The Primary Care Confessions of Traumatized Patients

drawing of patient in waiting room Illustration by Hana Cisarova. All rights reserved.

In this month’s Reflections essay, “The Traumatized Patient,” family nurse practitioner Margaret Adams delves with sympathy into what she calls the “primary care confessions” of a challenging subset of patients. Writes Adams:

I’ve come to recognize patients like you—sometimes by your disturbingly long and detailed allergy lists, but more often by the frequency with which you come in for the same constellation of symptoms: fatigue, headaches, dizziness, general malaise. Something happened to you— maybe years ago, maybe recently—and it left its mark on you in irredeemable ways, . . .

While symptoms often do have underlying physiological causes, Adams is likewise attuned to the emotional subtext behind certain seemingly fruitless patient encounters. And with many specific examples, she makes the case here that the life of trauma plays itself out over time in the body and mind. […]

October 18th, 2016|Nursing, nursing stories, patient engagement, Patients|0 Comments

10 Lessons Learned from Clara Barton’s Life and Work

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 of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton at desk in Red Cross headquarters Clara Barton at desk in Red Cross headquarters

This is the final post in the Clara Barton Study Tour series. There have been many lessons learned during the tour. All of the participants have agreed to take what we learned and reflect on how our lives have been changed by this trip and what we are going to do to use what we learned to further the humanitarian work of Clara and the Red Cross.

For reasons mentioned in previous posts, this tour was very emotional, as well as informative. Here are ten lessons we learned from our investigation into Clara Barton’s career and its continuing implications for ongoing efforts in the U.S. and internationally.

  1. Clara Barton was resilient and a renegade, transforming some of her biggest fears and bouts of depression into constructive humanitarian action.
  2. Clara was a superb logistician, gathering goods and transporting them during the Civil War and during disasters in the U.S. and internationally, such as her relief work in the Franco-Prussian War.
  3. Clara was tenacious. If she did not get what she wanted, she kept at it. When trying to meet with President Lincoln about establishing the Missing Soldiers […]

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, nursing history, Public health|1 Comment

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, nursing history|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