How to Nurse

Are you looking for the perfect gift for a nurse on your holiday list?  Or, are you looking for a book that is entirely consistent with the vision of the NurseManifest values and ideals?  Are you still struggling to clearly answer the nagging question: what is nursing? Or do you just need inspiration? Cover How to nurse Look no further this book is the perfect choice – How to Nurse: Relational Inquiry with Individuals and Families in Shifting Contexts.  I reviewed this book for this blog back in January, but I continue to be inspired and encouraged by this book and decided that now is a perfect time to once again bring this book to the attention of NurseManifestors!  Right at the outset, the authors Gwenneth Hartwick Doane and Colleen Varcoe explain what they mean by the term “relational,” and in so doing reveal the close connection with NurseManifest values:

When we use the word “relational” and speak of a relational inquiry approach to nursing practice, many people think we are merely emphasizing the touchy-feely, emotional side of nursing and particularly “nurse–patient” relationships. However, relational inquiry is far more encompassing than that. Although relationships between people are certainly part of relational inquiry, in this book, the term “relational” refers to the complex interplay of human life, the world, and nursing practice. Specifically, relational inquiry involves highly reasoned, skilled action. Relational inquiry  requires (a) a thorough and sound knowledge base; (b) sophisticated inquiry and observational and analytical skills; (c) strong clinical skills including clinical judgment, decision-making skills, and clinical competencies; and knowledge and skills. Rather, a relational consciousness highlights the interplay of a number of factors affecting the point-of-care . . . . This heightened awareness enables more informed decisions and more effective action.

Overall, a relational consciousness

• Sensitizes us to the relational complexities that affect what happens at the point-of-care
• Directs attention toward the “relational transactions” that are occurring within and among people and contexts
• Enables us to be very intentional and consciously choose how to act in response to these complexities and transactions

Specifically, relational consciousness is the action of being mindfully
aware of the relational complexities that are at play in a situation and
intentionally and skillfully working in response to those relational complexities.

(Doane, Gweneth Hartrick; Varcoe, Colleen (2013-12-30). How to Nurse (Page 3-5). LWW. Kindle Edition.)

I cannot recommend this book highly enough!  In addition to this kind of explanation of the principles on which nursing is based, the book is loaded with examples and real-life activities that emphasize what this means in very practical terms.

Let’s start a lively discussion here about the insights that this book offers, and add more insights related to the connections between the perspectives this book offers and our own NurseManifest vision!



Nurses and Global Peace

This blog posting will be a bit different from others I have written, but I believe the NurseManifest page is a place where we can open our hearts and souls to the essence of nursing, which is healing, caring, love, and compassion. In a world seemingly torn asunder from fear, violence, and anger, nurses are called forth to support healing on a local and global level. The call comes from something beyond ourselves, and if you stop and listen closely, I believe you will hear that calling. You are a nurse and there is a reason you were drawn to nursing: to support healing through loving kindness and caring.

A few nights before the recent violence spread around the world, from Beruit to Paris, I lay in bed cuddling my 7 year old daughter close. Every night I am blessed to be able to spend some time reading to my daughters and cuddling as they drift off to dreamland. For a few moments that evening, I found myself floating in a space where I felt like the mother of the universe was whispering to me, not in words, but through a deep felt intuitive process. I knew the goodness, the light, and the powerful strength of peace as they came through clearly to me, carrying with them the message that the mother of all, the earth as a complex system, will heal itself. After the moment of certainty passed, I was left with the usual feelings of uncertainty: how will the good and the light prevail in these times of darkness? Who will help make this happen? What is my role in this process?

Then tragedy struck, and violence and war continue to grow. The feelings of uncertainty have not dissipated, so I sit with those, but I also do remain strongly rooted in the belief that as nurses, we can support global peace and healing through our own efforts of creating local peace and healing. And that local peace starts at the place closest to us all, right from our hearts.

As we practice our own healing, creating our own peace and loving-healing processes, we can begin to spread that healing, peace, and love to others. A practice I try and do daily is called loving kindness meditation. I feel on many levels this practice is about my own healing and self-care so that I can be a better nurse, wife, and mother… and it is also about bringing that healing into the world.

I start with focusing on myself, in my heart space, and intending for myself healing through the following words:

May I know peace, joy, love, and ease. May my heart be full. May I be safe, healthy, and happy.

I than send this intention to the loved ones in my life, wishing them all love, peace, ease, happiness, health, and safety: family, friends, pets, students, and colleagues. As the circle of intention spreads outward, I send the intention and feelings of love and peace out to my “enemies” and challengers, and I end with the whole planet, with every being being sent the intention of peace, love, and healing.  The process takes  5-10 minutes.

As nurses supporting healing, we can think and act both locally and globally. Imagine if every nurse sent out an intention, a prayer, a positive thought for healing and peace for the entire mother earth and all of the beings living here. Consciousness studies show that our thoughts and intentions impact our environment and reality.  I think of Jean Watson’s call for us to practice loving kindness and  Martha Rogers’ concept of Unitary Beings. We can reflect the patterns before us, we can create shifts in consciousness to support healing.

Despite the medical system’s over-emphasis on technology-cure-illness management, I still believe that nurses are truly called toward the healing that all beings are capable of experiencing. If you have been called to be a nurse, can you return to that calling, can you spare a few moments to consider the global situation, and what you can do as a nurse to support healing from the truly local level (yourself) and on to the global level?

I would love to hear from nurses and how they are supporting peace and healing around the globe. The call has been made, how will you answer?


peace-signs-clip-art-peace-signs-clip-art-10h call has been made… how will you respond?



Nursing as Practical Magic


Nursing is a practical magic that creates internal and external environments to promote health or a peaceful death through acts that generate transformation. Ancient wisdoms and civilizations create rituals to honor life’s milestones and seasonal changes.


Samhain (pronounced sow-een) is known as the ancient Celtic festival of the dead. Celebrated on the 1st day of November, Samhain is a time of introspection, and remembrance of the ancestors.

How do you remember and honor your ancestors?

Wise women throughout the ages, healers, and witches honor the turning of the wheel of life, the seasons, and the rhythms of the natural universe.

Connecting with the moon, stars, plants, animals, self and spirit they give thanks and set intentions to create healing and the life they dream of.

Consider the symbols and talisman of Halloween. One may see that the Broom symbolizes clearing of the old to make way for new; the Owl for wisdom; the Cat for mystery of the unknown; Ghosts for notions of the other world; and Bats for transformation.

As nurses, we inherently make connections with and for our patients and families. We tap into the power of the universe, as we embrace it we realize there’s a little witch in all of us.

Magic isn’t just spells and potions; its symbols and talisman that have whatever meaning you assign to them. What are the symbols and rituals that hold meaning for you?

Healers use their powers to conjure and create by setting intentions and connecting with the inherent energies of their environments.


The nursing metaparadigm (nurse, person, health, environment) viewed through the Unitary Transformative paradigm conjures an integration of multiple ways of knowing, being and becoming.

As we honor our nursing ancestor Florence Nightengale, we hear her say:

“All disease is a reparative process…an effort to remedy a process of poisoning or decay…I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to the administration of medicines and applications of poultices. It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet and diet…”

How do you conjure your environment for healing? How do you create the environment for your patients to heal? What ritual, symbols and talismans and intentions do you use in your self healing and work?

As we connect to our ancestors today, let us begin to reclaim our providence and power as nurse healers.

Listen to you heart, hear the beat of the drum, the drum of your heart as it connects with the hearts of the others and the universe; conjuring, gathering and sending out powers of healing and love to self and universe.

On this day we honor the ancestors, the ancient wisdoms, where we have been and the gifts we have been given.


See the vibrant colors of the Autumn; red, yellow, orange, and brown. Smell the earthly aromas of patchouli, sandalwood, musk, spice and copal. Hear the rustle of leaves as they fall and fly.

Let your nursing be a practical magic. Conjure a spell and send your intentions off on the winds, allowing the vibrant leaves of red, orange and yellow carry your wishes of health and healing to the earth, animals and humans.


Nightingale, F. (1859). Notes of Nursing; What is it and What it is not. Barnes & Noble (2003): New York, NY (pp 1-2).


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?

The UK National Health Service: What about nursing?

We are delighted to welcome this message from Elaine Maxwell, addressing the current challenges facing nurses and nursing in the UK National Health Service (NHS).  Her message has world-wide implications!

I am one of those nurses, I think the NHS is a wonderful jewel built on a shared sense of equality and justice (and I have worked briefly in private healthcare both in the UK and in the USA). The challenge for the NHS is that there are different opinions on what it is there for and how to evaluate it. Discussions are more often focused on

Elaine Maxwell

Elaine Maxwell

ideology (socialism versus market economies) that what the staff within in actually do.

The Commonwealth Fund (2014)1 rated the NHS as first internationally for effectiveness, safety, patient centeredness, cost and efficiency and third for timeliness of care. In spite of this, successive UK governments of both main political parties have focused on cost savings and faster access.

Starting in 1997 with the New Labour Blair Government, the definition of a good service moved from a broad base to focus on access and cost. Targets were introduced for waiting times for both emergency and elective care and organisations incurred financial penalties for failure to achieve them whilst at the same time they had to cut unit costs in order to become quasi autonomous ‘Foundation Trusts’. Something had to give and in the NHS it was nursing.

Nurses failed to articulate their therapeutic contribution and some enthusiastically embraced the role of managing patient flow to achieve access targets. This was a tangible, visible contribution to the new managerialism agenda as opposed to more opaque, but critical, nursing interventions. This lack of visibility led management consultancies to recommend wholesale cutting of nursing posts, for example McKinsey advised that nursing posts could be cut in London to save £421 million a year without any impact on the quality of the service2.

This perfect storm was exemplified by the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and described in detail by the public inquiry3 which clearly laid the blame for many of the failings at the feet of nurses. Although the report detailed the swingeing cuts in nurse numbers prior to the failures, it also suggested (without any empirical evidence) that academic nurses with the ‘wrong’ values had been recruited and that potential nurses should work as unregistered care assistants before being allowed to study. Despite concerns from nurses4, this idea is being piloted in the NHS and a recent BBC programme demonstrated that nurses and students have bought into this rhetoric5

Following the publication of the report, the Government commissioned a review of Trusts with apparently high mortality rates6. These ‘Keogh’ Trusts were found universally to have ‘insufficient’ nurses and those that recruited significant numbers of nurses have improved their quality outcomes the most.

So UK nursing is currently confused. There is a belief that increasing the number of registered nurses improves quality as demonstrated by Aitken and colleagues7 but this type of cross sectional correlation study does not explain what it is that nurses actually do to create this quality. The Chief Nursing Officer for England has focused on individual nurses’ values with her strategy ‘Compassion in Practice’8. The Quality Improvers, with a nod to LEAN thinking, are focused on the getting patients through the system faster with nurses managing the flow so that medical staff can provide their clinical intervention. No one, it seems, feels that nurses have a unique therapeutic contribution and nurses who trained at a time when Henderson’s definition of nursing was embraced and who learnt and practised nursing models are now in the twilight of their careers.

With increasing numbers of people with multiple co morbidities, the traditional episodic medical treatment model looks increasingly unlikely to meet the needs of our population but without nurses who actually nurse, more and more people are readmitted to our hospitals and so the vicious cycle of speeding up the flow intensifies.

When Margaret Thatcher sought to reorganised the NHS in 1983, her advisor said “In short, if Florence Nightingale were carrying her lamp through the corridors of the NHS today she would almost certainly be searching for the people in charge”9. I contend that if Florence Nightingale were carrying her lamp through the corridors of the NHS today she’d be asking “Where are the nurses?”

So what can nurses do about it? We need to reclaim our area of practice and make it visible by articulating our unique contribution, which is often tacitly shared amongst nurses and patients but policy makers and managers can be entirely oblivious to it.

We need to use the language of those with power and describe how nursing is more than a support service to medicine. Nursing has its own independent added value that can realise benefits for organisations as well as patients. The Dutch community nursing service, Buurtzorg10 has done this by ensuring that care is led by highly educated RNs who work autonomously with few protocols. This model has been independently audited and shown 40% reduction in cost of service with improved quality scores as nurses have been empowered to direct their work to where they add the most value; nursing not management. When we speak this language, we connect with others and the value of nursing can be understood and celebrated

1 Commonwealth Fund (2014) Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the US Health Care System compares internationally

2 Nursing Times news report (2012)

3 Francis, R. (2013) Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry London: The Stationery office

4 Maxwell, E. (2013) Francis inquiry: compulsory work as healthcare assistants won’t make better nurses British Medical Journal, 346

5 Grumbling Appendix blog   “Do Not adjust your (mind) set “ 25th July 2015

6 Keogh B (2013) Review into the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts in England: overview report London: NHS England

7 Aiken, L. H. et al (2014) Nurse staffing and education and hospital mortality in nine European countries: a retrospective observational study The Lancet 383(9931), 1824-1830

8 Commissioning Board Chief Nursing Officer and DH Chief Nursing Adviser (2012) Compassion in Practice: Nursing, Midwifery and Care Staff Our Vision and Strategy. London: Department of Health NHS Commissioning Board.

9 Griffiths R (Chair) (1983) NHS Management Inquiry London: HMSO