A Thanksgiving Note on Thankfulness from AJN’s Editor-in-Chief

cranberriesI’m looking forward to Thanksgiving. After an emotional and sometimes divisive election year, I welcome the opportunity to turn my thoughts to something positive for a bit. Whatever our allegiances, we’ve come to a watershed moment in our country and we need to find ways to regroup as a nation, examine how we came to this place, and find ways to move forward in a way that benefits all of us. This may mean something different for each of us.

For now, it’s important to stop to think about the good things that are in our lives and not dwell solely on what distresses us.

Here are some reasons I have to be thankful:

I’m grateful for a year in which I have not lost a close friend or family member.

I’m grateful to be working with people I like who are committed to doing good work.

I’m grateful to all those folks who make life work for all of us—the mail deliverers, the sanitation workers, police and fire departments, the people in the grocery store—all who show up and do their jobs.

I’m grateful to all the nurses who show up every day, including Thanksgiving, and provide the care that every patient depends on.

And yes, I’m grateful to live in a great country that has faced many challenges, reconciled many differences, made so many great contributions to the world, and always eventually found a way to preserve our core freedoms while adapting to the one constant, […]

November 21st, 2016|Nursing|0 Comments

Remembering a Tough NYC Detective on the 41st Great American Smokeout

Photo of AJN editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy AJN editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy

My uncle Joe embodied the persona of the old-time tough NYC Irish detective—he was over six feet tall, had piercing blue eyes and white hair, always wore a tan raincoat, and always had a cigarette in his hand. As a child, my siblings and I were always a little bit afraid of him. That image faded, though, and my last image of him was hunched over, with an oxygen cannula, trying to breathe. All those cigarettes added up, and after a lifetime of smoking, he died from chronic lung disease. This was before the landmark report on smoking and health issued by the U.S. surgeon general in 1964. Tiffany, 35, Louisiana; quit smoking at 34; smoke-free since January 2012. (CDC) Tiffany, 35, Louisiana; quit smoking at 34; smoke-free since January 2012. (CDC)

Today is the 41st annual Great American Smokeout—the day created by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to help encourage smokers to quit smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and is responsible for “more than […]

All Saints’ Day Blessing for Health Care Providers

Autumn Angel / photo by Julianna Paradisi 2016 Autumn Angel / photo by Julianna Paradisi 2016

November is the strangest of months. Its days are shorter, darker. It begins with All Saints’ Day, a day of remembering our dead, of loss and grief, followed late in the month by Thanksgiving, America’s celebration of abundance with gratitude.

This year on All Saints’ Day I attended a discussion of health care professionals. The audience included nurses, physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and hospital administrators. The conversation ultimately centered on the emotional difficulties of patient care.

It wasn’t a debriefing as much as collective acknowledgment that, rather than accepting help, some patients or their family members view us as the enemy, sometimes disrupting our best efforts in the name of misguided advocacy.

Nurses spoke of being labeled as “bad” and played against each other by angry patients or family members. Physicians related episodes of verbal abuse from patients or family members demanding inappropriate procedures, medications, or dosing. Some spoke of needing to take refuge to center their thoughts before ordering the appropriate care.

Like most nurses, I’ve experienced similar treatment at the hands of difficult patients, but physicians don’t generally discuss with us how they are treated. Nurses and physicians suffer silently, instead of lending support to each other.

There were no answers. We were simply a large group of health care staff with varying responsibilities, given an hour to talk […]

November 10th, 2016|Nursing, Patients|1 Comment

Information for Nurses on Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED)

The New York Times recently published an article by Paula Span called “The VSED Exit: A Way to Speed Up Dying, Without Asking Permission.” VSED stands for voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, an end-of-life option that is, on the surface, as simple as its name suggests. Span, who recently attended the first conference devoted to VSED, gives an overview of one mother’s choice to end her life using this method. She also does an excellent job enumerating the ethical, practical, and legal implications of choosing to stop eating and drinking.

screen-shot-2014-11-05-at-4-39-13-pmWhich types of patients is such a choice appropriate for? How much suffering does it involve? Are there legal pitfalls of involvement in the VSED process by nurses and physicians? We can expect that all of these questions and more will be receiving growing attention in the coming years.

Late in the article, Span quotes Judith Schwarz, PhD, RN, now clinical coordinator of End of Life Choices New York. In 2009, AJN published a CE article, “Stopping Eating and Drinking,” by Schwarz. This substantive article centers around a detailed case study. “Gertrude,” we learn, has lived a very full life. All the things that give […]

October 24th, 2016|Ethics, Nursing, patient experience|0 Comments

In Geneva, a Wider Perspective on Clara Barton’s Humanitarian Vision

By Jean Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and founding dean (retired) at the George Washington University School of Nursing, member of the Red Cross National Nursing Committee, and Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse American Red Cross

To Geneva, Oct. 2-3: The Red Cross Mission Is International

Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols Outside ICRC Museum, Geneva Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols outside ICRC Museum, Geneva

The Clara Barton Study Tour was the idea and passion of Sue Hassmiller. As you may know from the most recent post in this series, Sue and her husband Bob were prevented from coming on this trip due to Bob’s tragic bicycle accident. Sue had insisted that Geneva needed to be part of the tour because it’s where she learned of Henri Dunant’s work to create the international Red Cross in Geneva. With Bob’s steady support in the planning phase, Sue had somehow made the trip a reality, with the second leg of the tour taking place here in Geneva.

The study tour in Geneva and the organizations we visited on our first two days there were in complete harmony with Bob’s commitment to the Red Cross. While Bob gave his time and energy to the American Red Cross, his spirit of giving clearly crossed international borders into war-torn cities where […]