onbeinganurse: Connecting through constructive critisism

My colleague tossed my manuscript on the desk with a flourish. I had asked her to read a short story I had written and to let me know what she thought.
“This is terrible,” she flatly announced.
Her tone didn’t improve with her next comment, posed as a foregone conclusion.
“You don’t know many black people, do you.”
Chagrined,I meekly pointed at my one and only black friend.
“Only you.”
She nodded firmly in response to the expected answer and turned on her computer, clearly done with her colleagues’ failed literary attempt.
“Well, we are a dramatic people, and there’s no drama in here.” And with feigned disgust she pushed the pages closer to me and further from her, my proposed story that, to me, represented ‘perfection’ and many hours of time.
There’s a cardinal rule that to write, one should “write what you know”. My story was about a middle-aged black couple: I got the middle-age part right because I’ve had personal experience. However, as a Northern white lady raised in a largely Caucasian community, I had had no opportunities to learn anything about the black culture other than what I saw on serial TV shows in the 1980’s. Today’s rejected plot had originally been created from a prompt in a non-credit writing class. Our instructor spread out dozens of magazine and newspaper pictures on a long table and suggested each member pick two and create a short story. I noticed one photo of an attractive black woman, appearing serene and contemplative as she gazed partly away from the camera’s eye. Further down the table was a photo of perhaps a slightly older, brown-complexioned, gray-mustached gentleman. To me, together they looked like there could be a plot developed for this couple. At home I worked on developing the characters and gave the woman a career as a nurse- and I did know about nursing. Within the story the handsome gentleman was her husband and gave them what I thought was a problem to solve. But now, after today’s emphatic critique, I re-read the piece, looking to validate some drama therein for my efforts, but she was right and I could understand her opinion: No drama here.
For five years the unfinished piece languished in a drawer among files of other accumulating work, some finished, and some, like this one, not.
Another writing class and with it a teacher’s challenge to get out an unfinished manuscript and see what strikes our creative juices this time around.
However, I left that piece in the file drawer except to notice again the scribbled comments, circled sentences, and exclamation marks that my friend had made in a generous attempt to show me where I went wrong. Her frank, un-filtered critique made me pause and re-think my handsome protagonists and the literary possibilities that would alter their lives, no matter their color or culture. Two years and about a hundred revisions later, in January 2016 I’m proud to have completed the story, with the encouragement and editing of my daughter and a writer friend’s reactions to the developing plot, and of course, my first reviewer-rejection. It served me well: ‘The Widow Wore Red’ is on its’ way to be edited.
There is much drama in this contemporary murder mystery: I think my friend will like it!

onbeinganurse:Christmas is everywhere

Anyone on staff in the medical field or as a facility employee for dietary or maintenance, etc., is aware they may be expected to take a turn on a Christmas  shift.   Negotiating and trading with other staff is an option, but eventually their turn will come. The staff will no doubt bring a variety of buffet dishes, and,though their shift, be aware of the significance of the holiday’s meaning.     When my children were in  upper elementary and      junior high I worked any one of the three shifts, as did a few on my unit who had older kids. We felt that other nurses with younger children could be with the family and share in their customs, whether on Christmas or during Hanukkah. I don’t remember my children complaining that I wasn’t in the house for the whole day- they opened their stockings and waited for me. It was part of building their character.

As we enjoy the wonderful traditions of these celebrations,  I want to thank anyone who gives up this special  family time to be our caregivers  if needed.

Best wishes for your health and safety in 2016!

Joyce, RN




onbeinganurse:Hope is strength.

One shooting episode is too many, and the USA appears in danger of these attacks every week now. The apprehension that terroristic  murderers can suddenly loom within our own neighborhoods is scary, threatening to become the “normal” and tolerated, instead of “abnormal” and guarded against.

The human species has the ability to hope, giving us the emotional optimism  to reach for faith: Faith is the conviction that the things we hope for will eventually play out in our favor. We hope for the best; the best health, the happiest New Year,   that the car won’t run out of gas, that we’ll loose those extra  15 pounds before the high school reunion , that the dog didn’t eat our missing sock.

We are a hopeful, faithful society: The populace and  the victims and families of  attacks here and in Europe, whether by misguided personal convictions or terroristic factions, have  demonstrated deep levels of emotional fortitude and physical strength in the face of attempted  destruction. While security against more violence is  continually examined and tightened, we are strong and meet each day  with hope, and faith within tomorrow’s reach.

Joyce, RN


on being anurse:”Just a nurse.”

In the aftermath of the Miss America contest on September 13 and Miss Colorado’s talent monologue on what it is to be a nurse, there has been a volume of comments on her choice to represent the nursing profession in this venue. Kelley Johnson, RN, shared her experience on television with the judges and national audience about an Alzheimer’s patient, Joe, and their nurse/patient relationship. Her eloquent, thoughtfully presented story of their mutual personal understanding of the other’s roles gave a dignity to Joe that he was able to comprehend. He in turn thanked Kelley for recognizing that in spite of his frustration with Alzheimer’s, he was “still Joe” and there was dignity in maintaining his identity. The monologue brought a largely positive response across the media about nursing. The audience’s and the medical profession’s reaction to the nurses’ empathetic monologue has swelled to a positive proportion and verbal gift to our profession that she could not have foreseen.
Disappointing to me, a retired nurse and daily fan of The View, was the panel of some of the hostesses’ negative and sarcastically joking comments the following day and again on the next Wednesday, about nurses and Miss Johnson’s choice to not do the usual entertainment talent known for the Miss America contests. Have the panelists or their family never been cared for by a nurse? A baby’s birth; an elderly’s parent’s comfort; a guiding light through a maze of tests and medical-speak? Joy Behar and Michelle Collins have since clarified their comments, but only in a thwarted effort to dispel the audiences shocked reaction to damage done.
The trite attitudes displayed on the panel towards nursing only served to demean themselves, and to do so on national TV was shameful.


onbeinganurse: Thanks for laboring on Labor Day!

Being a nurse brings with the profession a responsibility and understood duty to provide care in hospitals and urgent care facilities across the USA during holidays. For several years, nurses have been privileged to be considered the most trusted professional service in the USA. On Labor Day our country recognizes all professional and volunteer services with an established day of “thank you” to the firefighters, the police who keep our roads and streets safer, EMT’s, the pharmacies, grocery clerks, utility techs, and the thousands of military and workers who keep our communities and country running as smoothly and safely as possible. They generously put in a shift or interrupt part of the summer’s holiday picnics, their children’s birthday parties,Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas and Chanukah family celebrations, and New Year’s Eve midnight wishes to their sweethearts.
Our country’s first Labor Day was established by President Grover Cleveland in 1887. Canada, England, and about 80 other countries recognize the value of their workers on May Day, also called International Worker’s Day.
I hope everyone enjoys at least a part of today’s fun and cook-out , or whatever your pleasure is on this day of a special nod to workers and volunteers.

onbeinganurse: Blogging does not come easily to me.

A nursing journal editor once told me he liked my blogs, but they weren’t frequent enough for his magazine to pick up. I know my blogs are sporadic: a topic has to “reach out” to me as a teaching tool for nurses or my FB public. My jealous side rears when I read another writer’s post or clinical article and it flows effortlessly, passing along great information that had never occurred to me to write about.
For several years I was reluctant to say the words, “I’m a writer.” A practicing nurse for thirty years, I had begun to write down some of the human interest experiences that I had had with patients. Our office’s patient newsletter editor was gracious (brave?)
enough to print some.
One of the doctors encouraged me to submit an article I was toying with about my father’s non-compliance to medical recommendations while I and my siblings became helpless lackey’s participating in his quest to do things his way or take the highway. To hear from an editor and then see my words in a peer-reviewed journal ranked up there with the birth of my children.
One day in the treatment room, a patient as we chatted volunteered that his second and “non-paying” occupation was as a writer. A kindred spirit! And I heard myself exclaim, “Oh, I’m a writer, too!” During his infusion treatment we talked about writing. I heard myself exchanging the lofty author-speak words I had only used inside my mind before, like “genre”, “editor”, and, the Holy grail of being an author; publication. Publication was the only validation acceptable to me at the time and so far I had been papering my walls with rejections. In the last ten years the ratio of accepted v.s. rejected clinical and human interest articles has been fairly equal. An experiment in 30 chapters of a murder/mystery fiction has taken a few years and many revisions. Based on my time, if I actually sell it I would guess a return a dollar amount of about five cents a chapter.
Creating my world of words is as necessary to me as breathing. My father wrote funny stories about his hunting and fishing adventures and he helped me choose a catchy title for my first 7th grade English essay. My older brother has written and published three books, and our sister writes research papers in her field of environmental forestry. Is there a gene passed along that pushes a compulsion to fill pages with words? I would feel stymied if I didn’t write even a few sentences every day, at least in my e-mail. Retirement from practicing nursing was daunting, but the void is filled by hopefully mentoring nurses through what I learned in the trenches.
Within my local library’s Writer’s Critique Group the talent of the other six writers is humbling. I am grateful to be a small flicker within the flame of these creative authors.

onbeinganurse:”Text Neck”? What next?

The reasons why I don’t text are mounting, and now reinforced by the latest information that we aren’t physically designed to hold our average-weight 12-pound heads in a continuous lowered position (like staring downward at an iPod or cell phone) for the 5 hours or so that people spend texting or gaming, etc..

A syndrome called Text Neck adds, inch by inch as the neck bends lower toward the pad, as much as 60 pounds of strain to the neck & shoulder muscles. Over time the weight can even change straight posture to become an outward curve at the shoulder area. The 60 pounds of strain is compared to carrying an 8 pound baby around your neck.

Teens and Millennium-aged (college and early adulthood) are particularly prone to frequent and long periods of texting and gaming. We’ve all had to dodge the totally oblivious communicators who are texting and walking along, not watching for anybody or any traffic. The Baby Boomers’ generation is catching up pretty quick, too. Another side effect of this obsession with texting is feeling the need to be accessible or in constant technical/social communication. Certainly when a parent or guardian is on-call there is good reason to have instant communication, but for the most part that is not the case.

Text Neck is recognized by physicians and easy to look up on Google, simply type in Text Neck and several sites come up. The usual first suggestion is to stop texting or computer time every 15 minutes and raise the head to look forward, releasing muscle strain. Yoga upper body stretches or Pilates helps loosen the muscles and also encourages straight posture. Limit the amount of technology time spent every day. If the pain and shoulder soreness continues there is reason to see the doctor and be evaluated.

Meanwhile, when out among the public, try keeping the technology pocketed and pay attention to where you’re going. Please don’t bump into me in the grocery aisle: I don’t dodge and weave too well.


onbeinganurse:Passwords are making me crazy

Today I’ve spent several hours and too many of my few remaining brain cells trying to get into a web site that just yesterday welcomed me with open gigabits, or whatever they’re called. The same user and password, so appreciated yesterday as a new member, is not on their guest list today. It’s like not being invited to the birthday party.
This is not my first go-round with the technical maze. I was a paper chart nurse and very comfortable with that. But my husband and I relocated a few years ago and I innocently accepted a position in a medical office that used electronic charting. To my mind, I could e-mail, so I could certainly learn to chart electronically. But that was a huge misunderstanding–navigating through an EMR system shares no comparison to e-mailing a friend. The hours spent learning and putting the system into safe practice nearly made me quit within three months. So I wrote an article, “Paper Chart Nurse”, about my experience as an older nurse floundering in the technical world and finally managing to get by, albeit with a lot of daily support from my younger colleagues. The article struck a cord among the nursing journal’s readers and I heard from several medical people across the U.S. who were either struggling or had even resigned from their practice, including a physician.
I DO believe in progress and computer technology and EMR’s…I do, I do, I do! But today has brought me to the limit of my patience.
Help! I just want to get into e-Bay.

onbeinganurse:Where have I been?

It’s been months since I’ve blogged. What ‘ha-happened’, as a friend of mine begins a tale, is that, although I am a nurse, I needed a nurse. For the last seven months, as a matter of fact. And  now I know more about osteomyelitis than I ever wanted to know.   Except where I could have contracted the strep infection from in the first place: it made itself a home in the bone of the first metatarsal on the right foot. The big toe, for any non-nurses reading this. This seemed unfair because I never get pedicures and I see a podiatrist regularly, so it was a puzzle. At least the saving grace for me was that for the multiple consultations and treatments involved, I’ve only had to slip off whatever foot covering was protecting it and not have to struggle to reveal a body part more difficult to undress.
To get rid of this nasty, stubborn bug involved surgery, a self-administered IV antibiotic at home through a pic-line in my arm for six weeks and several x/rays to check the effectiveness of the initial debridement and the antibiotic. The hospital nurses, wound care and home care nurses made me proud to be part of the profession and they’ve respected my dinosaur nursing history. The two hospital roommates between two 4-day admissions in two months were pleasant enough, and one was even a nurse, but we each could have gone along the rest of our lives without the hospital’s social experience of knowing one another.
But here it is, nearly March and finally wearing identical shoes, I’m cleared from the strep infection. But in the meantime in late December I developed a temporary problem in the left leg, not related to the strep. In fact, I joke that now my “bad” right leg is my “good” leg, and the left leg is my “bad” leg. Whatever, this additional set-back is almost resolved, just in time for Spring.
Many thanks to my husband, family, and friends for their help and support, and their patience– I walk slower than a turtle. Some writing projects are synapsing in my brain and maybe in a few months you’ll see me on Amazon with a select bunch of fascinating nurse stories, all patients protected by HIPPA, of course.
But if as a nurse the situation reads familiar, you are probably right that it’s you. Or maybe not. In any case, I’ll use writer’s license and deny the coincidence.

Good to be back.


onbeinganurse:The other side of the bed.

It’s a strange switch from being the caregiver to being the patient.
A bum knee has sidelined me for several months, necessitating medical equipment at home that I’d only made reference to for my patients use, not for me. Now I have rail guards in our apartment’s bathrooms and baby monitors in all the rooms so that my hearing-impaired husband would hear me call for any reason. Perhaps, settled with my knee elevated in the recliner, I might need something important like another dish of ice cream, or to please get me the TV remote from where I left it sitting on the computer ten feet away.
And I’d like to have a dollar for every time I reminded a patient to “Put your quad cane base squarely on the floor; don’t “carry” it up in the air like that!” The other day a physical therapist told me the same thing. I didn’t even realize I was holding it off the ground as I walked. My bad.
An arthroscopy was on my dance card this past week. NPO after midnight (excuse me- does that mean no coffee?); be at the hospital at an ungodly hour; remember your paperwork; and bring a wheeled walker. Oh, yes…that fancy, hot lavender-colored one I have that’s folded away in the closet?
Years ago I occasionally worked in my hospital’s pre-op area, but, by today’s standards the process back then was brief. Is the consent form signed? Did you have anything to eat or drink? Who’s with you and will they take you home? Let’s do your vital signs and then you can put on this gown that will not cover you completely no matter how you try to hold it together. However, 32 years later and in the 21st century, my assigned nurse asked me dozens of patient identity and medical history questions and asked if anyone had beaten me up lately or verbally abused me. Thirty minutes had gone by and I was still in street clothes.
I passed that test and we proceeded to the reason I was there; to repair my bum knee. My nurse gave me three packages of sterile antibacterial towels and specific instructions as to applying in proper sequence to the arms, legs, the body last, and then asked me to verbally repeat the sequence. And there was the flimsy gown waiting and exactly the same; snaps-at-the-shoulders and open at the back. Those skimpy gowns haven’t gotten any less revealing in thirty years. Once I was properly attired my surgeon came in, ostensibly to say hello, but really to ask me who I was (didn’t he remember me from our meeting together?), why I was there, and, lastly, which body part was he going to operate on? You’re kidding me, yes? When I gave the correct answer- my left knee- he was obviously so happy, and then he printed a YES on top of my left knee with a purple marker and handed it to me. So I printed a NO on my right knee.
An ecg, an interview with the anesthesiologist (he didn’t know who I was either and we went through the HIPPA thing again), an IV start, and we were finally ready: GO, team, GO!
The anesthesia was my most feared, but most favorite part- it seemed like only a moment before I woke up, feeling fresh as a daisy and ready for coffee. These new meds are amazing; no grogginess or hang-over effect: when I had my tonsils out as a kid I was sick as a dog for hours.
While in recovery the nurse brought my husband in to show him I was doing fine, all repaired and good as new. However, he doesn’t do well in medical situations and panics at the confusion of so much equipment and beeping machines. Right away he was overwhelmed by the vital sign monitor, telling me in alarm that my blood pressure was “only 80 over 20!” (my pulse and respirations). Then he complained to the nurse about how cold it was in the room and the next thing I know he’s been seated in a comfortable chair with a cozy heated blanket over him. This scene had become All About Him. Why was I not surprised?
My hero took me home and all evening carefully followed me around the house if I was on my feet for any reason. At one point he said he hated to ask, but did I have a urine catheter and was it supposed to be dragging on the floor? I wasn’t aware that my knee’s drainage tubing had slipped down the inside of my leg trouser and the fluid collection bulb was dragging along behind me. I got a big chuckle out of that.
All in all, my experience of being on The Other Side of the Bed was reassuring to me as the patient, because I am no Spring chicken and doubt this will be my only encounter. Staff accountability was evident, competent and caring nurses provided excellent care. And, as an extra bonus, my nurses had a sense of humor.
It was a good day.


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