Nursing Faculty Shortage

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I was thrilled yesterday (5/30/11) to find an article titled “Jobs in Health Care on the Rise” in the Business section of the  Chicago Tribune

In a discussion of the need for more doctors, Christopher J. Gearon notes that more of their jobs are being held by nurse practitioners and physician assistants who also are in short supply.  He adds, “The shortages are exacerbated by a lack of training slots, particularly notable in nursing schools, to meet rising demand, and too few professionals with advanced degrees to do the teaching” (pp. 21-22).

A shortage of faculty in nursing schools.  My point exactly.

In my year-long search (2009) for a literary agent to represent my career memoir, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self, my query letter contained variations of this theme:  “…I’m concerned about projections that the shortage of registered nurses (RNs) could reach a half million by 2025. There is already a shortage of RNs and of nursing faculty. Qualified nursing school applicants are being turned away.” And, to emphasize the need for a book such as mine, I’d add that in a market where there are few nursing memoirs, my book is the only one I know of that is written by a nurse educator.

There were a few agents who took the time to write me a personal response that they liked my writing, but didn’t see that they could “successfully interest a publisher.”  Apparently, I did not do a good enough sell job about the need for such a book. I should have had Gearon’s help!

I hope literary agents are reading articles like this one in the Trib. My dream is that they and publishers would be clamoring for more memoirs by nurses.  Memoirs that could dispel stereotypes of our profession, that would show that we are a thinking as well as a doing and feeling profession, that would interest readers to think about becoming a nurse. Or a teacher of nursing.

I also hope that reading Caring Lessons (Deep River Books, 2010), the story of my career from nurse’s aide to professor emerita, from a diploma in nursing to a PhD in nursing science, may nudge a few readers into those halls of ivy!

Mental Health America: May is Mental Health Month 2011

Did you know that 60 million Americans are diagnosed with a mental health condition in any given year, that’s 1in4. Learn more at

Read the simple “handout” above to see what you can learn and how you can help friends or family members living with mental illness. With a  simple gesture of  increasing our knowledge about mental illness and its prevalence, we can all be advocates for this poorly understood population.

Clara Barton founds Red Cross on this day in 1881

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She was a nurse without credentials.

On this day in 1881, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. When Clara was only 10, her brother David fell off the roof of the family barn. At first, he seemed fine, but the next day he developed a headache and fever. The doctor diagnosed “too much blood” and prescribed the application of leeches to help draw out the extra blood. Clara took over as her brother’s nurse and spent two years at his bedside applying leeches (though David did not get any better until he tried an innovative “steam therapy” several years later).

As a girl, Clara was shy and had a stutter, and her worried mother asked a phrenologist (phrenologists, who were fairly common in the 1800s, examined the bumps on a person’s skull as a way to determine their personality traits) to help her. The phrenologist said that she was shy and retiring and that the solution to her problem was to become a schoolteacher. Barton did not want to teach but she began teaching in 1839 at the age of 18. She overcame her shyness, became a sought-after teacher, and believed in the value of her work. She once said, “I may sometimes be wiling to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.”

Several men proposed to Barton, but she remained single her whole life, at one point telling her nephew that on the whole she felt that she had been more useful to the world by being free from matrimonial ties.

In 1854, she gave up teaching and took a job in the United States Patent Office in Washington, D.C. She worked hard, got promoted, and within a year was making a salary equal to the men in the office (which angered the men). She left Washington for three years when the administration changed, but she returned in the early 1860s and resumed her job in the Patent Office. By 1861, war was breaking out, and when supporters of the Confederacy attacked Union soldiers in Washington, D.C., Clara helped nurse wounded soldiers in the same way she had nursed her brother when they were young.

During one of the first major engagements of the war, the Battle of Bull Run, the Union suffered a staggering defeat and as Clara read reports of the battle she realized that the Union Army had not seriously considered or provided for wounded soldiers. She began to ride along in ambulances, providing supplies and comfort to wounded soldiers on the frontlines.

After the war, she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, where she learned about the International Red Cross and its mission to be a neutral organization that helped wounded soldiers. When Barton returned to the United States, she pressed for the creation of a national branch of the Red Cross. But many people thought there would never again be a war as monumental and devastating as the Civil War and didn’t see the need for the Red Cross. Barton finally convinced the Arthur administration that the Red Cross could be used in other crises.

The American Red Cross was officially incorporated on this day, with Barton as its president.

Clara Barton said, “I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.”

And she said, “The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to swing open widely for me.”

She also said, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business, and nobody’s business is my business.”

Shared with me by my friend Carol J. Rottman at Thanks, Carol!

Think of how many times we hear of the Red Cross volunteers spreading out to help in our national disasters and of how many of us do not know how, when, or why the American branch of the Red Cross was organized. Nurses, though, learn about Clara Barton in nursing programs in a review of nursing history. (I still have my nursing history book, copyright 1959, to prove where I learned it:))

Google “Clara Barton” and learn much more about this remarkable woman.

Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  If your loved one is diagnosed with mental illness, would you know where you and your family could go to learn about the illness and how to be of help to that person?

When I was a med-surg nurse and encountered questions about living with a mental illness, I didn’t know how to respond. Half way through my forty-year career, armed with a new master’s in psychiatric nursing, I began teaching mental health nursing to senior baccalaureate students. As I was planning community support groups they could attend, I stumbled upon NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And I’ve been hooked on their mission ever since. As their publication, NAMI Advocate, says, “NAMI is…the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

The Spring 2011 issue of NAMI Advocate features an interview with Dr. Joyce Burland, founder of NAMI’s Family to Family education program. Finding a lack of informational resources when her sister became mentally ill, she, as a PhD in clinical psychology, discovered and got involved in NAMI. In the interview, among many misconceptions people have about mental illness, she adds, “Mental illness is the illness where you never get a covered dish” (p. 15).

I stopped short when I read this quote. How true! Friends come running over with dinners when you have a baby or have your gall bladder out or have ongoing chemo or radiation treatments. But, mostly due to the stigma of mental illness, persons and families living with mental illness often suffer in isolation. “Don’t tell anyone at church that you saw me here,” I remember one of many patients saying when I was with my students on a psychiatric ward. “I don’t want anyone to know.”

The Family to Family program was set up to have families help other families. Family members are trained to be the teachers of the 12-week education course. Burland says, “There is a huge amount of information, generally unknown to those outside of this experience, about things we found that will help us in this struggle” (p. 15).

A friend of mine, Barbara Doyle, has co-taught the Family to Family course many times and has trained teachers.  She’s been a member of NAMI since 1983, and, among other offices held, she’s also a past president of NAMI Illinois. She sent me a few responses from course participants. One response summarizes them well: “I have benefited immensely. [The course] educated me about mental health disorders. More significantly (for me) is being sensitized and empathetic to the individuals in my life.”

And that’s what we need in the U.S. from all of us—to get the facts and to become sensitive to and empathic toward families and persons living with mental illness. These are essential first steps to erasing stigma.  Seeking out NAMI and what they have to offer is a good place to start.

Note their national convention meets in Chicago from July 6-9, 2011, at the Chicago Hilton on south Michigan Ave. Come, empower yourself to join the fight against stigma. Plus, take a run along the lake in the morning, loiter over a latte at a street-side cafe, and enjoy my city!

Inauguration – Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, Chicago, 2011

I could not stay home–so got as close as I could. Follow along with me:

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For over an hour, Marv was stranded driving around because he could not get into our street. We had not been notified that it would be closed. (Marv hopes Joe appreciates his willing sacrifice.)

It was an inspiring day that I ended with shaking the hands of both our new mayor and his wife at the City Hall Open House from 2-4pm. The speech by our new mayor and the prayers of persons from all faiths and the spirituals sung by the Children’s Choir and the final soloist with “We shall overcome…” will ring in my head for a very long time.

Rahm, Derrick Rose, and Oprah Reign in Chicago

It’s an exciting week in Chicago. Read all about it: Chicago Tribune: Chicago news, sports, weather and traffic –

At Millennium Park today, Rahm Emanuel will be sworn in as Mayor. The leaves are back on the trees. The sun is shining. The lines are beginning to form.

Millennium Park, May 19, 2011, 9am

Millennium Park, May 19, 2011, 9am

At the United Center tomorrow, Oprah will be taping her Monday and Tuesdays shows, while her grand finale will  be aired on Wednesday,  May 25.

At the United Center on Wednesday, the Bulls, with Derrick Rose as MVP, will play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Last night they beat 103-82. It’s beginning to feel like the Jordan/Pippen days of long ago!

A great kick-off week for what we hope will finally be springtime in Chicago.  Join us!