ONCE A NURSE, ALWAYS A NURSE By Jane Van De Velde, DNP, RN

My nursing career has taken me down many paths over the years. Presently, I am a Reiki Master Teacher as well as the founder of a nonprofit organization called The Reiki Share Project.

People often ask me what I “do.” And I usually begin by telling them that I am a registered nurse.

Their next question is…”Where do you work?”

This question always trips me up. People seem to think that if you aren’t employed as a nurse, then you stop being a nurse.

However, in my heart and my mind, I am always a nurse—no matter what. My nursing education and experience influences the way I view and interact with the world on a daily basis.

Thanks to all those client caseloads that I managed, the patient assessments I conducted and plans of care I wrote and implemented over the years; thanks to all those papers I wrote for graduate school—I am very systematic in my everyday approach to problem solving, organizing my life, and getting things done. My experience in dealing with patients also serves me well in my Reiki practice. And I have found joy and satisfaction in the process of writing articles, developing Reiki teaching curriculums and putting together newsletters for my nonprofit organization.

Thanks to that dying hospice patient who taught me that even though her life was nearly over, she could still experience healing on many levels—I bring that lesson forward to my Reiki practice knowing that even though curing many diseases may not be possible, there is always the potential for healing.

Thanks to all those hours of attending to patients and caregivers—I have honed my listening skills and have learned that sometimes that’s all that people want—just to be heard. So my husband, children, family, friends, and Reiki clients give me the opportunity to continue refining these skills.

Thanks to all those elderly homebound clients I visited who served me coffee and cookies, treated me like an honored guest, and sometimes begged me to stay just a little bit longer. I learned that simply being quietly present is a wonderful gift that we can give to others. Our “time” is a gift.

So, I continue to do my nursing work every day both personally and professionally in my Reiki practice. And I have developed a new response to the question: where do you work? I tell people that I am self-employed.

MEETING GOALS

I’ve written about getting this book done so a draft will be finished by September first. (Post: Time To Get Serious). I’ve listed goals to be accomplished by the end of each month. I only have to tweak one story to meet my target for April and since there is one more day in April, I will get it done.

It’s difficult for me to do even a little bit of tweaking and not go back and revise over and over again. There will be time for editing when all the stories are written.

Another hard part for me is to follow my outline. I still find it surprising I was able to write an outline in the first place.

I remember reading Robin Hemley for the first time and laughing out loud. Was he writing about me?

“I am not one to write outlines. I hate outlines. I hate the idea of outlines. I’m one of these artsy types, who, if not relying solely on inspiration, at least tries to allow a book to proceed organically—– It basically means we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and it wouldn’t take us so long to finish a book if we wrote a simple outline.”*

Well I’ve spent five or seven years, depending how you count, avoiding outlines. Even though this is my first book and I don’t consider myself “artsy,” I say amen to Robin Hemley’s words.

I continue to plug away.

Two months down. Four to go.

*Hemley, Robin. “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer.” In Carolyn Forche & Philip Gerard., eds., Writing Creative Nonfiction. (Cincinnati: Story Press  2001), 57.

BEST TIME TO BE A WRITER

Seems that this is a great time to be a writer. At least that’s what I heard at the fifth annual Triangle Area Freelancers Nonfiction Writers Conference yesterday. I had attended the last three. Each year only gets better.

What I liked most was the conference was small enough to feel part of a friendly, local group and yet large enough to offer diversification of attendees and interests.

What I thought was important follows, in no special order:

Writing your creative nonfiction book:

  • Write the best book you can (although we all know this, it was repeated over and over)
  • Make sure facts are accurate
  • Spend money on a copy editor
  • Be able to concisely describe your book
  • Be able to concisely describe what makes you the right person to write this book

Networking and self-promotion:

  • Besides developing a platform by getting a blog and joining Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, use local media such as newspapers and magazines
  • Get interviews on local television and radio programs
  • “Blog rolls” now take the place of bookstore signings
  • It’s not all about you, plug other writers

I’m not sure I can accurately explain all the details and advances made in the self-publishing arena so I’m not even going to try. However, Writers’ Digest magazine devotes the May/June issue to e-publishing and ways traditional publishing is changing.

I intend to buy my copy tomorrow.

Write What You Are Afraid Of

I didn’t attend the 2011 Fall Conference in Asheville sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network but I kept this description of one of the master classes: “If You’re Afraid to Write About It, You Probably Should Write About It”   

Often a writer’s breakthrough comes when he finally faces up to material he’s been avoiding. Maybe it’s too personal or too painful or maybe he assumes it just wouldn’t interest anyone else. Whatever the reason, we writers often overlook our own obvious strengths, dismissing the very things that are central to us. Consequently, we write around the edges of our lives or our characters’ lives, so that our stories are pale imitations of what they could be. They may be well-written, they may even be entertaining, but they lack heart. As a writing teacher, I spend a good bit of time helping students recognize and appreciate their own writerly landscapes. When a writer makes the shift to writing about a world he knows, embodied with places and characters that matter to him, the writing almost always comes alive.

Tommy Hays

I’m currently writing about making home visits to three men that shared the same life situation. They all had terminal cancer. I visited the men on the same day because of their geographical proximity. With little experience in working with dying patients at the time, I found the visits depressing. While there are many completed chapters in my book, I had ignored this trio up to now. What is it about these men that disturb me?

time to write
time to write

What do you avoid writing about?

Time To Get Serious

the time is nowI woke up one morning this past January and decided it was time to get serious about losing weight and finishing the book.

First of all, I have been carrying around ten extra pounds for years until they magically morphed into twenty extra pounds.

Second, over the past seven years I have written and rewritten my book of nursing stories. And I have written and rewritten the first chapter at least five times, not counting changing from past tense to present tense and back again. Furthermore, I hadn’t followed any of the many outlines I generated because I was constantly changing the structure of the book.

Why I decided that particular morning to stop procrastinating baffles me. However, I don’t intend to waste precious time analyzing why as long as I continue to make advancements.

What I have accomplished so far:

  • Engaged my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, to monitor my progress and coach me to succeed. There is nothing like having to be accountable to someone.
  • Met my first month’s goal by writing three new stories.
  • Developed a working outline of the complete book, which I intend to follow.
  • Set a date for completing the draft: September 1, 2012.

By the way, I have lost ten pounds.

What is it you have been putting off?

SOB SISTERS

Thanks to my friend Lois Roelofs and her post “Growing Older In “Style,” I found Ari Seth Cohen, a twenty-eight-year-old who is spotlighting “stylish senior citizens.” Love it. Older women—and men—who ignore the old adage: “dress your age.”

looking good

How come a twenty-eight-year-old man finds older people so fascinating? Well, I was sure there had to be an older role model in his life. And indeed there was—a grandmother. Aha!

Back in the 80s at my first job as a gernotological nurse practitioner, Betty, a social worker, and I conducted monthly orientation sessions about geriatrics for new nursing staff. Geriatrics was a new medical specialty at the time and Betty and I wanted to sensitize the group to aging issues.

Betty had the nurses imagine themselves at different stages of life. Invariably, someone would object to the exercise, not surprisingly, when Betty had them imagine looking at themselves in a mirror at different ages. “Now you’re 80 years old. What do you see? How do you feel? How are you dressed?”  (We would, as a matter of course, excuse anyone who didn’t want to participate.)

There were incidents of tears. On one occasion a woman picked up her purse, notebook and coat and stormed out of the room shouting her disapproval of our experiential process. From that day on, our boss dubbed us the Sob Sisters.

However, the majority of our class enjoyed the exercise. Those most enthusiastic usually mentioned an older person in their life that they respected and cared about. This anecdotal experience of mine carries over to the assessment of Ari Seth Cohen. He sees older folks in a positive light to be celebrated and acknowledged. Thanks to his grandmother.

Humor and Humility

It started out on a rainy day in January. Like the rest of overweight America, I had resurrected old New Year resolutions. I wandered into a branch of a not-to-be-identified weight loss program and approached a young lady sorting out pamphlets. After giving me the information I requested, she excitedly told me that I would also be able to access her blog, which she updated with helpful hints. She stopped, perusing my persona, and asked, “Do you know what a blog is?”  Or said another way “You have white hair, which means you’re technologically illiterate.” I immediately felt furious. I responded in an icy tone, I have a blog. I think I saw her flinch, at least I hope I did. Our conversation went downhill from there. I ran through the rain back to my car, vowing not to join this group.

I thought later, I wish I had the sense not to get so defensive. I had lost a teachable moment. In my past career as a gerontological nurse practitioner, I met many older people who transcended the stereotypes of aging. They showed me how they dealt with the complexities of old age—with humor and humility. Will I be ready to confront ageism with panache when it happens again? And I am sure it will happen again.

A Nurse By Any Other Name—

I read the New York Times article, A Small Picture Approach to Health Care last week with so what’s new thoughts hopping in my head. Sure, the economics of funding health care services continues to be a challenge but we nurses can see the real change agent of this model’s Advocate Health Care approach is the nurse as Care Manager. And what would the nurse be doing in order to ensure a positive outcome, such as reducing hospital readmissions, especially with geriatric patients as described in the article? Calling the patient on the phone, listening to what she says, educating her and making suggestions for change. Mrs. Cline, the patient described in this piece, has had marked improvement in her health, her “dizzy spells have subsided and she has not been hospitalized since May.”

The article further states, “The extra attention Mrs. Cline receives is the result of a radical departure from traditional fee-for-service medicine.” Well yes, I might concede that fee-for-service medicine has not utilized nurses effectively in the past. But a radical departure? Nurses have long been the patient advocates, case managers, health care coordinators and now care managers. The titles change but not nurses’ skills.

nurse with patient

The radical departure as far as I’m concerned is to recognize nurses cannot only make a difference improving patient outcomes but nurses’ interventions promote cost savings.

Read the article for yourself. Granted, restructuring of our ailing health care system ignites strong opinions. But I for one can see that the nurses role in this restructured delivery model improves the quality of life for all enrollees.

I am pleased to share this article from Reiki News Magazine ReikiInCancerCenter RNM 2 March 2012 written by Jane Van De Velde, DNP, R.N. Reiki is one example of the different skills nurses and nurse practitioners use in treating the whole patient: body, emotions, mind and spirit. Reiki is a complementary holistic healing practice, which creates many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being.

Never Too Old

I am empowered knowing age does not limit our creativity. James Arruda Henry learned to read and write in his mid-nineties. He didn’t stop there but went on to write a book: In a Fisherman’s Language.

As a gerontological nurse practitioner and woman of a certain age I am delighted to promote his story.

Long Lost Story

Just last week I came across a folder in an old box on the bottom of a closet. There I found accordion-pleated sheets of paper where I had written about the Donovan family in single space dot-matrix some twenty years ago. Bill Donovan had lung cancer with metastasis to his bones and brain. He died on a cold December day in Chicago.Winter in Chicago

I still have my Day Timer—who is old enough to remember those? I kept statistics on my patients: address, phone number, date of birth, diagnoses, if and when they received a flu shot and the date they either were discharged from home care or died. I wrote sporadically about my more difficult or worrisome patients in journals, which I kept all these years. I knew someday I would write my nursing stories.

But I never did forget Bill. I just didn’t remember enough detail about him and his family to add him to the book I’m working on. But now I’ll flesh him out along with his three daughters, a live-in girl friend and a hired caregiver, Stanley, who emigrated from Poland where he claimed to be a medical student and who withheld Bill’s medication on the grounds he, Bill, could die from the morphine.

Now you couldn’t make this stuff up.

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