We hope you had a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and maybe even a three-day weekend! The U.S. celebrates it as a federal holiday annually on the third Monday of January, but not every nurse or health care employee in a 24/7 workplace gets that time off.
There were many celebrations around the country to commemorate the life and achievements of this great American leader. Some events, sadly, reminded the nation that we’re still struggling to achieve Dr. King’s dream of racial harmony.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to once again listen and reflect on, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. His legendary civil rights-era address to the nation is ranked by scholars as one of the greatest American speeches in modern U.S. history. Most of us can easily recognize parts of it, such as this famous line:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
You can hear audio and read a transcript of the entire “Dream” speech that Dr. King delivered in 1963 at the March on Washington, here.
As a nurse, you no doubt hold tight to similar dreams of equality, justice, and compassion for the patients and communities you serve. You might also feel called to lead the charge on social justice issues that impact every level of society. Nurses are caretakers, but they’re often also change-makers at heart, educating and empowering others by sharing powerful, informative, and inspiring messages of healing and hope.
You might have sparked change by taking part in the wave of social and political activity we saw in 2018. As you already know, a record 113 million people are estimated to have voted in the November midterm elections. That’s an incredible number—the highest since 1966, when Dr. King was expanding the campaign for civil rights from the South to the northern cities, like Chicago.
Additionally, a record 117 women won political office in what has been called the “Year of the Woman” and now about one in five members of Congress are women. This 116th Congress is also the most racially diverse, with 42 women of color, including Native American and Muslim congresswomen. These are great advances, but not nearly enough in a nation where women make up over 50% of the population.
Nurses have always advocated on behalf of patients, their families, the community, and the entire nation. Sometimes that advocacy is on the front lines of politics, as we recently reported in a magazine feature, Nurse Legal Rights in the Workplace.
One such nurse, Martese Chism, RN, a Chicago-area nurse had a role model in her great-grandmother, Birdia Keglar, a civil rights activist that marched in Selma with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and lost her life because of it. Chism felt called to advocacy as a nurse, and with the support of her union, has spoken out about the closure of public hospitals and other health care facilities in minority communities.
There are so many ways to affect social justice as a nurse, even if it’s in a small, quiet, and non-political way.
What’s your dream for patients and nurses in 2019? We’d love to hear about it.
As you probably already know, a cluttered home can lead to alarming levels of anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Professional organizers encourage us to clean off a cluttered desk because it decreases productivity. And decluttering the physical environment is a crucial practice for running a well-kept and smoothly operating life.
But, your closet is not the only thing you need to declutter!
You need a way to untangle your messy mind, because nursing is a stressful occupation and nurse burnout is a real thing. A simple “brain dump” is the best decluttering tool for that job. What’s a brain dump? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act or an instance of comprehensively and uncritically expressing and recording one’s thoughts and ideas (as on a particular topic).”
Here’s why you need to do a brain dump at the start of the new year.
When your thoughts, priorities, and plans are disorganized, it can send you into a state of overwhelm that’s hard to climb out of. New Year’s is the perfect time to declutter your mind and gain some fresh ideas to set new goals and plan new projects in 2019. Like most nurses, you probably have loads to do and as weeks and months pass, your to-do list continues to grow. Your brain is like a computer, and can only store or process so much information before it slows to a crawl or freezes altogether. You may have experienced a human version of the dreaded computer spinning wheel or slow loading progress bar. It may have been a case of mental brain fog (confusion), or total brain freeze (panic!), or a brain on an endless loop of obsessive thought. But there is a way to speed up your own “operating system” when you’re faced with a mile long list of priorities and tasks.
Here’s how to do a brain dump, quickly and easily.
The technique is as simple as taking a notebook and a pen and writing down everything that’s clogging up your mental space. Allow all your thoughts, feelings, tasks, and notions to spill out onto the page, where you can see them. Write quickly and freely. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. If you like, you can set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and write as fast as you can to beat the alarm. You might wind up with a page or two, or if you have a lot on your mind, ten pages worth of material.
Here’s what to write about when you do a brain dump.
You can choose a general writing prompt, like “The most important things that happened to me in 2018.” Or you can make a long list of routine to-do’s that are weighing you down. Or vent your feelings of frustration or rage in scrawled red ink. Feel free to explore at length in a rambling, stream of consciousness style, how you feel about your life in a private shorthand that only you can read. The trick is to treat the process like psychotherapy and spill out your thoughts and feelings without censoring them. Let your subconscious mind have its say and give your conscious mind (the nice, orderly, good citizen) a well-earned break.
Phew! You should feel much better now that you’ve untangled your mind and cleared some space for fresh inspiration.
Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year for all you superhero nurses out there!
On January 1, 2019, Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, became president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the first man ever to hold the position. As a minority nurse trailblazer with more than 30 years of clinical and leadership experience, he was well equipped to break one of the remaining glass ceilings in nursing.
Grant, who holds a PhD in nursing, headed North Carolina’s nationally renowned Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he started as a staff nurse in 1982. He has deep roots in the area, having earned his bachelor’s from North Carolina Central University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC-Greensboro.
An internationally recognized expert on burn care and fire safety, Grant was presented with a Nurse of the Year Award in 2002 by former President George W. Bush for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Grant won the election by an overwhelming majority of votes from his colleagues after having served as vice president of the ANA and being an active member for decades. The organization has served nurses for 122 years, and now represents more than four million registered nurses nationwide.
Grant intends for his appointment to help unravel stereotypes about men in nursing. He plans to use his term to address some of the most pressing issues in the field, such as a looming nursing shortage that more inclusionary educational recruiting practices could alleviate.
We interviewed Dr. Ernest Grant to learn more about his historic election as ANA president and what the future holds for the association under his leadership.
ANA President Ernest Grant
Photo credit: Max Englund/UNC Health Care
What are your top priorities as far as encouraging more diversity in nursing?
Increasing gender and ethnic diversity in nursing is one of my top priorities. A nursing shortage is expected as the general population is aging, and experienced baby boomer nurses are retiring. (Projections are that 500,000 seasoned RN’s will retire by 2022, and 1.1 million new nurses will be required to replace them.) There are ways we can avoid this [predicated shortage], which include recruiting more men into nursing and increasing diversity across the profession.
How will you encourage greater diversity in the nursing profession?
There should be more people of different backgrounds entering the profession so that it reflects society. One way to achieve this is through better access to scholarships and other educational and community resources. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds must know what’s available—that there are federal loans geared to nurses, for instance.
A nursing assistant may not be aware that taking courses at a community college is possible or that an employer may offer tuition assistance. But the stumbling block is not always money; it could be having young children or home responsibilities. Online training or resources in the community that pay for child care would be the solution then.
What would encourage more men to pursue the nursing profession?
Men are joining the profession. Seeing someone who resembles them in the health care system has helped empower them to become nurses. Promoting images of men in nursing needs to begin early, starting at the grade school level and letting boys see men who are nurses. “Here’s somebody who I can identify with,” they will think. Then at the high school level, it gets reemphasized by a guidance counselor or health occupation program. In those programs, they can get certified as a nursing associate, and obtain more exposure to nursing.
Currently, 9 to 13 percent of nurses are men, but when I started it was much less. (Probably it was only 3 to 4 percent.) Several things are contributing to the increased interest, including increased representation in advertising and the media. Another is men who served as medics in the military but then unfortunately don’t [immediately] qualify for any nursing jobs. There are some accelerated nursing courses nationwide for former medics. In my state, they can choose nursing school, PA school, or medical school—all are good options for our military folks.
How did you get interested in nursing and decide to make it your career?
I grew up in a very poor community, as the youngest of seven, and my father died young. It took a village. Everyone knew everybody and people made sure you studied and didn’t misbehave. They said they knew I was going to successful.
When I got into nursing—I started as an LPN—I intended to go on to medical school. I got exposed to men in nursing and was fortunate enough to have multiple mentors to go to for advice. These are still my mentors. Thanks to Dr. Gene Tranbarger and others, who paved the pathway for me. When I started my studies in the mid-70’s and early 80’s, there were many stereotypes about men in nursing, but you don’t hear them as much anymore.
People know: Men are just as capable of providing care as women. You can be masculine and still care. I’m 6’6” and very large, so a lot of people may think “this guy is going to hurt me” but I’m really a gentle giant. They would soon realize that and ask for me as their nurse.
How has being a racial minority impacted your career as a nurse?
It has impacted my career, especially in the early years. (I grew up during time when segregation was ending.) Once in a while, you may meet someone who doesn’t want you to care for them because of your sex or color or both. Now it doesn’t happen as often. You have to prove yourself to be just as competent of a nurse as your white counterpart.
Have there been other minority nurse presidents in ANA’s history?
Yes, ANA has had two African American presidents, Barbara Nichols (served 1978-1982) and Beverly Malone (served 1996-2000).
I would like to be judged by my capabilities, not by my race or gender. My leadership skills are what got me here. I’ve worked very hard to win the respect of my colleagues. Men ran before for ANA president but faced a lot of obstacles. I’m looking forward to this challenge and endeavor.
What do you want MinorityNurse.com readers to know?
Consider joining ANA and your state nurses association if you’re not already a member. As you begin your career, I want to encourage you to be more politically savvy at the legislative level. You need to be more aware of how decisions in the house or senate may hurt your ability to practice to your full license and educational level. Or it may limit your ability to treat patients—if they can’t get to us to access care [due to political efforts to replace or end the ACA]. If we’re not smart enough to advocate for our patients, then we’re doing a disservice to them.
Get out there and attend town hall meetings that your representatives are having, and volunteer to serve on their committees as a health care expert. Who else out there is more of a health care expert than a nurse? I would challenge all nurses to be more politically astute about how decisions at the state and national level affect the nursing profession.
The annual Gallup Honesty and Ethics Poll was just released and the results show the most trusted profession, ranked #1 for an astounding 17th consecutive year!, is—drum roll, please—nursing.
When a sampling of random Americans were phoned and asked to “please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields,” more than 84% rated nurses as “high” or “very high.” (Other ratings they could have chosen were “average,” “low,” or “very low.”)
Gallup has sampled the public’s views since 1976, and while the professions change from year to year, nurses have outpaced all others since 1999 when the role was first included. That is, nearly every year, because there was one time when nurses didn’t top the list. That happened in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when firefighters were included for the first and only time and scored highest. Gallup conducts the telephone survey in late November and releases the results in December.
Health care professions usually dominate the top of the list, and this year is no different. The most trusted groups after nurses were medical doctors, scoring 67%, and pharmacists, coming in right behind at 66%. The lowest rankings for honesty and trustworthiness go to telemarketers and sadly, members of Congress, tied for last place at 8%.
What is it that makes nurses so esteemed for their ethics and honesty? There are many theories, ranging from degree of intimacy (we stand naked—both literally and metaphorically—before nurses) and the fact that nursing is a female dominated profession. The Gallup data suggest that women, on the whole and on average, are seen as more trustworthy than men.
(Estimates are that 90% of nurses are female, according to the American Nurses Association, but that percentage is dropping as more men enter the field.)
Additionally, nurses have a code of ethics to uphold, and they study that topic seriously in nursing school to prepare for difficult ethical dilemmas with life and death consequences. Their licensure also compels them to do what’s right for the patient, not just what’s expedient or in their own (or their employer’s) best interest.
In the end, though, trust is based on personal experience. With nurses making up the largest portion of the health care workforce, almost everyone has had a relationship with a nurse, either as a patient, family member, or friend. They’ve most likely seen that nurses are always there, and always for you, as caregivers and patient advocates.
“Every day and across every health care setting, we are on the frontlines providing care to millions of people,” says ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “Nurses’ contributions to health care delivery, public health challenges, natural disaster relief efforts, research, education, and much more, are unmatched and invaluable.”
Unmatched they are! We would like to congratulation to all the extraordinary nurses for ranking at the highest level for your ethical standards. We know that nurses have many super powers—trustworthiness is maybe the greatest one.
The holiday gift buying season is upon us! You’re probably going down your shopping list and trying to find just the right gift for friends and family. You may even have nurse friends and colleagues that you want to gift with fun nurse-themed items you hope they’ll love.
But what about you? Maybe you, like many nurses, have a tendency to forget to take care of yourself. (It’s hard for many caregivers to remember that they need to take care of #1!)
When you’re in the thick of a crazy work shifts and off-duty holiday goings on, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You need a little break, though you may not know the exact remedy that your mind and body needs in hectic moments.
So, why not find some go-to self-care items for whenever you need a pick me up in 2019? Have fun doing your self-gifting by shopping online (Amazon is the biggest bazaar!) or at local independent shops and craft fairs. You can combine convenience and also support makers on Etsy. It’s like a massive online craft pop-up with thousands of amazing shops from around the world. Not only can you find one of a kind pieces, but you’re also supporting small creative enterprises.
Here are some favorite gift ideas on many nurse wish lists this season.
Socks, footies, and shoe inserts—not glamorous but oh so comfy.
If you’re on your feet all day long, a great gift idea may be a thick pair of warm footie socks for the winter season, or a pair of compression socks (there are some stylish choices out there!), or a foot massager and DIY pedicure kit. Shoes need some cush? Try a comfort insert from a drugstore or specialty shoe store that stocks the Birkenstock brand.
Warm, snuggly blanket for hygge comfort, or a weighted blanket for stress-relief.
Enjoy your days off under a perfectly knitted wool throw, chunky or light as a cloud—the type of knit that invites you to snuggle in with a good book. Or try one of the new weighted blankets that are gaining popularity for their health benefits. They help many people reduce workplace stress and improve sleep, especially nurses on shift work suffering from off-kilter circadian rhythms.
Healthy snacks for the active nurse, or artisan food and drink for foodies.
Being a nurse means being on the go, so nurses may not have extra time to pack a lunch or snack to bring to work. That often means relying on a vending machine or cafeteria to fuel up for long shifts. Disaster! A gourmet gift basket of healthy treats like nuts and dried fruit may help you hold out until you can enjoy a nutritious meal. On your days off, sip on a favorite at-home drink, such as a matcha green tea latte. And savor it in an encouraging mug, with a witty or wise nurse-life quote and graphic.
Manicure, pedicure, massage, or other spa treatment!
Hand lotion gift sets make great gifts to help sooth away skin that gets dry from a grueling hand-hygiene regimen. (Harsh hand cleansers and sanitizers are murder on delicate, weather-beaten skin!) Bubble bath products and spa baskets filled with bath products in a keepsake basket will give you a night of much deserved pampering.
Or better yet, treat yourself to a mani/pedi or an all out body care pampering session at a spa. Men make up a fast growing percentage of spa goers, so don’t let gender stereotypes stop you from getting or giving a gift certificate for spa services.
A journal, some gel pens, and washi tape.
If you equate journal with diary, and you haven’t kept one since middle school, you may be surprised at the popularity of new journaling methods. Bullet journals are one way to goal-set, and keep yourself motivated and organized. Many nurses also love to express themselves in a “bujo” through doodles, watercolor, fancy lettering, or stickers and washi tape.
You can treat journaling as a time to explore your inner life, a form of meditation, if you like. In that case, the Nurse’s Journal from the Josie King Foundation is wonderful. Create an introspective ambience by lighting a couple of candles. Artisan candles—with sparkles, soy waxes, exotic oils, or delicate flower petals— add some magic.
I hope that seeing some of these ideas will inspire you to treat yourself to some self-care. We all need reminders to take time to relax and do what makes us happy!