As Nurses, we spend a lot of time educating ourselves. Our pre-nursing days focus on the building blocks of our medical education: anatomy, physiology, organic chemistry, microbiology and psychology. This lays the foundation for the core study of diseases and the subsequent art and science of diagnosing and treating. Nurses are holistic healers- in other words we treat the whole person not just the disease. We see the patient first and foremost as a person in need of our care but also as a husband/wife, father/mother, sibling or friend. We care for this extended family as well as treating this one individual. We are responsible for not only their physical health but their mental health as well. We assemble teams of nurses, doctors, physical & respiratory therapists, social workers, dieticians, aids, etc., all with one mission: to care for and restore the health of our patient.
From the beginning of my nursing career, I have made education a part of my service as a nurse. I continue to teach to this day as a formal trainer for a large pharmaceutical company and as a mentor to young men and women who want to enter the field of nursing. I teach my students that it is their responsibility to be a lifelong learner. No one can do it for you. “You don’t know what you don’t know” so seek out your education passionately and unapologetically.
This week I posted a black box on my instagram and facebook and I promised to listen to the voices being raised and to educate myself about black lives. I have to admit, I thought: I have this, I’m a good person, I follow The Golden Rule. I treat others how I want to be treated. “We all bleed red” I’ve heard others proclaim. It’s certainly true but it doesn’t nearly go far enough. We are nurses and as such we care for our patients with compassion and empathy. We are guided by the nursing essential values and hopefully live by them too. Do I have to experience an amputation to care for a patient with one?, NO. Do I have to personally have heart disease, diabetes, M.S., etc. to effectively communicate and treat someone? Of course not, but, do I need to educate myself?, YES. I need to learn the history, understand what has happened before, learn from others who have experienced this situation before, go to lectures and conferences, refer to textbooks and scientific literature. That all lends itself to allow me to care for patients more effectively and I believe it applies to this situation as well. I believe true understanding starts with an education.
So, when I needed to educate myself about black lives, where did I start? I started with trusted friends and I started with nurses. Have I read and watched the widely recommended books and movies everyone is recommending? YES. But for me, it seemed natural and right to look to the nurses. WOW, Wow, wow. Talk about not knowing what I don’t know. In my opening paragraph, I told you, in nursing school, I started with the basics, the building blocks. So I believe you have to start with the past to understand the present and plan for the future. To start, I researched Nursing’s founding historical figures and discovered a world, I’m embarrassed to say, I knew very little about. It took no time to find many courageous and revolutionary black nurses who paved the way for future black nurses.Their heartbreaking, unbelievable stories illustrate nurses fighting for basic human rights, equality and dignity, that parallel the heartbreaking, unbelievable stories of most black lives at the time that for some have continued to this day.
As part of this education, I wanted to dig deeper into the lives of these heroic people and I thought, if I don’t know about these figures in American nursing history, I’m sure there are others who might be interested in this information as well.
My education is ongoing but as a nurse and part time educator, my authentic commitment to learning more about black lives needed to start somewhere. In my search, I discovered and now want to highlight some of the most influential black nurses in history. I am humbled by this journey and am looking forward to new discoveries and knowledge.
As part of my personal “listen, educate and act” initiative, I will continue my education, I have joined @BlackNursesRock to connect and donate to the education of future black nurses. This call to action feels right in line with the pledge I made to the world when I became a nurse.
I am honored and humbled to have the ability to share what I learn with you in hopes that you will share their stories with others, too.
We have started with a few, stay tuned, there will be more to come...
With Love and Kindness,