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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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Theresa Brown, RN, is an oncology nurse and one of the very few nationally prominent nurse-writers in the areas of nursing and health care. She is a member of the Center for Health, Media and Policy’s National Advisory Council.

Flickr/Abrilon

It all started with a tweet. I’m a somewhat reluctant user of social media, but I’m giving it more of a go lately, and my tweet in question was this: “#nihmim12 Day 2 and no mention of nurses EVER. RNs do the bulk of patient education in the hospital, but we don’t even merit a nod?” The hashtag “nihmim12” denotes the Medicine in the Media workshop sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and held this October in Potomac, MD. Having just completed the course, I can highly recommend it, but the issue of nurses’ absence in the curriculum requires a closer look.

My twitter post got the attention of Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin, the engaged and thoughtful MDs who organize the course curriculum and do the bulk of the teaching. They were genuinely interested in my perception that nurses’ work needs to be represented in the course in order to render the actual working of health care accurately. I promised them I would look through the course PowerPoint slides with an analytical eye and get back to them with more specific comments about including nurses, and I plan on doing that.

However, I also told them that my indignant tweet came in response to an attempt earlier in the day to talk with one of the conference organizers about including nurses in the course. I won’t go into particulars, because maybe this person was just at the end of a long day and had heard one complaint too many, but I was told that the physicians who were teaching the course could not be expected to “comment on the nurses’ experience.”

It’s been a week since Hurricane Sandy it the eastern U.S. The big news today was not about President Obama’s re-election. It was the forecast for another nor’easter.

Many in the New York metro area are still struggling in the aftermath of this giant storm. Thousands still lack power. They’re cold, tired, and frustrated. Large trees still lie across many streets, forcing detours. Hundreds and hundreds lost homes and cars, and sadly some even lost their lives.

It’s not only the physical upheaval that tri-staters must cope with. It’s also the mental health effects of this unnerving act of Mother Nature. I asked my friend Alison Pratt, PhD, a private practice psychologist in Floral Park, NY about the anxiety that accompanies natural disasters like Sandy. She focused on what most of us are now experiencing. Those living through extreme scenarios in places like Breezy Point or Staten Island have a different level of trauma to contend with, but Dr. Pratt reminded me that even the more “mundane” events like long lines for gasoline or downed phone lines are still very stressful.

For example, many who lost power are feeling a lot of resentment, anger and helplessness, she told me. “You start  with a can-do attitude when everyone is in it together. But then you begin feeling left out, or victimized by the power companies, when other neighborhoods come back on line and yours doesn’t.”

It’s been a week since Hurricane Sandy it the eastern U.S. The big news today was not about President Obama’s re-election. It was the forecast for another nor’easter.

Many in the New York metro area are still struggling in the aftermath of this giant storm. Thousands still lack power. They’re cold, tired, and frustrated. Large trees still lie across many streets, forcing detours. Hundreds and hundreds lost homes and cars, and sadly some even lost their lives.

It’s not only the physical upheaval that tri-staters must cope with. It’s also the mental health effects of this unnerving act of Mother Nature. I asked my friend Alison Pratt, PhD, a private practice psychologist in Floral Park, NY about the anxiety that accompanies natural disasters like Sandy. She focused on what most of us are now experiencing. Those living through extreme scenarios in places like Breezy Point or Staten Island have a different level of trauma to contend with, but Dr. Pratt reminded me that even the more “mundane” events like long lines for gasoline or downed phone lines are still very stressful.

For example, many who lost power are feeling a lot of resentment, anger and helplessness, she told me. “You start  with a can-do attitude when everyone is in it together. But then you begin feeling left out, or victimized by the power companies, when other neighborhoods come back on line and yours doesn’t.”

Joy Jacobson is the CHMP’s poet-in-residence. Follow her on Twitter: @joyjaco

“We have hot food and bottled water for you!”

I was in a dark hallway of the JASA towers, a senior housing complex in Far Rockaway, Queens, yesterday, with two other women volunteers, shouting into a closed apartment door. I had met the women a few hours earlier at an Occupy Sandy outpost at a church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The towers had been without power for six days. Most of the elderly residents had found shelter elsewhere, but many remained. This woman was hesitant to open her door to us but wanted

The boardwalk at Rockaway. Photo by dakine kane, via Flickr

to know: What kind of hot food did we have? Pasta, we yelled, or rice and chick peas. We could bring her some other items, like powdered milk, trash bags, toothpaste, we said, if only she would tell us what she needed.

Occupy Sandy is a hybrid that arose out of catastrophic need. The Occupy Wall Street movement united with 350.org, a coalition dedicated to “solving the climate crisis,” and Recovers.org, a firm specializing in disaster-recovery software, to form one of the most coherent, organized, and relevant community resources in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Coming into contact with them just days before the presidential election, I’m reminded of the power of community.

After the woman took a hot meal and some toothpaste, I walked back down the hallway (really, I’m not afraid of the dark but I did find it eerie to be feeling my way in total darkness) and came into a lighted area where I saw a sign for the visiting nurse. I banged on the door, not expecting an answer, and was surprised when a nurse opened the door and introduced herself. She invited me to go with her to the ninth floor to check on a few residents.

In recent months, I have attended some very good presentations on human trafficking awareness. About a week ago I heard a presentation at the International Association of Forensic Nurses Scientific Assembly in Puerto Rico about trafficking and the role of the health care provider. I enthusiastically registered for this session because I thought it might shed some light on what health care providers– specifically nurses are supposed to do when they discover that their patient is a survivor of human trafficking.

What I did hear was what human trafficking is, the laws against trafficking in persons, how a survivors of trafficking might present or how they might behave in a clinical setting, and the many health risks imposed by this horrible crime.  The presentation was informative and at the same time, a little disappointing. This presentation, like many others I have heard, fell short of telling the health care providers about the next steps–what to actually do when a trafficking survivor is sitting in front of you and seeking help.

In some presentations it is recommended to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by the Polaris Project and based in Washington, DC. I am a subscriber to the Polaris Project’s e-newsletter and read in the September 28, 2012 issue that the Hotline has fielded 60,000 calls since 2007. Astonishing! I wondered, though, how can the Hotline help me as nurse in Florida when the person on the other end of the line is several states away? To answer my own question, I called 888-373-7888 to find out.