Archive for category Nurses Who Do Us Proud
A small selection of photographs from the National Archives of Canada. Nurses have served with the Canadian military since Northwest Rebellion in 1885 and small contingents were sent to the South African War — the Boer War — at the turn of the last century. Nurses became an official part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in 1901, and have served in every conflict since.
Nursing sister Ruby Gordon Peterkin. First World War. Note the boots — and heels!
.First World War, in front of a Casualty Clearing Station.
Unidentified Nursing Sister, First World War.
Nursing Sister Ruth Webster, North Africa, Second World War. Great photo. Colour gives this photo an unexpected immediacy. Note the utilitarian uniform, in contrast to the Boer War nurse above, the only concession to tradition being the headdress.
Same nurse. The Archive calls this one Nursing Sister Valerie Hora. Whatever her name — Valerie or Ruth — there is great strength of character in her face which the photographer has captured to an exactitude.
Nursing Sisters of No. 10 Canadian General Hospital, R.C.A.M.C., landing at Arromanches, France, 23 July 1944, about six weeks after D-Day. Eager and enthusiastic.
Canadian Nurses with Bob Hope.
Cpl. Bill Kay Strolls with Nursing Sister Dorothy Rapsey. North Africa? Second World War.
The price. Mass funeral of nurses after a German air raid. Note the nurses’ uniforms on top of the coffins.
Each of them eloquently speaks to the heart of what we do as nurses — and why nurses find how Amanda Trujillo was fired and subsequently reported to the Arizona State Board of Nursing so troubling. (Via The Innovative Nurse.)
The first is from Andrew Lopez (Twitter: @nursefriendly.)
Michael Pergrim (Twitter: @CoachPerg)
Lastly Carol Gino. “The statement nurses eat their young — we’re not doing that. There’s a group of us who are going to stand with her. we’re not going to be powerless any more, because a defenceless defender is not good to anyone.”
Posted by torontoemerg in Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Nurses Who Do Us Proud, Random Thoughts on Thursday 19 January 2012
Thanks to commenter Pagan Chaplain (Twitter ~ web) for pointing out the No One Dies Alone program, where volunteers under nursing supervision support patients who would be otherwise alone at the end of life. The program was started by Sandra Clarke at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon. She cared for a patient in similar circumstances to what I described in my post and felt the same sort of distress:
One rainy night at Sacred Heart Medical Center, Eugene, Ore., I had a brief encounter with a man whose name I cannot recall, a man I shall never forget. He was one of my seven patients, near death and a DNR. During my initial rounds, he asked, barely audible, “Will you stay with me?” He was so frail, pale, old and tremulous. I said, “Sure as soon as I check my other patients.”
Vital signs, passing meds, chart checks, assessments and bathroom assistance for six other patients took up most of the next hour and a half. When I returned he was dead. I reasoned he was a DNR, no family, very old, end-stage multi-organ disease; now he was gone, and I felt awful. It was okay for him to die, it was his time—but not alone.
I looked around; scores of people were nearby providing state-of-the-art patient care. For this man, state-of-the-art should have been dignity and respect.
The last sentence is particularly striking — and true. It speaks to the core of what ought to be good nursing practice. In critical care areas we are sometimes entirely too focussed on the technical/technological aspects of care, when the reality is often much simpler. In the event, the wonder of it is not that such a program exists, but why it took so long for someone to come up with the idea, so obvious it seems in retrospect.
This is how it works:
A staff nurse generally initiates No One Dies Alone by calling pastoral care or, after 5 p.m., the nursing supervisor. The person who has signed up for that date is called. It is totally a volunteer program, and no minimum or maximum time has been set. The “compassionate companion” is provided with a parking pass and a meal ticket. We have a supply bag with a CD player, various CDs, a journal and a bible. We emphasize that any religious behavior will be initiated by the dying patient and not by the companion. Staff and the “compassionate companion” use an evaluation form in an ongoing effort to improve the program.
[. . .]
The reasons individual employees have volunteered are fascinating and as varied as their departments. Hospital carpenters, administrative heads, maintenance workers, nurses, secretaries, and kitchen workers have come forward. Some who come from large families cannot imagine someone being alone; others are alone themselves. One nurse from the cardiac cath lab has seen many die in spite of the high tech environment and care. He wanted to experience once again “why I became a nurse in the first place—to care for those who can no longer care for themselves.”
I realized after I wrote yesterday about Meera Bai and her work at Insite, the Vancouver safe drug injection site, that she has both a blog called Strong Hands and a Twitter feed — @senoritabai. When I spoke to her on Twitter last night, she pointed me to an article she wrote describing her experiences at Insite, provocatively titled “Why I Help Addicts Shoot Up.” A couple of excerpts:
Something about seeing people at their lowest and most desperate, half-clothed from turning tricks for drugs while hating themselves for it, opens into a profound level of intimacy. I am blessed to enter the darkest place of people whose sins are far more public than those of the rest of us. Constant humiliation makes the people I work with especially vulnerable, and vulnerable in almost every way: to violence, to exploitation, to false hope and finally to despair. When allowed into these dark places, it is my privilege, and that of all InSite staff, to communicate worth and love instead of judgment and scorn.
The day nurse asks me to keep an eye out for a specific participant—a regular who comes in several times a day. She hadn’t been seen yet. Later that night, the woman finally comes in, and she’s beaming. “I went to see my daughter today! And I didn’t use all day! F—, soon I’m gonna get off this s—!” We break out in applause and cheers, celebrating her triumphs with her—as she mixes her drugs to take in a few minutes in our facility. Other participants in the room are excited as well; two of them come over to hug her.
Another regular later chats with me in the treatment room as I dress his abscess, trying not to cringe away from the overwhelming odour he emanates. “It would have been my anniversary with my wife today, if she hadn’t gone missing. We’ve both been down and out, but she took care of me out here. Now, I got nobody to talk to. This is the first human touch I’ve had today.” I look up, startled. I am wearing gloves, holding my breath, cleaning his sores with a 10-inch sterile Q-tip. Even this, my deficient attempt to heal, is taken as love by a man desperate for human connection. I am ashamed.
I finish dressing the wound, clean up, remove my gloves and give him a hug. I hop up on the treatment bench next to him and we sit together and talk for another 15 minutes: about life, love and faith. He says goodbye, and then asks for a referral to an exit program. I give it to him. He knows the referral is merely one point along our journey together, and that I will listen to his story whether he goes to the program or not. As a Christian, I know that his life is part of God’s real story of redemption. InSite is one of the few places where I get to hear it openly spoken, with trust, without judgment.
*** *** *** *** ***
Often, participants at InSite are forced to sleep outside at night. Not having a warm, safe bed takes its toll on bodies, and special care is needed for feet. An InSite staff member chats with me behind the desk as he fills up a basin of warm, soapy water. Kneeling on the floor, he gently strips damp socks off the swollen foot of a participant and lowers it into the soothing water.
Washing feet here isn’t an oddity from a discomfiting Bible story, but a regular occurrence. Foot baths are healing—for body and soul. As I fill up another basin, I marvel at the timelessness of this act of community. The humility necessary for all involved in washing feet produces beautiful vulnerability and relationship, which, unsurprisingly, creates change.
But really, go read the whole thing. It’s worth it.
A nurse offers a defence of Insite, the safe drug injection clinic operating in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. What I find interesting is that contrary to expectations, Meera Bai’s work at the clinic is based on a very personal, explicitly Christian ethic:
I think that we are all extended grace by God and that we are all loved by God and made in the image of God. When we talk to addicts and we spend time with them, we see them as human, just like ourselves, and see glimpses of God in them because they were made in God’s image. … We’re clearly called in the bible to spend time with the marginalized and to protect those who are struggling. Many of these people have gone through incredible abuse in their childhood and throughout their lives. God, for us, as Christians, he’s a place where we can go where we don’t have to be ashamed.
I gave a talk at Ambrose University College [a private evangelical university], which is quite a big seminary in Calgary. It was a public lecture and they thought maybe 50 people would come, but 150 showed up. One of the people who came, he put up his hand and said, ‘I’m a donor for Ambrose and I was quite appalled that they were doing this talk. So I came here because I think this is wrong. But now I realize what Insite does and this is completely what Christ would be doing. If Jesus was here, he would be washing feet the same way.’
It’s refreshing, for me anyway, to see a forthright explanation of the relation of a Christian ethic to practice in a way that speaks to compassion and service. This is in contrast the cramped and blinkered view of many of my co-religionists, whom I suspect would expend much time finding biblical justification for stepping over drug addicts rather than facing up to the fact these are human beings in need.
Nurses (or other health care professionals, for that matter) don’t often speak publicly about the ways the life of the spirit informs and motivates their practice, though I suspect for many nurses faith plays an important role. The problem is, discussing the role faith plays in the provision of health care almost inevitably seems to come back to the debate around therapeutic abortion, which in turn has distorted and marginalized any real talk about the role of faith for both ourselves and our patients. I sometimes thinks this is the reason nurses are hesitant to discuss spirituality or the spiritual aspects of care — with or without organized religion — even when we, or more importantly, our patients need and want it.