The last day of Nurses Week ends today on Florence Nightingale’s Birthday: May 12.
Would Flo be surprised that a special day, May 6, had been dedicated to nurses in 1982, and in 1990, that day grew into a full week that ended on her birthday? Would she be pleased that the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife” in honor of her 200th birth anniversary? Would she be happy to learn that this 2020 designation is significant because WHO is promoting nursing education that will increase the numbers of nurses and midwives in order to strengthen Universal Health Coverage?
What would Flo think of the modern nurses’ role in this Pandemic? Would she be reminded how she, during the Crimean War, campaigned for better care of the sick and wounded soldiers and for a higher standard of hygiene, which saved countless lives? I bet she would be proud to see that nurses are still campaigning for better conditions for their patients. And that they are speaking out for safe working conditions for all health care workers.
“Nurses give hope through their stories.” I heard this from Lee Woodruff who spoke about her role as caregiver for her husband. A roadside bomb in Iraq had wounded Bob Woodruff, a news reporter. His wife spoke on the last day of the Beryl Conference that I attended in Chicago two weeks ago.
Ms. Woodruff was told soon after her husband’s injury that he would not walk, talk, or be the same person. By her account this prognosis was delivered by the neurosurgeon in medicalese.
“Hope,” Ms. Woodruff said “is what patients and family need.” Hope. Not false promises. “Why don’t the doctors give hope like the nurses do through stories?”
When she referenced both “nurses” and “stories” in the same breath, I listened carefully not sure what she was going to say next.
She gave this explanation: nurses told scenarios about other patients they had cared for with a similar diagnosis. These patients eventually were able to improve over time.
“Those stories,” Ms Woodruff said, “gave me hope.”
Over 20 years ago as I lie awake in the middle of the night after my mastectomy, the night nurse came to my bedside. She told me a story about her mother who had had the same diagnosis as I did and also had a mastectomy.
“This was many years ago and she is doing just fine,” she said before leaving me in that dark, chilled room—with hope.
Thank you nurses for telling stories and giving hope.
I just spent the morning at a table in the cafeteria in the hospital where I volunteer. I had post-it notes and pens for the staff and visitors to jot down a note of appreciation to the nursing staff and place it on a large white board on the wall–a “Gratitude Wall”. We volunteers will continue to do this between 12 and 2 p.m. today, Monday, until Friday May 12th for Nurses Week. Nurses even wrote notes of appreciation for their colleagues. I especially enjoyed hearing the patients say how grateful they were for nurses and the care and attention nurses gave to them and/or their family.
Since I retired from nursing, I generally ignored Nurses Week having experienced empty platitudes and silly gifts when I worked in the profession.. Seems things are changing as evidenced in my volunteer hospital and from the recent nursing blogs and articles written by nurses.
I am reblogging Josephine Ensign’s post “Just Say No to Nurse Angels.” I agree with her sentiments and only wish my book was published and included in her list of real books by “real nurses.”
The American Nurses Association has declared this National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2017) theme as “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit” to accompany their designation of 2017 as “The Year of the Healthy Nurse.” To help nurses celebrate the week, a host of businesses are offering “freebies” to nurses, including 1,000 calorie cinnamon rolls. I have nothing against high-calorie baked goods, but to celebrate nurses I recommend books and inkpots. Books, as in real books by real nurses (my current favorites listed below). And inkpots? I explain that in the following excerpt from my upcoming commencement address to graduates of the Yale School of Nursing:
“Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about a topic I am passionate about: nursing. But not traditional nursing—not the Lady with the Lamp during the Crimean War—and not the white uniform-clad nursing angel of Hallmark moments. About that nurse angel…
I usually have several topics twirling in my head the days before my bimonthly post is due. I’m never sure which direction I am going until the last minute.
First, I thought I would update you on my cell phone case that Connie Burns had made for me. (See last post: PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER: MD OR NP?) In fact, when I picked
up the case, I took her picture at her stand in the Farmers Market and asked permission to use her name and picture, handing her my card with my web site to check this Sunday. Her creation, so beautifully made is also practical. Now I can wear my phone around my neck when my clothes haven’t any pockets rather than leave it somewhere in the house, not able to hear it when a family member desperately needs to reach me. (That would be my husband from the grocery store with a question about which brand of laundry detergent to buy.)
Then I wanted to write about my good friend, who finally decided to lose weight and succeeded. I had been worried about her for a while as she struggled with chronic health issues that now have moderated with dropping extra pounds. She can walk up a flight of stairs without losing her breath. And best of all, her thoughts on future living options have been revised from an assisted living facility to an independent apartment. The gerontological nurse practitioner in me cheers.
I also thought of mentioning something about Nurses Week: May 6 to May 12. But I am having conflicting thoughts about the purpose and relevance of this celebration. So much so that I decided to spare you my rantings.
Last night I watched two episodes of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. If you haven’t been following the hype about this new comedy series it is about “older stars” not “cast as crusty grandparents or needy neighbors.”
I remember all the ballyhoo about the Golden Girls, which premièred in 1985 starring Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan. They were advertised as older, racy free spirits, behaviors inconsistent with their age. So I thought they were ladies in their 80s. I was absolutely shocked that Arthur and White were 63 and McClanahan was only 51. That was NOT old!
This time the cast really is older. The two female leads, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, are 77 and 75, respectively. The men in the series, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, are both 74.
Finally, we have a show that aims to reach older viewers. What I do hope is that it catches the attention of a younger audience so that they can watch a program with an older cast, which doesn’t center on disability, dementia and constipation.
I hope you find time to check the show out for yourself.
Nurses Week starts tomorrow, May 6, which is known as National Nurses Day and ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12th.
While I feel nurses deserve appreciation for their work 365 days a year, who am I to disregard an opportunity to spotlight actual nurses and their contribution to health and healing.
I have previously blogged about The American Nurse Project, which shares photographs and narratives of nurses at work. The story of each nurse is moving and educational—telling the reader what nurses really do. Check this site, which singles out a few of the contributors.
For example, Jason Short (#6) states, “I have found that once you get a taste for helping people, it’s kind of addictive. You want to empower yourself to be more and more helpful.” So he’s back in school to become a nurse practitioner.
And Mary Helen Barletti (#13) who says, “How often does anybody get to come home from their job and know they saved someone’s life? Or, if I couldn’t save them, I stood at the bedside of a dying patient with my arm around the daughter who was losing her mother.” She, also, has empowered herself to be more helpful by pursuing “additional education in Reiki healing techniques and in the spiritual needs of the dying.”
Again, like The American Nurse Project, real nurses tell their stories. They are harrowing and mesmerizing stories, spattered with guts and blood and antagonism toward the health care system’s bureaucracy but reflective of the real world nurses live in when they commit to helping their patients.
Lee Gutkind states in the Introduction, “Nurses tend to keep their experiences to themselves—-.” Amen, brother.
However, we may be seeing an uptick in the willingness of nurses to share their stories.
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.