Social media can be a fantastic way of keeping in touch or sharing information, but it can also be a hotbed of controversy. Elizabeth Hanes, an RN who now works as a journalist, unexpectedly experienced this herself, when Dr. Sandra Lee, also known as “Dr. Pimple Popper,” recently commented on a story Hanes had written.
Hanes took the time to talk with us about her experience.
Exactly what happened? Please explain.
On Saturday, June 20 (I believe), Dr. Lee tweeted a link to my WebMD article (from the WebMD Twitter account). The social media people at WebMD had written social sharing text that said, “What’s the difference between sunburn and sun poisoning? A registered nurse explains.” Above this, Dr. Lee wrote, “Why would a registered nurse explain this? Why not a dermatologist?” and included an eyeroll emoji.
The nurses of Twitter did not respond well to that. The thread had, I believe, thousands of comments. I never saw the original post; I only saw the “apology” post, which also has been deleted.
Were you surprised at what Dr. Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper, posted? Why or why not?
I was taken a bit aback. My first thought was, “Why wouldn’t a registered nurse explain this?” This is well within the scope of what nurses do on a daily basis. My second reaction was pure amusement. I guess I will have to say I thought it sounded petty.
Many nurses responded—some were angry and even called for the cancellation of her show. Do you think that a lot of health care professionals don’t understand the nurse’s scope of practice? What about people who don’t work in health care?
I think there were two issues here. First, that many people don’t understand nurses’ scope of practice. Second, that people don’t understand how journalism works. It feels strange to have to write out that a nurse’s scope of practice includes patient education. Our entire profession is built, in fact, on the foundation of teaching patients about their bodies, about wellness, about disease, etc. To me, patient education is the essence of nursing practice. So for someone to sort of call that into question felt baffling.
But people also seemed very unclear on how journalism works. They seemed to believe that only subject matter experts should be reporters. But journalists aren’t required to be subject matter experts, themselves, because journalists know how to conduct research to find the facts they need to write a story. Sometimes that research involves interviewing subject matter experts—like a dermatologist. In this case, the process did not include interviews. That’s just how it goes in journalism.
Do all nurses educate their patients as a part of their routine care?
Yes, absolutely. All nurses engage in patient education on a daily basis. Or family education. In fact, nurses are the health educators of the world. That’s not to say physicians don’t also educate. Of course they do. But physicians often provide patient education at a high, over-arching level. For instance, an oncologist may explain to a patient what chemotherapy does, but the oncology nurse will be the one educating the patient and his or her family members about the effects of chemotherapy, how to cope with those effects, how to set up the home environment to best care for a person receiving chemotherapy—and on and on. Doctors don’t do that. Nurses do.
Why do you think it’s important for the masses to understand that nurses are fully qualified to provide health education?
I think most people turn to nurses first for health education on an interpersonal level. They do this without even thinking about it because nursing is the most trusted profession. My experience has been that people, in general, highly value nurses and their knowledge.
I think there’s a bit of a disconnect when it comes to media and reporting. For instance, during the kerfuffle with Dr. Lee, some people on social media directly questioned my background and credentials—was I really qualified to write this article. When members of the public do this, it does not offend me. In fact, I wish more people would engage in this sort of critical questioning of stories in the media. When they see a celebrity offering an opinion on some topic—let’s say it’s how COVID-19 spreads—I wish more people would ask themselves, “But what do actual epidemiologists say?”
It’s a different story when a doctor or fellow nurse or another health care professional questions my credentials—and in public, no less. These people should know that patient education of all kinds—including articles on WebMD—falls well within the scope of nursing practice. It’s disrespectful to question that or to imply that it does not.
What can nurses do to get the word out about this? Or does it need to come from higher up, like health care and/or nursing organizations? Or both?
I would like to see two things happen:
- I would like to see more journalists requesting nurses as sources for their health reporting.
- I would like to see more nurses become health reporters.
To the first point, I wish that more health journalists would understand that nurses play a different role in patient care than doctors do, and that their stories would be much enriched if they included the nursing perspective along with the physician’s.
Imagine a news story about a new cancer treatment that not only includes quotes from the researcher about the chemistry involved and quotes from a physician about how this treatment will provide more options for patients—but also includes quotes from an oncology nurse about how this treatment might affect a patient on an everyday level, when they’re at home after receiving it. Currently, we typically get the first story: the one that only includes quotes from the researcher and physician. But the second story gives a much deeper perspective that would benefit readers. For this type of reporting to happen, health system media relations people need to cultivate and support nurses as sources for the press and then suggest and offer those nurses as sources when appropriate.
To the second point, as a nurse reporter myself, I’ve adopted a mission through my RN2writer project “to transform health care communications by making nurse-created content the industry standard for excellence.” Toward that end, I train other nurses in basic journalism skills to start them on a path toward a reporting career. You know, there’s a lot of inaccurate health information on the web. I think one way to combat that is by having nurses produce more health content. I think, subsequently, that publishing more nurse-created health content will reinforce the understanding that patient education is the essence of what we do as nurses.
She may have left some male sparring partners with broken noses, but Canadian pro boxer Kim Clavel spent most of her twenties balancing pugilism with shifts as a nurse on a maternity ward. Nursing was a side-gig, though, and in August 2019 she started to fight full-time, winning the North American Boxing Federation female light flyweight title in December.
The novel coronavirus outbreak happened just as Clavel’s boxing career was ascending. As she was training for her first-ever main event in Montreal, the match was cancelled owing to the pandemic. Her intense disappointment, however, did not blind her to the urgent needs of the population most vulnerable to the virus. Clavel readily threw herself back into nursing and spent the next three months working night shifts at elderly and retirement care centers. Owing to the shortage of nurses, she often worked overtime. In an interview, Clavel told the Montreal Gazette that providing care during the outbreak was “really hard psychologically. Those old people feel alone. They’re sad. Some of them don’t understand the (COVID-19) situation, so they don’t want to stay in their rooms… We have to play nurse and psychologist at the same time.”
At the June 21 ESPYS, Clavel will receive the Pat Tillman Award. When ESPN made the announcement, Clavel stated, “It is an honor to receive the Pat Tillman Award on behalf of all the health care workers battling COVID-19 on the frontlines. Just as Pat put his NFL career on hold to serve his country, I felt the same duty to serve my community. Although recently I have pursued my dream of boxing, helping people is my passion and I’m proud to be able to make a difference.” Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, commented, “In spite of the dangers from COVID and delays to her budding boxing career, Kim chose to focus her energy on those most in need. In Pat’s name, we are honored to present the Tillman Award to Kim for her service and leadership in her healthcare work and throughout this crisis.”
For more details on Kim Clavel’s return to nursing, click here for the full story on the ESPN site.
Our Nurse of the Week is Becky Zimmerman, a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at a Wisconsin hospital who was recently nominated for a DAISY Award by one of the families she cared for. Her patient, Whitney Driver, went into labor at 26 weeks, almost three months before her due date, and gave birth to twin boys who weighed just under two pounds.
Zimmerman was assigned as the primary care nurse for the twins, named Hudson and Hayden. Zimmerman and Driver both report growing close during the Driver twins’ 89 day stay in the NICU, but the family truly formed a connection after they lost one of their sons, Hayden, at just 17 days old.
Driver was overcome by postpartum depression and grief
from losing her son, but knew she needed to find a way to be there for her
other son. Zimmerman became a huge part of helping Driver manage her emotions
and get the help she needed.
Zimmerman tells nbc15.com, “I’ve taken care of a lot of babies. But this story is the kind of one that really clenched my heart.”
The Driver family eventually nominated Zimmerman for a
DAISY Award, a program that honors exceptional nurses. To learn more about Becky
Zimmerman, a NICU nurse from Wisconsin who was recently nominated for a DAISY Award
by one of the families she cared for, visit here.
Our Nurse of
the Week is Stanley
Stinson, a recent nursing graduate of Concordia University who has allowed
his past experience as a young homeless man inspire him to help the homeless,
disabled, mentally ill, and drug-addicted. For Stinson, these issues are personal,
and he believes everyone is deserving of help.
Stinson works closely with his outreach partner, Jeff Hunt. The
duo have been working together for years to tend to those who need help the
most, but Hunt admits that Stinson has been the driving force behind the
Kevin White, a disabled client of Stinson’s, tells fox2detroit.com, “[Stinson] has a big heart for the people on the street and what they’re going through. He went to nursing school so he could better help them.”
Stinson and his outreach team from Covenant Community Care tend
to all kinds of medical needs at a warming center at St. Peter and Paul Church
in Detroit. They offer everything from dental care to foot care. Foot care may
seem odd to some, but Stinson knows the importance of tending to the feet.
Stinson says, “We’re all walking through this life trying to make it…Jesus washed feet, so I think it’s very special to wash people’s feet and take care of their feet. It’s also their mode of transportation so if anything goes wrong with their feet it’s like something going wrong with our vehicle.”
The outreach program goes beyond warming centers and community
clinics; Stinson and his team also hit the streets overnight to try to help
prostitutes, victims of human trafficking, and anyone else in need. He won’t
allow the dark or fear of scary places to let people in need of help be
forgotten. He offers medical care on the streets, as well as hands out boots,
socks, blankets, and more to anyone who needs them.
Now that he’s graduated, Stinson hopes he can spend even more
time on the streets helping the most vulnerable populations. He says his
experiences have been humbling and he considers it an honor to help those in
need. To learn more about Stanley Stinson, a recent nursing graduate of
Concordia University who has allowed his past experience as a young homeless
man inspire him to help the homeless, disabled, mentally ill, and drug-addicted,
Our Nurse of the Week is Abbey
Lacy, a nurse at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha, NE, who took her
cancer patient, Ray Jolly, skydiving during a particularly rough week.
Jolly is 66 years old and was diagnosed with
Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a type of blood cancer, about a year ago. He has
since gone through six rounds of chemotherapy and now requires a blood and platelet
transfusion about twice a week.
Each of Jolly’s visits to Methodist Estabrook
Cancer Center for a transfusion takes several hours. In that time, he has developed
a friendship with Lacy, his nurse. They’re both adventure seekers and enjoy
chatting about extreme sports.
While Jolly was having a particularly tough
week recently, Lacy noticed he wasn’t acting like his usual self. Many people
in Jolly’s life say his name is the perfect embodiment of his attitude. Lacy tells
“I was down that he was down
because it’s not typical for him to have kind of a bum attitude. It was like,
‘what can I do?’ I was just sitting at my desk and, lightbulb, I know exactly
what I can do.”
Lacy called a friend at Lincoln Sport Parachute
Club and set up a day to go skydiving with Jolly. Lacy has been skydiving over
20 times and felt very comfortable taking her patient for a chance to cheer him
up. Jolly loved the experience and has been telling everyone that he can’t wait
to do it again.
A career in nursing can be tough, especially
for Lacy who cares for cancer patients, but she tries to stay positive and keep
things fun. For patients like Jolly, her positive influence makes all the
To learn more about Abbey Lacy, a nurse who took
her cancer patient skydiving during a particularly rough week, visit here.
Our Nurse of
the Week is Lori
Wood, 57, a nurse at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Georgia, who became the
guardian of a homeless patient so that he could receive a heart transplant.
Wood’s patient, Jonathan Pinkard, had been disqualified from the waiting list for
a new heart because he didn’t have a support system in place to care for him
after the transplant.
Pinkard, who lives with high-functioning autism, had been living
in a men’s shelter and working as an office clerk when he learned he needed a
new heart. He landed in the hospital again four months later, where he was
assigned to nurse Wood. After two days of treating him, Wood figured out the dire
situation Pinkard was in and decided she would take him in herself.
Pinkard tells washingtonpost.com, “I couldn’t believe that somebody who had known me only two days would do this. It was almost like a dream.”
Wood has been a nurse for 35 years, but had never done anything
like this before. She reports that she does not typically blue the lines
between her personal and professional lives, but something about Pinkard struck
her differently. He didn’t have anybody looking out for him, and in Pinkard’s
case that was the difference between life and death.
Wood says, “That can be very frustrating if you know a patient needs something, and for whatever reason they can’t have it. It gnaws at you…For me, there was no choice. I’m a nurse; I had an extra room. It was not something I struggled with. He had to come home with me.”
After Pinkard was discharged, Wood loaded him into her car and
brought him home. He had nothing but a cellphone to his name. Wood bought him a
new bedroom set and made him feel at home. Thanks to Wood, Pinkard received his
heart transplant in August and is expected to be cleared to return to work
Wood has invited Pinkard to stay with her as long as he needs,
but she knows he wants to have his own life at some point. When he’s ready,
they both plan to work together to make that happen.
To learn more about Lori Wood, who became the guardian of a
homeless patient so that he could receive a heart transplant, visit here.