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Climbing Everest no different to being a nurse – QNI conference

Mountaineer Kenton Cool drew parallels between climbing world’s highest peak and nursing during his talk on resilience to mark World Mental Health Day

Mountaineer Kenton Cool drew parallels between climbing world’s highest peak and nursing during his talk on resilience to mark World Mental Health Day

Climbing Mount Everest is not that different to being a nurse – that is the view of a mountaineer invited to speak at a nursing conference this week.

Kenton Cool drew a number of parallels between climbing the highest mountain in the world and working as a nurse, including overcoming loneliness, making life-and-death decisions and crisis management, when he spoke at the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s (QNI) annual conference on 10 October

Mountaineer Kenton Cool drew parallels between climbing world’s highest peak and nursing during his talk on resilience to mark World Mental Health Day

Picture: Daniel Mitchell

Climbing Mount Everest is not that different to being a nurse – that is the view of a mountaineer invited to speak at a nursing conference this week.

Kenton Cool drew a number of parallels between climbing the highest mountain in the world and working as a nurse, including overcoming loneliness, making life-and-death decisions and crisis management, when he spoke at the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s (QNI) annual conference on 10 October.

Mr Cool was the first non-Nepalese person to climb the 29,032ft mountain an impressive 16 times and has been a guide to others climbing the world’s highest peak. He gave an inspiring talk to almost 500 nurses and nursing students on resilience in challenging environments to mark World Mental Health Day.

Some nurses found mountaineer’s ‘cookie jar’ analogy relatable

Using a ‘cookie jar’ analogy, Mr Cool said it was important to draw on life experiences in challenging environments, encouraging nurses to learn from their peers.

Mountaineer Kenton Cool was the first non-Nepalese person to climb the 29,032ft mountain 16 times.
Mountaineer Kenton Cool gave a talk on resilence to nurses at the Queen’s Nursing Institute conference. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

‘Not much beats drawing from the “cookie jar” of life experiences. You make all these deposits in it over the years and every so often, you need to dip your hand in it and pull out those life experiences because there are no hacks to life experience,’ he said.

Many nurses in the audience said they liked the analogy, with one saying: ‘I also think that learning from each others’ cookie jars is how we can learn from what goes well.’

Another nurse said Mr Cool’s experiences were relatable, adding: ‘Our community nursing teams are really struggling at this time due to lack of experience within the teams, we need to build up the cookie jar.’

Speaking about stress and anxiety, Mr Cool said letting it build up ‘can be a real inhibitor’ to his team when climbing a mountain. He explained that his team overcome this through a ‘shared culture’ of talking to each other about their feelings without judgement.

Sentiment of no-blame shared culture resonates with nurses talking about mental health

‘Whenever we come together as a team there is a no-blame shared culture. Every single morning we have a share, it doesn't matter what it is, we just say a few words about how we feel. There’s no advice given, no judgement,’ he said.

‘That ability to share how you're feeling in that sort of environment is very, very important.’

It is a sentiment that resonates with nurses who are often working in high-pressure environments and fear speaking up when they are struggling. Many often fear blame or judgement when talking about their own mental health struggles.

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said Mr Cool’s talk was ‘absolutely inspirational’, saying while they were not at the top of Everest, many nurses regularly work in isolation and have to make life-and-death decisions on their own.

‘Many of the comments coming through the talk about how relatable everything Mr Cool said is also for nurses who work in people’s homes and communities,’ she added.


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