The Winkler Nurses Case on #RNchat

When I started #RNchat last year (@RNchat on Twitter), my hope was to assemble a simple and supple forum for nurses and the public to discuss important issues from the perspective of a diverse group of people.

Here’s a re-post of the transcript for Friday, February 12, 2010’s RNchat, with my commentary on the Winkler County, Texas Nurses case:

Below is a SlideShare of #RNchat for Friday February 12, 2010, organized in chronological order (from beginning of chat to sometime just after). The chat was moderated by Ellen Richter (@EllenRichter on Twitter).

The #WinklerRNs case was the topic of conversation. In Winkler County, Texas, nurses who went through the torment of being charged for leaking private medical information. One of the nurses went to trial and was acquitted within one hour. Now the nurses are responding

This is an important case, one which – among many other things – highlights the need for swift and bold and sturdy nursing organizations. This case isn’t just about defending nurses: it’s ultimately about the safety of patients, the ethical fiber of nurses and doctors and administrators and government officials. Had Anne Mitchel been found guilty, the ramifications could well have been ominous for the integrity of our entire health care landscape.

Friday’s RNchat, discussed topical features of this case: the best practices for whistle-blowing and how to get more organizations behind nurses and the public. Feel free to share the presentation below.

Let’s hope that nurses don’t become scapegoated victims. Do nurses make technical mistakes? Sure they do – we all do. But it’s critical that nurses never feel afraid of expressing their sincere perceptions, their intuition nor their ethical belief system. People can die under those circumstances.

Nurses are the last Jedi Nights of our faltering Republic. A cheesy metaphor? Yes. But it’s true. Anne Mitchell and the other nurses involved in this case are Jedi Knights who fought through a derangement of how ethics and law and responsibility should work.

Anne Mitchell has gone through a Kafka-like hell. Let’s hope she receives comfort and equity and sanity.

NOTE: We also are preparing for a special even in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Details upcoming soon!

As always, thank you to those who joined today. If you’re new to #RNchat, just follow @RNchat on Twitter and we’ll provide updates and links on how to make the best use of this nursing chat. You can also send inquires to info [at] RNchat [dot] org.

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An Open Letter to (Some) Nursing Education Faculty

Dear Nursing Faculty Around The World:

First, I’d like to thank you for devoting your time to advancing the nursing profession and passing along your knowledge to the next generation of nurses. You probably don’t get much public recognition for the work you do. I wish you did. Maybe that will change (read on).

In scanning around web, I’ve noticed lately that many nursing students are frustrated, disappointed and angry with the way they are treated in nursing school. If you honestly care about the future of the nursing profession, then you aught to determine if there’s anything you need to change about your approach.

I attended an accelerated program and my peers already had bachelors degrees. I am grateful for what the teachers did for my education. I detested most of the ridiculous and outdated approaches some of the faculty embraced, but I got what I wanted out of the whole experience. I am grateful for what the faculty did for me.

But I also had the chance back then to observe some of the behaviors of the nursing instructors. Frankly, I was disappointed in what I witnessed. The way some clinical instructors behaved toward their students was inappropriate, abusive and counterproductive. Nursing schools are going to have to put an end to these behaviors.

Having spent a few years in bedside nursing, I realized that the health care profession seems to have a higher proportion of unhealthy and harmful personalities. Most of the profession is composed of remarkable people. The bad apples, though, are spoiling the entire industry.

I suspect that the intra-professional abuse that happens stems from the need to take patient care seriously. It should be serious business: life is at stake. Using that premise as a pretext for displacing anger has no place in the health care setting. It’s dangerous: life is at stake. Berating your students or peers does nothing to help patients.

So to those of you who might be abusing your students: stop it. For those of who run nursing education facilities: do your part to stop the emotional violence. We’re losing the war in nursing and physician recruitment. In an age when one person can reach millions within minutes, you no longer can turn a blind eye to the problem.

Please think about the impact your behavior has on nursing students. If you were mistreated by crotchety nurses during your education, please don’t replicate that misfortune on people who don’t deserve it. If you do that then you are ruining the most important profession in the world.

Here are some practical tips for being a better nursing instructor:

  1. Understand that making mistakes is essential in learning well
  2. Appreciate your students’ inexperience
  3. Accept the diversity of your audience
  4. Never humiliate your students
  5. Lead your students as if they were the last hope for the profession
  6. Find a good therapist
  7. Don’t take it all so seriously
  8. Know the difference between constructive feedback and destructive emotionalism
  9. Learn to turn the most difficult students into remarkable opportunities for education innovation
  10. Elicit the help of your peers and school leadership during difficult times

We don’t have much time left to rescue the health care industry from the its eventual demise. Word is now getting out about how nurses and nursing students are treated. Bad news travels so much faster than good news.

If you don’t ensure that nursing school is a safe, effective and remarkable environment to cultivate, socialize and encourage the best and brightest minds to enter the nursing profession, history will hate you.

It’s no longer the 20th Century. Mass communication is giving way to mass connection. Nurses, and nursing students, are growing networks, establishing on-line presences and constructing novel ways to distribute ideas around the world. It’s becoming harder to conceal long-silenced wrong-doing in institutions.

Think about what I’m telling you. I love our profession, but I’m disappointed in how some people in this industry can treat each other. Nursing school is a large part of the problems we now face. You are at the center of something that could be remarkable. Please don’t rip out your place in history.

It’s your choice: continue an archaic cycle of abuse or create a remarkable future for the health care of every child, woman and man on the planet.


Phil Baumann, RN BSN (whatever that means)

Stumble It!

8 Ways to Become a Better Nurse

One of the benefits of being away from bedside nursing is that I’ve had time to reflect on my own performance. How could I have been better? What simple precepts would have helped? Being out of the “fog of war” has given me a clearer view of what’s right and what’s wrong in health care. Our culture doesn’t offer much positive encouragement for the nursing profession. That’s a costly shame, as many Baby Boomers soon will discover. To help out, I’ve come up with eight ways to become a better nurse.

  1. Pay attention to how you perceive your patients
  2. Intend nothing but the best for your patients
  3. Speak the truth in a way that echoes your wisdom, not your darkness
  4. Act on the facts but respect your intuition
  5. Live your life as a connection to something greater than yourself
  6. Work through your hardest times, not against them
  7. Mind your mind: its power to destroy is its power to heal
  8. Focus on the moment, not the past

Some of us are cut for bedside nursing, some of us aren’t. I think if you’re in bedside nursing and enjoy what you do then you’re a Jedi Knight who commands more respect than you probably receive.

For those of you who don’t quite enjoy what you do, think about your reasons for what you do. Consider the eight precepts (or make up your own) and see if anything changes for the better. You have more options than you realize.

Feel free to add your own suggestions for becoming a better nurse. If I get to 101, I’ll post your thoughts here and promote the living shit out of the list.

I hope the list I’m offering here helps you to become a better nurse, a better person, a better part of our quickly-changing world.

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