The Call for Community, Art, and Artists in the Resistance Movement


This week, members of the Nurse Manifest Team gathered together by the warmth of our computer screens for engaging video conference. We took the time to welcome some new members and talk about the future of the movement. I have to say for me, being with like minded #NurseResisters was so energizing (even though I have been suffering through a bout of the flu this week!) and also very comforting.

It’s important for #NurseResisters to remember we are not alone and to gather those around us during these challenging times: when change seems to be happening at a rapid pace, when social media pages are filled with what resisters might find to be concerning or bad governmental news, when there are 10 things you would like to take action on, but you can’t be on the phone all day….it can become easy to become discouraged, overwhelmed, or burned out. This is where truly being with a like minded community can lift your spirits and buoy your endurance.

imgres-2.jpg

And endurance is what we will need. I know right now it sometimes feel like a sprint…get out there and get things done now, get to this march, make your signs, write your emails and postcards, get on the phone….because the administration has been creating changes at a rapid pace, the media and social media have been bumping up our energy, and we feel drawn to create change now.

The thing is, this is not a sprint and it’s not a solo race…it’s more like a team based marathon or ultra-marathon, and it is going to take teams of like minded community members to both participate in and complete the race.

imgres-3.jpg

Individual Sprint

Versus

Team Marathon

images-1.jpg

 

We need to carry lights, march together through the dark night with our nightingale lamps, and strive toward unity. There is no clear finish line, and no medals for winners, second, and third place. There is a beautiful planet and population of people that need caring for and this endurance test is in part about not giving up that vision of a caring, compassionate, kind, peaceful, unified, and spirit filled world.

I suggest other #NurseResisters start gathering with your communities in real life or as we did last week, in real time via video or phone conferencing. Set aside thoughtful, meaningful time to be together, to discuss future actions, and also to just support one another, to laugh together, to share your stories. Communities can rejuvenate and recharge us, and they are a must for folks who plan to run the long race.

I also did want to share that part of our discussion last week focused on the use of humor, satire, parody, art, and music to support and gather people together. Saturday Night live is becoming a great example of the power of humor, parody, and satire to help us lighten our load, to help us rejuvenate, to connect us across time and space.

 

 

While there are many older political songs we can use (Carol King just re-released One Small Voice with free download!: https://soundcloud.com/user-844282824/one-small-voice), it remains imperative that we also create new art and new music that reflects our current siutation here, now in 2017. Until then, let’s be strong together:

“One small voice speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice speaking with the values
we were taught as children
Tell the truth
You can change the world
But you’d better be strong”

(Carole King/ copyright Rockingdale Records).

 

Nurses at the Leading Edge in Unexpected Places!


The NurseManifest project was founded with an intention to bring fundamental nursing values to the fore in every moment, time and place where people’s health is concerned – in the every day and in those exceptional moments that are least expected!  So a couple of

Dr. Brennan

Dr. Brennan

weeks ago when the new Director of the National Library – a nurse – was announced, I immediately went to the website to learn more!  Lo and behold, not only did I learn about the new Director (effective August 2016),  Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan, PhD, RN, FAAN!

I also discovered an important exhibition “Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives” that honors the role of nurses in addressing doestic violence.  This display will be on exhibit until August 19, 2016.  The nurses involved in this important exhibit are Dr. Barbara Parker, Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Dr. Doris Campbell and Dr. Daniel Sheridan.

At the September 17, 2015 opening event, NLM Acting Director Betsy Humphreys (l.) joins (l. to r.) nurses Dr. Barbara Parker, Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Dr. Doris Campbell and Dr. Daniel Sheridan, along with exhibition curator Dr. Catherine Jacquet, ABC7’s Kimberly Suiters, and Patricia Tuohy, head of the Exhibition Program, NLM History of Medicine Division.

At the September 17, 2015 opening event, NLM Acting Director Betsy Humphreys (l.) joins (l. to r.) nurses Dr. Barbara Parker, Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Dr. Doris Campbell and Dr. Daniel Sheridan, along with exhibition curator Dr. Catherine Jacquet, ABC7’s Kimberly Suiters, and Patricia Tuohy, head of the Exhibition Program, NLM History of Medicine Division.

So visit the National Library of Medicin Website.  Also, if you are in the vicitingy consider paying them a visit to see this wonderful exhibit! Click here for information about visiting the NLM.

Nursing Students or Student Nurses: What’s in a Name


Recently, Jane Dickinson drew attention to the power of the language we use in her blogs examining language and health and in her argument to replace words that shame. It reminded me of another instance of language use that I believe to be inherently harmful – referring to nursing students as student nurses. This practice has been so widely used for so long that I can imagine many gasps and reactions, such as, “Well, that’s what they are; what else should we call them?” Why not nursing students? Is there a difference? I would argue there is a great difference.

I cannot think of one other group of students, health or otherwise, that is referred to with a similar moniker. We do not speak of student doctors, student lawyers, student engineers, for example. They are medical students, law students, engineering students. The lack of parallelism is the first indication that we should examine this practice.

When I “trained” to be a Registered Nurse in a hospital in the early 1960s, student nurses made up a large proportion of the hospital’s workforce. Student nurses were identified by their caps, first having none in the first 6 months, then after the capping ceremony, a white cap. Second year students were identified with a light blue ribbon on their caps, third year meant a dark blue ribbon, until finally Registered Nurses wore the coveted black ribbon. The uniforms likewise differentiated students from Registered Nurses, with graduate nurses wearing all white and students being required to wear a blue dress, with highly starched white bib and apron – all exactly 14” from the floor, regardless of the student’s height (so in class pictures the skirts were exactly at the same length) – along with plastic collar and cuffs. Although I describe the practice of one particular hospital, similar practice were common elsewhere. Student nurses were a category of hospital worker and were, as such, as easily identifiable as housekeeping staff, candy stripers, or Registered Nurses.

I say all of this to make the point that not only did the label “student nurse” make her (with very few males at that time) identifiable, but also indicated something about her place in the organization and the expectations that organization had of her. (I will continue to refer to “her” because, although our class was unusual in that we had 2 males in our class, their uniform was white, like male Registered Nurses wore. It did not change throughout the 3-year program, and neither male students nor male Registered Nurses wore a cap or any other ranking symbol.)

The term student nurse comes from a time when nursing students were expected to be not only subservient (if a physican entered the nursing office, a student nurse who was sitting and charting, for example, was expected to rise and give the physician her seat), but also loyal, innocent and pure. The Florence Nightingale pledge, recited at graduation by the graduating classes of the time, included the promise to “pass my life in purity.”  In the first year after my graduation, I was employed as a Registered Nurse  at a secular  hospital (I ‘trained’ in a Catholic hospital) in a different Canadian province.) Yet the Director of Nursing forbade the graduating class that year from taking the pledge because she didn’t believe they had lived their lives in purity. She enjoyed the power to be able to do that!

This combination of an aura of innocence/ purity with the expectation that student nurses provided intimate care to males made “student nurses” highly desirable as dates.  Even during my student nurse years, engineering students from the local university would come to hospital schools of nursing to find dates for their dances.  Unfortunately, this also applied to nurses generally – the saying “if you can’t get a date, get a nurse” was common for years after I graduated in 1964. The frequent representation of nurses as sex objects, well documented by such authors as Kalisch and Kalisch extended to student nurses as well.

Despite the fact that nursing education has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, the term “student nurse,” with all its connotations, persists.  When I was teaching, I challenged students to refer to themselves as nursing students instead.  In class discussions on the topic, despite students’ general agreement that the connotation of “student nurse” was very different from that of nursing student, very few took up that challenge and subsequently submitted assignments in which they referred to themselves as student nurses. Some told me they were required to designate their status as S.N. when signing their charting.

I was interested in whether or not a Google images search for nursing student yielded any different result than search for student nurse images. The screen shots of the first screen that came up with each search are below.  Without a careful analysis, some differences are immediately apparent.  The top one is the screenshot of student nurse images; the second a screenshot of nursing student images.  

NM_April_6_16_copy_pagesNM_April_6_16_copy_pages

While both screenshots include some images that appear unrelated, in the top one they are images of children. There are no images of nurses practicing, and the screenshot includes images of the back of a nurse’s capped head, and the nurse as a romantic figure (Cherry Ames). The somewhat self-deprecating text message reads “ Student Nurse Diagnosis: Stress R/T: knowledge deficit, impaired memory, sleep deprivation, unbalanced nutrition, interrupted family process, lack of social interaction, disturbed energy field.”

Note the general increase in diversity and portrayal of adult nurses providing care in the second picture. The unrelated shots appear to depict Go-Kart racing. The text image, giving the same stress diagnosis, makes its point without self-degradation: “Diagnosis: Just a tad stressed r/t complete academic overload, depleted resources, little or no life.

It seems to me that the collages support the argument that the term student nurse has a different connotation than nursing student and its removal from our lexicon is long overdue. Some time ago I wrote a blog about nurses soaring like eagles. It is a parable about an eagle that finds itself in a chicken yard and starts to act like a chicken, rather than fulfilling its destiny and potential as an eagle.  I believe that by referring to nursing students as student nurses we are unwittingly reinforcing the many messages that the term connotes and are hindering their ability to soar like eagles.

                       

Nurses as Healers: Good Work Environments


I remember when I became a new nurse 21 years ago, and a friend asked me what I did at the hospital when I worked those long 12 hour night shifts. His thoughts were that the patients were asleep, so it was probably a job where you hung out and drank coffee, occasionally checking in on a patient. I remember walking him through what I usually did on a 12 hour 7pm- 7 am night shift, including most of the tasks and requirements of the job from receiving report at the start of the shift to giving report at the end of the shift. I made sure to include that if- when I got a break,  it was usually around 2am or 3am when I was finally “caught up enough” to take some 20-30 minutes to nourish and hydrate myself.

As I thought of this telling of what nurses do some 20 years later,  I wondered if I included what nurses are really charged with doing, which is supporting the healing of those we care for. Did I focus on all of the tasks and duties I would complete during that 12 hour shift, or did I also include the time spent rubbing backs, holding hands, saying prayers, educating, and supporting patients and their loved ones? Did I include the story about the time I had to call a deaf woman and tell her husband had passed after she left for the evening? Or the time when the family asked me to increase the morphine drip rate because “the doctor said she would be dead before the morning and we are ready for her to be gone”? What about the man with ALS being kept alive on a ventilator and feeding tube who lay lonely in his bed, unable to verbally communicate, and went for weeks at a time without a single visitor?

I believe that as nurses we need to educate the public not just on all of the technical skills we do each day to support patients’ receiving good medical care, but also on the healing aspects of our unique work as nurses: on how we were likely “called” to be a nurse because we want to make a difference, the skills we have developed that support us in creating caring-healing environments for patients, and the rewards of being able to support others through their healing process. I think we should be making it clear to the public as well that we are committed to our own health and healing, knowing that we can’t support others through health challenges if we are not also dealing with these challenges ourselves. And as nurses, we need to support one another in our own healing process, role-modeling what self-care and stress management look like in action.

A recent study showed that supporting nursing and creating “good nursing environments”, with adequate nurse staffing, leads to better long term patient outcomes, with fewer deaths one-month post surgery (http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0UZ2XL). It pays for hospitals to invest in having enough nurses, in treating those nurses well, and supporting nurses in what we have been called to do: create healing environments that support patients toward their greatest health potential. Healthcare facilities need to be moved to support nurses in managing their stress and enacting self-care in order to potentiate the healing of the patients these facilities serve. Good staffing is just the beginning of creating “good nursing environments”: nurses should be empowered to begin dialog with their employers regarding what a healthy and good work environment for nurses looks like in consideration of the healing work that nurses do.

 

 

Humor in Health Care


There has been plenty of discussion about Kelley Johnson’s monologue and comments from The View. I just took a look at the response from the President of the American Nurses Association, who said, “Nurses don’t wear costumes; they save lives.” and its true, you won’t ever see a nurse wearing joker teeth welcoming a patient.

I am grateful to all the people who have stood up for nurses by responding, supporting, and making us feel like the honorable, trusted, and caring profession that we are. I am also thankful to Pamela Cipriano for her quote above, because that has encouraged me to take a lighter approach in this blog article. Everything doesn’t always have to be heavy or philosophical or serious, right?

While I understand what Pamela meant by “Nurses don’t wear costumes,” I will share that I did wear a costume once, when I was a staff nurse on an adolescent unit. It was Halloween and most of the nurses dressed in costumes that day. I was taking care of a particular 14-year-old boy who needed a new IV placed. In all my costumed glory, I went in and put an IV in this adolescent’s arm. His dad sat by the bedside as I did so. And his dad was a VP of the hospital. I never knew if that patient’s father was amused by my costume or annoyed thinking I wasn’t taking my job seriously. He didn’t say anything to me about it.

I sometimes think back to that experience, especially around Halloween, and wonder when it’s ok to infuse humor into health care. I sometimes use humor with patients I see for diabetes education, but then again those visits are not life or death situations. Hospital staff where I work still dress up every year, but I have never worn a costume to work again.

Personally, I like and appreciate humor. But when I’m the patient I do expect health care professionals to use it appropriately. I remember when I was a patient in room # e111, a joke that I didn’t “get” was sort of an issue I didn’t want on my mind. I’ve noticed in the Diabetes Online Community that people often discuss with frustration the jokes that are told about diabetes. Sometimes funny things happen to nurses at work, and those times (and memories) can help us get through tough jobs. In fact, humor can be one way nurses take care of themselves. Are there ways we can use humor to help people heal?

How do you use humor in health care? Or what funny thing that has happened while you were working in a health care setting? What did you learn from the experience?