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“I’d like you ask you something, ” a patient said to the nurse. “Are you Asian?”

The nurse, Caucasian, said,  “No, I’m not. What makes you ask?”

“Your name. On your badge. It says Debbie WOCN.  And that last name sounds Asian.”

Last Saturday, I heard this story from an attendee at the Mideast Region Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society conference where I spoke on why nurses should write about their nursing lives.

I stressed that one reason we should write is to educate the public about who we are, what we know, what we do, and why we do it. I mentioned that, to begin with, people don’t know what the alphabet soup after our names means. We have multiple points of entry into our profession, multiple degrees, and multiple certifications.

So, no wonder this patient asked this nurse if her last name, WOCN, was Asian. The nurse explained to me that in her hospital their name badges have their first names only, followed by their credentials. And she is certified in Wound Ostomy Continence nursing (WOCN). She has specialized in this area, taken advanced coursework, and passed a certification exam. In addition, she keeps up with attending classes to earn continuing education units required to renew her certification.

Know also as ET’s, Enterostomal Therapists, these registered nurses (RNs) are the ones you want to know if you develop problems in their area of specialty. From looking over their conference sessions, I saw that, even as a retired nurse, I have friends or family members with several of the problems addressed and could use their knowledge and assistance: caring for patients with an ostomy of any kind, assessing and treating the skin around an ostomy, learning how to strengthen pelvic floor muscles to curb incontinence, caring for patients with lymphedema caused by various conditions (you may be familiar with this happening after removal of lymph nodes in the armpit region during surgery for breast cancer) …and much more.

It was easy to encourage these nursing experts to write about what they know, do, and why they do it. Articles on any of the above would be of benefit to a host of readers!

I thank this group of nurses for asking me to speak at their conference. It was an honor to be among the presence of these knowledgeable and dedicated professionals and to be attended to by my host, Catherine Clarey-Stanford, MSN, RN, nursing faculty member, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

It was gratifying to meet a former student of mine from St. Xavier University in the early 90s, to hear of someone’s mother who was a fellow Blodgett Hospital School of Nursing grad, but years before me, sending me her greetings, and to have my former student from Trinity Christian College, and Michigan publicist, Amy Nagelkirk, assisting with sales of  Caring Lessons.

The conference was held at the stunningly beautiful Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. When I was growing up, I lived nearby for a while and use to marvel at what was then the Pantlind Hotel.  On this return visit, I was privileged to speak in the “old-world elegance” of the Pantlind Ballroom.

And, as a final big thank you, this group of nurses knows how to treat nurses. Imagine my surprise when I entered my two-room suite in the new glass tower to find wine, cheese, and crackers waiting. I called my husband and told him what he was missing. He reminded me, with a chuckle, I’d not invited him along.

So, I enjoyed my suite, the view of the Grand River and a zillion Japanese Lanterns flying by my 20th floor window from Art Prize all by myself. More about those floating lights in the sky later.