Archive for category Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind
Posted by jeanhill in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Nursing Discussion, Random Thoughts on Wednesday 04 July 2012
A few years ago I cared for an acquaintance. She was a friend of a friend who had been living out of the country for several years, but had come home to visit family friends. She was rushed in to the ED and before I even knew who she was I was delivering her 19 week old fetus. When I finally looked up to see the mother’s face I realized we knew each other. I said nothing. In that moment I didn’t care about what the College would say about caring for those you know when there was a real emergency to deal with. I held her hand as she passed the placenta and focused on stabilizing her blood pressure by putting in the largest IVs as I could. I asked her if she remembered me and if she would prefer another nurse cared for her. She asked me to stay. I comforted her and showed her the baby she would never get to know. I checked on her every half hour that shift and came in early for my next shift to find out how she was. There was no time to feel sad until my shift was over and like the other children and babies and fetuses I have seen pass away, they stick around in my heart and mind a lot longer. There are those patients that stick with you, elderly or middle aged, etc, but I think most any emergency nurse can agree that child patients are the some of the longest lasting in our memories. And for me, the ones who haven’t even started in this world are forever imprinted.
I saw my acquaintance a few months later, she was home again, in the grocery store and she thanked me for what I had done for her and told me she would never forget me. The thank you warmed my heart but I knew she would no longer remember me as the girl she had a beer with when we were in our early 20s, but as the nurse who was there when she lost her baby. Judgment, confidentiality, privacy, all of those ethical principles aside, perhaps that’s why we shouldn’t care for ones we know, even if just a little, because it affects us too.
I recently found out that she gave birth to a daughter and it’s amazing how happy I felt for someone I don’t really know to have had a baby. I wanted to find a way to contact her to wish her well but elected not to as I didn’t want to be THAT nurse wishing her well, inadvertently reminding her of what she lost before. Nevertheless, I personally take solace in knowing that despite all of the sad and terrible we see rarely hearing from these patients again, they do in fact have happiness and joy in their lives later on.
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind on Sunday 24 June 2012
Abscesses and wounds, and especially abscesses and wounds which are infected, suppurative, purulent, and generally awful, are embarrassing for patients and difficult for nurses. Embarrassing for patients because they are disfiguring and smell badly, and difficult for nurses for really the same reasons. Personally I don’t mind caring for and treating wounds and abscesses, but I know plenty of nurses who would rather throw live kittens on a hot barbecue than go anywhere near a draining carbuncle.
Jennifer Olin over at RNCentral has an excellent blog post on caring for wounds. The first part of her post deals a little with the pathophysiology of wounds, the second on the providing good care to patients with wounds. Olin writes:
Well, we are likely the healthcare providers who will first notice the problem. It will be during a dressing change, or just when you enter the patient’s room—you know. The scientific side of nursing will to clean the wound, inspect it, chart it, and if it is bad enough, inform the wound care team or physician. But remember, I said you are likely the first healthcare provider to notice. Trust me, the patient already knows.
This is where the nurturing side, the compassionate side of nursing is brought into play. And, it’s not for the weak of stomach or, particularly, the weak of heart. Bad smells carry a social stigma along with the health hazards inherent in the wound itself. Wet, sticky, bandages are a sign for all to see that there is a problem. People with wounds in this state often suffer inhibited work, social, and sex lives and frequently have feelings of shame and depression.
You learn little tricks to help you not react (breath through your mouth, use a minty lip balm). Keeping the patient engaged is the key. Many of them won’t look at their wounds, won’t acknowledge there is a problem, or want to discuss it. You can teach them how to clean and dress their wounds, give them pamphlets and supplies, and help them plan future appointments but it is the emotional part of nursing that will often make the biggest impact on their healing and wellness.
Something we (remember?) were all taught in nursing school was the holistic care of the patient, that is, caring not only for the physical complaint of the patient, but also for the emotional, spiritual, social and even economic needs of the patient. Good wound care exemplifies nursing care in a microcosm. So when nurses see a patient with a decubitus ulcer, what do they see, the wound or the patient? Our inclination, of course, is to see the wound, somehow detached from the person bearing it, a way of thinking exacerbated by seeing nursing as a series of tasks to be completed rather than a holistic process involving critical thinking. Olin’s article, in this context, is a good reminder that in the end, we should be treating the patient, not the disease.
Posted by jeanhill in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Life in the Emergency Department, Nursing Discussion, Random Thoughts on Friday 15 June 2012
I recently took a course with nurses of varied years of experience and ages, but it was primarily made up of fairly new graduate nurses within the last year or two. During one lecture the facilitator was speaking about the future of nursing and how we need to address the current issues and challenges that exist in the nursing profession today, and asked the class to outline a few. Issues such as the global nursing shortage, heavier workloads, lack of education support, feelings of little public appreciation and individual unit situations were brought up. One nurse felt that on his unit there was a large divide between the older senior nurses and the new junior staff. This perked up my ears. He felt that the senior nurses were threatened by the amount of theory and knowledge that he and his fellow junior colleagues had and insinuated the senior nurses felt the juniors were going to take their jobs or roles on their unit. He continued to say that the generational and differing nursing requirement (degree vs. diploma) issues existing on his unit put a huge divide between the younger and older staff. (*disclaimer* While yes, I have written about how nurses can eat their young, I disagreed with the standpoint he took.) It’s terrible to think this is happening, and despite what I have written (that is only a handful of nurses FYI, by no means the picture of the entire Acme Regional ED senior staff in the least) I personally find that there is a great blend of ages and levels of experience within my unit personally. He stated that perhaps the junior nurses should be on their own line with the senior nurses on another. I cringed at the thought of that. For any unit to run effectively and safely it is in my opinion, which I am almost positive would be shared with most, that there needs to be senior staff at all times. A line of strictly junior staff would be unsafe and potentially detrimental to patient care not to mention the amount of issues, disagreements and incidents that could and would arise. I think of inconsistencies in care and the potential for a patient’s change in condition to be overlooked simply due to inexperience until too late. I have found that the novice and senior staff continue to learn from each other as each are on different ends of their careers with different types of knowledge to share. This nurse went on to say that maybe the senior staff needs to go in for remedial courses to be brought up to the “standard” of the new grad degree nurses. *insert shocked look on face*. I nearly fell off my chair. If the experienced diploma nurse does not want to go for their degree how and why could one be forced to take theoretical courses that in my mind, often have little to no benefit to the patient at the bedside. I relayed my personal opinion that the diploma nurses he is suggesting should go for remedial courses to be “brought up to speed” in fact had far more clinical time as students than any of us degree nurses and as a result were far better prepared going to the bedside when they graduated as opposed to us. I reminded him of the amount of papers and classroom time we spent talking more about nursing than actually doing it. I could write a 10 page paper on how to properly sew an emblem on a jacket with 4-5 APA references if I was asked to (please no one ask me) as a result of the amount of theory referencing involved in the degree program. This nurse’s sentiments about how degree nurses are far more qualified to be at the bedside than the diploma nurses and generation gaps exist out of jealousy or by being ill prepared made me question what sort of nonsense he was spoon-fed upon his obviously very successful graduation from a degree program. I am the product of the degree program but I do not endorse the structure of degree nursing program, at least not the one I was in. I think I should have been at the bedside far more than I was. I had yet to give an IM injection to a real patient until I was consolidating in my final 4th year placement. I had however written an excellent 25 page paper on nursing leadership and how to effectively determine who should get Christmas vacation with examples of different leadership skills, roles and suggestions on effective management.. *insert vomit sound*. I suppose however it can depend on what one wishes to do with their career and the direction they want to take it.
Ultimately what I am trying to get at is while I am sure generation gaps exist on units, I do not believe it is entirely as a result of degree vs diploma more than it might be just personality related. Differing maturity levels, different interests, and people at different points in their lives not to mention the obvious that we are all individuals. I enjoy working with the tough take no nonsense 15 year nurse as much as I like working with the 35 year veteran nurse who still gives every patient a bed bath and the novice 2 year nurse who wants to learn about every patient condition possible. A few of my closest coworkers have nearly 10+ years on me with a couple who could even be my parent.
Gaps exist only if we let them and really, we are not here to make friends. When we do that’s great, however, we have a job to do. If that 25 year nurse doesn’t like me, she at least knows I can get an IV on a 5 day old on the first poke and that’s all that matters. We often forget how our “issues” can affect the patients.
So i ask this, do generation gaps exist on your units? If so, are they related to degree vs diploma nurses or more just due to differing personalities and individuals at different points in their lives? Do you find yourself getting along with the nurses of the “opposite” generation?
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Nursing Naval Gazing on Thursday 14 June 2012
Working on a PowerPoint presentation, and did up this (yet to be formatted) slide:
Which column do you think represents the current state of nursing practice?
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Guest Post, Nursing Naval Gazing on Tuesday 22 May 2012
by Amanda Trujillo
If the newer generations of nurses out there are more confused than ever about their roles in healthcare — they should be. I’m one of the newer generations of nurses and I — AM — CONFUSED. Seriously. Think about it. We are taught all of the idyllic, pretty things every good and prudent
nurse should know and should do whilst caring for patients. The Nurses Code of Ethics is drilled into our heads during nursing school, nursing care plans are celebrated (by our professors of course), and we are championed as the “future” and “promise” of nursing. The beautiful glowing white walls of academia ushers us out of the proverbial nursing nest with a maternal pat on the head, a gentle push, and into the place were supposed to actually do all the stuff were taught and licensed to do, and be who they taught us to be.
You’ve all heard it, I’m sure. “Get out there and make a difference! Change the profession for the next generation! Be the example! Implement policy! Be advocates for your colleagues and your patients!” Ummmm. Yeah. Nurses should act as advocates for not just their patients but for their profession. That being said, let’s take a look at what threatens to unravel the foundational fabric of who we are as nurses and what we do that sets us apart from all other healthcare disciplines.
1. Corporate Nursing. ”We know what nursing is and what nurses do.” However, the moment you walk into the doors of any hospital, the nurse — the persona, and everything else — is redefined according to the wants and expectations and interests of the organization we work for. Nursing, as a discipline, as a science, is redefined. You are who your employer wants and expects you to be. Period. Your own nursing style or “way” of nursing? Leave it at the door, and step into the predefined mold thank you very much. Advanced education? Yeah, that’s great, but you aren’t actually supposed to use it. That MSN is supposed to look good after your name on the plaque that lists all the Masters prepared nurses on the unit you work within. A point of pride that all patients are supposed to gawk at and be impressed by when they walk into the entry way of the nursing unit. I tried using it; I tried to contribute—nope. We just want the letters from you, that’s all.
2. Teeny, tiny amount of autonomy. I mean, come on people. We still have to get orders to ambulate our patients two to three times daily after surgery, to get an incentive spirometer, to initiate pre and post-op teaching, and even to monitor ins and outs every four hours. Every state has a different nurse practice act, and there is no set regulation as to what nurses can and cannot do across the United States. Every state defines Nurses and their practice and what they can do differently. Take a group of 5 doctors—and chances are each one of them don’t even have a good understanding of what nurses are and what they do and their role. Interdisciplinary Models of Care are not the standard yet, so this inhibits a productive and working knowledge of what each provider does.
3. Disregard for Care Plans. This is a big one for me. I recently read a couple of articles that, for the most part, said care plans should just die and go by the wayside because they are useless.
4. A fractured profession. We have so many specialties that we still have failed to come together in a unified manner to advocate together for our profession and for the vital role we play in the lives of our patients, evidence based practice, theory development and application, and policy making. The result? Thousands of different visions from thousands of different nurses about what our profession “should be” and “should do.”
5. Silencing of our voices. We now have to choose between our own career survival, or own livelihoods, professional reputations, and paychecks—and speaking up in the best interests of our patients. Many a nurse has experienced this tragic conundrum, and the consequences are well documented if you log into your university libraries and do a good literature review on the topic. So, which will it be? Your pay check or your patient’s life? Well, now, that depends—can you like yourself when you go to sleep at night or when you wake up the next morning. The choice will be different for all of us.
6. Too many initiatives!!!! There are so many initiatives out there that it truly is like ‘herding cats’ to get everyone on the same page about what needs to bedone to improve, advance, and grow our profession.
What I feel needs to be done is simply this: get back to basics. All the initiatives are great. The pretty, flowery, shiny, idealistic profession they propose is in theory—just that. It seems like every time we turn around there is another nursing initiative being introduced. In fact, there are so many, we all seem to have thrown up our stethoscopes in exasperation while uttering “Whatever.” The RWJF, the NIH, AACN, the National League for Nursing, Johnson and Johnson, the Institute of Medicine and all the other organizations that produce the massive documents proposing their positions on where nursing should be by the year “such and such” need to set aside “Candyland” and get back to the drawing board.
How? Perform a learning assessment and care plan on the profession. TALK TO THE NURSES AT THE BEDSIDE—these are the stakeholders that have to carry out all the grandiose changes. ASK nurses what would motivate them to carry out change and what they need or want to learn to carry out the change. Perform a force field analysis to illustrate whether there is a greater push for or against change and where a balance can be achieved to promote success. What do nurses consider an incentive to participate in the change process? What is their currency?
Here is a good example of what happens when big organizations try to make even bigger changes sans discussion with their staff members, which is to say, their stakeholders. At one hospital I worked at the Transforming Care At The Bedside Initiative was being “enforced” as a means to improve patient satisfaction scores. I say the word “enforced” because we nurses weren’t asked about how we felt about it, we weren’t “completely” educated about what TCAB was, why we should be interested in it, or why we should participate in it. participation was an expectation and people were “assigned” to do parts of the initiative. No communication took place between management and staff about how they felt about the change process or the new “tests of change” they were being expected to participate in. So, it was not a big surprise to see my coworkers increasingly annoyed when they were being presented with “more steps” in their workday, or “more papers” to fill out or “scripts” taped to their computer monitors directing what they were to say to their patients. It was also not surprising to see that few or no staff members were attending the TCAB meetings to provide input and feedback.
Having gotten my Masters Degree I quickly realized what was missing was a well-planned approach to the change process. A crucial step within the change process is involving every person that could possibly be involved in that change: polling people, studying your stakeholders and what their motivations are, illustrating what is ‘in it for them’ should they take part. Failing to study all of your stakeholders and ask for feedback prior to initiating change is simply wasting a lot of time and yelling through a megaphone at an empty nursing station. I did some further research into the TCAB Initiative by immersing myself in the RWJF website for a couple of weeks.
After doing so, I discovered that our organization was not implementing TCAB as it was meant to be implemented. The organization was taking bits and pieces of the initiative and implementing them. The focus of the initiative — promoting happy nurses to promote happy satisfied patients — was not the managerial focus, as it should have been. It was strictly designed for patients, completely overstepping the spirit of the TCAB initiative as it was meant to be implemented. Lastly, the TCAB initiative was designed to be an interdisciplinary effort. The way it was being pushed at the organization I was at, the focus was just on nurses. I put together a white paper and power point and submitted them to my manager hoping it would help to get the project on track. I was promptly shut down with an annoyed response that my work looked plagiarized. (This is what an MSN on a nursing floor gets you)
So, managers, here are some lessons learned. If you want to make change on a large scale you must invest the time, no matter how long or how involved the effort, to study the people who have to carry out the work. Find out their goals, wishes, motivations, concerns, what makes them happy, angry, and frustrated. Find out what their knowledge base is and what must be learned to carry out the major initiative. Ask for their input. Discover who your “downers” are, why they are resistant to change, and how can you get them on board. It’s called “buy in.”
Lastly, harvest your talent. Take a fresh look at who your voices and cheerleaders are on the unit and give them “room to bloom where they are planted.” This is how and where you become a transformational leader instead of a leader who suppresses the creativity and potential of your nursing staff. One note: if you are going to implement something huge like the RWJF TCAB Initiative, don’t just take pieces of it and throw together your own version and expect it to work.
This, in my opinion, is what all of the large nursing organizations who want to transform healthcare need to do. Round everybody up for a week-long conference, every stakeholder — not just administration and management figures or politicians either. The real people: the bedside nurses, pharmacists, lab workers, patients, doctors, PA’s, housekeepers and so on. Paint the closest picture you can get to a collective vision everyone seems to share. Then, figure out how to get there, one step at a time.
All the big goals are great.I love the visions of where the RWJF and the IOM and the AACN see our profession, healthcare, and nursing education headed. But the visions are a problem too. There are too many ideas, initiatives, and too many people “other than bedside nurses” generating them. Our profession is fractured enough. It is not feasible, nor is it realistic, to expect every wonderful idea and vision to be carried to fruition when there is currently a longstanding lack of unity and disarray within nursing.
So, for the time being, let’s set aside the huge mountain of ideas and initiatives and take a deep breath. Now, start over with the A-B-C’s: Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Set the sights on resuscitating the profession of nursing first, before we attempt to heal the ailing healthcare system and the world. Take it back to the old school, and do the assessment first. Then, make a plan: implement it, evaluate it, and do it all over again until we get nursing back on track with a unified focus. Only THEN can we climb the mountains set in front of us by the RWJF or the IOM or the NIH. We cannot build castles without a strong foundation of earth below it.
By the way . . . Did anyone notice how often I used the word “initiative?”
Amanda blogs at NurseInterupted. This is a slightly modified version of a post which originally appeared on her blog.
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Health Care Policy That Matters to Nursing on Monday 07 May 2012
A very good, if obvious, idea on the use of RNs: nurses should be used to the full extent of their abilities. From the Toronto Star (and kudos to the paper for their Nursing Week insert in Saturday’s edition):
“The bottom line is that we’re wasting valuable resources with our RNs,” says Doris Grinspun, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s chief executive officer. “European countries like the U.K. have been using RNs to their full capacity for years. It will be a missed opportunity for the public, taxpayers and patients if we don’t move to full utilization of our nurses.”
[Grinspun] wants the province to recognize the education and expertise of registered nurses, and to agree that they could be doing more within the scope of their practice, like diagnosing patients, ordering diagnostic and lab tests, conducting pelvic exams and prescribing medications.
Though the mandate of Ontario’s action plan for health care is to find ways to maximize the system, full utilization of care providers isn’t possible until the government revamps policies about who can bill for certain medical procedures. “We should be using nurses and all health-care providers to open access, increase the timeliness and quality of care and to contain cost,” she says. “But if a nurse does a pap smear, the doctor doesn’t get paid. If a nurse diagnoses a child’s ear infection and prescribes antibiotics, the physician doesn’t get paid. I go berserk when I see doctors taking blood pressure,” she says. “Nurses have the training to free up a doctor’s time in primary-care settings so she can focus on more complex situations.” Plus, the move to grant registered nurses more autonomy on the job would lower the waiting times for patients to be seen, meaning there will be fewer patients showing up at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms.
The (somewhat) amusing thing about this idea is that nurses (or least those working in in high acuity areas like ICUs or Emergency Departments) already do all much of this in an highly unsanctioned, unregulated and unofficial way. Let me provide a simple example. Suppose I am triaging an exceedingly anxious patient with chest pain, and decide the patient requires an ECG — which incidentally I can order under medical directives. I explain the test to the patient. I tell her ECGs measure the pattern of electrical activity in the heart and therefore can show dysfunction. I place the electrodes across her chest and limbs, and carry out the test. The printout shows a patient in a regular sinus rhythm with no acute abnormalities.
Do I tell my agitated patient, whose anxiety is growing by the second, that (A) the ECG shows her heart is performing in a normal way and that we need to do some blood tests to confirm everything is okay, or (B) that the physician will discuss with her the results of the ECG when he sees her — which might be in a couple of hours?
When I was a new nurse, some years ago and being a good, diligent practitioner, I would have told this patient (B). This was not to dog my responsibilities or pass off work to the physician. (B), in fact, is the correct answer. Interpreting a test for a patient is considered a form of diagnosis, and in Ontario and most jurisdictions, making and communicating a diagnosis is considered the exclusive preserve of nurse practitioners and physicians.
But this is the deal. I have been educated how to interpret ECGs. I know how to tell atrial fibrillation from SVT from sinus tachycardia. I know what ischemia looks like, and I can spot ST elevations in a steam bath. More importantly I have the judgement to recognize the borderline cases and defer to the physician. Additionally, it seems to me, cruelty, indifference and bad nursing can be defined by a nurse telling a patient — especially one that is anxious — that she needs to wait to speak to the physician about her ECG because of “the rules.”*
I am not for stupidity in the form of thoughtless adherence to regulation. I am not for cruelty either. So I decided a long time ago, that on balance, it was altogether better for the patient to have this information, rather than sit in the waiting room in a state of high anxiety. Even if my professional regulatory body has officially determined I can’t because technically it is beyond my scope of practice.
And so it goes. Nurses quietly and unofficially violate the scope of practice all the time. We push the envelope. We add blood work we think the physicians have missed. We slip in chest films because we know they need to be done. We order ECGs on patients we don’t like the look of. We review lab results with patients. We cajole specialists into “having a peek” at a patient if we are worried about them. We tell patients — sometimes in very circular language, to avoid the damning “communicating a diagnosis” — what really is going on.
Why do we do it? Sometimes we know physicians will support us. Sometimes it’s to avoid difficult conversations with physicians, or because physicians won’t listen to the opinion of a mere nurse. (One physician I know of absolutely refuses to order serum lactates on obviously septic patients, because a positive result means she needs to follow a complicated sepsis protocol — even though the literature is pretty clear that early and aggressive intervention in sepsis saves lives.) Bottom line: we do it in the interests of the patient.
Should nurses be permitted to utilize their full knowledge and skills? Absolutely. It’s better for patient care and better for nursing work life. And also we need to formally regulate what nurses do already, to protect nurses themselves.
*The College of Nurses of Ontario, my professional regulatory body, would probably, and unrealistically suggest the alternative of getting the physician to speak to the patient immediately after doing the ECG as the “proper” course of action. But think about it this way: my ED probably does 30 ECGs (if not more) in the course of a 12-hour shift; if it takes a physician 5 minutes to discuss the results with a patient, then 30 x 5 minutes = 150 minutes = 2.5 hours. That’s a pretty big chunk of time, and in a busy department, is not going to happen. And that’s if you could get the physician to come out to triage to see the patients to begin with. It is simply not good use of his time and is completely unnecessary. Which rather demonstrates the point of the article quoted above.
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind on Saturday 28 April 2012
An underexplored or ignored aspect of nursing professional life: how nurses working in a Labour and Delivery unit grieve over the loss of their patients, and how this grief affects care and support of survivors. What is really striking about the film is the culture of mutual support and respect among the nurses working in this unit — I hope it’s real and not just the product of the filmmaker’s eye, but the cynical side of me wants to think it’s idealized.
Though the film’s focus is in L & D, it makes me think of how nurses deal with loss in the Emergency department. The prevailing culture and mores of most EDs does not encourage touchy-feely moments, at least in not many of them. The expectation, frankly, is to suck it up and tough it out. The Emergency department is not for the weak of heart. Shrinking violets need not apply. Et cetera. But the question is whether we as nurses are able to provide good care to our patients without acknowledging and reflecting on how grief affects us. Or whether unacknowledged and unvalidated grief leads to higher burnout — and also some unintended psychological effects like PSTD.
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind on Saturday 21 April 2012
The world of nursing on a couple of dozen flash cards. From The Nursing Channel on YouTube. While I don’t agree necessarily with every card — some of them, I think, play into some old stereotypes on how nurses behave — it’s still a fresh perspective on nursing. What do you think?
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Uncategorized, Warm Fuzzies on Friday 20 April 2012
Some real nurse love — and incidentally reminding us why we have the most tremendous profession in the world and how we each day make a powerful difference in the lives of our patients. Via the blog The Spohrs are Multiplying, Mike Spohr writes about the day his child died:
On the horrible day that Maddie passed there was a nurse who stayed by Heather’s side the whole time, and I am so thankful for her kindness to my wife. There was a nurse that mattered to me too that night, though she didn’t stay by my side, bring me a glass of water, or even say a word to me. In fact, I don’t think I saw her until the last few seconds I walked out of the PICU, but she made a difference nonetheless.
You see, that day my life shattered. I watched my daughter die in front of me, and it was an experience so horrific that even now it seems almost surreal, like, “Did that actually happen? To me and family?” But it did, and one of the things I remember most about it was how the key medical personnel there didn’t make me feel like they found Maddie to be beautiful and strong or amazing and a gift. The lead doctor, for example, was under a great deal of stress, but the way he pronounced her dead was not right. It was more like a referee calling the end to a heavyweight fight than the end to a beautiful child’s life. Then, as we held our dead child in our arms and kissed her goodbye, doctors stood behind the curtain discussing the specifics of what had happened with about as much feeling as mechanics discussing a broken down car.
It was only as I left the PICU that I felt humanity from the medical staff. There, sitting on a chair with a single tear rolling down her cheek, was my nurse. Her tear told me that she cared. About Heather, about me, and most importantly, about my beautiful Madeline.
That’s what nurses do that is so important. In addition to all of their medical expertise, they bring a human element to the cold, sterile world of a hospital. Doctors do great things, but have a heavy case load that means they can only visit each patient briefly each day, but the nurses will hold your hand – figuratively or literally – and remind you that you are not alone, and that your life is valued even if it can’t be saved.
A good and valuable antidote to the river of treacly pronouncements and saccharine encomiums we are about to receive from our employers, nursing leaders and other power centres in the nursophere in anticipation of Nurses’ Week. Worth about a million of ‘em, I think.
Posted by torontoemerg in Before I Start Throwing Things, I'd Better Write This Down, Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Nurses Behaving Badly on Tuesday 17 April 2012
Why does any discussion of breastfeeding makes people a little insane? I don’t exclude myself: even I get a little agitated. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Exhibit A: a recent post on breastfeeding at KevinMD.com sparked a small flame war in the comments. Barbara Bronson, an RN wrote there:
And guess what? Our kids — now in their twentie [sic] – turned out just fine. They have no allergies. They are smart. They’re not fat. They’re healthy. They are kind, and funny and athletic, and you couldn’t pick them out in a crowd. But if you read some of the research and most of the women’s magazines, you’d think we’d be hauled in for heresy for disclosing this seldom-talking-about fact: in the end, whether you breast-feed or you bottle-feed, no one — not even a physician, a nurse, a teacher or a psychologist – will ever be able to tell the difference.
So that’s why I was pleased to see the World Health Organization announce that although they recommend breastfeeding for the first six months of life, they say it may not be a realistic option for many. The report was published online March 14, 2012 in the BMJ Open.
The curious thing about this particular post is that it almost completely misrepresents the British Medical Journal article cited above. The BMJ article suggests an idealistic public policy approach to breastfeeding may be counterproductive — and only dealt with new mothers in a developed country. Bronson’s post managed to turn this important study into a disavowal of the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding guidelines. Of course, it said no such thing. (A far more accurate take on the BMJ article can be found on the Breastfeeding Medicine blog. Or just read the damn thing.) Not that is matters much: the debate degenerates into bomb-throwing between pro-formula-you-lactivists-are-Nazis and breast-is-best types. Who cares about the science, anyway — it just gets in the way of anecdotes and feelings.
(Yes, I am annoyed.)
Exhibit B: a city ordinance in Seattle protecting the rights of neonates to breastfeed publicly causes distress for those who prefer breastfeeding mothers to be unseen and unheard:
“We need to get to the point where breastfeeding is accepted by everybody,” said Schwartz of the Breastfeeding Coalition. Although businesses that break the law can face fines, she said the main goal was to educate people and change attitudes.
“It’s feeding your baby for heaven’s sake,” she said.
But advocates will have to overcome an ingrained hostility, as seen oozing in the comments on a KING/5′s story on the breastfeeding bill.
“Wanna feed your kid, great feed your kid, just don’t put up a bill board (sic) pointing to your saggy udders trying to get some attention,” wrote “freedomfrank” on the site.
“As far as I’m concerned, women with babies can get the (hell) out of any restaurant I’m in if they want to breast feed,” another commenter wrote. “You’re not special and we don’t give a rip that you have a baby.”
One woman wrote that she supported breastfeeding – had nursed her own kids – but just didn’t like it in public.
“I do not want to watch you when I am trying to eat or walking in the mall with my teen son,” she said.
Exhibit C: suffer not the little children unto me. Rachel Stone writes:
When he was one year old and decidedly cherubic—with chubby pink cheeks and golden curls—my family visited Rome, and, of course, Vatican City. I was prepared with skirts and modest tops for visiting St. Peter’s, but I hadn’t considered for a moment that breastfeeding might break the rules of modesty. So when my little cherub was hungry, I settled cross-legged in a corner, in sight of Michelangelo’s Pieta—that haunting sculpture where Mary cradles the broken body of her Son—and began to nurse, identifying, maybe for the first time, with Jesus’ mom as I cradled by own boy.
Seconds later, a uniformed guard came along, slapping his chest and saying, emphatically, “Latte, latte!? Latte? Uh, downstair! Uh, da batroom!” Of course: he wanted me to go breastfeed in the bathroom. Because nursing my son in that space was equivalent to a plunging neckline or a miniskirt.
All of this makes me a little crazy for the sheer stupidity. However, I get there is some deep cultural
resistance antipathy to breastfeeding in the West and particularly in North America. I happen to think this ambiguity — where Facebook bans pictures of breastfeeding but permits hypersexualized pictures of busty women — is utterly idiotic and tied up in some bizarre societal notions about breasts and sexuality, but I understand that others’ mileage may vary.
I get that nurses, midwives and other healthcare providers haven’t been the best at times supporting and encouraging new mothers to breastfeed. We nag, hector and finger-wag when we should be providing support and empathy.
But still, for all of that, breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best choice for most women and neonates. Yes, there are exceptions: neonates who can’t or won’t nurse, or physical, health or social/economic problems preventing the mother from nursing. But really, are theses exceptions so numerous to recommend formula as the equivalent choice for all neonates? To use an analogy, gold standard treatment for pneumonia is the prescription of antibiotics. Does the standard change because a few might not tolerate the drugs? It bothers me more than a little the nurse mentioned above would suggest bottle and breast are equivalent, whatever her own personal experience.
Something else which makes me unhappy: how the debate around breastfeeding is almost always framed from the perspective of middle-class women from developed countries like the U.S, Canada or Britain who have the resources to consider formula as a viable option. For most of the world’s women, the sheer logistics of bottle feeding are not feasible or realistic. These include consistent access clean water, soap, a stove, fuel, education, and nurse/midwife support, the formula itself and other supplies, or the money to buy it. According to the World Health Organization:
When infant formula is not properly prepared, there are some risks arising from the use of unsafe water and unsterilized equipment or the potential presence of bacteria in powdered formula. Malnutrition can result from over-diluting formula to “stretch” supplies. Further, frequent feedings maintain the breast milk supply. If formula is used but becomes unavailable, a return to breastfeeding may not be an option due to diminished breast milk production.
For many, if not the majority of women in the world, and especially the poorest, there is no option but breastfeeding. We should probably bear this in mind when discussing how “realistic” the WHO guidelines are.