Monday, December 30, 2013

Honor Guard

The fire service and emergency medical services are big into ceremony.  My husband is a fire chief and I attend a LOT of ceremonies.  They definitely stand on ceremony, just like the policy and the branches of the military.  Funerals are actually beautiful affairs in the fire, police, and emergency medical services; there's nothing like those bagpipes to get the tears flowing.

My friend Lori, you saw her in a photo with me while wearing our caps upon graduation from nursing school last month, lost her aunt a few weeks ago.  Her aunt, Angie, was a nurse and died at 93 years old.  She was, in Lori's words, "ready to go".  Here's her picture:

courtesy of Sharp Funeral Home

Apparently, Angie was a member of the St. Anthony Nurses Alumni Association and would participate in honor guard activities at the funerals of others who had graduated from St. Anthony's School of Nursing.  The honor guard goes to these funerals in full white dress with gloves and blue capes, the typical uniform of the 1940's.  Here's photo (not from St. Anthony's, but you get the idea):
courtesy of
Some of these nurses showed up at Angie's funeral, along with American Legion Auxiliary, to honor her life and service.

Isn't that a great thing?  We should learn from the fire, police, military, and emergency medical services and honor the lives of nurses by standing on ceremony like this.  Nursing is a noble and respectable profession and should be celebrated as such.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Uniform Fun

I'm starting a new job in January and my former employer provided scrubs, so I need new uniforms.  I'm going to miss the purple of my last job (in more ways than one) but I think I look good in navy, too, which is the color I need for my new job.  Well, navy or white, but white has never seemed that practical for nurses to me. 

So...I did a little shopping today at the uniform store.  Uniforms for America - right here in Plantation, Florida, and a very nice shop.

I know I've posted about it before, but it's amazing how much uniforms have changed!  One of the unit secretary's at my last job had some pants with the "koi" label on them at my last job and I thought they were so cute.  I had to order the right size in navy, but I went ahead and got a white pair because they were have a special.  White pants - guess I'll have to go underwear shopping, too.

I tried on the Grey's Anatomy scrubs, but they didn't fit right.  No surprise, I've never been a huge fan of the TV show, either.

I did get three sets of pants and tops with this cute little insignia on them. 
I LOVE all the pockets on both these pants and the koi pants.  Maybe I'll actually carry my scissors again!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Clara Barton, Independent Nurse

Photo courtesy of

Clara Barton's birthday was yesterday, December 25th, Christmas Day. 

Founder of the Red Cross, I always thought that Clara Barton was a nurse and I know that many times she is described as having been a nurse.

Actually, Clara Barton was a teacher.  Impressive - she became a teacher at 15 and started the first free public school in New Jersey - but like many others of the time, she "nursed" patients during the Civil War and was considered, therefore, a nurse.  "Independent Nurses" they were called at the time.

Clara was not educated as a nurse formally, she learned her skills while caring for her teenage brother as he recovered from some sort of accident.  The 1800's equivalent of staying at a Holiday Inn.

She was never paid for her work with the Red Cross and, in fact, used her own money at times to support the organization, but there were rumors of financial foul play when she left the Red Cross; she also was possibly the first woman to work for the US federal government. 

Happy Belated Birthday Clara!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear Santa

*photo courtesy of
What would nurses ask Santa for?

A self-cleaning commode
A magic pen that makes doctors' handwriting legible
A magic pen that never gets lost
Computers that always work perfectly


That everyone is well for 24 hours over Christmas so that no nurses have to work.

It doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Bath Ritual

 Yesterday we talked about how patients' baths are the barometer for how our shift is going.  After writing about it, I haven't been able to get it off my mind.  The bath seems like the absolute most basic of nursing care and, certainly, a task that has been delegated to others as the role of nurses has evolved and expanded.  But it's still at the heart of nursing care.

If the bath is our barometer of success, it is also the barometer of care as perceived by the patient.  There's a significant amount of literature out there about how patients' bathing is connected to their satisfaction with care.  Baths matter to patients.

A bath is also the one single thing that can impact a patient the most.  Have you ever been the nurse who has gotten to put a patient recovering after a very bad illness or injury into the shower for the first time since getting sick?  Truly, it is almost a religious experience.  I, myself, can remember vividly how I felt about getting to take a shower after abdominal surgery many years ago, even after the other details have faded away. 

Nurses all have their own method for bathing patients, even though we basically learned the same method in our initial nursing program (I think bathing came before even taking vital signs, didn't it?). We know the perfect number of towels and how we like to place them, where the soap should go, and in what pattern the other bathing supplies should be laid out. 

It's interesting that this one aspect of nursing care goes back to what is considered the beginning of modern nursing, the influence of Florence Nightingale's first linking of cleanliness to health in the 1800's, and is still such a big part of the care we give in 2013.

By the way, how much happier would patients AND nurses be if their baths looked like the one pictured above?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

At Least The Bath Is Done

Have you ever noticed that patients' baths seem to be the barometer for how the shift is going?  It doesn't matter what else is going on, if the patient hasn't been bathed yet, it just seems like the day is chaotic and unorganized. 

Patient baths are the marker for what has been or has not been accomplished.  Regardless of what has been done or not been done, patient baths are the indicator of a successful or unsuccessful shift. 

AND, this is equal for night shift and day shift, no matter what the unit's/hospital's policy is about when patients should be bathed.  If we can go to report and say that "at least the bath is done", all is well and we have done our jobs.

Zane Robinson Wolf, in her book Exploring Rituals in Nursing (fascinating book, you really need to read it) says "As nurses lay hands on one to cleanse, comfort, and heal, they accomplish many agendas for patients and themselves.  By virtue of this private work, they implicitly wash away disease and impose order..."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Code Armed Intruder

Code Armed Intruder or Code Active Shooter, no matter what it's called, I'm sure it's terrifying for the people working during a hospital shooting.

Thinking of the people in Reno today who had to be a part of that yesterday.  You can read about it here

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dangerous Stethoscope

One of my dogs, Ruby, is afraid of my stethoscope.  She doesn't like it when I'm holding it and she stays away from it if it's laying on a table or chair.  She tried to bite the vet when he put the stethoscope on her chest, even had to be muzzled to have her last exam.

I try to tell her that the stethoscope is not dangerous, it can't hurt her.

Then I remember coming in to work to a night nurse holding an incident report for me.

Yes, she had leaned over an elderly patient the night before and her stethoscope had hit the woman in the eye and the poor lady developed quite the shiner.

Maybe Ruby knows more than me.

*eye photo courtesy if wikipedia

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Poetry of Nursing

Every now and then I think I'm going to be a super cool, deep, edgy person who reads poetry and ponders literature over tea at ultra hip coffee shops.

Then I remember that I'm a dork.

I do, however, own a book of poetry called "The Poetry of Nursing: Poems and Commentary of Leading Nurse Poets", edited by Judy Schaefer.

Honestly, it's a little too super cool, edgy, deep, and ultra hip for me.  BUT...

This poem spoke to me - I think we all have that secret place that we stow away the horrible moments we are witness to in our professional lives.

The Secret Life of Nurses - by Veneta Masson

You won't read about it in the tabloids
or inside the gaudy jacket of a Harlequin.
Dear Abby knows nothing about it.
Priests and lovers may think they do
and you
as you glimpse the tips of their shoes
stalled outside a door -
you may think you do,
but you don't.

Nurses keep a safe house hidden
in the spaciousness of imagination --
a dark kiva dug into
the sun-bleached cliff
a gracious ark
gliding high on still waters
a lavender planet idling among far stars.

They keep a safe house
and a fleet of neurons poised for flight.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Soap Opera Nursing

Being at a crossroads in my career, looking for something new, I'm considering Soap Opera Nursing.  I don't really currently watch any daytime soap operas - I follow a few nighttime "dramas" - but my memory of them is that it's a pretty good job. 

Soap opera nurses always look good - perfect fitting uniforms and shoes with a little heel.  They are always holding charts or talking on the phone and they spend most of their time at the nurses station, they are very rarely involved in cleaning poop or lifting patients. Soap opera nurses get a LOT of breaks; they get coffee with friends and meet handsome doctors for lunch in the ritzy hospital cafeteria.  These are definite pluses for this nursing specialty.

I would say that the only downfall with sop opera nursing is that while I would know all about my patients, their families, their friends, and their histories and social lives, I would not be able to identify suspicious characters that want to harm my patients.  They would slip right past me as I'm chatting up a good-looking surgeon at the nurses station.

As well, I believe that soap opera nurses are required to marry doctors and I'm not sure I want to do that, either.

Oh well, back to the drawing board...

*photo courtesy of

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Unleash The Nurses

A few days ago there was an article on Medscape about the political efforts of Terri Mills, a nurse working hard to get a bill passed that would place a nurse at the same level of the Surgeon General for the United States, a nurse who would work with the Surgeon General on national health care issues.

"Unleash The Nurses" is one of the headings and you can read the entire article here.

This is one of my absolute favorite quotes from the article, as stated by Susan Hassmiller of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

"People are looking for solutions for how to deliver better patient care, how to be better providers, what do better systems look like. To not have a nurse at all high-ranking decision-making tables—something's wrong with that picture. You would never make legal decisions without having a lawyer involved, so to make decisions about patient and population care, and not have a nurse at the table is ludicrous."

Amen to that.

*photo courtesy of images.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Gut Is In

Wow - the gut is hot right now, isn't it?  Gut bacteria and depression, gut bacteria and colon cancer, poop pills for C-diff, the diversity of intestinal flora and weight - you can't open a nursing resource right now without reading about it.

For so many years we've been rolling our eyes are those poop-focused patients...have they been right all along?  It figures. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Real Nurse's Dream

Whenever we come upon the anniversary of a milestone event, I can't help but think about the nurses involved.  This past weekend we had Pearl Harbor Day, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

There are no surviving nurses from that day but that's no surprise because there were only TWO nurses on duty at Hickam Field hospital that morning at the time of the attack.  Monica Benning was one of those nurses and she died in 2012.  Monica wrote a book titled "A Real Nurse's Dream" about her experience as an Army nurse and of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Her real life drama was the basis for the movie "Pearl Harbor".

*Photo courtesy of

I don't know if it's true, but one article I read about that day reported that the nurses and other hospital staff on duty that day made arrangements to kill each other if the Japanese were able to take over.  Wow.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Try and Be Pretty"

The TV show "Julia" was a landmark for nursing.  It was the first TV show about a specific nurse and that nurse was black.  BIG deal in the 1960's.

Here is a clip from Julia's invitation to interview...

As I'm interviewing for new jobs this week, I'm so happy that none of my potential employers have asked me to "try and be pretty"!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A First For Me...

Let me start by saying this is NOT a political statement.  Please don't freak out.

When I came out of Target last Friday (yes, Black Friday, I admit that I went to Target at 6:00 a.m. - nobody there, by the way, had the place to myself) I looked at the car parked next to mine and saw this bumper sticker.  This was a first for me - I NEVER see nurses with political bumper stickers.  Apologies for the poor photo, people get weird when they see other people taking pictures of their cars so I was trying to be unobtrusive when taking it. 

Nurses have a long history of staying out of politics.  Did you know that even though nursing was a predominantly women's profession in the 1800's (that's an understatement, it was basically ALL a women's profession in the 1800's), nursing refused to get involved in pushing for the women's right to vote?  Yes, a few notable nurses spoke out, but as a group, nursing didn't even take an official stand on the issue.  Unbelievable!

I applaud this nurse for putting it out there, for taking a stand, for making it public - and not just too his/her Facebook friends!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Codes, Codes, & More Codes

A hospital I worked for just announced that in order to provide more transparency for patients and visitors, they would no longer be using colors to announce emergency codes - code red for fire, code blue for cardiac arrest, code black for weather emergency, etc.  I guess they will just announce them by name - fire, cardiac arrest, tornado warning, bomb threat, etc.

This is no big deal, it's not like we lied to the patients if they asked what the announcement meant when a color was given over the PA system.  We didn't run around closing doors and if the patient/family asked why we were doing it we didn't yell "IT'S A SECRET" and scoot away to close more doors.  Transparency is the latest overused buzzword for health care, but nurses have always been pretty transparent.  Eliminating the colors for emergency codes?  Sounds good to us, one less thing we have to memorize.

At lunch with a nurse friend the other day, we started discussing this and she told me that her hospital has just implemented a new code - Code Active Shooter.  Wow.

Having worked at two hospitals when there was an active shooter while I was at work, I might have appreciated this code being announced.  This got me thinking about transparency (ugh, I said it again).  It seems like having an active shooter might be one time that using a color would be good - no need to incite pandemonium.  On the other hand, it's probably a good idea to alert staff, patients, visitors that there is an active shooter and they should take cover.

I think the best solution in this situation is to avoid having to use this code by avoiding active shooters in the hospital. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hold On, I'm On the Phone!

This week a friend told me that their hospital policy is that employees are not to be talking on their cell phones in the hallways of the hospital.  I can kind of see the point, I guess, that patients and visitors will feel like the employees are not working and even though the employee might be on a break, the patient/visitor won't know that.

On the other hand, what if the employee has a family issue going on and wants to check in while heading to lunch or out the door?  Maybe being in touch by phone is the only way the person felt comfortable coming to work instead of staying home. I'm not sure it's a big deal for the employee to make a quick call.

What do you think about nurses carrying cell phones in their pockets?  I doubt that there are many institutions that encourage this practice, I bet most have policies against it.  Yet, I know that many, many nurses carry their cell phones in their pockets during work.

I have mixed feelings.  I really do not like it when I'm running around like crazy and another nurse is sitting at the nurses station surfing and texting on her cell phone.  However, I don't think the phone is really the problem; she probably wouldn't be helping out regardless if she had it with her or not.

When I worked at a rural hospital and there were only two nurses in the whole place at night or on the weekend, I thought it was a good idea for the nurses to have their cell phones on them.  If something bad happened like a fire, weather emergency, an intruder, or they simply had to be in different parts of the hospital, having a cell phone in hand would allow them to call for outside help or just call each other quickly.

I remember when hospital computers were not allowed access to the Internet because it was felt that employees would just sit around and surf.  Then hospital leaders realized that there's good stuff on the Internet that can be helpful in caring for patients.  I think it's kind of the same thing with cell phones.  Instead of continuing to "ban" them, we will have to figure out how to use them appropriately in patient care areas.  Like the Internet, cell phones have some use in patient care.  Calculators, apps for smartphones that provide drug information, and a camera because has anyone actually seen that camera the manager bought for the unit since the day after she got it?