The recent loss of a colleague reminded me just how important it is for us to invest in our mental and physical health. We are no good to anyone if we cannot take care of ourselves. It is incumbent upon us to refresh ourselves through activities that rejuvenate our inner spirit. Sometimes, we just need to chill!
10 May 2013
Do you find yourself spinning sometimes on that never-ending spinning wheel? I’m guessing your answer is yes. Every one of us, whether we work in academia or the clinical arena, finds ourselves often simply overwhelmed by work overload. The demands of our profession exceed our capacity to manage work-related stressors. It is amazing how many of us fail to realize the high cost of not taking care of ourselves and, conversely, that the investment we make in our mental and physical health yields rich dividends.
06 December 2012
Have you ever found yourself getting discouraged because you work hard, just want to be recognized for what you do, and it’s not happening? Well, you are not alone. Having come from a large family, I learned early on about the challenges of distinguishing oneself as a game changer when surrounded by sheer talent. I was fortunate to have a smart mother who taught me not to use others as my yardstick, but to challenge myself to go beyond what I am asked to do.
The other day, a colleague and long-time friend was lamenting to me about never getting that award and, despite submitting numerous grant applications, just not being able to attract the attention of the National Institutes of Health. That conversation inspired me to blog about this subject, because I am acquainted with those feelings.
I know the easy road is to disparage oneself, but I will not go there because I believe everyone eventually does receive his or her just reward. The important thing to remember is that acclaim may not come the way we forecasted—in the form of awards or national recognition—but, if we stay on course, we will reap the fruit of our labor.
My mother used to tell me that the universe has a way of steering us toward our destiny, as long as we believe in our purpose. The other lesson I learned from her is to stop limiting myself to departmental awards, or other typical forms of recognition, but instead, to open myself up to infinite possibilities. It is those words of my mother that keep me going and believing that, although the sun seems to shine more quickly on others, hard work will eventually pay dividends. They may not come in the form we anticipate, but they will manifest in ways that exceed even our expectations!
27 August 2012
I am constantly amazed at the opportunities I have to mentor another male into considering nursing. I take great pleasure in sharing with others how choosing a career in nursing was one of the best decisions I made as a young person.
One day, as I sat in my office, a young man happened by and stopped to ask if he could speak to me about men in nursing. You don’t need to guess what I did. I motioned him inside my office and sat him down. His face beamed as I shared stories about my days as a student, as well interesting clinical cases I had encountered throughout my career. I was thrilled by the numerous questions he posed. I could feel his passion for making a difference, and I thought to myself, “Yes, this young man will make a fantastic nurse.” As he left, I knew our chance encounter was just that, because I had not planned on being in the office that day.
As I reflect, I am glad I was there and, more importantly, that I had the opportunity to meet this wonderful young man, who is clearly on his way to becoming a nurse. You know, so often we get busy and do not take the time to talk to prospective students, or we are simply too overwhelmed by all that is expected of us and unintentionally make ourselves unavailable.
I remember learning from a wise professor a long time ago to always leave my door open, both literally and figuratively, because we never know who may come knocking. Looking back, I say my professor was right. After all, it was a chance encounter that influenced me to choose nursing. The individual was an ER nurse who told me to “hold to my dream,” that I would end up doing what I was meant to do. All I can say is, I will continue passing the torch, and I think you should do the same.
11 June 2012
Have you ever wondered why mentors or colleagues betray you or do things they know are detrimental to your career? Ever since I can remember, I have pondered this phenomenon. I recall expending a lot of energy trying to understand their motives—in other words, the “why" question. It took me a long time to make peace with the fact that, no matter how much you revere a nurse or how kind a colleague is to your face, he or she can betray you in a second in the worst way.
Like you, I have heard countless stories of how malicious gossip, spread by those with an appetite for cynicism, has damaged a nurse’s reputation The lesson I had to learn was to separate the person’s actions from the noble profession of nursing.
When I decided to become a nurse, it was more than a career decision. It was a choice motivated, in part, by an internal sense that my call to nursing was to heal and help others live a life of quality and, more importantly, integrity. I have been privileged during my life’s journey to know inspiring individuals who happen to be nurses. They are people I can trust and turn to for advice and wise counsel. Unfortunately, as with some of you, I have also experienced betrayal and often wondered how we advance our profession by hurting other nurses.
Well, through the years, I have ceased asking myself that question and, instead, decided to focus on the legacy I want to leave. In trying to fix nurses who engage in destructive behaviors, we eventually lose our selves and our purpose.
So, here is my advice. No matter how tempting it is to seek revenge, don’t. Instead, focus on what brought you to nursing, and resolve to be a healing rather than a destructive force. Smile, because when your life journey ends, you will be remembered for the investment you made in improving people’s lives. More importantly, the legacy of your nursing career will outlive any negative footnotes created about you by those who have sadly lost sight of the core values of our noble profession.
07 May 2012
In my travels, I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of male nursing students who underscored the need for men in nursing to pursue leadership. While some nurse leaders dismiss the significance of the gender gap, it has a profound impact on how men progress in the profession. Seeing nurses, who are male, in leadership roles provides inspiration to budding clinicians and scholars. Additionally, it sends an important tangible message that, with hard work and perseverance, men can carve their path in a female-dominated profession. For men who enter schools of nursing or are employed at hospitals that lack gender diversity, it is not as easy as it may seem.
I recall one of my female colleagues in medicine sharing how she attended a conference where she was the only female on a panel. I could feel her angst as she described her discomfort. Reflecting upon our conversation made me realize nursing’s moral obligation to develop pathways that increase the number of men at the bedside as well as at the administrative level. There is no doubt in my mind that men in nursing still experience marginalization. However, I am encouraged by initiatives promulgated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and others to diversify the profession by gender.
To dispel myths that, unfortunately, are still pervasive, it is essential that men be visible at the bedside and at academic and administrative levels. The transition has begun, and I am thrilled. I charge all schools of nursing to not only think about recruitment, but also consider developing clinical and administrative pathways that allow men to continue cracking the glass ceiling.
13 February 2012
I have served as faculty adviser to the Male Association of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania (MAN-UP) for five years, and these young men inspire me by their leadership. The concept of MAN-UP is simple: “Be leaders, be mentors, and serve your community.” What more could we ask of our nursing students?
Since its inception, MAN-UP has provided an important voice for male nursing students, and has developed and implemented successful programs targeting men’s health. In particular, the students recruited an NFL athlete, who spoke about the importance of men receiving yearly physical exams, and a noted author, who shared how to navigate tall mountains.
Soon after MAN-UP was formed, the concept caught fire, and I began to receive calls from nursing schools all over the United States, as well as Canada, inquiring how to start a male student nursing association. I was moved by their interest, because it validated the importance of our group in recruiting qualified male students and addressing men’s health issues. As a result, MAN-UP has mentored other nursing schools on starting their own male nursing associations.
MAN-UP has been featured in media outlets for its campus-wide work. Specifically, we hosted the first men’s mental program, focusing on campus suicides, symptoms of depression and providing depression screenings to all interested students. In recognition of the organization’s work, the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has twice been awarded the prestigious “Best School in Nursing” award by American Assembly for Men in Nursing.
These are our future nursing leaders, and their compassion to help their peers and serve their community epitomizes what nursing is all about—being leaders, being mentors and serving the community. This is why I am inspired.
For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing.
30 November 2011
During a discussion about World AIDS Day, I was asked why I had decided to become an HIV/AIDS clinician and researcher at a time when choosing such a career was not popular. The answer was simple: When I was a nursing student, I encountered, during an evening clinical, a young woman diagnosed with AIDS and was told that we were not allowed to provide care to her. You see, we had minimal instruction back then about providing nursing care to those diagnosed with AIDS.
I was aware of the stigma this young woman was experiencing, evidenced visibly by the sign on her door indicating she had AIDS. Being the inquisitive student, I meandered over toward her room because I could hear she was in distress. I opened the door and saw she had dropped her fork on the floor and was clearly too weak to pick it up. Smiling at her, I told her I would take care of it, not to worry. I removed her tray, warmed up her food and retrieved new silverware. When I returned to her room, I sat and fed her, as she was clearly too weak to feed herself. I remember she looked so sad and distraught and wanted desperately to touch my hand. So, as I fed her, she held my hand and just said, “Thank you.”
Upon leaving her room, I was greeted by my instructor, who inquired about my presence in this patient’s room. She did not look too happy. I could feel the eyes of others upon me, and I responded, almost instinctively, “I was being a nurse!” I knew I would receive some corrective counseling, but that young woman’s eyes haunted me, and I vowed I would never let another person with HIV/AIDS endure such treatment.
That moment was my epiphany, as I intuitively knew this was my calling and that, whatever lay ahead, somehow this encounter was preparing me for what was to come.