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.”
We as nurses want to see our profession thrive and be prepared for the future. We as individuals can take actions that will lead to advancements in nursing as a whole. These steps on their own may not seem like much, but the following can lead to long-term change and elevate the profession.
Belong to Associations
Attending chapter meetings not only helps nurses stay current with new issues and topics, it also helps with networking. Networking is so valuable not only for camaraderie, but also for future jobs or references. Not sure which association to join? You can find your state’s nursing association and corresponding website through the American Nurses Association. Many associations are now holding online or virtual meetings so networking and participation is still possible. Even belonging to associations in one’s personal life lead to socializing and can prevent career burnout.
Continue Your Education
Stay up to date within your specialty – CEUs for RN license renewals are not sufficient. Take courses or go to seminars (check if your employer reimburses). As with nursing associations, education courses are now online and attendance dates and times may be flexible. Sigma Nursing has a web page with links to nursing specialty associations. Another way to make progress within the education realm is to advance your degree. Whatever you decide, be it learning a new skill or obtaining a new degree, either option is a valuable investment in yourself and your nursing career. In the long run, you are advancing the profession by your additional knowledge and by being a well-rounded nurse.
Mentor New Nurses
Mentoring can mean on-the-job or more formally through a college or vo-tech school. By teaching what we know, the mentor actually learns more through questions, explaining procedures and processes. Some facilities have programs that train the mentor. Others utilize the facility’s clinical educator as a resource for mentors. We must remember that we’ve all been “the new nurse.” Some of us have had positive experiences and others, not so much. Mentoring is crucial in bringing the next generation of nurses to practice. Mentoring can be fulfilling, especially once the new nurse “graduates” to being on his or her own.
Are you concerned about staffing ratios or other issues you’re facing on the job? Make the policy makers aware. If we don’t communicate our concerns or issues, nothing will change with the ways things are done. Letters to those in congress or governors can focus on concerns within your state or the county as a whole. If you’re unsure how to craft a letter, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has a user-friendly template that nurses can use. The template’s wording is geared toward advanced practice nurses but can easily be tailored to any nurse. This is especially important with upcoming elections, which could lead to the state of the nation’s health being in limbo. Nurses are in a perfect position to speak up to help create changes in policies that would better the profession and health care as a whole.
Continue to Project a Professional Image
Throughout the day we take for granted who sees us…the public, peers, our families. Nurses have been named the most trusted profession for 18 consecutive years for good reason. The public trusts nurses for their knowledge, compassion, and ethics. Nurses must continue to uphold our reputation and our code of ethics to keep those who are ill safe. Although the code of ethics for nurses is not legally binding, nurses should be familiar with the attributes and strive to embody them daily in their practice. Another area to be mindful of is our social media presence. Even though we may be posting personal photos or opinions, if we list the name of our workplace and/or what we do, we are still being linked with the nursing profession.
In Donna Cardillo’s book, The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses, many additional tips are reviewed. She recommends the concept of career management. This does not just refer to finding a new job, but rather, ongoing maintenance of one’s profession. By maintaining our individual nursing practice, we in turn elevate the profession. A part of maintaining our individual practice is self-care and recognizing our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Nurses must realize that by keeping up with our self-care and addressing burnout, we can give more of ourselves and further build up the profession.
Thoughts to Take Away
There are multiple ways to elevate the profession. We discussed that nurses can advance their education or skills, write to those in congress, become involved in associations, and project professionalism. Nurses can also contribute to the greater good by mentoring. The most important piece of advice: get involved! By speaking up and making our voices heard, the profession can flourish for centuries to come.
When an employee told a group of 20-somethings they needed face masks to enter his fast-food restaurant, one woman fired off a stream of expletives. “Isn’t this Orange County?” snapped a man in the group. “We don’t have to wear masks!”
The curses came as a shock, but not really a surprise, to Nilu Patel, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at nearby University of California-Irvine Medical Center, who observed the conflict while waiting for takeout. Health care workers suffer these angry encounters daily as they move between treacherous hospital settings and their communities, where mixed messaging from politicians has muddied common-sense public health precautions.
“Health care workers are scared, but we show up to work every single day,” Patel said. Wearing masks, she said, “is a very small thing to ask.”
Patel administers anesthesia to patients in the operating room, and her husband is also a health care worker. They’ve suffered sleepless nights worrying about how to keep their two young children safe and schooled at home. The small but vocal chorus of people who view face coverings as a violation of their rights makes it all worse, she said.
That resistance to the public health advice didn’t grow in a vacuum. Health care workers blame political leadership at all levels, from President Donald Trump on down, for issuing confusing and contradictory messages on wearing masks.
“Our leaders have not been pushing that this is something really serious,” said Jewell Harris Jordan, a 47-year-old registered nurse at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in Oakland, California. She’s distraught that some Americans see mandates for face coverings as an infringement upon their rights instead of a show of solidarity with health care workers. (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)
“If you come into the hospital and you’re sick, I’m going to take care of you,” Jordan said. “But damn, you would think you would want to try to protect the people that are trying to keep you safe.”
In Orange County, where Patel works, mask orders are particularly controversial. The county’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned June 8 after being threatened for requiring residents to wear them in public. Three days later, county officials rescinded the requirement. On June 18, a few days after Patel visited the restaurant, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide mandate.
But the use of masks has become politicized. Trump’s inconsistency and nonchalance about them sowed doubt in the minds of millions who respect him, said Jordan, the Oakland nurse. That has led to a “very disheartening and really disrespectful” rejection of masks.
“They truly should have just made masks mandatory throughout the country, period,” said Jordan, 47. Out of fear of infecting her family with the virus, she hasn’t flown to see her mother or two adult children on the East Coast during the pandemic, Jordan said.
But a mandate doesn’t necessarily mean authorities have the ability or will to enforce it. In California, where the governor left enforcement up to local governments, some sheriff’s departments have said it would be inappropriate to penalize mask violations. This has prompted some health care workers to make personal appeals to the public.
After the Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office announced it didn’t have the resources to enforce Newsom’s mandate, Amy Arlund, a 45-year-old nurse at the COVID unit at the Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, took to her Facebook account to plead with friends and family about the need to wear masks.
“If I’m wrong, you wore a silly mask and you didn’t like it,” she posted on June 23. “If I’m right and you don’t wear a mask, you better pray that all the nurses aren’t already out sick or dead because people chose not to wear a mask. Please tell me my life is worth a LITTLE of your discomfort?”
To protect her family, Arlund lives in a “zone” of her house that no other member may enter. When she must interact with her 9-year-old daughter to help her with school assignments, they each wear masks and sit 3 feet apart.
Every negative interaction about masks stings in the light of her family’s sacrifices, said Arlund. She cites a woman who approached her husband at a local hardware store to say he looked “ridiculous” in the N95 mask he was wearing.
“It’s like mask-shaming, and we’re shaming in the wrong direction,” Arlund said. “He does it to protect you, you cranky hag!”
After seeing a Facebook comment alleging that face masks can cause low oxygen levels, Dr. Megan Hall decided to publish a small experiment. Hall, a pediatrician at the Conway Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, wore different kinds of medical masks for five minutes and then took photos of her oxygen saturation levels, as measured by her pulse oximeter. As she predicted, there was no appreciable difference in oxygen levels. She posted the photo collection on June 22, and it quickly went viral.
“Some of our officials and leaders have not taken the best precautions,” said Hall, who hopes for “a change of heart” about masks among local officials and the public. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has urged residents to wear face coverings in public, but he said a statewide mandate was unenforceable.
In Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted calls for a statewide order on masks despite a massive surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Cynthia Butler, 62, recently asked a young man at the register of a pet store why he wasn’t wearing a mask.
“His tone was more like, this whole mask thing is ridiculous,” said Butler, a registered nurse at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte. She didn’t tell him that she had just recovered from a COVID-19 infection contracted at work. The exchange saddened her, but she hasn’t the time to lecture everyone she encounters without a mask — about three-quarters of her community, Butler estimated.
“They may think you’re stepping on their rights,” she said. “It’s not anything I want to get shot over.”
Originally published byKHN (Kaiser Health News), a nonprofit news service covering health issues. KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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.”
This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlightJax Nurses Buy Houses (JNBH).
More than 10 years ago, when they were still in nursing school, Chris McDermott, MSN, APRN, AGNP-C and Joshua Rodenborn, BSN, were discussing the idea of starting Jax Nurses Buy Houses (JNBH). They founded the company in 2019 with friend Sunny Kapadia, as a way to build a portfolio of rentals for retirement as well as a chance for them to give back to their community. As life-long natives of Jacksonville and seeing multiple areas for improvement there, they made it their social mission to donate a portion of our proceeds to medical care and research.
McDermott works full-time in private practice in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Kapadia, although not a nurse, is a specialist in the health care field, coordinating physician groups within the greater Jacksonville area. Finally, Joshua Rodenborn is an Intensive Care and Post-Anesthesia nurse in a major hospital in Jacksonville, Florida as well as a managing member of Jax Nurses Buy Houses.
McDermott and Rodenborn told us all about their business.
Explain what Jax Nurses Buy Houses is—what do you do?
JNBH acquires residential properties through traditional or distressed sale. Often, we help sellers who perhaps inherited a property or just want to sell fast to someone reputable and honest. Distressed sales include properties we acquire at foreclosure or tax deed auctions. We will analyze a property and determine if it is a good fit for our rental portfolio, renovate and retail, or wholesale. Do you personally rehab houses or do you subcontract out?
When first starting out, it was “all hands on deck.” As we have continued to scale our operations, we have subcontracted work to skilled contractors. DIY sounds romantic and lets you keep more profit; however, it is near-impossible to scale up a business this way. And your results may not be a professional-level quality. We learned early on that building a team is the key to success (and much less stress).
What do you like most about your business?
It is rewarding to take a home that is the biggest eyesore in a neighborhood and bring it back to life, turning it into affordable housing. It’s one thing to talk about transforming a neighborhood; it is a whole other thing to literally do it yourself through your own will from start to finish.
There is a double pay-off: the satisfaction of being your own boss in a well-run business and the satisfaction of improving a piece of this city, one brick at a time.
What would readers be surprised to know about your side gig?
Joshua, while working as a nurse, actually cared for the wife of a rental applicant months before he applied. It’s surprising how small the world is sometimes.
What have been some of your most challenging experiences with your side gig?
There is a saying, you can have a job good, fast, or cheap, but you can only pick two. For example: If you want a job done good and fast it won’t be cheap. Another example, if you want a job done cheap and fast it won’t be good.
Challenging experiences include dealing with and selecting contractors, while staying on schedule. We’ve had contractors not show or even do something incorrectly—once damaging our air conditioner in our newly renovated home.
Spend your time vetting and getting to know your contractors and vendors of materials.
What have been some of your best experiences/greatest rewards with your side gig?
The relationship the founding members have built with each other is one of the most unexpected and rewarding things that have come. Early morning breakfast—where we divvy up the tasks and plan our next move—have become a welcome staple in our COVID-restricted social world.
Another experience: We were able to help a prospective tenant move from a crime-ridden area (shooting occurred outside/bullets struck her headboard) into a newly renovated home in a matter of days.
What have you learned from having this business?
Formulate a plan and have multiple exit options. It may sound trite, but not having a plan is a plan to fail. With all of us working full-time jobs and having full-time families, it has been imperative that we all stay on the same page through the acquisition, renovation, and disposition process. We each rely on one another to complete our roles through each step of the process.
Jumping into real estate is like a very complex ICU patient with multiple variables that are interdependent on each other. If you are starting down this journey (“I wanna be a real estate investor!”) you need to build a team to be successful. Think of needing to call a consult at midnight, and you know they will respond. Now think of this as plumber for a pipe that just burst. Additionally, you need to be organized and know your cost and expenses for each project.
Is there anything else that is important for our readers to know?
Stay positive and remain adaptable to your conditions. With COVID-19, we have suffered delays with acquisitions of new properties and our local county courts. There will always be a hiccup along the way, and you never know what’s going to happen. Don’t take it too personally, never kick yourself when you’re down, and get back up and keep trying. You have to feel success in your bones.
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.