International Association for Human Caring Conference 2012: Part II

On the second day of the conference, the key note speaker was Dr. Sigridur Halldorsdottir. My knowledge of Dr. Halldorsdottir’s work was that it is based in caring, but I found myself truly appreciative of the amazing work she has done to define what caring is. Her Speech was entitled,  Caring or Uncaring: What nursing is and what it is not- Revisited. Those of you familiar with Florence Nightingale’s work will recognize the idea of “what nursing is and is not”.

Sigridur provided us with a model that stated that love is the essence of caring. Caring is supported by the nurse’s courage, wisdom, authenticity, generosity of heart, and self knowledge. Patients can sense when caring is genuine and hospitals need to value caring to support nurses in their work.

Dr. Halldorsdottir also listed 9 competencies for caring. The competencies include caring in the sense of the existential, real caring, the ability to educate, ethical approaches, cultural competence, interpersonal communication, education, empowerment, and self development.The idea of being able to align caring with specific competencies demonstrates the advances we are making in developing a caring science of nursing. The downside which cannot be ignored is that if a caring nurse is placed in an uncaring environment, she will most likely leave that environment. This could be part of the body of evidence as to why so many nurses leave the profession.

It is difficult to capture here the essence of Dr. Halldorsdottir’s caring presence as she presented these ideas; she threaded some healing pictures from her homeland of Iceland throughout the presentation, but I was honored to be able to experience her heartfelt wisdom.

International Human Caring Conference: Part I

I think that those of us interested in creating change need to find ways to gather, to heal ourselves, and to support one another in and through the change process. It is a blessing when we as professional nurses can be with other professionals of like mind and like goals.  I was privileged to attend the International Human Caring Conference in Philadelphia, PA this week. There were dozens of trade show displays and booths, of variou new and old non-profits aiming to better the world. As always, the key note speakers were amazing and inspiring: Dr. Jean Watson and Sigridur Halldorsdottir.

Dr. Watson focused on the heart space and unitary patterns, how we are all interconnected and how our own thoughts, intentions, and heart spaces can impact the greater field. Though these are not new concepts for Dr. Watson to express (many of them are mentioned in her 1999 publication Post Modern Nursing and Beyond), there seems to be a growing body of evidence to confirm that the transpersonal human caring states and states of personal peace that come from a heart centered space are able to create a greater unitary space and pattern of healing. Human caring therefore becomes about a unitary place of peaceful connectedness. This concept is confirmed by the fields of quantum theory, the unitary world view, caring science, and the ethics of belonging. Our true power as nurses and healers comes from taking action from a place of an evolving higher vibration consciousness and human caring – peace intentionality. Watson emphasized in her presentation the idea that love and peace are the highest level of unitary consciousness, and it is by dropping into heart space, and enacting our heart ways of being, that we can manifest peace and healing in meaningful ways.

Universal, Unitary Heart

Many people may read this and wonder just how to interact within the heart space; they may assume that it takes great practice and effort to relate to others from a heart space. Watson (1999) did however remind us that we have this power within us already; it is not so much about learning or adding in something, it’s about getting in touch with and remembering who we are- spiritual beings, interconnected from our roots. I like to remember that we all came from our star dust origins.

Some simple techniques to enter into the heart space may include closing your eyes, setting an intentionality for caring, communicating, and healing from the heart. Next, one may start from closing the eyes, focusing on the breath moving in and out of the nostrils. Next take the minds’ intention, by focusing on the “third eye” space or the space between the brows, and from there internally-visually dropping one’s attention into the heart space. Notice how it feels to dwell from this space and intend to be in this space throughout the day. Send the love you feel for and from yourself out to your loved ones, family, friends, pets, colleagues, administrators, your challengers, and the world. This can be done in 1-2 minutes, and one can remember/ return to this practice throughout the day; always returning to the heart space which is the core of our being.

For nurses this should be good news. In a just a few steps, you can begin to create the sort of caring-healing practices that make our work worthwhile and meaningful. Additionally, consider that the more one practices self-care and healing techniques, the easier and more natural it becomes to enter into the heart space. Practices such as yoga, Reiki, meditation, contemplative prayer, and tai chi can help one become familiar with the heart space, and prepared to enter it more easily. Taking good care of one’s being through diet, exercise, and sleep are basic health factors that also enable us to better relate to others from the heart. Within the heart space, nurses can generate peace and wellness for self, others, and all beings of the world. From this place of peace, we can create change within our profession, as we strive to support nursing in our emancipatory process.

Nurses striking: is it effective?

As many of you have likely heard, the nurses employed by Sutter Health in Northern California staged a strike on Thursday September 22, 2011 in protest over an increase in benefits costs and decreases to sick and vacation leave. of

While the non-profit Sutter Health has real profits in the near billion dollar range, we are left wondering why it is the nurses’ benefits are being cut even as the heads of the organization walk home with millions of dollars of “bonuses” each year.

I think the nurses are in some respects justified in taking this stance and going on strike; they are working together to stand in solidarity (though up to 40% of the nurses at the various hospitals crossed the picket lines and reported to work). On the other hand, I feel that the strike does not create an atmosphere for discussion and dialogue that might be meaningful. This action in and of itself seems unlikely to create a path for communication between administrators, decision makers, and the nurses. The union itself also prevents much of this direct communication and may prevent the working nurses from communicating their concerns outside of the union’s presence.The strike does create some obstacles and safety concerns for patients, administrators, nurses crossing the strike line, and the replacement nurses.

I have thought a mass exodus of the nurses, or many immediate resignations, would be more effective, though highly unlikely to happen for obvious financial reasons. For each nurse who quit, Sutter would lose at least $60, 000 in training a new nurse to replace them. These expenses could add up very quickly if a good chunk of the nurses walked away from their positions. Sutter may have problems with hiring new nurses in relation to the higher costs of benefits, the reduction in vacation pay, and the elimination of paid sick leave. Paid sick leave can help to stop the spread of illnesses like the flu (have we already forgotten H1N1?), but perhaps I am digressing a bit here.

It would be interesting to poll the public and get their perception of striking nurses, professionalism, empowerment, and the image of nurses. From the current state of the media coverage, it is difficult to tell where the public stands on this.

We do know that the nurses have now been locked out until Tuesday, as at least two of the hospitals have a minimum contract of five days for their temporary staff contracts. These contracts are likely very expensive and in no way are saving Sutter any money, which was the reason given for changes in the benefits.

The issue of unions, strikes and walk-outs is prime for nursing researchers to continue to explore: what are the outcomes of strikes, do the nurses feel or experience a sense of empowerment through the process, what is the public’s perception of nurses’ unions and strikes, and so on.



Change agents – or complicit?

Over the past couple of weeks I have been giving a lot of thought to the issues of integrity that Carey wrote about last week.  Personal integrity is a challenge that increasingly affects Computer cheating cartoonnot only academics, but also practice and research.  And, this is at the core of what we are seeking to address in the Nurse Manifest Project.  So this deserves lots of attention, and I hope that folks will get involved in some of this discussion!

In this post I want to lay some groundwork for things I will write about over the next several days and weeks — ways that we can work toward change, and interrupt ways that we are (often unknowingly) complicit.

Years ago I read Nel Noddings wonderful book “Women and Evil,” which has provided a grounding for me Continue reading

Academic Integrity: State of the Issue in Nursing

I was recently in an “all school” meeting at my University, where we offer courses via a variety of modalities. Some of the what I might call “more traditional” faculty expressed concerns about online learning and maintaining academic integrity. Having writerbeen an online student for both my MSN and PhD degrees, and having taught in nursing education programs online for the last 6 years, I must admit that I was sort of internally laughing at some of the concerns presented, such as “what if the person is not really posting their discussions?. “how can me be sure there are the student’s papers”, and “how do we know it is the student taking the exam?”. I mean we have to assume a certain level of academic integrity and honesty from our students, right?

But today I took pause when Peggy Chinn sent the following link to me from The Chronicle, which frequently discusses issues that Academicians face:

The article is written by a person who purportedly writes students’ papers for them for a fee. This is of course disturbing Continue reading