Faith, Mother /daughter, Nursing, Women,s issues

Isolation Journal Day 110 – A Woman’s Battle

Your prompt for this week:
Set your timer for five minutes and do nothing. Stare at the desk or the wall or the dust motes in a slice of sunlight. Then write about the thoughts, the questions, and the answers that came up in that moment of slowness, of stillness.

If I could be so brave and bold to say, I see some parallels to the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in my life and in many women born in my time (and hers).   Parallels in some ways where I veered off the path, and she bravely ventured forth but parallels in perhaps making a difference 

Now, I am not saying, by any means that I compare to this lady who is now famous for so many accomplishments in life, and who is described as paving the way for women in many ways.  That would be audacious and disrespectful for sure. 

But as I read about her life, the loss of her mother as she was leaving high school left an indelible mark on her life. I relate. My mother died just as I entered my 11th grade, and that defined me in so many ways.  RBG was quoted as saying that she owes so much to her mother who told her she could do as much as any man. Her mother was restricted from higher education because the money went to her brother.  My mother, according to stories, was restricted from going into Nursing – her passion – because she was more fitted for a bakery girl according to her father, my grandfather. He believed that my mother’s sister, the pretty one, could go to secondary school.  

My mother’s father died when he was 64, my mother was 29.  The bakery was sold, and mom was allowed to venture off to nursing school, now the age she would have been called a spinster. The story is vague from then on. but she did meet my dad and married and had the three of us- all girls. My legacy is from a mother denied because of sexism and an authoritarian father, and my father who could have been denied because of finances, but worked it out. It was through them I was growing up to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be. My mom became a nursing supervisor, my dad a businessman.

I know my dad’s choice for me would have been Engineering. My mind was logical, my math skills were good, and he had a company ready for me to join.  But my shyness baulked at the thought of a class with mostly men – a class with the reputation that every second person would fail.  Justice Ginsberg did it though – stood up when there were only nine women in a class of 500, and rejected a professors viewpoint that she didn’t belong there. She went on to sit on the highest court in the land, ironically picked by President Bill Clinton, who was Impeached because of his ways with women. 

I chose nursing – to follow in my mother’s footsteps. I remember the letter I wrote to get accepted – I was going to be the helper of the sick and would lead with compassion and caring. Women were expected to be nurses, teachers and secretaries in the late 60’s. It was right for me then, but some days I always wonder if I would have survived the Engineering atmosphere and where that would have lead me. 

I started out as an underconfident and obedient bedside nurse, but it wasn’t long that I learned that there were too many parts of nursing that were lost in the dark ages, a place I would rather not stand.  Nurses were to do and not ask why. We did menial tasks, like washing gloves and syringes rather than knowing medical answers. We stood when the head nurse walked in and asked how high when the doctor told us to jump.  We were criticized for asking questions, reminded it was not ours to diagnose and screamed at if we weren’t handy when the doctor needed us. We had to balance our many tasks at the bedside to run when the busy doctor arrived at our desk.  Nurses in those days were mostly women and misogyny was rampant. 

It was this atmosphere that allowed a scalpel to pin my shoe to the floor when I handed the surgeon a wrong instrument, that made me disappear crying when I didn’t have answers to a doctor that berated me or a head nurse that chose to “ride” the newest kid on the block. The saying “we eat our own” was very true. 

I don’t know when it was that I learned that standing up for what was right was the thing I could do, but I attribute much of it to my first Head Nurse in Edmonton after I was married.  Mrs. F (everyone was still called Dr, Mrs. and Miss then) was a feisty little Pilipino head nurse who respected her staff and wanted us to be the best.  A turning point for me was when a surgeon came to the desk and started tapping at the desk. When nobody noticed, he uttered a couple of harrumphs. Mrs. F. looked up and smiled at me. I was the team leader for his team and responsible to take him on rounds.  He loudly yelled NURSE!!  Mrs F. stood her barely 5-foot ground and calmly said: “I didn’t know you hadn’t met Mrs Jago – let me introduce you.” Now I had taken this particular surgeon on rounds many times by that time, and he was taken aback. “Of course, I have met Mrs Jago”.  Mrs F looked at him and answered “ Well you won’t call her nurse from now on will you?” Humbled, (and it was hard to humble a surgeon in those days) he nodded and politely asked me, by name, if I was ready for rounds. Surgeons learned not to rap on the desk for attention, to come to where we were working and ask for help, and sometimes even to do their rounds themselves!  She taught me not to apologize for calling a doctor – this was his job, and calling was ours.  Up to then, we started most sentences with “I am sorry to bother you, doctor”.   I learned so much from that workplace, things I used later and incorporated into my nursing career. I learned we were registered nurses educated to do the best for our patients, and we might have to step on a few toes to do it. I am saddened when I hear stories of physicians and surgeons who think they still live in the age of yelling to a “subservient” nurse. 

I soon learned that it was the diagnosis and medical part of nursing that I loved the most. I wanted to make the difference by knowing the reason for the symptoms, being ready with an answer to a problem rather than by pretending that the doctor was always right. It didn’t always go well with the physicians but mostly, I earned their respect.  But it took some bravery to stand ground with people who didn’t expect that.  To hang up the phone when a surgeon swore at me for calling him.  To advise a top doc that profanity wasn’t to be used on my unit ever and it didn’t become him. To ask another physician to quit the inappropriate jokes told at the desk – and being called Sister Terry for that behind my back.  He was corrected on that too!  To report breaches of a policy when necessary even though that indirectly caused me to change places of work. 

Soon, the tide changed, and nurses were expected to know, not just do.  It was an honour to be taught by doctors how to read an ECG, listen to heart sounds, and diagnose an acute abdomen or a Myocardial Infarction. It was an honour to be told that if they heard my voice in the middle of the night, they knew they had better get dressed, as I didn’t call unless I needed them. I accepted a few apologies when I was right and they were wrong and from others the harrumph that said the same thing, but in a very different way.

I taught others as well, by example or by a story, that we are nurses, proud nurses and never “Just a nurse”. That our assistants are not ‘ Just an aide or just a SCA” but a proud and important person in the health care field. I wanted to place equal value on us all – male or female, doctor or nurse, aide or technician. For that to happen, we all had to believe it. 

When  I hear the story of Justice Ginsberg, and the changes she made for women, it wasn’t the  reproductive or abortion rights that I focus on. That was such a small part of it.   She paved the way for our daughters and granddaughters to choose a career, be paid equally for it, to stand up to tyranny and misogyny and the right to speak up as a person. 

When I see the picture of her and her fellow Justices, one of three woman on the Supreme Court, and a little osteoporotic one at that, I think of the battles she must have faced, for us, against the band of men making rules for all.  I think that she might have said – “call her by name”, or “think of me the same as him”, to object at dehumanizing comments or jokes, or even had to leave the room when a band of men wouldn’t see her as an equal. I can see her rising, like that tiny Head Nurse of mine, and setting her clerks and fellow Justices straight on how to treat people with respect and dignity no matter who they are.

It’s a battle we face as women, to be counted as equal, yet be respected as women as well. It’s a battle we take on every day, proud to be the gentler gender, but also wanting to be treated as an equal. To me, it is not about an occasional hand on my back to lead me in a room, or a hand offered to help me scale a rock, but the acknowledgement, that there is no obstacle for women for equal pay or equal opportunity.  We are not often equal in size or muscle strength or even hormonal bend, but we are equal in value.

Canadian Health Care, Health crisis, lean health care, Living life, musing, registered nurse retired, Saskatchewan health, Women,s issues

Health care – imperfect yet necessary

stethHealth Care and Medicine make mistakes.

That is a hard pill for me to swallow some days.  I feel a need to defend. I feel a need to complain. I feel a need to have compassion. I feel conflicted.

The sad facts: Some of Medical care’s long-held beliefs may be (or are) just incorrect.

  • So many things I have done in my 40+ years of nursing, with the knowledge we had at that time, have been proven ineffective and incorrect.
    • We believed that testing the urine of a diabetic patient would give us a good indication of how much insulin he needed – not knowing about renal thresholds of sugar, HBAIC and fancy glucose meters.  Many of our patients died prematurely , or have long-lasting complications from our poor control measures. This saddens me but gives me hope for the future of medicine.
    • We thought days of hospitalization and bedrest made for better outcomes for surgeries, cataracts, heart attacks, childbirth and medical conditions. We needed a lot of hospital beds for these long stays and families were interrupted.
    • We cleansed, enema’d, and  shaved from knees to nipples prior to most surgery, – We cut people wide open and gave them awful naso-gastric tubes for gallbladder surgery. We “opened people up” for a look see because of lack of good imaging.
    • We made hip surgery patients stay in bed and non weight bearing for weeks. Children with fractured femurs, or needing IV antibiotics stayed  in hospital for months.

I am sure we can think of more and my point is not that we did wrong, but that thankfully we were open to new ideas and changes. There are still things stuck in the dark ages – things we need to let go of and make way for change.

  • Physicians can be wrong, uncaring, overworked, behind the times and stuck with tradition.
    • you have the right to change physicians if it is not working for you. The best way is to tell the previous one you are changing.  Although I have advised many people on how to change physicians, this is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Sometimes physicians can be lovely but not progressive enough for me. Sometimes my need for facts/results/options can offend the  physician. Sometimes the personalities are just not right. The good news is there are many good ones !
    • you have a right to a second opinion
    • you have the right to say “No – that is not my belief or wish”  ( I did this just recently when the common canned supplement was recommended for hubby – I said, “you know I really don’t like all the preservatives in that and prefer to make my own” )
    • You have the right to say – “can I go to a specialist anyways”  – even if your GP says you probably are “all right”.  Let the specialist decide if your concern is valid.
    • you have the right to combine natural remedies and traditional medicine. You should inform your health care team what you are doing, but don’t always expect them to approve. This is a field that still lacks approval from many physicians.
    • you should check for references from friends or other health care professionals for physicians and specialists – you want someone you can relate to.
    • You have the right to research – but try to research the reputable sites ( Mayo clinic, Registered nurses of Ontario,  Pub Med)   rather than relying on Doctor Google.  You have a right to package inserts or written information.
  • Physicians and nurses may avoid telling you the truth if a mistake has been made – This is a practice  that is going away quickly, and far from the norm now, but as I said – some are stuck with tradition. The traditional  system used to believe “what they don’t know doesn’t hurt them”.. yes I am ashamed to admit that but I belonged then too.  My most meaningful episode of this was when as a student nurse a surgeon called tying of the ureters instead of the fallopian tubes ” something that just happens”. The patient nearly ended up in renal failure and had a second surgery.  I wanted to squeal so bad, but that would have been the end of my career. I do believe that these days  major errors are told to patients and families – but some minor still go unknown. If you see something you don’t think was right – speak up.
  • Wrong medication is the most common error that happens in hospitals and pharmacies. Double checks are put in, but the best check is you!  Check the medications you or your family get and say something if you get the wrong coloured one or a new one. Double check your discharge medications for dosage and drugs and ask about ones that seem to be missing. Ask the why’s about any new ones – they may be the same as the ones you have. A pharmacist can be your best source.
  • Nursing staff can be wrong, uncaring, overworked, behind the times and stuck with tradition.
    • Sad to say this, but I almost quit nursing because of how I was treated after loss of my premature infants. I ended up making motions to change a system, and the nursing classes… not by myself – but through Compassionate Friends and others.
    • I firmly believe if you have an issue there are very important first steps to take. First talk to the nurse in question – Sometimes, we as nurses need to check ourselves. Busyness, home problems and unthinking can cause us to ignore something or appear unkind.  Then contact the supervisor in charge and wait for them to get back to you. Then the Quality Care Coordinator for the hospital. Calls to MLA’s and ministry can follow if those people don’t hear your concern.  As a former manager, it was very disconcerting to find out a problem had occurred and nobody had advised me before going to the ministry. It causes a lot of people to be involved and maybe some press, but it ties the hand of the manager to get the problem solved. It is hard to reconstruct an episode that happened weeks ago, but easy when the staff is still present.
    • If you are a health care worker, ask your coworkers to intervene if you mess up or sound sharp – to take you away from the bedside and offer you a break. When you do intervene, as a patient, advocate or coworker  do it gently, if you cannot do that at the moment, take some space and time and then go back. Vulnerability is a sign of maturity. As a former nurse, I appreciated when someone called me out – even if it did hurt at the time.
    • Beware of the viral Facebook post – it is so tempting to share them and to get caught in the ” ain’t it awful” comments.  Ask the question first – did the person follow the above steps? Will this post hurt someone who has no control over the situation ? Will it help ?  If not.. read and move on.
    • Find an advocate who can look at situations from the outside or who can help from a medical standpoint. This can be very helpful to understand the why’s of situations.
  • Hospital beds are at a premium.  This is somewhat from the old belief of patients staying in hospital weeks and months for things they no longer stay in for. Bed numbers are based on “average ideal length of stay”. It is in part due to lack of funding for beds that are closed. It is sometimes because physicians listen to us when it is inconvenient to take our loved one home today as we are working, or he/she would need some extra help. It is because we think it impossible for our loved one to a nursing home that his not our preference, or even out-of-town to free up a bed for someone very ill.  It is sometimes because physicians still think that hospital is the best place and keep their patients too long.
    • Hubby has stayed in Emergency for a couple of nights, been without a bed following elective surgery, and moved several times. The cubby hole  in Emergency was small and cramped with little space for me. He has shared rooms with women ( now common) and none of this was easy.
    • There are ” bed managers ” working at full tilt trying to find beds that aren’t in hallways and making sure people are safe.  Hubby once had an alcove bed with a little  ding bell that would probably not be heard in the next room let alone down the hall, but he was fortunate, that time,  that he could call out and walk to the desk. It was crowded – but it worked.
    • Talking about closing the Plains or too few beds at FH Wigmore Hospital  is not helpful. It is too late for that planning to change but not too late to look at solutions with the beds that are there.
    • The nursing home that you don’t prefer is tough, but a hospital where someone is kept in bed, not dressed and not socializing in a dining room is the worst place for our elderly patients.  Infections, pneumonia, incontinence and confusion are side effects of this. Ideally everyone should live where they want, but life today is less than ideal for our elderly.

I had a lot to say – and said a lot.  I hope this helps your navigation through ” the system” and helps you understand.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone fails to be kind, everyone says the wrong things. Only you can decide whether it needs forgiveness or fixing.

Faith, grief, healthy living, Living life, Women,s issues

Gentle not Nasty -A rebuttal to Ashley

gentle-changeWomen joined all over the world to protest in peaceful marches to draw attention to women’s issues – the march prompted by President Trump’s sexist, demeaning comments about women and potential policy changes.  In most countries women’s issues need to be addressed.  It is in the way we draw attention to these issues that makes  or breaks our cause

From Madonna’s outrage to Ashley Judd’s recitation of “I am a nasty women” by  Nina Donovan, ( a 19-year-old in Middle, Tennessee)  to a song organized as a pop up a Capella beauty by singer Milck,  we protested.  Carrying peaceful placards fit for a “general audience” to wild and outrageous profane signs, wearing  pink “baby cat” hats to  hajibs, women around the world marched.

Today’s my blog post is a milder gentler protest using some of the words from Nina Donovan’s prose, but written in a way I can relate to.  Nina’s was written after Trump called  Hillary Clinton a nasty woman. I will link the words and video from the march as a reference, but gentle women, you may not want to even look at it.

I am a gentle woman. I’ve learned the hard way not to judge people just on their looks.  I am a gentle  woman who can express my views without vulgar, demeaning terms, a gentle woman who cringes at words used by women (and men) that make vulgar our body parts and acts of love.

That does not make me complacent regarding real concerns regarding the people chosen to lead our countries. I am concerned about elections that are real and fair. I yearn for campaigns filled with issues not criticism, kindness not hate.  I know that combatting nasty words with more, doesn’t solve our problems. I believe in absolute truth  – absolute values that hold true through generations.

Being a gentle woman doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry.   I am angry at any leader who uses hate speech and intimidation in his election addresses.   I am angry when racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, misogyny, ignorance and white supremacy is allowed and championed in a day where it should never be.  Yeah, I’m a gentle woman — but that doesn’t make me complacent.

I am glad my choices in the election booth didn’t have to compromise my beliefs – making voting for honesty mean my vote didn’t count. I honour the battles our grandmothers fought to allow  me to vote. I believe in wage equality and see many examples of it, yet know others make less money just because they are women.  I believe that paid maternity leave for women allows an important bond that is priceless. I am angry when women feel that to go upward in a career, the trail must be be paved with sexual favours, and that they don’t feel that they can stand against this and still be successful. I am angry at Jian, Bill, Bill, Donald and countless other men who see their popularity as privilege over the bodies of a trail of women and girls. I am angry that many women (and young girls) can tell a story of coercion, assault, rape, date rape, or of not feeling worthy of saying no.  I am angry that Canada has a path of missing and dead First Nations women and didn’t priorize an investigation into it.  I am angry that courts often blame the women and look past a crime to the woman’s past sexual history.  I am angry that even today in both our affluent countries women are sold in the slave trade.   This is not a myth. This is not what Canadian (Nellie, Emily, Mary Ann, Alice,) and American ( Rosa, Elizabeth, Susan B , Eleanor, Condoleeza, Michelle) women fought for. This is inequality. This IS nasty.

I am a gentle woman, a woman who knows sorrow and anger. I buried three babies born live-who were not in the womb enough weeks to be viable. I am angry that babies this size legally can be aborted in our country because we “own” the right to our bodies.  This right is balanced by the fact that most Physicians will not do this unless absolutely necessary so very few late term abortions are ever done.   I am angry that fetal rights are forgotten in this era of “my body has rights.” Yet I know of late term terminations taking place to abort a baby with a genetic condition that has no chance to live. I cannot imagine that decision or that lack of choice.   I cannot be in favour of banning  abortions either for these reasons, and what I saw as a new nurse in that era of backroom butchering.   I have seen women who felt they had no choice but to abort.   Personally, my experience makes me conflicted.    I am an adoptive mother.  I have held a 23 week baby in my arms.  I felt the bond of a 10 week fetus four times.  This  “women’s right to choose” movements forgets that pregnancy ended early for any reason leaves a huge loss whether that child was planned or not.  Women remain wounded.

Gentle women can make a difference. Perhaps by marching in a protest march with signs that respect and honour their cause. Perhaps by fighting with gentle words rather than vulgar ones. Perhaps by having a home where girl’s issues, girl’s opinions, and girl’s privacy are  honoured. A home where girls and boys are respected equally and taught to honour others.   Perhaps by living values and saying words so that they will feel no shame by when their children or grandchildren repeat them. Or perhaps by every day having such clean language that people gasp if they slip up and exclaim words they so commonly hear outside their home. Perhaps by prose or songs or speeches and even Facebook memes that honour rather than degrade while still calling for equality and truth. We need to honour and value people of all gender, race, colour, economic standing and beliefs. And teach our children and grandchildren the same.

So women – let’s yell, let’s march, let’s hug, let’s cry. Let’s learn and study, and pray and listen. Let’s say NO to inequality, racism, bias. Let’s find out where the concerns are in our own sphere of influence, and each do one small thing to make a difference. Let’s throw out vulgar terms for body parts and acts of love, in doing so recognizing our diversity and beauty created by God.  Let’s say pardon me  or gasp instead of ignoring it when language or jokes offend us. Let’s change women’s words back to those that honour, not degrade. Let our feminism be one of beauty, strength, companionship and love.

We CAN Be those that make Canada and America great.