This Is What Nurse Power Looks Like

Kelley Johnson may have taken third place in the Miss America contest but she will always be #1 with the nurses.

The comments made earlier this week on the View about the Miss America contestant, Kelley Johnson, continue to spur nurses to remark in social media. The hashtags #NursesUnite , #JustANurse and the Facebook page  #NurssesShareYourStethescopes are swarming with spirit and support for nurse power.

As The Nurses’ Nurse, I have spent years promoting the power of nurses in society. I am so grateful to Kelley Johnson who competed in the talent section of the Miss America Contest as a nurse. She recited a story based on the poem, Just A Nurse.  Her short speech, about being a nurse who gave dignity back to a man with Alzheimer’s disease was great.

Rather than appearing as just another female entertainer in a flowing gown and a push-up bra, Kelley dressed in scrubs and a stethoscope, to prove that the beauty of a woman should be judged from the inside out.

It took over 500 pages of my book, Labor Pains, to say what Kelley said in less than three minutes. Patients don’t cry out for the doctor to save them, they call for the nurse. It takes all the arts and sciences together at the bedside to give compassionate care. If that’s not a special talent I don’t know what is.

NursesUnited
A Hospital without Nurses is like a World without Water

It is sad that the View, which should portray powerful women, presented themselves as a group of hens pecking at the integrity of a nurse for a few cackles. This type of catty behavior is at the  core of what makes it so hard for nurses to break out of the social stereotyping that has portrayed us as sex objects who are incapable of being both feminine and smart.

Kelley Johnson may have taken third place in the Miss America contest but she will always be #1 with the nurses. Never underestimate the power of a nurse.

Nurses are First Responders Too

Nurses play a huge role in healing the wounded of 911, not only on that day, but in the years that followed.

Nurses are First Responders Too. In all my reading and social media contacts I found nothing that honored the nurses and their heroic contributions during the attacks on 9/11.

I want to thank the brave nurses, medics and all the medical staff that worked nonstop to provide life-saving care on that day. We, as nurses forget to give a shout out to who we are in the realm of service and protection of others. One article, Nurses on 9/11 written by Kristen Rothwell,  gives a detailed account of the nurses role that day. I can see the NYC conference building, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which had been set up as a giant triage and emergency center becoming like a MASH unit.

Nurses Killed on September 11

Touri Bolourchi, 69, retired nurse, passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 175

Lydia Bravo, 50, occupational health nurse at Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.

Ronald Bucca, 47, fire marshal, New York City Fire Department

Greg Buck, 37, firefighter, New York City Fire Department, Engine Company 201

Christine Egan, 55, community health nurse visiting from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Carol Flyzik, 40, medical software marketing manager, passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 11

Debra Lynn Fischer Gibbon, 43, senior vice president at Aon Corporation

Geoffrey Guja, 47, lieutenant, New York City Fire Department, Battalion 43

Stephen Huczko, 44, police officer, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department

Kathy Mazza, 46, captain, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, and commanding officer, Port Authority Police Training Academy

Michael Mullan, 34, firefighter, New York City Fire Department, Ladder Company 12

As the most plentiful of providers, nurses play a huge part in patching the wounded and comforting the survivors, not only on that day but in the months and years that followed this disaster. Remember the nurses of 9/11.

Labor Day: Creating a Healthy Work Culture  

When I think of Labor Day I remember the working class heroes who have built our society and have won so many of the rights we enjoy: paid holidays, overtime compensation, child labor laws and the ability to come together as a voice for fairness.

Today I read that President Obama passed a measure for seven paid sick days for federal employees.

Healthcare Starts with Self-care
Healthcare Starts with Self-care

This shows there is still much work to be done to ensure fair practice that protect workers from harm. It seems ludicrous for someone to go to work sick because they can’t afford to take a day off thereby, infecting everyone else at their job.

What about nurses? I know many, myself included,  who work or have worked when they were sick because there weren’t enough co-workers to cover the shift.

Everywhere I look, hospitals aren’t hiring  enough nurses. Hospitals depend on nurses to work overtime to cover unfilled nursing positions because , ironically, it’s too expensive to pay for employee healthcare benefits.

Nurses work hard and need time off to recover from the demands of our job. It has become the nurses code of honor to work extra shifts to provide respite for each other. Yet, this unspoken rule spreads the work pool too thin to cover sick leave, especially for minor ailments like colds.  So it has become prevalent for bedside nurses to work even while sick .

Managers try to deter this behavior by scheduling nurses weeks in advance to prepare for slim weekend and holiday coverage. Yet, because a hospital census can be so unpredictable, there are always circumstances where shifts need to be rearranged to balance the experienced nurses with new nurses to provide mentorship and optimal care for the patients. No one knows better than a nurse that short staffing puts patients in jeopardy making it a real guilt trip to call in sick.

This holiday, I am taking a moment to recognize  the nurses’ responsibility to ensure fair work practices that protect others from unnecessary exposure to sick workers. We didn’t cause this nursing shortage, we didn’t create the uncertainty of situations that demand we adjust our schedules, but we can cure this dilemma.

Nurses can change the unrealistic expectations we put upon ourselves and our profession by sharing the awareness that we must advocate for our own health first. While it seems a brave and admirable sacrifice to work while mildly ill we are exposing these germs to other people’s immune systems  that may cause a life threatening situation.

Sure, we can pass more laws to ensure worker and public safety but it’s faster and cheaper to create a healthy work culture. To start, I must walk my talk and present myself as fit to do a good job. Instead of manipulating a co-workers by demanding that they defend a sick call, I have started creating a culture that protects and encourages nurses to be strong and healthy by saying, “I hope you feel better.”