Building the Bridge

This image came from an inner soul portrait that Deborah Koff-Chapin did for the author, Eileen Zorn. Eileen uses it as her signature on letterhead and all invoices.

Helping Nurse Leaders Find a Vision Through Art


The American Holistic Nursing Association Journal Beginnings article titled Creative Expressive Arts in Nursing written by Eileen Zorn about her collaboration with Deborah, using her live drawing in deep visioning retreats for hospital executives and managers.

As a nurse, I find great joy in coaching executives and other healthcare professionals in leadership positions. Last summer, I was called in to support the senior vice president for Patient Care Services at a rural hospital.The task was to explore innovative approaches for moving beyond the hospital’s present financial difficulties. After several coaching sessions, it was determined that our best option was to support the nursing leadership in a spiritual retreat to reconnect with the power of the original mission and pioneering heritage of the organization and move forward to envision a more desirable and abundant future. This required the creation of a high-energy space to give lots of permission to imagine greater possibilities.

In the summer of 2005, the decision was made for the hospital to partner with the Kaiser Institute (specifically, Leanne Kaiser Carlson, a healthcare futurist, and Kevin Kaiser, an intuitive coach) and an artist (Deborah Koff-Chapin) to create a retreat where managers were encouraged to explore the possibilities of who they were as individuals as well as who they were as leaders within the greater organization. As a nurse consultant and retreat co-leader, my role was to form a bridge between the attendees’ current experience as managers and this intuitive creative journey. Our focus together was to explore how to move into the future more intentionally and to design explicit systems for nursing innovation.

During the first day, participants were led on a guided meditation, visioning the ideal form they wanted to create within their organization. Within the context of a wisdom circle, each participant shared his/her vision as experienced during meditation. As the descriptions were shared, the intuitive artist captured the images of creative ideas and revelations through her art of touch drawing ( A scribe (Shirley Barnett, also my business partner) then documented the participants’ words and expressions that were connected later to the images. When the images and words were combined, the story of the organization evolving into its future form was told.

The second day focused on the managers’ direct participation by touch drawing themselves to express their personal and professional hopes for the future. They were supported during guided meditation to view both themselves and the organization in the most perfect, healthy form and to view themselves as leaders of mythic proportion. Participants also were encouraged to see the organization as healed and whole in fulfilling its mission to the community.

These images were created by intuitive artist Deborah Koff-Chapin during a guided meditation where nurse participants were encouraged to envision and describe the ideal form they wanted to create within their organization. © 2006 Deborah Koff-Chapin

From this position of wholeness, beautiful images representing the possible future came forward. Each manager created a perspective of how the organization might best fulfill its service commitment. Then the images were brought together, and focused areas of emphasis were chosen. Selective images guided the group on its next step of writing a formal strategic plan and vision statement. The images were symbols
of the leaders’ visions advancing and expanding the organization into the future.

In order for health care to thrive, leaders must find meaning in what they do, and having an opportunity to express heart and soul can bring this meaning back to life. Throughout this retreat, the nursing leaders created an extraordinary experience that increased the expansiveness of opportunities ahead. Participants were able to explore imaginal spaces for healing the organization and themselves. Inspired by these images, the managers had breakthroughs into collaboration and innovation and a new sense of boldness in facing any challenges.

Eileen Zorn MS, RN, has over 30 years experience in diverse healthcare settings, focusing on incorporating innovation and values-based spiritual leadership into the workplace. She is currently President and CEO of Zorn Consulting Network, based in Loma Linda, Calif. (

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