A 40-Year Red Cross Volunteer’s Ongoing Quest to Learn More

Sue Hassmiller, on left, as American Red Cross volunteer following 2011 Alabama tornado strikes.

By Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) senior advisor for nursing, and director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, American Red Cross volunteer national ambassador. (Second post of ongoing Clara Barton Study Tour series.)

The ‘Red Cross lady’ on the phone.

Earthquake hits Mexico City! said the news flash on my television screen 40 years ago as I sat in my childhood home. I was a college student, house-sitting for my parents, who were in Mexico City for a long-deserved vacation.

I had no idea what to do. There were no cell phones in those days, no Internet. I hurried to the yellow rotary phone on the wall at the end of the kitchen cabinets and dialed 0 for the operator. I implored her help. She said she couldn’t help me, but would connect me to an organization that could. It was the American Red Cross. […]

September 23rd, 2016|Clara Barton 2016, Public health|0 Comments

Their Story: Each Patient is Someone’s Family Member

By Amy S. Jacobs, BSN, RN, CCRN. The author works as a critical care nurse in Tampa, Florida.

hospital corridorWhy does it usually take a personal experience of having a family member become a patient to make us see our patients in a new light—to see them as someone’s grandmother, father, sister, or spouse and not just a room number?

I’ve been a nurse in critical care for the past 10 years. Three of those years were spent as a travel nurse working short-term contracts in intensive care units across the country. And most of my ICU experience has been in trauma units.

I’ve watched a family come to grips with the fact their son is now brain-dead after a car accident.

I’ve comforted the husband and children of a patient who suddenly developed an infection and died after an apparently successful two-year treatment for cancer.

I’ve witnessed a daughter realize her dad is never going to be the same after a stroke takes away his mobility and speech.

I’ve seen a patient realize that, while he’s lucky to be alive after his motorcycle accident, he’s going to have to learn to navigate a new world without one of his legs.

As nurses we see these situations. We have sympathy for our patients and their families. We try to keep in mind the emotional support our patients need while also taking care of their physical problems. But we don’t know what these patients were like before their accident or illness brought them to our unit. We don’t know what’s important to them or how much this hospitalization has changed them. […]

September 20th, 2016|Nursing, patient experience|2 Comments

Following in the Footsteps of Clara Barton

clara-barton-photographed-by-matthew-bradyAt Antietam: From government clerk to “Angel of the Battlefield”

This Saturday marks the 154th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Antietam—what has been called “the single bloodiest day in American military history.” Confederate army and Union troops faced off in Sharpsburg, Maryland. They fought for almost two days and when the battle ended, there were over 22,000 casualties among both sides. In the middle of it all, Clara Barton, a former teacher and government clerk, drove wagons of supplies around battle lines and tended to wounded soldiers.

Antietam marked the beginning of the legacy of Clara Barton, who on that day earned the title “Angel of the Battlefield.” Today, a monument to her stands at one end of the battlefield.

Bringing the Red Cross to America

arc-logoWhen the war ended, Barton continued to work for the soldiers, founding the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States to identify the millions of missing and dead soldiers. After a visit to Geneva with the International Red Cross in 1880, she returned and established the American Red Cross and became its president until 1904. […]

September 16th, 2016|Clara Barton 2016, Nursing|0 Comments

Adapting to the Emotional Toll of Nursing

take2refectionsillustrationsept2016New nurses may find themselves confronted with great human suffering, enormous technical challenges, and the norms and pressures of the nursing profession and the individual workplace.

Most eventually learn the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the profession. But some may struggle more than others with the emotional intensity of the work. A question that seems to come up a lot when nurses write about their work goes something like this: How do you keep caring as a nurse and not get burned out? How do you develop a resilient professional persona?

This month’s Reflections essay, How I Built a Suit of Armor (and Stayed Human),” by Jonathan Peter Robb, enumerates the challenges faced by a sensitive new nurse and the ways he found to protect himself over time. Here Robb, a district nurse for the National Health Service in London, England, describes one kind of challenge he faced:

The weight of being responsible for a person’s health wasn’t one I had prepared for. Sitting in lectures doesn’t train you for the moment when you’re standing at the end of a bed looking at a patient who is struggling to breathe, semiconscious (but who just last week was sitting up and talking), and thinking: Did I miss something? Is this my fault?

As Robb writes, “caring hurts.” Gradually he found himself building defenses that helped him to continue doing the work. Robb calls the development of these defenses “building a suit of armor,” one he can take off when he goes home to his family—but as he describes the process, it seems clear that he’s never allowed himself to slide into callousness about his patients.  […]

September 14th, 2016|Nursing, nursing perspective, Patients|0 Comments

On the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, Lingering Pain

Skywards by aussiegall / Louise Docker, via Flickr. Skywards by aussiegall / Louise Docker, via Flickr.

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  On my way to work in Manhattan on Friday, I listened to a radio program about the lives of some of those who were involved one way or another in the tragedy of that day.

I heard the shaky voice of a Boston airport ticket agent who had assisted one of the hijackers to get on one of the flights that struck the World Trade Center. He’s met some of the victims’ family members and say that he still feels tremendous guilt and suffers from bouts of depression, especially on anniversary dates. He now works for Homeland Security. […]

September 12th, 2016|nursing perspective, Public health|0 Comments