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This is a re-post written by CHMP senior Fellow Liz Seegert for Health Callings Jobs that Matter.

In a unique writing course at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City, nurses are relearning to “open up” while also improving their communication skills. The lessons learned at the “Narrative Writing for Nurses” course, taught by two former editors of the “American Journal of Nursing,” can be practiced at home to relieve stress and engage in self-discovery. It can also boost your academic writing skills.Narrative Writing Liz Seegert

How the writing helps

“Many nursing students have strong academic need for remedial writing and making themselves understood, says James Steubenrauch, adjunct instructor and Senior Fellow at Hunter’s Center for Health, Media and Policy. “We try to help them become better writers by using creative or artistic means to engage them in the process.”

Students begin each class with a creative writing prompt and also keep a daily journal. They may react to a poem or piece of nonfiction, or be asked to describe an event. Students write in different genres, and share their work with classmates. Although some are initially reluctant to open up, eventually most find it cathartic, says co-instructor Joy Jacobson.

She says that by bypassing some of the traditional methods of teaching writing, “we’re trying to engage them where art engages people, where music and poetry engage people, and we’re doing that for all the reasons a nursing program would want their students to be better writers, better students, and in fact, better nurses.”

Cerusala Shiba, BSN, decided to enroll in the narrative writing program last term to address her struggle with writing, especially with grammar. It provided much more than a basic “how-to.” (continue here

Barbara Glickstein is co-director of the Center for Health, Media & Policy.

photo credit: Richard Malley www.richmalley.com

photo credit: Richard Malley www.richmalley.com

In today’s New York Times Opinionator blog,  Ezekiel J. Emanuel’s A Simple Way to Reduce Suicides argues for changing the packaging of Tylenol from 50-100 pills in a bottle to blister packs as a measure to decrease suicides.  He suggests that blister packs, being more labor-intensive and time-consuming to get the right dosage for toxicity, add a time-delay that potentially could stop the suicide from happening. This impact could contribute to the saving of thousands of lives each year.

A mental health professional posted a comment online comparing it to a speed bump in the road slowing down the suicide attempt.  This pause in the action may create the emotional mind-space for them to reconsider their actions. Maybe even get some help.

The comments section mainly includes outcries by environmentalists because blister packaging increases waste and arthritis sufferers dependent on Tylenol for symptom management who struggle with this type of packaging due to their restricted mobility and aching joints. Then there are those who cry out stop the nanny state. They just want to be left alone.

This post is written by Senior Fellow Nancy Cabelus, DNP, MSN, RN, an international forensic nurse consultant currently working with Physicians for Human Rights on a program addressing sexual violence in conflict zones in central and east Africa.

Kenya1In recent weeks I reported from Kenya that I was invited to join a medical team sponsored by a Global Grant awarded to Rotary Club of Davis, California.  Our mission was to provide training to medical doctors, nurses and students on Abusive Head Trauma in infants.  One morning after lecturing in western Kenya at Kisii District Hospital, Rotarian and director of Africa HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), Vickie Winkler gave us a new assignment. She arranged for us to help local residents build a mud house for a Kenyan woman living with HIV.  In the making of this hut, history happened inside a village of Kisii, Kenya

A Kenyan woman, I will call Ann, is married with one daughter. When Ann was tested for HIV and found to be positive, Ann was “chased” from her husband’s home, meaning disposed of by her husband and the community. How Ann acquired HIV makes no difference. In many circumstances, women like Ann are infected with the virus by their spouse or they could be infected during childbirth.  Regardless, Ann was thrown out of the village without a job, financial means, an education, and a home for her and her young daughter. The stigma and shame placed upon African women like Ann is insurmountable and meanwhile, these women are also fighting with a life-threatening virus. Situations like Ann’s are not unusual in Africa.

Barbara Glickstein is the co-director of the Center for Health, Media & Policy and is reporting from Australia.

“Equity is an ethical principle; it also is consonant with and closely related to human rights principles”

Braveman and Gruskin 2003

It was early morning. Most felt out-of-whack as their confused body rhythms adjusted to the Australian time zone after hours in flight to Melbourne.

They streamed into the Melbourne Convention Center auditorium, chose their seats, exchanged smiles or words of introduction to those next to them from lands distances away from their home countries. There were close to 4000 nurses from over 130 countries in Melbourne to attend the International Congress of Nurses. The local Australian host nurses, who worked planning this Congress for years, greeted their guests with warm Aussie hospitality.

The energy in the room was palpable gearing up to hear the first keynote address by Michel D. Kazatchkine MD, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe, on the Congress’ theme “Equity and Access to Healthcare.”

Dr. Kazatchkine reported that the inequitable burden of infectious disease globally is concentrated in developing countries where 90% of infections, mainly HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, kill up to 4 million people a year.

The response to these inequities demands a redistribution of resources and an increase access to health and education. He said, “Health should no longer be expected as an outcome of development, but rather as a necessary priority investment for development and economic growth.”

He noted that as a result of social mobilization and political engagement access to health care is increasingly being accepted as a human right globally. Innovation in new forms of global governance created high level decision-making bodies where community members, government officials and corporate representatives each held an equal vote shaping policies.

Hunter College graduate and undergraduate nursing students Jing Shin, Tina Munzu, Darren Panicali and others at the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-a-thon

Hunter College graduate and undergraduate nursing students Jing Shin, Tina Munzu, Darren Panicali and others at the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-a-thon

This is a guest post by Darren Panicali, an undergraduate nursing student and the President of the Hunter-Bellevue chapter of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA). Darren is also the Community Health Director of the Nursing Students’ Association of New York State (NSANYS).

On Saturday, May 11, 2013, a team of undergraduate and graduate Hunter-Bellevue nursing students participated in the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-A-Thon. The rain might have brought the walk festivities indoors, but it sure didn’t rain on anyone’s parade! A vibrant health fair speckled with pink balloons, polka-dot ribbons and the smiles of dozens of tiara-donning princesses took place instead — all in celebration of the more than $37,000 in donations received by the club. The money will go towards health and nutrition programs for girls living in the historically underserved communities of the Lower East Side. Through the efforts of students, faculty, and administrators, the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing was able to proudly contribute over $1,100 to that sum.

Hunter College graduate and undergraduate nursing students Jing Shin, Tina Munzu, Darren Panicali and others at the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-a-thon

Hunter College graduate and undergraduate nursing students Jing Shin, Tina Munzu, Darren Panicali and others at the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-a-thon

This is a guest post by Darren Panicali, an undergraduate nursing student and the President of the Hunter-Bellevue chapter of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA). Darren is also the Community Health Director of the Nursing Students’ Association of New York State (NSANYS).

On Saturday, May 11, 2013, a team of undergraduate and graduate Hunter-Bellevue nursing students participated in the Lower East Side Girls Club Walk-A-Thon. The rain might have brought the walk festivities indoors, but it sure didn’t rain on anyone’s parade! A vibrant health fair speckled with pink balloons, polka-dot ribbons and the smiles of dozens of tiara-donning princesses took place instead — all in celebration of the more than $37,000 in donations received by the club. The money will go towards health and nutrition programs for girls living in the historically underserved communities of the Lower East Side. Through the efforts of students, faculty, and administrators, the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing was able to proudly contribute over $1,100 to that sum.

This is a guest post by Amanda Anderson, RN, BSN, CCRN, a native-Buffalonian-turned-New-Yorker, is celebrating her 6th Birthday as a MICU nurse this June. She’s currently shooting for two master’s degrees from Hunter Bellevue’s award-winning nursing school, writing with students and for herself, and dodging yellow cabs while speeding around the city on her little bike. Follow her musings here, via @12hourRN, and on her blog www.thisnursewonders.wordpress.com.

Amanda Anderson, RN, BSN CCRN

Amanda Anderson, RN, BSN CCRN

At work, sometimes I get the opportunity to change lives. Other times, I work to change deaths.

Mrs. T was dying when I walked into her life. Imminently. A 7-week aggressive course of acute cancer treatment left her body riddled with side effects and complications from a long list of interventions that never promised to cure. Everyone on the unit knew her painful stay and her family’s tireless desire to “do everything.”

During my first night as her nurse, she breathed for herself and maintained stable vital signs. Her handsome husband and loving children calmly willed her to improve. She opened her eyes to their loving voices.

I spent the first evening talking with them congenially. I learned she was a great cook and that she held her religious beliefs close to her heart. Photos of grandchildren, stories of first dates; I felt like a 12-hour member of their family.

That night, I didn’t broach the topic that I knew would become important to discuss very soon – a reality I saw the second I laid eyes on Mrs. T – that she was dying, and that we needed to decide how to manage the progression of her dying process. I had no right to start this conversation that night; it would have only lead to broken trust. Minutes prior, I was just another New York stranger.

CHMP Co-directors, Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein, are attending the International Council of Nurses 25th Quadrennial Congress 18-23 May 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to reporting on the proceedings they will be participating on a panel titled, The Strategic Use of Media to Shape Health Policy, where they will discuss the work of the Center for Health Media and Policy.

photo of ICN media room

We’ve arrived. It was quite a journey from NYC to LA to Melbourne. We left on Wednesday and arrived on Friday. Thursday just disappeared.  Closest thing to space travel.

The ICN Media Centre will be our base with media folks from around the world here to report on the Congress. When I asked at the media desk check-in what hashtag we should use for the Congress I was disappointed to find out that  one had not been assigned.  A few tweets using #ICN13 followed by a search on Twitter found three hashtags circulating- #ICN13, #ICN2013, #ICNAust2013.  Oh well, it’s a step forward. Four years ago in South Africa only a couple of us were on Twitter. Progress. Slow, but progress.

Student Power

ICN Student plenary The first session I attended was the Nursing Student Assembly.  Student presenters addressed issues on education, technology, access to care in rural areas and advancing the practice of nursing. I was particularly moved by the students interest in developing more clinical placements in rural areas to address the lack of access to primary care in regions locally and globally. One student reported repeated requests at her university to expand clinical placements in rural areas only to be met with resistance. Her response. She created an independent health promotion elective and forged ahead. Other students followed. The message repeated throughout this session is that student nurses are powerful  individually and collectively and are making a difference. They encouraged each other not to wait until you finish your degree and get your license but to make an impact now to address health disparities and inequity.

This is a guest post by Alicia Smith an independent writer from Blacksburg, SC. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia. She received a BA in English from Limestone College in Gaffney, SC in 2012. 

Alicia Smith

Alicia Smith

When Dr. Cheryl Gagne was a teenager, she romanticized people with mental illness as charismatic outsiders.

“My image of mental illness was largely positive,” she told a room full of healthcare journalists at a recent conference in Boston. “They were on the margin of society because of their brilliance.”

This view was shaken when she learned from news reports that Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon of the Beatles, had a history of delusions, obsessions, and substance abuse. Gagne was 19 at the time, and the idea that a mentally ill person could be so violent came as a total shock.

A few weeks later, Gagne, then a graduate student in biomedical research, flunked out of school and became a patient herself after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to her battle with drugs and alcohol, she told members of the Association of Healthcare Journalists during the conference.