Massachusetts State Governor Charlie Baker has signed legislation recognizing the services of the U.S. Cadet Nurses, student nurses who provided care in civilian hospitals while registered nurses were serving overseas during WWII. A plaque commemorating the Cadet Nurses will be placed in Nurses Hall in the Massachusetts State House (named after the statue of an Army war nurse erected in honor of the women of the North after the Civil War).
Created by an act of Congress in 1943, the US Cadet Nurse Corps was formed to address the nurse shortage that had become acute with the onset of WWII. Cutting the training period for nurses from 36 to 30 months, nursing students in the program became senior Cadets during the six months preceding their graduation and served in hospitals with the same duties as graduate nurses. According to the American Hospital Association, cadet student nurses helped to prevent the collapse of civilian nursing care during World War II.
Former public health nurse and erstwhile Cadet Betty Beecher—who recently celebrated her 96th birthday in lockdown—is delighted and proud of the long-awaited notice: “My first thought – just think, years from now, my grandchildren’s children can point to the plaque and say, ‘My great-grandmother was a Cadet Nurse!” As a student at Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Boston, Beecher served in the Corps at public health service marine hospitals on Staten Island and in Boston, caring for wounded Coast Guard and Merchant Marine servicemen with head injuries and loss of limbs.
In a speech marking the legislation, Beecher said, “The students met the most vital needs and prevented the total collapse of the health care system. Without us, it would have resulted in a sick and demoralized nation. And by assuming greater responsibility than ever thought possible, we elevated the status of women and of the nursing education.”
When South Texans have tattoos that are holding them back, they seek out Nurse of the Week Loretta Kent. After nearly 30 years as an ER nurse, the 72-year-old Texan founded a non-profit tattoo removal clinic to help parolees, abused women, former gang members, and others shed visible mementos of a past they want to leave behind. “Help” is the operative word for Kent, who sees the job as a logical second act to her nursing career: “You don’t become a nurse because you don’t want to help others,” she laughs.
Kent stressed, “If you have a tattoo that you love and is not causing you any problems, I think you should keep them. I am not saying anything is wrong with those. But if you have one that is unwanted, know that it will hold you back in life. If it is keeping you from getting a job or causing you a problem in your personal life, covering it up won’t do the trick…” As for the physical pain of removing those past mistakes, she smiles, “Most women handle it very well. Men, on the other hand…”
After a plastic surgeon she had worked with closed his tattoo removal clinic, Kent opened her own Southwest Tattoo Removal Program in 1917. Her primary aim is to eradicate ink that can prevent people from moving on with their lives. In fact, those who are unemployed, on probation, or parole can begin the removal process free of charge. “Then,” Kent says, “I expect them to start looking for a job and, when they can, start bring me $35 per treatment. It is other people who don’t fit that scenario that pay for the full service that helps me provide the service for the people I can help and who can’t afford it. I decide case by case. I have to hear their story. I can usually tell what their situation is based on the tattoos they want to remove and we just start a conversation from there. You ask, ‘Well why charge $35?’ People don’t think as much of things that are given to them for free. If they are able to start paying a few dollars here and there when they can afford to do so, then it will mean more for them. Plus it also cost a lot of money to do this!”
Kent’s approach to tattoo removal is practical, sympathetic, and nonjudgmental. She believes that early bad choices should not automatically define the person you are now. “[Tattoos acquired in] prison and previous life don’t have to introduce you to other people first before you get a chance to be who you are. I’ve also helped abused women who have been stamped or marked during the history of their bad relationships. It is not a good memory… every time you see it it brings up those memories and you shouldn’t have to look at that every time you take a shower.”
Oncology nurse Diane Byrnes Paul founded theCancer Hope Network (CHN) in 1981. CHN is a non-profit organization that provides free one-on-one emotional peer support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones. The Support Volunteers are all cancer survivors who are at least one-year post-treatment or are successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. The volunteers are available to support patients during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. In this interview with DailyNurse, Diane Paul discusses her experiences with patients as an oncology nurse and describes the work of the Cancer Hope Network and its volunteers.
DailyNurse: How does CHN address the needs of cancer patients?
Diane Paul: Our goal is simple: to connect cancer patients, survivors, and loved ones with someone who understands what they’re going through. Our professional Programs Team, made up of healthcare and social work professionals, connect clients and volunteers based on a variety of factors. Ideally, matches are based on shared diagnosis or similar treatment protocols.
Cancer is more than just a physical challenge. Life experiences have a huge impact. Our Programs Team works to meet those needs as well. Psychosocial factors – working through treatment, facing a diagnosis as the parent of young children or the helplessness of a husband who has spent his life as provider now finding himself dependent on his wife– can play a key role in finding the right volunteer/client connection. A case in point, our team matched a client who was a teacher requiring a leg amputation with another teacher who had undergone amputation. While their shared diagnosis and treatment created the initial connection, their ability to discuss how and what to disclose to their students was incredibly helpful.
One key benefit offered by CHN is the fact that our Programs Team follows up with each match, following the client and volunteer for the length of the connection. The team can provide additional resources when helpful and can step in when the needs of the client require additional support – or in the occasional instance when a client and volunteer are not a perfect fit. Using our cadre of volunteers, CHN is able to provide efficacious peer support for patients and caregivers.
DN: What are usually the first questions nurses hear from families and caregivers?
DP: Many cancer patients ask, “how are other patients doing on this treatment?” To tolerate the side effects of treatment and maintain a fighting spirit, patients need to know they are not alone in their feelings or their fight. They need hope that only a cancer survivor can provide.
Connecting with a trained survivor who is on the other side of treatment is a powerful driver of hope. As doctors and nurses, we tell patients about potential side effects and challenges. But when a survivor tells you of their isolation after a stem cell transplant and the things that got them through it, or you can talk with a survivor who’s neurogenic bladder hasn’t stopped them from playing tennis, “you will get through this” takes on new meaning. Anecdotally, we have seen that connecting with a CHN Support Volunteer can improve treatment compliance and help patients continue treatment through challenging side effects.
DN: What can cancer survivors do to support current patients?
DP: There is hope in knowing that no matter how difficult the diagnosis, how terrifying the treatment plan, or frustratingly exhausting the side effects, you are not alone and can survive. Someone who has walked this path before you and are here to walk with you. And that is where CHN’s volunteers often have a dramatic impact.
Hearing your doctor say “you have cancer” is a time-stopping moment. Our cadre of trained survivor volunteers have faced more than 80 types and subtypes of cancer, representing more than 98% of the cancers that will be diagnosed this year. They speak 15 languages and represent a cross section of demographics and life experiences (our youngest volunteer is 24 and our oldest 94.)
Thanks to that diversity, when a patient or their loved one calls CHN, we can connect them with someone who has been in a similar situation. That is what made us revolutionary in 1981 and keeps us relevant in 2020. Clients matched with a Support Volunteer can speak to someone who truly understands what they are going through.
DN: How do you find survivors and caregivers who are willing to mentor those who are currently facing the challenges of cancer treatment?
DP: Many volunteers come to us after having been matched with a Support Volunteer during their own cancer experience. People like Cyndie, who found great comfort with her Support Volunteer and has now served as a CHN volunteer for more than 20 years, helping others find comfort and hope through their treatments. Others are referred through their oncologist’s office or via support groups they have been a part of, while some find us online when researching ways to give back.
We hear time and again that training and serving as a Support Volunteer is an important step for many through survivorship. It is a way for them to “pay forward” their own experience and an opportunity to create something positive out of one of life’s worst experiences.
DN: What are some of the key points that you stress when training volunteer mentors?
DP: Our volunteers complete an extensive application process that includes an interview and then are required to attend either in-person or online training sessions. The training helps volunteers prepare to share their own cancer experience in a way that is helpful and supportive to patients and caregivers. It also covers best practices – setting boundaries, actively listening, guiding conversations and more.
Support Volunteers share their own experiences, but do not make treatment recommendations. The organization is nonpartisan and non-denominational. After training is complete, our volunteers are supported by our professionally led Programs Team. In addition to making matches, the team provides ongoing training and guidance for volunteers.
DN: Was there a specific experience that prompted you to make CHEMOcare/CHN a full-time project?
DP: In the early 80’s when CHN was founded, the physical side effects of treatment were more difficult than today. There were limited medications to combat the gastrointestinal, hematologic, and other toxicities patients suffered through the course of treatment. Today there are a variety of medications and complementary therapies to help people combat the side effects of undergoing cancer treatment. However, one thing has not changed. That is the psychosocial impact of the diagnosis.
I had an uncle at the time undergoing cancer treatment, and something he said resonated with me. He told me that the worst part of the treatment was what it was doing to his mind, not his body. The fear of dying, the feeling of loneliness even when surrounded by loved ones, the multiple changes to one’s life the disease evokes; these are the issues my uncle and patients all talked about. The idea for the program evolved from my uncle and my patients all needing help I could not provide. They needed to see a cancer survivor, someone who knew and understood exactly how they were feeling. I saw that after meeting with a survivor, patients had a renewed sense of hope. Through that vicarious experience they felt that they, too, could survive. That is the essence of CHN and that is why the program is so necessary to include in the armament of resources provided to patients.
About Cancer Hope Network (CHN)
Cancer Hope Network (CHN) provides free one-on-one emotional peer support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones. Our 400+ volunteers are at least one-year post-treatment or successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. They offer support from diagnosis, through treatment, and into recovery.
Most support visits take place by phone, with conversations that last between a half hour and an hour. Support visits between survivor and cancer patient or caregiver occur as often as needed. Some individuals prefer to remain in communication throughout their treatment and into survivorship – connecting before or after a major milestone like surgery or a first radiation treatment – or during regularly-scheduled calls. Email communication is also an option to stay connected. In non-pandemic times, support visits take place in person or onsite at one of our hospital or community partners.
Among this year’s American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Award winners are psychiatric nurses specializing in maternal depression, suicide prevention, veteran care, elderly care, and policy-making.
In advance of the 34th Annual Conference (to be held virtually from September 30-October 4), APNA officials have announced the following 2020 award recipients:
APNA Psychiatric Nurse of the Year: Linda Beeber, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, FAANA Professor and Associate Dean of Nursing at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, Dr. Beeber has made notable advances in the treatment of women suffering from maternal depression. APNA officials lauded Dr. Beeber’s achievements, describing her as “Not only an effective leader, but also an inspirational role model for a new generation of clinicians, scholars, and students.”
APNA Award for Distinguished Service: Barbara Limandri, PhD, PMHCNS-BC Professor Emeritus at Linfield College, Portland, OR, Dr. Limandri is being honored for her career as a scholar, clinician, and teacher who has mentored numerous students on their paths to psychiatric nursing degrees. Among her many achievements, Limandri is known for developing a pioneering suicide prevention training program and course for psychiatric-mental health nurses. The APNA remarks that Dr. Limandri’s “Energy to ‘unselfishly give’ to the psychiatric-mental health nursing profession is remarkable.”
APNA Award for Excellence in Practice—APRN: Michelle Giddings, DNP, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC Giddings, a private practitioner in Las Vegas., NV, is being honored for “Her strong advocacy, knowledge, and leadership” in the successful campaign to persuade state legislators to permit Nevada’s psychiatric APRNs to perform Competency to Stand Trial evaluations.
APNA Award for Excellence in Practice—RN: Heather McCormick, BSN, RN-BC, PHN McCormick, a Clinical Nurse Leader specializing in psychiatric intensive care at the Redwood, CA San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System, is being commended as “A key leader in creating structure for a cultural shift in which the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, cultural and age-specific needs, personal dignity, and autonomy of veterans” is supported during their treatment.
APNA Award for Excellence in Leadership—APRN: LTC JoEllen Schimmels, DNP, RN, PMHNP-BC, FAAN Schimmels, an Assistant Professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, has “written or led the writing and implementation of most policies and standardized processes related to behavioral health nurses…in military medicine.”
APNA Award for Excellence in Leadership—RN: Suzie Marriott, MS, BSN, RN-BC As Associate Director of Nursing at Stony Brook University Hospital in NY, Marriott played a key role in implementing the “Safe Wards” model and suicide prevention programs in the UK and the US. The APNA also praises her performance at SBUH during the height of the New York pandemic: “Suzie not only worked to contain transmission in her hospital units, but also provided leadership and crisis support to staff on the medical floors impacted by the care of critically ill patients.”
APNA Award for Excellence in Education: Rosalind de Lisser, APRN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC Citing her eminent “leadership as a clinician educator,” the APNA is recognizing de Lisser, an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco, for her seminal contributions as a designer of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner programs in California and for her work as an outstanding mentor.
APNA Award for Excellence in Research: Olimpia Paun, PhD, PMHCNS-BC The award for Paun, a professor and Rush Alumni Nurses Association Chair in Health and Aging at Rush University, Chicago, IL, honors her achievement in building “An innovative program that focuses on the mental health needs of the dementia family caregiver population.”
APNA Award for Innovation – Individual: Georgia L Stevens, PhD, APRN, PMHCNS-BC The APNA is hailing Dr. Stevens, Director of the DC-based Partners in Aging & Long-term Caregiving, for her outstanding achievement in her region: “Dr. Stevens’ model for discharge planning and continued care coordination for this older adult population across the state of Maryland has resulted in only a 5% re-hospitalization rate over more than 4 decades.”
APNA Award for Innovation – Chapter: APNA Arizona Chapter The Arizona Chapter is receiving an award nod for their creation of an online book club, The APNA commends their project as “An excellent way to involve and connect chapter members who live many miles apart—and now with safe distancing this online activity is ideal!”
Jimmy Kimmel had a very special surprise for Metallica fan Tracy Bednar, a Long Island pediatric nurse who has been treating children afflicted by COVID-19. Kimmel, who interviewed Bednar in one of his Healthcare Heroes segments, discussed the stressful nature of her job and asked what she does to relax. Bednar mentioned golf and yoga, but admitted that after her shift ends, “the best thing I do [to unwind] is… I play my radio really, really loud” during the 45-minute commute back home from the hospital. What does she like to listen to? Her favorite band is Metallica, and the song she loves most is “Enter Sandman.”
Her Metallica fandom, Kimmel responded, was known to him, because “we’ve been spying on you.” As it transpired, Kimmel’s “spies” are well-connected, and the late-night host managed to treat Bednar to a virtual meet’n’greet with Lars Ulrich. Ulrich remarked, “When I heard the words ‘golf’ and ‘yoga,’ obviously the third word in that [series]—the third basic food group would be Metallica…. And as a father of three, I can’t thank you enough for what you do…”