ANA Denounces “Race and Sex Stereotyping and Scapegoating” Exec Order

ANA Denounces “Race and Sex Stereotyping and Scapegoating” Exec Order

Claiming that it will “effectively reverse decades of progress in combating racial inequality,” the American Nursing Association (ANA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have called upon the White House to rescind Executive Order 13950, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.”

Scheduled to take full effect in November, the September 22 EO directs that federal funds be denied to federal agencies, companies with federal contracts, and recipients of federal grants that sponsor any program that “promotes race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating.” Any company found to be defying the order is threatened with cancellation of all federal contracts or funding. Non-exempt contractors are expected to start complying by November 21, but federal agencies were immediately affected by the order. The Justice Department has already suspended its diversity and inclusion training, and the prohibition has provoked a tumult at colleges, hospitals, government offices, non-profit organizations, and other institutions dependent on federal monies.

Citing “the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans,” the EO is a widespread condemnation of the standards underlying most mainstream diversity initiatives. The order describes the concepts espoused in recent federal training programs as a “malign ideology” and claims that “research… suggests that blame-focused diversity training reinforces biases and decreases opportunities for minorities.”

The October 14 ANA/AMA/AHA letter states that “as providers of care to diverse communities throughout the country, we urge the Administration to immediately rescind EO 13950 and allow for our continued work on inclusion and equity.” The three signatories warn that Executive Order 13950 will “stifle attempts at open, honest discussion of these issues [e.g., sexism, systemic racism] in the public and private sectors” and argue that “prohibiting federal agencies from conducting and funding trainings that promote racial reconciliation is counterproductive to addressing racism.” Noting the disproportionate impact of the pandemic upon Black and Brown Americans, the letter argues that “vital research conducted at the National Institutes of Health and academic centers to comprehend the effects of structural racism and implicit bias on health care and health outcomes is needed right now more than ever before.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges also spoke out against the order, and in a September 24 letter, stated that “The AAMC, and the academic medical institutions that comprise our membership, are committed to being diverse, inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organizations. We believe this training is needed now more than ever. The AAMC intends to continue our trajectory of pursuing and even increasing such training. We urge our member institutions and other affected organizations to do so as well.”

While the academic world is largely seeking to challenge the order, two colleges, the University of Iowa and John A. Logan College, have already announced that they are shuttering their diversity programs, at least on a temporary basis.

“Action is the only solution.” Nurse of the Week Marie Manthey Talks About Systemic Racism, White Allyship

“Action is the only solution.” Nurse of the Week Marie Manthey Talks About Systemic Racism, White Allyship

Nurse of the Week Marie Manthey is a very busy 85-year-old nurse, entrepreneur, advocate, and activist in the anti-racism movement. After the American Academy of Nursing presented her with a Living Legends award in 2015 for her pioneering work in developing the Primary Nursing model, she did not retire to rest on her laurels. Manthey continues to host her Nursing Salons (regular gatherings in which nurses meet to share conversations and support), works with the company she founded and is still an active advocate for nurses suffering from substance use disorder.

Marie Manthey, 85-year-old AAN Living Legend nurse and anti-racism activist.
Marie Manthey, at a U Minnesota celebration of the Marie Manthey Professorship.

Manthey is also a leader among nurses in the anti-racism movement. After the summer wave of anti-racism protests, she met with DailyNurse to talk about what it means to take action against racism, her journey as a White ally, and her latest Creative Nursing article, which takes a look at trailblazing Black nurse Frances McHie (pronounced “mic-hye”) and the struggle to overcome racism at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.

DailyNurse: How did you first hear about Frances McHie?

Marie Manthey: “The school of nursing at University of Minnesota has long had a group of very strong volunteers who have a very extensive collection and data [on the history of the nursing school]. So this group of alumni volunteers—who care passionately and energetically about the history of the school of nursing—are responsible for managing historical documents.

And in that documentation area, we found that our first African-American student, Frances McHie, had only been admitted by demand of the legislature. (We recently celebrated the centennial of her admission, which was attended by some of her descendants).”

DN: How did you become involved in the anti-racism movement?

MM: “My awareness began when, 4 or 5 years ago, the Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Connie Delaney—who is a phenomenally transformative leader—brought in a speaker to talk about white privilege. That was the first time I had heard that term. She also brought in a university-wide task force on diversity and equity, and I attended some of their open discussions about what is happening to African-American students in our school today.

The next step for me, was I became friends with an African-American person. Her name is Tammy, and she’s a nurse in an administrative position at a local hospital. Well, we met at a statewide leadership meeting, where we made a commitment to develop our relationship and became friends. Tammy started to come to the nursing “salons” I had formed earlier—where we would have dinner, and talk, where the question would be asked, “what’s on your mind about nursing?” and at the end of the evening we would go around and respond to the question “what’s on your mind about nursing now?” After Tammy joined us, we often found ourselves discussing issues affecting nurses of color, and Tammy went on to open a Black nursing salon. We held the first one at my house, and mine was the only white face there. That was part of my leap to a different level of understanding because I listened to what these nurses were talking about. And as I’m listening to them, I’m hearing about what systemic racism really looks like! I had not understood it before; I thought it was about the way we individually deal with racism.

[At the Black Nurses’ Salon] I began to understand what the system has done. It was a big breakthrough. I could finally see where I was in the system as a nursing leader. I could see where some of the decisions I made that involved a person of color versus a White person going for a promotion or better hours, and my decision would sometimes be ‘well, it would work out better if we give this to a White person; she’ll get along better.’ And I didn’t see that until I heard these nurses talk about what it’s like to apply for better hours or something, and despite equal education, equal experience, the white nurse will get it. Also, until now, I didn’t really understand White privilege. Now—at the age of 85—I finally get how being born white has affected everything from my thought processes to my life experiences. It’s very clear to me that action is the only solution.

Tammy and I are going to start another Salon on diversity in nursing with an equal number of nurses of color and nurses who are white. To get us talking to each other.”

DN: It’s complicated. On one hand, it’s not the job of Black people to tell Whites, “this is what you need to do to stop being racist,” but at the same time, we can only learn by communicating in an open, willing dialogue.

MM: “I had to learn how to listen without judgment. At the Black Nurses Salon, I went in ready to just accept what everyone was saying without deciding whether I agreed with everything that was being said.”

DN: One of the biggest obstacles we face is that we are living in an age of “I’m not a racist” racism.

MM: “That’s very true. I discuss that in some detail in a piece I wrote on my journey toward becoming an anti-racist. I went from proudly saying, “I’m not racist!” to actually taking on responsibility for taking steps to dismantle systemic racism and acknowledging that my people with my skin color have been building this system for 400 years At the salons, I began to accept responsibility for what happened. I didn’t ask for it or personally cause it to happen, but it was part of my culture. People of color certainly didn’t ask for it either…..and both of us have experienced the impact of systemic racism.

After taking responsibility, I began to understand that the only solution—I’m a big follower of Nelson Mandela and the idea of reconciliation; it’s a big part of my value system—is reparations. I don’t necessarily mean financial, but the way I am in my world, how I present myself, how accept what other people are saying to me.”

DN: That brings us to the Frances McHie nursing school scholarship, which is a form of reparation, right?

Frances McHie Rains, first Black nurse to graduate from University of  Minnesota, was a lifelong anti-racism activist.
Frances McHie Rains (1911-2006)

MM: “Yes. When the idea of a scholarship in Frances McHie’s name came up, we found a relative of hers who was a nephew and began putting some flesh on the idea. And with his help, we established the Frances McHie Scholarship for nurses of color [at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing]. That was an action step following a public apology to the McHie family. Dean Connie Delaney made a public statement reflecting that the Frances McHie scholarship was a step in reparations and in accepting the school’s responsibility for racism.”

DN: What other actions are nursing schools taking to reduce the effects of systemic racism?

MM: “Some are changing admissions criteria from a hard GPA requirement, and are taking a person’s story into account as well. I think that’s a good idea. There’s no doubt that people of color don’t have equal opportunities. I have a book that was published in 1933, [Carter G. Woodson’s] The Mis-Education of the Negro. It tells the story of how Jim Crow schools started. It says they were teaching them at a lower level, and that’s been carried on through the years.”

DN: What sorts of things can individuals do to fight racism, on an immediate level?

MM: “We can look at big-picture issues—who we elect as our representatives, our senators, etcetera, but we also have to work on a personal level. We need to make deliberate, conscious, intentional choices about the way we live our lives. What is my circle of responsibility and control, and how do I want to be in those areas? I have to look at the way I interact with my children, my friends, my family, my associates, and ask “what are the things that I can influence?” For me writing—for instance, the article [on Frances McHie] and my personal story about my journey—can help me to influence others to work toward change. I just feel that that is what I need to be doing at this point in my life. This is a personal choice we make: are we going to continue to be the way we’ve been, or are we prepared to step into an area where we can’t predict what people’s reactions will be?”

DN: Are more people sincerely examining their own views and trying to move forward?

MM: “I feel very hopeful because so many people are having these conversations. I have these conversations with a lot of my friends. A lot of [other White people] are talking to me about racism. And my company is creating a task force; we are engaged in looking at everything we do.

I’m also the chairman of the board of Directors of the Nurses Peer Review Network, which helps nurses who have been struggling with addiction and are trying to regain their licenses. I’ve been asking people, “can you help me find African-Americans or other people of color for our board?” We recently added our first Black board member, and we have two more we are considering for our [organization. And I think that I’m not the only person who is doing this. Best Buy is looking for enough people of color and women to make up 30% of their new hires. A number of companies are taking action, and I think that’s a hopeful sign.”

Marie Manthey is the author of the award-winning book, The Practice of Primary Nursing, and is a co-founder of the journal Creative Nursing. Manthey’s recent article on Frances McHie—the nurse, activist, and entrepreneur who broke the color barrier at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing—is available here.​​

Don’t “Other” Us: Rutgers Public Health Dean Perry Halkitis on LGBTQ Healthcare

Don’t “Other” Us: Rutgers Public Health Dean Perry Halkitis on LGBTQ Healthcare

Clinicians still receive little training or preparation in providing care for LGBTQ patients. According to an Association of American Medical Colleges report, while 76% of the schools responding said they covered some LGBTQ themes, the LGBTQ-related curriculum at half of those schools consisted of three or fewer lectures, discussions, or other learning activities. As a result, LGBTQ people often have a fraught relationship with the healthcare system; their experiences can be disturbing, inadequate, and even alienating. Those in larger urban areas may seek out clinics specializing in LGBTQ healthcare, but many feel betrayed and rejected by care providers and avoid seeking treatment even for serious conditions.

What is missing from our healthcare system’s approach to LGBTQ patients? How can we equip nurses and doctors with a better understanding of LGBTQ patients and their health needs? To obtain an expert perspective on these issues, DailyNurse interviewed Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, Director oF The Center For Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies, and editor of the journal Annals of LGBT Public and Population Health.

Perry N. Halkitis discusses LGBTQ healthcare.
Perry Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health

DailyNurse: Are there some essential steps we can take toward improving the relationship between LGBTQ people and the US healthcare system?

Perry N. Halkitis: Healthcare systems need to create welcoming environments for LGBTQ people, and doctors and nurses need to be trained to fully address LGBTQ needs. Also, systems need to include sexual orientation and gender identity data on intake forms, to help create a sense of normalcy. However to date, this is not the norm. Also, many healthcare providers are not aware of the specific issues that gay men face, that lesbians face, that bisexual people face, that trans people face, and much more training is needed in that regard. To this point the PGBTQ population is not monolithic and each of the groups that constitute the population face their own nuanced health challenges. For example, when I heard HIV affects the LGBTQ population I am quick to reply, HIV burdens gay and bisexual men, especially Black and brown gay and bisexual men.

DN: What sorts of knock-on effects are LGBTQ people experiencing during the pandemic?

PNH: It would not be surprising if we find that LGBTQ people experience COVID at higher rates than other parts of the population. We know that marginalized communities tend to exhibit higher risk-taking behavior, and as a result are more vulnerable to certain diseases, so COVID-19 should be no different. However, some behavioral factors are also at play here that I believe are driven by social conditions. Most recently, in some resorts where LGBTQ people socialize, there have been parties without masks and without social distancing that may have spread the disease within the population.

And so, we find ourselves in a situation where LGBTQ people are stressed because of their sexual orientation and gender identities and are sometimes engaging in risk behaviors that may not be in their own best interest. They’re not engaging in those behaviors because they have nothing better to do; but society creates conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to engaging in risk.

DN: What basic changes need to be made to medical and nursing school curricula to give students a better grounding in LGBTQ care?

PNH: It is not enough for schools to offer a one-time training for a few hours on LGBTQ health issues.  I think that every health condition taught in medical and nursing schools must address those issues as it relates to all aspects for all populations. So, we talk about cancer as it appears in women, gay men, and trans people; we talk about aging as it appears in women and gay men; and we should look at minorities and gay people. What I’m trying to say is that all training should embed all populations in the curriculum around every topic or nursing and medical school much like US history classes should address every events in relation to all segments of the population rather than celebrating isolated and separated history months. Separate is not equal. Inclusion means presence in all aspects and components of s curriculum.  

DN: Can you suggest a few “dos and don’ts” that could help nurses develop a trusting, positive relationship with their LGBTQ patients? Are there particular questions they should ask? Questions to avoid?

PNH: Speak to us openly and non-judgmentally about our identities, our lives, our sexual behaviors, our health challenges. Don’t “other” us;  I think that LGBTQ people tend to feel “othered” by most healthcare providers.  Create an environment for your patients that is totally inclusive. There are signals you can give: there are posters you can put up and magazines you can put out that signal to people that this is an LGBTQ-friendly environment. Also recognize that we possess multiple intersectional identities; we are not defined solely by our sexual and gender identities but also our race, culture, geography, and so forth. We are complex people with multiple identities, just like everyone else.  In short, treat us like you would want to be treated: with dignity and respect.

To access current research on LGBTQ public healthcare issues, visit the first issue of Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health (all journal articles are free through 2022).

The Clinical Nurse Specialist Who Helped Transform AIDS Care

The Clinical Nurse Specialist Who Helped Transform AIDS Care

In an interview with Florida International University’s FIU Magazine, alumnus Cliff Morrison recounted the battle to treat AIDS patients with care and humanity in a time filled with widespread fear and misconceptions about the illness.

As described in the Johnson & Johnson nursing newsletter, “the stigma around the disease wasn’t limited to the general public, it also permeated healthcare systems around the world. Many healthcare workers were afraid to touch patients diagnosed with AIDS, sometimes refusing to provide treatment. Even as more information about the virus was discovered, patients were often isolated at their last stages of life, receiving reluctant treatment by healthcare professionals who hid behind layers of protective clinical uniforms.” As a clinical nurse specialist at San Francisco General Hospital, Morrison noticed—and was disturbed by—numerous instances of mistreatment owing to ignorance about how AIDS was spread. “I began to think, there are a number of people here who agree with me—nurses that I consider my allies, doctors of infectious diseases that I had worked with. So [I thought], maybe we should have an AIDS unit,” but instead of isolating patients, Morrison’s intention was to “develop the expertise and develop a standard of care.”

So, armed with evidence-based data from University of California-San Francisco and medical experts at San Francisco General Hospital, in 1983 Morrison founded San Francisco General’s Ward 5B for the care of AIDS patients. In Ward 5B, according to FIU Magazine, “Nurses embraced their patients, held their hands and even ate lunch with them when their friends and family had abandoned them.” As Johnson & Johnson (which sponsored a documentary on Ward 5B) puts it, “Nurses showed that you didn’t have to hide behind heavy clinical gear while treating AIDS patients or burn their beds when they passed away… By pushing back against stigma, the Ward 5B nurses showed the world the power of compassionate care and exemplified the profound impact nurses have on transforming human health.”

Morrison continued his crusade for the humane treatment of AIDS patients and went on to administer the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation AIDS health services program in 12 states. He attributes his advocacy to “a combination of things: the family values that I was taught growing up, the fact that I grew up with a religious foundation. I went into nursing, and all of those things complemented each other greatly. My work matched where I was as a person, and I stayed true to myself.”

The documentary on the revolutionary ward at San Francisco General Hospital, Ward 5B, can be viewed on a variety of video streaming sites.

DN Interviews Oncology Nurse Diane Paul, Founder of the Cancer Hope Network

DN Interviews Oncology Nurse Diane Paul, Founder of the Cancer Hope Network

Oncology nurse Diane Byrnes Paul founded the Cancer 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.

CHN welcomes volunteer applications from any survivor or caregiver more than one-year post-treatment. Learn more at https://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/how-to-help/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

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.

Patients and caregivers can request a confidential match by calling 877.467.3638 (877-HOPENET) or visiting cancerhopenetwork.org. They may also be referred by nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals   An online form can be completed at https://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/. Oncology professionals may refer clients or request materials at https://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/get-support/support/referral.html  

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

This series takes a look at the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on nurse, writer, public speaker, and acting director of Show Me Your Stethoscope, Dr. Jalil Johnson.

Jalil Johnson found his career in nursing at what might have been the lowest point of a hard life. After graduating from high school, the impoverished Tennessean was struggling. Living from paycheck to paycheck, he ultimately found himself working as a $7.00-an-hour dishwasher. Then came the night—at a time when he had no more than $10 to his name—that Johnson found himself laid off.

During the relentless job hunt that followed, a newspaper ad for free Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes caught his eye. Johnson was intrigued, but in his impoverished state, the cost of the course textbooks was beyond his means. As he sat in front of the school planning his next move, he happened to encounter the Dean of the program. The Dean was touched by Johnson’s situation and his astounding resolve. With his encouragement and assistance, Johnson applied for financial aid, enrolled in the CNA classes, and embarked upon a career in nursing.

The CNA training, and later the job itself, changed his life. After getting his CNA, Johnson decided to continue his nursing education. What inspired this decision? Johnson says, “there were many pivotal moments that encouraged me to pursue higher education. An important moment was the sense of absolute fulfillment I felt after working with my first patient as a CNA. Until that point in my life, I’d never actually helped a person with their care, health, or with the simple aim to make their life a little better. When my patient sincerely said ‘thank you so much’ to me that day, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to do this work. I wanted to expand my ability to have positive impact on people.”

Johnson spent the next two decades climbing the professional ladder: he became an LPN, an RN, was awarded a BSN, went on to take his master’s degree and training as a Nurse Practitioner, and later received his PhD as a nurse scientist. “Each time I completed another degree or level of licensure, my scope of practice and experience changed. The impact I had on patients wasn’t better with more education, but it was different. I enjoyed being challenged in this way. I continued this way of thinking through my studies, including my journey to become a nurse practitioner and nurse scientist (PhD).” Along the way, he worked in positions ranging from traveling nurse, to ICUs and EDs, to substance use treatment programs and behavioral health, and teaching CNA, LPN, RN, and DNP students. “I’ve never forgotten how amazing it feels to empower someone else,” he says.

Empowerment is a keyword for Johnson, who vividly recalls “the powerlessness I often felt throughout my career. Regardless of my level of practice, I always felt that the work and the care could be better, but I never felt I had any power to really change anything. My assumption was that more education would lead to having more say in my practice, and subsequently less feelings of powerlessness. Well, I was wrong about that. The powerless feeling followed me throughout many practice settings and scopes of practice.”

Johnson sought ways to overcome this sense of powerlessness, and found that his views were shared by “hundreds of thousands of nurses out there, who love their work as I do, but also feel like the healthcare system doesn’t work for them or their patients.” Seeking empowerment for himself and his fellow nurses, he began to work in self-advocacy with communities like Show Me Your Stethoscope and Nurses Take DC, and became a writer and public speaker.

When asked what he feels most passionate about in his career, Johnson replies, “I’m passionate about many things. I enjoy caring for my patients and love teaching. However, I’m most passionate about inspiring other bedside nurses to unify behind causes they believe in. As the largest profession within healthcare, I believe nurses have the opportunity to be truly revolutionary if we band together and support each other. This is one of the ideas that motivated me to start writing my forthcoming book, Nation of Nurses, where I discuss specific ways nurses can mobilize and revolutionize healthcare.”

He is also passionate regarding his advocacy groups: “these online communities are filled with bedside nurses who are passionate about improving the nursing and the healthcare system. Honestly, through this work, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I feel like nurses are taking back their power; and this gives me so much hope.”

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