Monday, May 26, 2008


Image is important. The first impression is everything. How does the public view nursing? I think the best answer would be that they don't know what to think of nursing. Many cannot accurately describe what nursing is really about. Problem is, neither can a lot of nurses.

Where does the confusion come from? I think it comes from many different places. Many people have very little contact with nurses. Television which does not typically represent nurses accurately. The Center for Nursing Advocacy focuses on accurate representation of nurses by the media. My personal experience when engaging in discussions on social network forums such as Facebook is that many nurses do not understand the damage that is done by inaccurate portrayal of nurses in the media.

If you ask nursing students "what is a nurse?" the answer may very well be task-oriented. Some of the most essential qualities of registered nurses, such as the ability to critically think and to CARE are often forgotten by nursing professionals themselves when questioned about their responsibilities.

Johnson & Johnson's Campaign for Nursing has provided a welcomed portrayal of nurses in the media. Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow is a coalition of 43 nursing and healthcare organizations working together to attract people to the nursing profession with a grassroots campaign. Many private and federal funds exist to assist students looking to pursue undergraduate and graduate nursing education, with some scholarships going unawarded due to lack of qualified applicants. It is my belief that in order to attract more individuals to this diverse profession we must also promote a accurate and professional image of nursing in the mass media and fight the image of nursing as often portrayed in popular television.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Simple Pleasures. 1991.

She was a frail little old lady, down the A-side hallway of the acute medical floor. Making my first rounds on a crazy-busy unit, I entered her room to greet her and perform her first assessment for my evening shift. Is there anything I can get for you? "Please honey, if I could just have one slice of dry toast I would be so grateful (said in her frail little old lady voice). I've asked several people today and everyone was so busy. If I could just have a piece of toast I would be so happy."
Just a simple gesture to bring some joy to her day. She was so grateful for that little piece of dry toast. I still think of her occasionally.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

ManPower Outage

Everyday for the past couple of weeks I have received a call from my friends in labor and delivery, where I work PRN as a staff nurse. It is a unit where I worked previously as regular staff, for seven years. Every day for the past couple of weeks they have called to see if I am available for this or that shift, or part of a shift.

I wish I could say yes every time they call. But I can't. I am only one person. One person with two other jobs, a family, and a life.
I wish I knew the answer to this problem. We know the nursing shortage is going to get worse. According to the US Labor dept, the nursing profession has the highest projected job growth through 2015. Or so I have read.

We (nurses) are not coming up with enough answers and that means the task is being left to our lawmakers. Some states have passed laws mandating nurse/patient ratios in acute care facilities. In other states, that legislation has failed. New job classifications have and continue to be created in an attempt to fill the gap. Those new jobs are related to task performance by marginally skilled labor. Unlicensed Assistive Personnel (UAP's, techs, whatever you want to call them). New levels of Certified Nurse Aides (trained to pass meds and perform other higher level skills). Nursing care is becoming fragmented and patient outcomes reflect that fragmentation of care.

I sometimes feel like I am the "fly on the wall" that sees what is happening when no one else is looking. It is frightening at times. The longer I am in the health care industry the more acutely I become aware that our nation is in need of health care reform. I am proud to be a nurse. I care about the health of our great nation. I want to know that everyone is able to have at a a minimum their basic health needs met. I am, and will continue to be a nurse because I care.

Friday, May 2, 2008

On the Road Again

Meetings this morning. We're making some major changes in my workplace & have lots of planning to do. Meetings are my life right now. THEN, I'm hitting the road, driving right into some nice little thunderstorms. Hallelujah! Eight hours on roads like this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flip Flop

It's funny how some nursing students think that their instructors are "out to get them." I have to admit that I always thought Old Military Nurse Instructor (OMNI) was out to get one student in particular. Now mind you, nursing students drop like flies in the beginning of some nursing programs.

In my basic nursing education the first student to drop was Cindy Hoo, a cutesy blond with carefully manicured long fingernails. In the 1980's if you had long nails it was because you took good care of them, not because you plunked down a few bucks for acrylics. Once OMNI laid down the dress code law, Hoo vanished. No way was she trimming her nails to be a nurse!

The Bane of OMNI was a woman we called Flip-Flop. That moniker stuck with her after she was written up for wearing flip-flop sandals to a community health clinic observation. Oh, Flip-Flip, the crazy things you did! Drove OMNI batty. Back then we (the nursing students) knew that Flip-Flop's days were numbered. Old OMNI was going to get her one way or another, or so we thought. She was always getting into trouble.

It finally happened in the second year of the program. OMNI had assigned Flip-Flop the exact same type of patient THREE WEEKS in a row. Three hip replacements in a row! Flip Flop still couldn't get the nursing care plan right. Out the door she went. Clinical failure. It's funny; now that I look back I can see that OMNI was not "out to get" Flip Flop. If that were the case, she would not have assigned the same type of patient three weeks in a row. Seems to me she was giving the student a good chance to GET IT RIGHT!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Week 1. August 1988. "Why do you want to be a nurse?"

During the first week of Nursing 100, Old Military Nurse Instructor encourages her nursing students to share their reason for wanting to become a nurse. Of course, most of the 35 women and 1 man in the room are there because they want to help people. For some it is a calling. I was there because I needed a job that pays more than I was currently making (barely above minimum wage) and it was obvious that the local bread-and-butter, factory labor, would one day become a thing of the past. "Nothing altruistic about that" says Instructor. She added that she thought it was acceptable to wish to be a nurse; even if your motives were less-than-altruism. Perhaps she knew that one day my desire to be a member of this profession would evolve into something more than a paycheck.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day one. 1988.

I remember the first day of clinical. It was in 1988. Squeakly clean white dress with white Nursemate shoes. Just what the Student Nurse Handbook said to wear. Hair off the collar. Nails neatly trimmed and free of polish. Just the way Mrs. Old Military Nurse Instructor said to trim them.

At the end of the hall in the very last room lies Poor Contracted Soul. I speak, knowing that the responses from her mouth will be totally unintelligible. She feebly reaches and groans in my direction. Temperature first. But she is mouth breathing. The tongue is caked thick with sticky mucous. Put the probe in the armpit. OK, that's done. Checking the blood pressure can be a little bit tricky, too, when elbows won't straighten.

Behind the carefully prepared student nurse exterior, uncertainty invades. I carry the pink plastic basin to the bathroom sink. But first, I wash my hands in the stream of tepid water. Rubbing the miniature hospital size soap between my palms, doubt begins to creep into my head. "Is this what being a nurse is really about?" I fill the basin with the water, dropping in the little bottle of Keri lotion to allow it to warm. Nice warm lotion for Poor Contracted Soul after her bedbath.

Old Military Nurse-Instructor arrives just as I am contemplating how I will manage the twisted arms and legs by myself. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize she was this bad" she says, "or I never would have assigned her to you on your first day."

That is good news. Instructor helps me with the bath. Maybe I can do this nurse thing.

It's Not About You (and other legal mumbo jumbo)

Hmm. It appears that most nursing or medical blogs have some sort of disclaimer. Apparently there is a need for such a thing, so here is mine:

1. Tis not about you. Any similarities to real people are purely coincidental.
2. No medical advice given here. Call your personal healthcare provider for health advice.