On February 25th in the New York Times, two stories appeared about nurses. Both sobering. Both timely. Both essential.
In my last post, I celebrated the fact that although the pandemic is killing scores of people and putting a strain on resources, including health care personnel, nurses have been in the forefront of the media getting the recognition that they have long deserved. And more nurses are speaking out by telling their stories. Long overdue.
However, the two stories in the NYT need to be read/viewed. One is by Theresa Brown who I have many times spot-lighted here because of her accurate assessment (my view) of nursing issues. A nurse herself, she has been calling attention to the nursing profession in the media and through her books.
Brown’s piece: Covid-19 Is “Probably Going to End My Career,” is an exposé of what is terribly wrong in the profession and what should be done. She writes bravely and honestly about the precarious state of organized nursing.
The second article, One I.C.U. Two nurses with cameras, is written, not by a nurse, but by a photojournalist. He filmed a fifteen-minute video that is raw footage of two nurses working with dying Covid patients in the ICU. Unvarnished, compelling and poignant. It’s a must watch that shows exactly what nurses experience during their shifts.
I’ve attached the links to both essays. The fifteen-minute video is imbedded in both.
Dominated by political turmoil and the COVID-19 Pandemic, this past year has been a roller coaster ride with few brief moments of slow travel interspersed with deep dives of fright and foreboding. The highs that I have enjoyed come in part from the increased attention given to nurses. I have long complained that the nursing profession has been mostly invisible to the public eye, media and policy making sectors. The increase in visibility and status of nurses in these turbulent times looks to me like a glass half-full.
I celebrate all the recent recognition direct towards nurses. When have nurses spoken up in great numbers for their profession, their practice, their patients and for their contribution to the world-wide challenge to defeat of the COVID-19 Pandemic? When have nurses received so much positive media awareness? Been frequently appointed to expert panels along with physicians and other health care professionals? Interviewed prominently by the news media? Featured favorably on TV shows?
How much of a coincidence was it that 2020 was designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and the Nurse Midwife?
In reviewing my posts of the past year, I have pulled out the ones that show increased focus on the nursing profession. I enjoyed revisiting them and am hopeful that the positive attention showered on the nursing profession continues.
I want to revisit a time that made me happy. I invite you to look back to a moment that brought you joy, too. Find what you can to feed your soul and rejuvenate your body so you can participate in finding the solutions to our current troubles. Take a break in this time of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter to temporarily distance yourself from the daily bombardment of negative news.
It is a time that I truly hope is not a moment but a movement. May we all keep the movement alive until we have made lasting changes.
I remember how I felt on a lovely June day in 2017 when I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art and joined the “Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers” from New York that led us through the art galleries marching and stepping up to the music of the Bee Gees: Staying Alive. Ironic title, isn’t it?
I hope that the video at the end of this post lifts your spirits.
A Little Music and Movement Can Make You See Things Differently
Originally published June 6, 2016
Yesterday, I went to the North Carolina Art Museum at 10 a.m. to move to music.
Two women led, followed by a man in a suit holding an open laptop channeling the songs that were mostly by the Bee Gees. The women, in sequined dresses and sneakers, stomped, marched, trotted in time with the music. Thirteen women and two men, ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus, followed behind, mimicking the women’s movements. We didn’t talk.
I felt exhilarated racing through the empty museum with music bouncing off the walls surrounded by other exuberant people. The moves were not stressful. I did most of them except balancing on one leg and I stopped halfway through the jumping jacks.
The group stopped intermittently in front of a piece of art: statue, still life, portrait, and continued to move/exercise in place. Short inspirational narratives, previously taped by Maira Kalman, punctuated the music. Normally, when I visit a museum, I would gaze at the art in quiet contemplation. This time my mind and body seemed as one, absorbing the stimuli transmitted from the environment, my thoughts suspended.
When the two women dropped to the floor, I felt as if someone turned off the lights. Lying among my fellow participants with arms and legs outstretched, I realized that fifty minutes had flown by.
Now the day after, the residual glow from yesterday remains with me.
My new goal is to have more days where I step out of the ordinary.
Madame X, meet Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers. For “The Museum Workout,” which starts a four-week run on Jan. 19, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, Everywoman dancers of deadpan zaniness, guide tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before public hours, leading light stretching and group exercises as they go. Recorded commentary by the illustrator Maira Kalman, who planned the route, mixes with Motown and disco tunes. Might raised heart rates and squeaking soles heighten perception?
In blue scrubs and a floral fanny pack, UNC nurse Grace Cindric has become the hero we need right now.
In late March, News & Observer photographer Robert Willett snapped a photo of Cindric screening visitors heading into the UNC Medical Center Emergency Department, separating those complaining of coronavirus-related symptoms and everyone else.
In the photo, there’s a swagger in Cindric’s stride, a steely resolve in her sunglasses and respirator mask. In a sleeve of tattoos, there’s a friendly-looking panda staring out from her arm.
“I woke up the next morning, and it was everywhere,” Cindric said. “I first heard from my friend who posted it on Reddit; they said, ‘Fair warning, this got bigger than I expected. … You’re a meme now.’”
Since it was published, the photo has made the rounds on Reddit and Twitter, inspiring dozens of Photoshopped images depicting Cindric in heroic poses. In one a red cape billows behind her, in another she appears on the cover of a fictional video game called COVID-19.
“It was very strange at first. I was like ‘This is too much attention,’” Cindric said. “But I’ve accepted it, and I’m just rolling with it.”
A SYMBOL FOR OUR TIMES
She is the Badass Nurse. A meme, yes, but also a symbol, a face of the nurses and doctors fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. As coronavirus cases mount in North Carolina and across the nation, as citizens panic-buy groceries and avoid their neighbors, Cindric wears scrubs like body armor, with a walkie-talkie on her belt.
To many commenting on the photo online, Cindric represents the heroism of medical professionals putting themselves between the public and the pandemic.
“I think it represents something bigger,” Cindric said. “It’s good that people are starting to see doctors and nurses out here in the middle of everything, doing this work. It’s a fun picture, it’s not terribly serious, but it represents what we’re doing. We’re all putting ourselves in harm’s way to stop this.”
Battling a pandemic is not exactly what Cindric imagined nursing would be like. The UNC-Greensboro grad has been a nurse for four years, the last two spent in UNC’s emergency room. She said she got into nursing to help the community and jumped in the emergency room for its variety.
“As an emergency room nurse, you’ve signed up to do anything,” Cindric said. “The task changes all the time, you never know what you’re walking into. … It’s a little bit of everything, and you have to kind of be a jack of all trades.”
‘COMMUNITY RALLYING BEHIND US’
Cindric said the coronavirus outbreak has escalated everything, that guidelines and roles are constantly changing, that the job she thought she knew feels like it changes by the hour. But she said she feels the community supporting their work, that people send meals and well wishes.
With the photo, Cindric said she’s feeling love and support flowing in from around the world.
“We feel the community rallying behind us,” Cindric said. “We knew the work we’re doing was important before, but we feel the respect from the community. They bring us food and send us messages. The outpouring really makes you appreciate the work you’re doing.”
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.
I’m reblogging Suzanne Gordon’s post: Why Does It Take a Pandemic to Recognize Nurses?
I have long followed Suzanne Gordon who is not a nurse but has been a relentless advocate of nursing over the years. She is a journalist and author of many books about the health care system. She co-authored Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public.
Reading her post gives me hope that nurses finally find themselves strategically placed in the current COVID-19 pandemic to call attention to the importance of their expertise and place in the hierarchy of health care providers.
Over the past few weeks, as the coronavirus has whipped through the country, the press, policy makers and the public have finally recognized the value of the largest profession in healthcare. Every media outlet reporting on the crisis now includes comments from nurses, reports on the risks nurses face as they care for patients, discussions of nursing shortages, and the complex work nurses do. It’s about time.
My question is why has it taken this long. And why aren’t policy makers and hospital administrators giving nurses what they need. NOW!!!
For years, nurses have tried to explain their work to the public. I have been honored to help with this work. As I have written in my bookSafety in Numbers, unions, like the California Nurses Association, have fought to get safe nurse to patient ratios. Other unions, like the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have fought for the kind of safe staffing legislation, that if enacted in every state except for only one – California – would have encouraged safer nurse to patient ratios and ensured that there would be enough nurses to take care of patients in hospitals all over the country in a time of national emergency. Hospital associations have derailed this kind of legislation whenever and wherever it has been proposed.
Nurses have asked for the lift equipment that would pay for itself and make their work safer. Hospital associations have fought this wherever and whenever it has been proposed. Now nurses are asking for personal protective equipment to make their work safe and hospital associations, legislators, governors, and the President are not supporting this request.
And so nurses are speaking out to the media about the risks of their work and what is the response of their employers? To issue disciplinary warnings, fire them, threaten them, silence them.
Well nurses are rejecting this and must be even more vocal in doing so. And we the public must add our voices to support them.
Not only should nurses be recognized and their insights, concerns and demands solicited, honored, and effectively addressed, so should the needs of all other healthcare workers. Nurses know that healthcare is delivered by a team and that it takes a literal village to care for a patient. We need to listen to nurses and also to nursing assistants, to housekeepers, to dietary workers and transport workers and many others. It takes a team to care for patients with COVID-19 and those team members need our help, support and action now!!!
Assuming that you are up and about during the COVID-19 pandemic, you could view this period of social distancing as an unexpected gift to your writing life. That’s the attitude I’ve adopted as I decide how to use my time while exiled from my job for two weeks.
Last week, Pennsylvania’s governor ordered schools state-wide closed to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The small independent school where I double as admissions coordinator and office manager complied. While the risk to our students of COVID-19 exposure is probably low, we could not in good conscience remain open while 99% of the schools in Philadelphia shut down. Ours is a very small school but, luckily, one with digital resources that teachers can use for online instruction. Most of my work time is spent on the phone, making sure that teachers have the resources they need, the office runs smoothly, and performing first aid in the absence of a school nurse. I have some online tools that I can use, but only a couple projects that I think I can finish at home. That leaves some open time periods during the day that I don’t usually have for writing. Here is my plan for writing while quarantined with some suggestions that you might find helpful:
1) Keep a schedule. It is so tempting to sleep in when you get up before six o’clock every weekday morning and now don’t have to. But if you don’t set up a schedule for the week, you’ll wonder where the time went and why that essay you started three months ago still isn’t finished. I’ll set my alarm for 7 a.m. and plan to start writing at 9, after exercise, breakfast, and kitty time. I have better focus in the morning, but you should create a schedule that works for you; just schedule your writing time no matter what.
2) Limit socializing. Life as I’ve known it has temporarily shifted. Everything is closed: my yoga studio, the public library, my writing group is on hiatus, even my church is practicing social distancing. Of course you can call, text, or email friends and family, but don’t do it all day. Your pen or keyboard needs you to propel it. Block out a social hour or two when you can catch up and commiserate with everyone each day.
3) Reconnect with your partner, your kids, or your pets. I rush out of the house early on workdays and don’t usually come home until almost six. I see the kitties briefly when I feed them breakfast, but there’s no time for cuddles and chatfests. My partner is still asleep when I leave. While my schedule is more flexible I can carve out some time for canoodling when I’m not drifting off to sleep and muttering incoherently. Imagine the boost some quality time can give to our relationships.
4) Eat well and rest. I enjoy cooking but don’t like to spend all day at it. When home for the day I usually prep dinner early so that at dinner time there is less to do. Doing most of the work early in the day makes it more likely that you’ll eat better instead of grabbing fast food or ordering a pizza. And set a reasonable bedtime that ensures you get enough sleep. A poorly-fed, sleep-deprived writer might produce something, but is it something you really want others to read?
5) Get outdoors at least every other day. There is plenty of evidence that walking outdoors, forest bathing, hiking and other activities make you feel better. My attitude improves considerably when I’ve returned from a brisk walk.
6) Turn off your television. Too much news is not a good thing, and a lot of conjecture by pundits and talk show hosts isn’t news. All of the chatter about COVID-19 is increasing people’s anxiety. If you must know what’s happening with the virus on a daily basis, choose one reliable news source and limit yourself to 30 minutes of “information” per day. Your nervous system will thank you.
7) Put your writing house in order. I know I have two weeks before I return to work or am told to stay at home a little longer. I’m a writing newbie and don’t have tons of projects to work on, but I have at least three essays I’ve not been able to finish. My modest goal is to finish at least one of them and to develop a strategy for completing the other two. If I stick to the schedule I’ve set for myself, I think I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do.
8) Read. No need to say more.
9) Stay open and flexible. COVID-19 has made a fast and furious impact on everyone I know, even though none of my friends or family members have contracted it. All of the twists and turns science is taking in order to get a handle on this virus require us to think about how what we do impacts someone else. Stay flexible enough to shift with the tide of events and follow the lead of experts who know what they are talking about.
10) Finally, breathe and write; breathe and write some more. I came to writing as a late bloomer but quickly found it to be a practice that I can pour almost any emotion into. Some of those scribbles are just for me, not an audience, but writing helps me to clarify my thoughts and emotions so that I can get the junk out of the way and focus on what I want to say. So, breathe and write your way through if you’re quarantined. Appreciate the gift you’ve been given.