A nurse’s burnout leads to hospital for carers

April 9, 2024

In 1993 I graduated as a New Zealand registered nurse. Starting from university, we were never taught the importance of caring for ourselves, or other carers, to help meet the huge demands of our roles.

Jacqui O’Connor

And the personal experiences which lead many of us down this career track are never identified or supported.


As a nurse, I regularly experienced burn-out, compassion fatigue and moral injury. This would present itself as lack of motivation, feeling helpless, reduced compassion for myself and others, a low or negative outlook, a sense of failure and self-doubt.

There was no relevant wrap-around support options for carers in my position. I never witnessed examples of nursing leaders accessing support, nor did I see any understanding of how to protect and maintain our own care tanks, to remain “care-full”.

I spent 26.5 years caring on the wards of Auckland’s Starship Hospital, London’s Great Ormond Street and St Mary’s Hospitals, followed by Greenlane, Auckland, Waitakere Hospitals, and working in various other health roles in New Zealand.

For much of my career, I felt my empathy, intuition and emotions were a liability that I needed to “fix” if I wanted to be a successful health practitioner.

I didn’t realise at the time that these feminine qualities are exactly what a true healer must embody to help another human being heal.

In 2016, I came face-to-face with somebody experiencing a similar health challenge as I had faced in my childhood.

This started a chain reaction of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that would take some time to heal from – psychologically and spiritually.

My usual protection mechanisms of busyness, people-pleasing and perfectionism were gone. In the still void that remained, I began to heal. And it was here that my journey to Heart Place Hospital began.

After many unsuccessful attempts to lobby the Government and hospitals, it became clear that I was going to have to be the change I wanted to see in the world of health care.

I created a safe space for the carers and empaths of the world to be uplifted and supported, and to create a network of love and compassion which extends far and wide.

Heart Place Hospital expands the definition of health to include, not just physical and mental health, but also interpersonal, professional, spiritual, creative, sexual, environmental and financial. This “whole health” model is largely missing from medicine.

Heart Place Hospital is feminising the broken, outdated, patriarchal health-care system, reclaiming love as a healing practice, bringing spirituality back to medicine, encouraging people/healer collaboration, empowering patients to heal themselves, and changing how we deliver and receive health care.

Most wellness models teach that the body is the foundation for everything in life — that without a healthy body, everything else suffers.

We’ve got it all backwards. The body isn’t the foundation of our health. The body is the physical manifestation of our life experiences.

When our life is out of alignment, our mind gets stressed, and when our mind is under stress, our body suffers. The good news is that we can make changes that may profoundly affect our whole health.

We are our own whole health expert, who can call on others to meet us with their expertise and work in partnership to support our healing.

Heart Place Hospital offers everything I wish had been available to me when I first looked for support and felt lost and alone.

I have spent the past eight years researching what really makes people sick. Everything I’ve learned — everything I wish they had taught me in nursing and life but didn’t — I now offer to other healers and future healers.

A New Zealand-registered charity (CC61280), Heart Place Hospital is dedicated to supporting our frontline workers in the health and education sectors with multi-faceted service providers.

They use individualised approaches to awaken and amplify the power and progress of these vital workers via satellite clinics, and workshops and accommodation at our first physical hospital in Mangawhai, Northland. We also offer online and in person personalised support in locations through New Zealand.

The ultimate flow-on effect of serving and reinvigorating our frontline caregivers is a thriving and resilient community.

Jacqui O’Connor, CEO
Heart Place Hospital