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Mar 11

So many ways to NOT engage.

We’ve never had so many ways to connect. We can skype, text, facebook, blog, facetime, Googletalk, tweet, link-in, webchat, and yes email (although some days I think it’s the scourge of the modern world), and probably another 10 ways that I haven’t heard of to talk to each other about things that matter to us. Great, right!? Sure. My question is: do we connect on what matters to us?  What matters to us as registered nurses?  OK, admittedly I am one of the Generation that has taken up a lot of ink:  Boomers. Apparently I and the other members of my demographic cohort (according to the literature) “live to work.” So, clearly, my work as a nurse matters to me.  I absolutely love the opportunity to talk with other nurses–whether it’s to share stories, discuss issues facing the profession, or organize to advocate for/against a position taken that influences nursing. Admittedly, I prefer to do that face to face, but blogging also gives me a great way to talk to you about what matters to me, and hopefully hear about what you are thinking.  How do you connect with other nurses? I remember the heady days of advocating for the baccalaureate degree as entry to practice…nurses across the country spoke up and demanded this change to our educational standards. I remember the celebrations in Alberta when the Nursing Profession Act was proclaimed in 1983…somehow it seems to me that nurses used to be a lot more engaged in their profession, a lot more excited…or are my memories tinted with the nostalgia of youth…were most nurses still pretty disengaged all those years ago? Maybe so. But take heart, the next generation of registered nurses, I am told, are those who are bestowed with an acute and global social conscience–hooray! Maybe the best is yet to come! I hope so.

So it made me a little sad today– I received an email from a very keen undergraduate nursing student. A bright, articulate young woman, she is one of those students who gives me hope for the future of the profession. She is engaged, represents her colleagues  in numerous initiatives, and is an example of professionalism for students and faculty alike. She asked me how I keep my spirits up when I encounter professional apathy in my colleagues–she had just returned from an event she had organized in order to engage her student colleagues in a worthwhile discussion–and no one had shown up. She told me has seen this pattern over and over again with her nursing student colleagues. She cannot understand how someone could choose non-engagement, could choose apathy. She wondered if I had any suggestions. I had a few, but mostly I just encouraged her to keep making the choices she was making; I encouraged her to keep choosing to lead by example. I encouraged her to be clear on what matters to her. How about you–any suggestions? What matters to you about our profession? How do you engage others in what matters? What would you have told this discouraged student? I’d love to hear from you!


Feb 05

Technology and the Art of Nursing

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I was chatting with a colleague last week, and she was telling me about her class discussion around technology in nursing. We mused, as have others in the nursing literature, about how the truly expert nurse makes even the most intrusive technology almost invisible, whereas the novice is overwhelmed and preoccupied with it. It reminded me of a nurse I worked with as a Master’s student several years ago. Maggie was a trauma ICU nurse, and one of the most expert nurses I was ever able to observe in action. I vividly recall her care of a young man, still a teenager, who had been in a terrible motor vehicle accident–I’ll call him Jeremy.  When I began working with Maggie, she had been the primary nurse with Jeremy for about 3 days. The walls around his bed were plastered with photocopied pictures of Jeremy doing the things he loved to do: hiking, hanging out with friends and family, skiing…it was hard to believe that the bruised and swollen face attached to the e-tube was the same smiling young man that looked out with such joy from those pictures. Maggie talked to him almost non-stop…she knew the stories behind the pictures from talking with his parents, and she would chat to him, using the names of his friends and family, telling him how he would be doing all those fun things again soon, that he just had some healing to do. She would tell him jokes, all the while expertly monitoring the equipment that was preserving his life and tracking his physiological status from moment to moment. She would gently position him, performing skin and wound care and all manner of treatments, all the while watching for his responses through that technology: the technology simply became a way for Jeremy to communicate with her. She also invited the wisdom of his family into the care process… I remember she would get him turned, and ask his Mom, or Dad, if he looked comfortable to them…”would Jeremy lay on his side like this?” It was a beautiful  expression of nurse caring, amidst a tangle of tubes and technology, and a priviledge to witness.

Do you have story of how technology in your area of nursing has changed, and how you keep the patient visible in its midst?

I’d love to hear it.

Oct 10

Once again: enter the NO BULLY ZONE!

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I cannot believe how many nurses I speak with that feel bullied in their workplace–and I have been asked to repost these comments on the “No Bully Zone”. This is very concerning; is it symptomatic of the pressured workplaces registered nurses are now in? The academic literature calls it “horizontal violence”. By any other name, it is old-fashioned bullying. It has been described as classic behavior for oppressed groups—are registered nurses an “oppressed group”? Surely not. We are well educated, self-regulated professionals, working in a profession that is always described in public opinion polls as one of the most trusted, and respected. Is the workplace of today oppressive? Is it a leadership issue?  The literature also tells us that those who bully are typically profoundly insecure, dealing with their insecurity and often their incompetence by being overly aggressive and demeaning to colleagues. Many of us have seen this in action, and seen it explained (often by the bully him or herself), as unintentional behavior that has been misinterpreted as bullying when it is ‘really’ misunderstood assertiveness, or strength. Not a chance.  In my experience, the bully knows exactly what he or she is doing, and  thrives in a workplace where there is no will to hold him/her accountable for their destructive behavior. Behavior that emerges from assertiveness and strength of character does not leave others feeling diminished, ridiculed or demeaned. True strength and assertiveness in a person nourishes team efforts by seeing challenges and struggles as TEAM struggles, to be overcome by individuals that are secure enough in their abilities to recognize and value the strength and wisdom in each other—secure enough to help each other shine. I have observed that bullies are jealous of shared success, and have a singular, self-serving agenda.  If this sounds like anyone you know, take heart. There are more non-bullies than there are bullies—and the secret of our strength is in the very thing the bully seeks to destroy—our sense of team and community. From that secure foundation, we can confidently and respectfully challenge bullying behavior—it is tough, but if you see it, take the next step and name it, and then give voice to its corrosive effects on you, and on your team. Mutual respect is the key, it can’t be an interaction that turns into bullying of the bully! Make it clear that ‘we don’t treat one another that way here’, and back each other up. Do this consistently, and I think you will be amazed at the results.

Do you have a story of bullying in your workplace? Let’s talk about it—and about what you did about it.  Have you found effective ways of dealing with this tough issue? Please, share your comments, stories, and wisdom!

Sep 05

Nursing as community

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Just a short post today- and it’s more of a request for information really. The community of Slave Lake, and in particular, the nurses of Slave Lake have been on my mind a great deal. A colleague of mine was recently in that community, and when I asked about how the nurses in the area were managing, she really had no way of knowing as she hadn’t personally encountered any nurses during her trip. It got me wondering about how those nurses were managing–and about the role of nursing as a community in such difficult times. If anyone can provide any insights, updates, information, could you share it? Or, if you have a story to share, please do!


Image from wildfiretoday.com


Aug 27

Doing, knowing and being a Registered Nurse.

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In my classroom we often discuss and debate nursing as a way
of being, a way of doing and a way of knowing. Over the years, I have had a number of students tell me “I think nursing is just what I do, not who I am”.  That is a statement that I might have uttered
30 years ago as well, because I couldn’t really imagine myself as anything but what I was: a tired, overwhelmed, anxious, inexperienced student of nursing.
I couldn’t see past the next paper, the next exam or clinical shift—my “reflective universe” was pretty contracted then, and from that vantage point, the only way to overcome the next hurdle—the only way to cope–was to have some distance from it: make it about what I was doing instead of who I was becoming. Now, with the benefit of 30 years of experience in a registered nursing career, the inescapable truth is that nursing is indeed WHO I am, not just what I do. I have been fortunate in those years to have had opportunities to study and work with with many amazing and insightful nurses, in environments where we could take an opportunity to pause, reflect, and discuss the essential contributions
of registered nurses to health care. I have had time and opportunity to process and internalize what it means to “be” a registered nurse—to expand my reflective universe and witness my own growth within my profession. I think what I am seeing is that nurses today are experiencing environments and events that contract their reflective universes—many feel bombarded, bewildered and exhausted, and many try to cope by only dealing with what’s in front of them next. This lack of mindfulness about the role of the RN and the contribution of the profession to health care is corrosive, chewing away at our roots and leaving us feeling unbalanced and uncertain.

I was pondering that very thing the other day as I was buying groceries, and I ran into an older woman I know in our community who had just recently been diagnosed with a somewhat rare, yet easily identified and very treatable chronic condition (if caught early enough). You need to know that she is a real dynamo, a natural leader and extremely intelligent. She was telling me of all the steps she was taking to inform those she knew about this condition and how to get tested for it—she had a small article in the paper, and had been in touch with the national association for this condition to get information
and spread it within her sphere of influence. Then, she asked if I would assist her in organizing a community gathering of seniors for an informational evening, and attend, and possibly speak. I was a little bewildered, and quickly clarified that I really knew nothing about this condition, and in fact, had never cared for anyone with this condition. She gave me a quizzical look, and said “but you are a Registered Nurse in this community and people admire that; just having someone like you there gives credence to the importance of the issue and I know that people will hear me differently if you are there”.  I gratefully accepted the invitation—an invitation extended NOT because of what I know or what I do, but because of WHO I am—a respected
Registered Nurse. So, you might not think that nursing is WHO you are, but I have news for you…others do!

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