Happy Lasagna Day

For the past three years our daughter, her husband and our three grandsons spent Thanksgiving with my son’s-in-law family who live out of state. This year we will share a traditional Thanksgiving Day spread at their home. My husband and I have assigned dishes to bring.
I am thankful to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter, my son-in-law and the grandkids, and while I love turkey and all the trimmings, and especially enjoy the leftovers, I turn nostalgic for the Italian version of the Thanksgiving Day meals I had when I was a young girl in Jersey City.

Happy Lasagna Day is reblogged from November 24, 2016.

Nursing Stories

happy-thanksgiving-images

My husband and I are spending Thanksgiving alone—by choice. We had been invited out but graciously declined.

After having three sets of houseguests in six weeks, we are happy to be alone. By the way, the house has never been cleaner.

And we broke from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—we are having lasagna.

lasagna

I love leftover lasagna as much or more than leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy.

Over the years lasagna has become the ubiquitous casserole. You can find it premade in deli departments and frozen food cases in grocery stores. It’s the go-to meal neighbors bring over to neighbors on happy occasions (childbirth) and solemn occasions (sickness or death in the family).

My love of lasagna goes back to my childhood when we visited Grandma in Jersey City. She lived in a second floor walk-up two blocks from my house. Who remembers what time she got up in the morning…

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Update on Tom and Helen

There are many good things about getting older but unfortunately our society holds aging as an inevitable downward spiral. That’s why I like to post about the positive when I find it. Tom and Helen are wonderful examples of a happy circumstance.

I have written two posts about them. After the excerpts below, I will give you an update.

 

 

 

1/10/2018

Dream Deferred

My friend, Helen (not her real name), called me a few weeks ago. Without salutation she said, “I am in love.” I knew she was taking about Tom, a friend of more than 30 years.

Helen and her husband, and Tom and his wife, were friends back in California. After Helen and her husband moved to North Carolina, both couples sent Christmas letters over the years. Tom and Helen were the scribes. Helen called to give her condolences after Tom’s Christmas letter noted the tragic loss of his beloved wife after a brutal battle against Alzheimer’s. Soon the two were reconnecting and updating their lives. They found they had much in common.

“I’m going to tell him that I am not interested in a relationship,” she had told me. And then her phone call.

Their frequent phone calls and messages erupted into deep emotions. Tom flew from California to North Carolina for Christmas, leaving two days after the New Year. He stayed with Helen in her one-bedroom apartment. They laughed constantly. Sang familiar songs. Finished each other’s sentences. Fell into a routine as if they had co-habited for years!

And the sex was great!

Helen will visit Tom the end of this month. Both in their seventies, they are investigating on which coast they will live—together.

 

 

8/15/2018

New Love in Old Age

. . . Then there is my writing friend I call Helen who found true love with Tom. Longtime friends, they both lost their spouses and reconnected to find a “spark” that ignited “true love.”

I have heard from Helen recently. She and Tom are now living together in California.

“Tom and I have ten children and stepchildren between us. His live on the west coast, mine on the east coast. And he has a fulltime job in California. We haven’t figured out how to navigate these difficulties yet.”

Recently, they traveled to the east coast to attend one of Helen’s grandchildren’s graduations. “Thanks for making my Nana so happy,” her fifteen-year-old grandson told Tom during that trip.

“Our love is truly a miracle for us both,” Helen writes. “Tom is one of the nicest people I have ever known, and there is an ease and flow to our days.”

They work out at a gym several evenings a week and they both swim a quarter of a mile most nights. Both have lost weight—fifteen pounds each–and leave the gym “energized and with a sense of relaxed well-being. Not bad for almost seventy-nine.”

Helen ended her email by writing, “We have trouble letting go of the evening and going to bed, like two little kids. I joked recently that we need a parent. But all is not lost — we do still brush our teeth.”

 

Tom and Helen now live in Florida. She turned 80 the week before we met. Tom is a few years younger and just recently retired. They came to Raleigh last week to see Helen’s daughter and granddaughter.

During their visit, I had lunch with Helen at a Thai restaurant. Tom dropped her off so we could have some “girl-friend” time together.

Helen filled me in on her life with Tom for the past two years as her vegan noodle dish cooled in front of her. Happiness lit up her face when she described their partnership filled with respect, trust and intimacy.

As impressed as I was over the psychosocial gains their relationship provided, the gerontological nurse practitioner side of me rejoiced in the physical gains, too.

They continue to swim three times a week, reaching a mile at least twice a month. With the exercise routine that Tom developed and a new interest in ping-pong—they bought a table and take private lessons—both have lost weight. Helen no longer needs to take blood pressure medication.

Sitting next to them on a park bench near the Thai restaurant after lunch, I observed the obvious affection they hold for each other.

Getting older isn’t always a bummer. There are truly magical moments. I have witnessed one.

PF-Elderlybridge_1201447c

Learning the hard way about book promotion

My son-in-law and daughter left for a weekend in Chicago so he could run the marathon. I stayed at their home, watching three grandkids and the two dogs. It was good timing. My life, up to now, has mostly centered on promoting my first and only book. I have been doing little else.

Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, came out a year ago. Initially, I had a publicist but for the past few months I have been driving the marketing train by fits and starts.

UnknownMy recent effort at marketing has been to hop aboard the lecture circuit. I chose a topic, Empowering the Patient, that would attract an audience both interested in my talk, and additionally, would buy my book. I knew about this subject. I am a nurse practitioner, after all. Never mind that I haven’t practiced for twelve years. I have been a volunteer at a local hospital and exposed to the advances in practice and management. Besides, I have experienced the health care system as a caregiver and patient. And I have read lots of books and used online sources to educate myself. I put together an outline, did a Power Point presentation, and developed a reference list to hand out. My audience, I decided, would be impressed with my knowledge and engaging manner and purchase my book.

The lecture sites I choose had restrictions on overtly selling my book. However, I could say I authored a book and leave my promotional literature near the sign-in sheets.

I didn’t sell one book!

While I enjoyed giving the lectures and especially liked interacting with my audience, what became clear was that I didn’t enjoy the time and commitment it took. I was always on the lookout for updated information and the latest health interventions, which took up more time from family, pursuing my other creative endeavors like painting, and time away from writing my second book.

Besides, I found that I was stepping back into my previous nursing role to help out members of my audience. I felt their frustration in dealing with the complicated health care system. I didn’t stop at giving them needed tools. The nurse in me wanted to help by telling them what to do. Could I get sued for giving inaccurate information? Was all this worth the time and effort when it didn’t seem anyone was interested in my book.

What surprised me most of all was how I let myself get so obsessed with book promotion. I am usually sensitive to keeping a balance in my life, protective of my personal space and set limits on getting overly engaged.

Spending time with the grandchildren provided a change of scenery that took me away from my self-imposed author responsibilities. I have come to realize that while I am proud to have authored a book and want to see it sell well, it is after all, only a book

The National Institutes of Health Disappoints

When I worked at the National Institutes of Health, a colleague and I wrote an article: The Role of Nurse Practitioners Expands at NIH for the NIH Record newsletter in May of 2000 about the increase of Nurse Practitioners at the Institute. My short time there was exciting, especially as I witnessed NP positions increase and opportunities to become involved in research grow. I saw patients in the weekly clinic along with the Fellows, interviewed and examined potential research volunteers, mentored student interns, and participated as a team member in various research studies. And best of all, I had supportive relationships with a cadre of other NPs. I left because my husband accepted a job in North Carolina.

Imagine my shock to learn that the National Institute of Nursing Research chose a dentist to be the interim director. I can’t fathom that there was not a talented, qualified nurse to fill this position. I agree with latest post (below) from The Truth About Nursing that the appointment of a dentist smacks of undermining nursing autonomy and stripping away support for nursing practice. I will write a letter voicing my support of a nurse in this leadership position and disappointment in the poor judgment of the NIH leadership.

Please consider doing the same.

 

 

 

Anyone will do

U.S. nursing research institute appoints dentist as interim director

The National Institute for Nursing Research, which disburses federal grants, announced in August 2019 that its interim director would be…a dentist. And the interim deputy director is a biologist. But non-nurses are non-qualified to evaluate grants for nursing research. These appointments also reinforce the inaccurate stereotype that nurses are unskilled handmaidens, rather than autonomous health professionals. After some of our supporters sent messages asking NIH to rescind the appointments, NIH sent a newsletter proudly announcing the appointments, and then sent emails to our supporters assuring them that it was searching for a nurse to fill the permanent director position. But it did not comment on the interim appointments, so it seems those stand. And filling high-level federal government vacancies can take quite a while. We need your voice on this. Please join us in asking that qualified nurses be chosen for these interim positions! Thank you!

Click here to sign the letter–or write one of your own!

Getting Older

In keeping with the theme of my last two posts, this one reflects my ambivalence about aging.

Nursing Stories

I promptly lost my first Medicare card. When I opened the envelope and saw the red, white and blue border, I was reminded of the elderly I cared for over twenty years ago when I was a gerontological nurse practitioner. I ran a not-for-profit clinic in a converted one-bedroom apartment on the tenth floor of a senior citizen highrise in Chicago. How many times had I asked to see someone’s Medicare card? Most of my patients were poor, illiterate and had multiple health problems. So when I first looked at my card, I could only remember loneliness, despair and disability. This couldn’t be happening to me. And, poof, the card was gone.

Slowly other patients strolled into my memory. Mildred, blind and lived alone, always asked me to put her kitchen cabinets back in order after her daughter visited. Margie, ninety-something with an Irish brogue, came down to the clinic…

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The Eric Hoffer Award

I am pleased to announce that Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers is a 2019 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist.

Nurses Week–Here We Go Again

Here we go again. It’s Nurses Week and we are still battling a misguided perception of nurses.

This isn’t just a week to celebrate nurses for all that we do to keep patients well and safe, not only in hospital settings but on the world stage, and to remind ourselves that for 52 weeks a year we need to be vigilant and proactive to maintain our autonomy.

This time a politician shows her ignorance regarding nursing practice in hospital settings. The following is an excellent response by two nurses to the offensive comment:

Nurses aren’t sitting around playing cards, they’re working to fix global health

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Nurses aren't sitting around playing cards, they're working to fix global health

© Getty Images

Washington State Republican Sen. Maureen Walsh’s recent comment  that nurses “working at hospitals in rural regions probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day” is offensive to nurses regardless of nursing role or practice setting.

While Walsh has apologized and many nurses have expressed their disgust for her statement, voicing their disdain on social media, via emails, letters and even sending  1,700 decks of cards to Walsh, nurses can seize this moment to educate Walsh, policymakers and citizens on the role and contributions of nurses who daily care for individuals and communities worldwide to help people achieve health.

As nurses with decades of service to the profession, we know firsthand the tremendous work that our colleagues do as clinicians, researchers, educators and policy advocates. On a daily basis, we work alongside and in collaboration with very talented, educated and committed individuals who consider it an honor to serve in this capacity.

Whether in rural or urban areas, the demands associated with providing quality care require that we spend our working hours doing just that, not engaging in activities that do not lead to better outcomes for those we serve. To do otherwise would be disrespectful to the profession and would violate nursing’s contract with society.  

We do not take the distinction of being the most trusted profession lightly. For 17 consecutive years Gallup poll results revealed that more than four in five Americans, or 84 percent, rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as very high or high compared to 20 other professions.

Yet, the misrepresentation of nurses is not new.

For years the profession has worked to elevate the image of nursing and reverse the stereotypical images depicted in the media. Sandy Summers and Harry Jacobs Summers, authors of the 2009 Saving Lives: What the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us all at Risk  provide examples of  the dangers of inaccurate portrayal of nurses.

As a profession, nurses have made progress highlighting the tremendous role nurses play in caring for those need of health care services. This month, Oprah magazine featured  five nurses who “just might save the world”.

Globally, nurses such as Dr. Sheila Tlou, a former UNAIDS Director for Eastern and Southern Africa and former Minister of Health in Botswana, raise awareness of the critical role nurses play in health policy. Tlou used her expertise as a nurse to develop and lead a nurse-driven intervention to decrease the maternal mortality rate due to HIV/AIDs in the region from 38 percent in 2004 to 9 percent in 2008. These interventions reduced  mother to child transmission of HIV from 40 percent to less than 4 percent within four years.

Members of the British monarchy have recognized the contributions of nurses in protecting human health and wellness. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, helped launch the campaign Nursing Now. The campaign is based on the triple impact report identifying the need to develop  the profession of nursing in order  improve health, promote gender equality and support economic growth.

Nursing Now, recently launched in the U.S., is committed to elevating the status of nursing globally and helping people understand how important it is to have the expertise of nurses in their communities and in positions of decision making on health care initiatives.

It is time to erase the inaccuracies and re-examine the prevalent image of nurses in this country. The opportunity to elevate the conversation extends beyond our elected officials. Everyone could benefit from knowing our commitment to advancing a nation’s health.  

This is not a game to us.

Janice Phillips, RN PhD, is an associate professor at Rush University College of Nursing and the Director of Nursing Research and Health Equity at the Rush University.  Medical Center. Colleen Chierici BSN, RN is the president of the nursing staff at Rush Oak Park Hospital and working towards her doctorate in Family Nurse Practice.  Both are Public Voices fellows through The OpEd Project. 

A Long Overdue Thank You

I had finally decided to clean out my office closet. I started with the stuffed cardboard Unknownfile box. The first thing I reached for was a frayed manila envelope. The stack of typed pages spilled out onto the floor. After I read the first two sheets—an early attempt at documenting my nursing life—I knew I was doomed to sit on that floor by the open closet door until I had scrutinized every page. One story especially held a surprise.

In the early 70s, after my husband completed his degree at the University of Chicago, we moved to the far south suburbs where housing costs fit our tight budget. My first job was at a community hospital. Soon after I started, I found out that my salary was the same as a new graduate nurse who had never even done a simple urinary catherization. I, on the other hand, was an experienced ICU nurse. I wrote a letter of complaint and while the Director of Nursing of the hospital commiserated with me, I wasn’t offered a raise. I quit.

I decided to apply for a job at a close-by nursing home in spite of the fact that I thought I was overqualified and working at a nursing home felt demeaning to my young arrogant self. I eventually learned differently.

I wrote about this experience in my memoir:

 

. . .I had worked in a nursing home—a well-run home

with low staff turnover—for a short period of time, but long enough

to savor the slow pace after being an intensive-care nurse for years

before. The residents bestowed many hugs and an occasional slobbery

kiss as I passed out medications on the evening shift.

I had forgotten that experience the day my academic advisor and

I talked about a master’s thesis. In 1979, like most of my classmates, I

wanted to study women—women of child-bearing age. Why did she

think she had to ask me again: “What group do you REALLY enjoy

caring for?” That’s when I remembered the hugs in the nursing home.

At the end of the version of the story about working in a nursing home that had sat in the manila envelope for over 15 years, there was an added comment about Eva Harrison that I hadn’t remembered writing.

Eva Harrison, the nursing home DON, had offered me a salary higher than the one I received from the hospital. She ran a warm and caring facility, valuing her staff and residents alike. I know she felt sad when I left after only six months but a new clinic opened. At the time, I believed that this new job was more prestigious than that of pill pusher in a nursing home.

What I had written was that I wished I had gone back to tell Eva Harrison that my time at her nursing home had so influenced me that when I graduated as a nurse practitioner a few years later, I had declared geriatrics my specialty. Working in a nursing home, Eva Harrison’s nursing home, set me on a career path that would both challenge and reward me.

Thanks, Eva.

Barriers to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

In the April 2019 AARP Bulletin there is an article discussing the restrictive laws in North Carolina that control Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.*

North Carolina is where I now live. While I no longer practice as a nurse practitioner, I’m always on the lookout for the latest restrictions or advances in APRN practice. And I am saddened with this particular write-up. Why? Because the story shows that the years of research proving that APRN’s give the same level of safe, quality care as physicians in similar settings is totally disregarded. Therefore, limiting the use of APRN’s has caused the following:

Many rural North Carolina counties face severe provider shortages. Three have no primary care doctors, 26 counties have no OB-GYN, and 32 are without a psychiatrist, . . . .

North Carolina:

  • Ranked 35th for overall health care
  • Ranked 41st for infant mortality
  • 56% of low-income children don’t have a doctor

(Michelle Crouch, Bridging the Health Care Gap, AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities, April 2019. p 44.

In 2017, a bill to expand APRNs practice was defeated. Both the NC Medical Society and the NC Academy of Family Physicians opposed this bill, in spite of the fact that “moving restrictions on APRNs could save the state $400 million to $4.3 billion in health care costs annually” and, could increase the number of APRNs to correct the health care shortage.

I have almost 40 years’ experience in watching the struggle to limit APRNs practice. I know many physicians who work alongside nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and mental health nurses who promote their role in keeping our communities healthy. From my viewpoint, it’s the efforts of organized medicine that disregards putting patients first and values only its own economic growth.

A new bill to remove barriers to APRN practices is expected to be introduced this year. I will be following this closely. It is my dream that in the near future, all states will give APRN’s full practice authority.

See how APRN practice varies from state to state.

*Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

  • Certified Nurse Practitioners
  • Certified Nurse Midwives
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetists
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists

The Dreaded Question

I have become much better when I meet someone new at acknowledging that I am a writer and have published a book. After I give them the elevator speech describing the book, they usually ask, “How long did it take you to write?”

I have spent more time answering this question than telling them what the book is about. I feel the need to justify why it took seven years to finish.

A new acquaintance asked just yesterday, “So, how long did it take for you to write the book?” As usual, I spent many minutes with my in-depth explanation. I droned on as if giving a lecture that I had given many times before and had to reluctantly deliver it again. Why?

Then that afternoon, after I read Marlene Adelstein, The Dreaded Question, I knew why. My book writing journey doesn’t follow Marlene’s exactly but her story does help to clarify that my first book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic, has been growing inside of me for years. Years! My previous writing was mostly in preparation for this book. Like Marlene, I recognize that I have had subconscious motivations for finishing this book all along. I am still processing the reasons, which I will share in another post.

I hope you enjoy Marlene’s fine story and her lovely writing as much as I did.

Bloom

by Marlene Adelstein 

Now that my debut novel, Sophie Last Seen, has just been published and I’ve started doing readings and interviews to promote it, I’m hoping my least favorite question won’t pop up. But inevitably, it does. How long did it take you to write? It’s often the first question out of people’s mouths. Why the length of time it takes to complete a book is of such interest, I’m not sure. Maybe people secretly want to hear it took a long time so they can feel better about their own slow writing. Or perhaps they want to hear it didn’t take very long at all, and they’ll think, That sounds easy, I can do that!

The fact is, when I started writing this book the World Trade Center had just toppled. And it was only a little more than a year ago that I got a…

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