Jennifer Wendtman is a nurse, chaplain, facilitator and speaker. She’ll be coming to visit Club Taree on July 19, to present a talk on self care and boundaries – two topics she’s very passionate about. Jennifer’s talk will help raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities Mid North Coast …
Hi Jennifer. Please share a bit about your background and what led you to become a speaker/facilitator …
I am a Newcastle girl, born and bred. I ran off to Sydney, straight from uni, married my uni boyfriend two years later and headed off on contract to work in Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War, we headed home and settled down to work with Hunter New England Health, where I started a Youth Health Team that still provides health care to high needs at risk often homeless young people. This was an incredible 10 years that saw me become a Clinical Nurse Consultant, a wife and a mum of two kids.
Having always had a spiritual side, when the opportunity came up to take a job as school chaplain – combining my knowledge of young people and emotional and spiritual wellbeing, combined with school holidays was a no brainer!
Then my amazingly supportive, hard working husband in a moment of deep consideration decided to jump boots and all into a Law Degree! We are a team and we needed more money – so I turned my hand to speaking! And, I loved it. My parents say they heard me before they saw me, so apparently I was born for it!
Fast forward eight years, and here we are! Steve’s a lawyer, the kids have left school and I’m still a chaplain and loving speaking. Standing in front of a crowd and inviting them to come with me on a journey – combining science and mystery – to challenge their thinking offering knowledge is the best job ever!
What’s involved with your work as a chaplain?
Chaplaincy is about a ministry of presence – sitting with individuals and communities at the point of need. My 9 – 5 work is mostly with families, assisting them to consider their situation, their strengths and walking with them as they find their way.
I’m also involved in lots of weddings and funerals. I love sitting with people who are working out who they are in relationship to faith and spirituality.
You deliver workshops/talks on some quite diverse topics … How much do you draw on your own life experiences when coming up with material for your presentations?
Being a nurse and a chaplain allows me to sit with people in the most intimate of spaces. People show me their vulnerability; they let me see the places in them they wouldn’t show to many others.
I’ve learned so much about myself and humanity, and this has influenced my work so much.
You’ll be speaking about self care and boundaries when you visit Club Taree on July 19. Why is self care so crucial – and why do you feel it’s important for us all to establish boundaries?
This is a great question. I am passionate about this topic. My hope for humanity is that we can all reach our fullest potential, and we can’t do this when we are physically, emotionally or spiritually depleted. Life is for living – I believe we need to find balance and live our best lives, not just for us, but for the families and communities we are a part of.
What’s one of the most valuable life lessons you’ve learned in terms of “looking after yourself”?
I have stared burn out in the face and found my way back. In this time I recognise that I had some personal biases about mental wellbeing – I heard myself say to my GP, when she suggested I should see a psychologist to address my anxiety and my compulsive need to over-function, “But, I’m not one of ‘those’ people”!
I heard the words leave my mouth and couldn’t believe my ears. Who did I think “those people” were? Weaker? Lesser? Nope, they are people. Everyday, you and me people. I had to step back, get help and allow vulnerability to show me the way out. I still see a psychologist regularly.
How do you manage to successfully engage different types of audiences during your talks … do you find you often need to adapt your presentations, depending on who’s listening?
Nurses have a degree in observation. This skill has served me well. I speak to diverse groups all the time. I often play a game and look for the least connected/enthusiastic person in the room and make them my goal. I love watching their arms unfold and their posture change, as they lean into the idea or the concept I’m offering.
Sometimes I have to re-offer the same point three – four times from a different perspective to get them across the line. Sometimes I want to fist pump or high five myself when I finally win them over!
Your talk at Club Taree will help raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities Mid North Coast. You’ve given presentations at RMH functions on several occasions – why do you feel it’s important to acknowledge the work this organisation does?
This charity held our hand as a family and offered us comfort when our second child required hospitalisation for an extended period away from home and family. It was a space that let us be normal, rest and take a breath – it made our life better.
Families need space and kindness – they need time away from the bedside, and RMHC offer a much needed moment of normal. This is a gift!