination of both
  • The way nurses cope with trauma has a profound effect on patient care
  • Trauma does not automatically resolve itself without intervention
  • Trauma can be transformed and transcended, then used to help others
  • Healing involves transforming the self from walking wounded to wounded healer
  • Therapeutic use of self is dependent on the degree to which trauma has been
    transformed and transcended in a person’s life
  • The wounded healer represents the highest level of using the self therapeutically
  • Nursing is a wounded profession that needs to heal itself in order to survive


    • Walking Wounded: An individual who remains physically, emotionally and spiritually bound
      to past trauma. This wounding can be reflected in the nursing practice of the individual in many ways.
      The walking wounded have limited consciousness related to how their pain is manifested in their lives.
    • Wounded Healer: Through self reflection and spiritual growth, the individual achieves expanded consciousness,
      through which the trauma is processed, converted and healed.

The Q.U.E.S.T. Model For Self-Transcendence Can Guide Individuals In Healing*

  • Question: How has trauma affected my life?
  • Uncover: What can I remember about the major instances or patterns of my personal or professional trauma?
  • Experience: What are my feelings about these events or patterns?
  • Search for Meaning: What do these feelings and experiences mean to me?
  • Transform and Transcend: I change my world view by resolving trauma and becoming a wounded healer.

For more information see our Book page.

*Conti-O’Hare, M. (2002). The nurse as wounded healer: From trauma to transcendence. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.