Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Locusts: Part Two

Dennis and I first met each other in Gunnison at a 5k in 1986.  The town has changed a lot since then but not so much that it’s lost its feel, it’s the crusty old ranchers and the college, and the tourist industry.

This weekend was our 28th anniversary, a day we share with our friend Kirk Apt’s birthday. Kirk, Keith, Dennis and I have a long, shared history as friends. They live in the Grand Junction area now and we don’t see them nearly as often as we used to.

We wanted to go up to Crested Butte and Gunnison for the weekend and take the girls with us. It would be their first longer road trip than 3 hours, and their first time staying in a hotel. Kirk and Keith were planning to go up to Crested Butte, too, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to get together again.

We left Fort Collins Friday morning ahead of the worst weekend traffic, with lots of stops along the way- lunch in Buena Vista, our property, the Mountain Spirit winery near Salida and then over Monarch down into the green Gunnison Valley along Tomichi Creek.

That same feeling (link to old post) came over me as we descended from Monarch Pass, into the promised land…

We stayed at a motel on the east end of town, we checked in and then we went into town and took the girls for a walking tour of Western State campus. They loved swimming in the old irrigation ditches at the park and on the streets in town.

We planned Saturday around being with Kirk and Keith. We met at the Brush Creek trailhead. Dennis took the girls for a hike and a swim since he’s not running for hours yet.  Keith went ahead of us as she is a road runner and a lot faster than we are. Kirk and I stayed at leisurely pace and his friend Ben ran with us.

We ran a 15 mile loop most of the way around Mt. Crested Butte that dumps us out at Gothic. It goes on single track trail in and out of meadows and aspen forests, skunk cabbage and wildflowers, spruce and lodgepole pine, between about 9000 and 11000 feet. There are some good steady climbs and gentle descents.
Once we hit the turnoff that heads toward Pearl Pass there were no more motorized vehicles. No more locusts on their dirt bikes and ATVs making noise and tearing up dust.

Finally, peace. For five solid hours. I could hear the birds, the wind blowing the aspen leaves, and creeks flowing and rolling over rocks. It was a perfectly clear day with few clouds in the endless depth of blue. The wildflowers were out, the early season ones were in full bloom- lupine, skyrocket, bluebells, mules ears. The cows weren’t out yet, so things were still in good shape, the water was clean and the trails were clear without cow pies and deer flies.

It was dry for the area, still green, but it felt more like July than June. There was hardly any snow left up high. I used to ride my mountain bike on these trails back when I lived here, before I became an ultraunner. I could remember the rides and trail runs vividly. Views in every direction, of avalanche chutes and dry ski runs and snow cornice-topped red mountains.

We saw a few mountain bikers and a couple other runners, but for a Saturday on a summer weekend, it was surprisingly quiet. The tourist season doesn’t really get going until closer to July. I kept asking Kirk the names of the mountains as I couldn’t remember from 20-30 years ago. More memories flooded my head. Sensory overload.

On our run Kirk and I caught up, as we haven’t seen each other in at least 7 years even though we still talk occasionally. We took our time, at a good hiking pace and running the smooth descents and a few flats.

I felt good. Even though I struggled with the altitude the whole way, as long as I stopped to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down, I was fine. I felt lightheaded the whole way, but it was a good lightheaded. Another 1000 feet higher and it wouldn’t have been a good lightheaded!

I sprained my ankle slightly the week before, so I was a little concerned about the trails, but I forgot how smooth they are. I taped it and brought my ankle brace just in case, but I didn’t need it.

After about 5 1/2 hours, we got to Gothic.  Kirk and Ben went toward Mount Crested Butte, and I went into Gothic, where Dennis and Keith were waiting for me. We hung out at the buildings and I got some cold lemonade. Then we took Keith back to her car at Brush Creek.

That was my longest run since the 24 hour in April.  My legs felt fine, I felt strong with the climbing and running, it was just the lack of oxygen that was difficult.

We went back to Gunnison to get cleaned up and then headed back up to Crested Butte where we met Kirk and Keith for dinner at Donita’s. I worked at Donita’s bussing tables for a short time before I started coaching at Western State College in the late 80s. While we were there we saw people I’ve known since those days- Kay, Heli, and another woman, Jenny, whom I knew from 30 years ago. It was funny, she remembered me as “the runner”.   

Town has a lot more retail development and houses all around, things look newer and shinier, but fortunately the locusts were few. It wasn’t busy at all, we walked right into Donita’s at 6 pm on a Saturday evening and got seated right away. By the time we left it was getting busy.

After, we headed back to Gunnison for the night. The sky was very hazy, there was a big fire north of Durango near Purgatory. To the south you could hardly see anything.

I needed this for my psyche, for a calm feeling, after 2 weeks ago being up in the mountains with all the freaking locusts.

Sunday morning, we planned to meet Duane Vandenbusche, Dennis’s old coach from Western, at the W cafe for coffee. We had an enjoyable conversation and it’s always great to see that he never changes. Now in his 80s, he’s sharp and still remembers everybody and everything, and he looks great.

Then it was time to head back over the hill. We got in line behind the locust train over the passes back to Denver.

The extra 3 hours of driving each way was worth it. One more pass, and that sweet sage smell in the air...spruce, lodgepole pine, along with the aspen and arnica.

Coming back is like coming full circle in life. This is where living started.  

I am thankful that I have the memories from when I lived here and got to explore the backcountry before the throngs of people came. When you could go out and not see anyone else all day.

But there’s still some peace here, there is escape possible, you just have to choose your timing wisely. Until the next adventure...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Locusts: Part One

First we made the dumb mistake of trying to go up to the mountains for part of Memorial Day weekend.

Lately Fort Collins has been getting to me. It's getting bigger, the traffic is much worse than it was even 12 years ago when we moved back after our stint in Arizona. It bothers me when I go out for walks in some places and cannot seem to have any space to myself- people are crawling everywhere. So I started having escape fantasies of going up to the mountains this summer, to our little piece of the earth near Trout Creek Pass overlooking South Park.

Bad idea.
I am really not as much of a misanthrope as it sounds. In the city is one thing, but don't mess with my peace and quiet.

I am thankful for the memories I have from the 1980s and 90s when things were still relatively quiet and you could go places without being overrun by these loud dust-making machines, and people were not as maniacal about their motorized toys and guns.

And the weather seems drier and the roads get dustier and there's more fire danger, we've had beetle infestations and people make a lot more impact on the forest when camping with these massive vehicles. Whatever happened to car camping with a tent?

I guess it's time to start looking for a different way to escape- a different place to escape.

We bought our little piece of peace 21 years ago. It doesn't feel peaceful anymore. It feels exposed, overrun with people who don't respect peace and quiet.

People suck.

 The place is crawling with them. They consume everything. Peace and quiet, for one. They are pigs. They leave their trash everywhere.

And noise. They love to make noise. They have no concept of respecting the creatures who live here in the forest.

They drive giant bus-sized RVs with all the luxuries of home and then some. They attach these huge trailers- horse trailer size- that have multiple dirt bikes inside them, or rickety, noisy flatbed trailers with 2 or 3 ATVs on them.

It’s actually quieter in the city because at least you don’t have people shooting guns or riding ATVs. But you have the lawnmowers, leaf blowers, which follow no reasonable schedule of operation, completely unpredictable. And occasionally you get the nutbag driving a testosterone-fueled mufflerless terror truck- usually some big burly white guy with a baseball cap on his head, in various orientations, with an American flag decal somewhere. And sometimes they have those coal-roller things that spew black smoke. 

There is nothing scarier than a white guy in a baseball cap driving aggressively in a big, loud pickup with an American flag decal on it, add a Christian symbol and it's even more fear-provoking. To me, that is the picture of white straight male Christian entitlement, and resentment of all of us who are not. 

It’s come to the point where there is no place to escape. It makes me very sad and I'm losing hope in humanity. We have a dying planet because people are completely disrespectful of its ability to sustain life. They strip the commodities along with the amenities for their own short term gain. Plundering the resources without giving a thought to the lives that might be affected by their assault. 

I'm so tired of the mentality that says we have the right to do whatever we want, it’s public land. 
But there should be places where you can go and shoot and places where I can go and have peace and quiet where they don’t interfere with each other. How about respect and dignity and safety without fear. 

Reminds me of the poem The Bloodless Sportsman by Sam Walter Foss. Click on the link to read it. Please do, you must, I insist.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Donuts, Jackfruit and Pinecones

No, it's not some kind of Euell Gibbons breakfast throwback. (If you're too young to remember Euell Gibbons, google on it.)

Yesterday I had a couple of small misadventures during the day.

Act I. Donuts

I started out early going to the Donut Friday run, because it was National Donut Day. I decided to take Velcro and Gypsy with me, and they were extremely and surprisingly well-behaved. They tried to steal Nelly's donut and begged for Colin's powdered sugar donut, but they mostly sat in the shade and drank their water. Even though the donuts were free, I didn't have one. Didn't sound appealing.

Act II. The Pinecone

We only got about 4 miles in that morning so I decided to take them for a few extra miles while it was still cool, afterward, on the Power Trail.

About 50 meters from the car I was running directly into the sun and didn't see a pinecone in front of me on the sidewalk, and I stepped on it and rolled my ankle. I heard and felt a pop and it hurt!!

As I was bent over, recovering as the pain subsided, wondering how much damage I did, I could see my summer plans disappearing into the ether.

I walked slowly back to the car, girls attached. It seemed okay, but I knew on a fresh injury you sometimes don't feel the extent of the damage.

I got home and iced the crap out of it. It felt like I rolled forward, more anteriorly onto the front of my foot, my lower shin and the top of my foot seemed to be where the damage was.

Alternating with ice on and off all day, I finally got the guts to see if I could walk around. It didn't feel too bad, a bit tender, but I managed to walk around the block slowly without much discomfort.

Act III. Jackfruit

Lately I've been experimenting with vegan food, just to wean us away from meat, make our diet healthier, and add some variety to our usual meals. We eat healthy meals except just a little too much meat. I've been an enabler of sorts, Dennis likes meat, and I tend to do most of the cooking and I steer toward fish whenever possible. But I'd refer to eat much less meat. I've tried convincing Dennis in the past and it lasts for a short time and somehow it always backslides.

I have been wanting to try cooking some vegan meals for a while and finally put my foot down. And it's been amazing- Dennis likes it and hasn't complained. So I must be doing something right. We've had a lot of quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, veggie burgers, and a few other things. But one thing I had not tried, that I was curious about, was jackfruit. I've seen the things at Whole Foods- they are huge and look like this big green oblong orb with bumps all over. Not the most appetizing-looking outside.

But I heard the texture resembled shredded meat. I thought that would be perfect for Dennis. I bought a can last time I was at Trader Joe's and have procrastinated on opening it. Since I was stuck in the house with my ankle I decided to try cooking it.

I looked up a few recipes online and found one using canned jackfruit. It reminded me of a sloppy joe recipe. You cook the jackfruit in barbecue sauce with some onions and peppers and spices, and then shred the jackfruit chunks. Easy enough.

I opened the can and drained and rinsed the jackfruit. It looked kind of gross, with these things that looked like bloated seeds, they reminded me of little baby alien heads floating in the liquid. I kept working and managed to shred the parts that looked like shredded meat anyway. The other parts of the fruit were sort of gelatinous and I smashed them as well as I could. The whole mixture looked unappealing. After the cooking process was done, I tasted it.

The texture reminded me of chewing on little baby alien heads. And it didn't taste all that great either, despite the recipe. Maybe it was the brine they were soaking in, in the can.

I put it away in the fridge and tried to figure out what went wrong. I came back to it after an hour and reheated it to see if I might have a different take on it. It was the taste and the texture- I just couldn't do it. It gave me the chills- sort of like drinking mag citrate before a colonoscopy. I chewed on a few bites and it was just too gross. I dumped the rest of it down the sink and mentally scratched it off my list. I decided to ask on Facebook to see if anyone had any jackfruit cooking advice.

I found out you can buy it in the refrigerated section of a grocery store- so maybe that will be the way to go. I am willing to try it again, but the texture really grossed me out. I'll keep you posted if I have success next time, but I'm going to need some time to forget this experience.

As it turned out, this morning when I woke up, the top of my foot was a little puffy and tender, but not bad. I can walk, no problem. I'll take the weekend off and ice it, see if that takes care of it. I'm glad it wasn't worse. Maybe I should put some frozen jackfruit on it- might be a better use of it!

I guess I'll use my extra time this weekend when I'm not running to find a new recipe...or maybe I'll eat a donut instead!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kombucha Lady, Pseudoscience, and What's Missing (caution: seriously snarky & snarkily serious)

One of my pet peeves is the strain of armchair oncologists who seem to proliferate unchecked, spreading their genetic pollution and bullshit among the human species.

Those are the people who have no education, training, license, degree, board certification, or experience in the practice of the medical specialty of oncology, but possess the unabashed confidence that they know what will cure and/or prevent cancer better than anyone. Especially anyone who promotes the conspiratorial discipline of western medicine that is surely out to irradiate, poison, and depilate us all so they can laugh all the way to the bank. (Please, I’m being sarcastic here).

At the risk of sounding like JP Sears I need to release my frustration and exasperation. (I think JP Sears is hysterical and I wish he would do a video on curing cancer, it would be hilarious. And it would benefit me immensely- he could be the one offending people, allowing me a safe harbor for avoidance)

Since I rarely avoid confrontation anymore, I frequently set up a table or booth at health fairs and public events where I can promote my services and interact with people to discuss cancer. My cancer literacy booth contains information about why it’s important to think about cancer even if you’ve never had it, and has a list of common myths vs facts, basic information, and resources.

In these events I find out what people are thinking, seeing, experiencing, and perceiving about cancer. It helps me direct my information more effectively in meeting their needs. I often deliver educational presentations to dispel myths and misinformation about cancer. While I soft sell my book and my services as a survivorship health coach, speaker, educator and writer, one thing I do not do is hard sell products or services. Especially not products.

I frequently get cold calls from hucksters hard selling the latest in nutritional products or supplements who think I’d be willing to spread their crap to my own clients. They find out quickly how mistaken they were in contacting me.

When I set up my booth, it’s always hard at first to get people to come to my table- they see something about cancer and they avoid eye contact, the ambivalence is palpable from across the room. There’s some fear, but they are curious- it’s that morbid curiosity, yet they tend to stay away unless I can make eye contact with them and draw them in.

And there is always one person, who thinks they know what to do about cancer better than anyone else. They’ve never had cancer themselves, of course, but they know. And they come right up, without hesitation, complete with chest-puffing bully bravado and steam coming out of every orifice.

As it was with Kombucha lady.

She ambushed me before I even saw her come up to the table.

“Do you use Kombucha to cure cancer?” were her first words to me, before I could even greet her.

Her question took me by surprise at first- maybe half a second- and then of course I knew what was coming. I said, “No, I don’t.”

She shot back, “DO you know what Kombucha is?” As if I surely didn’t know.

In a covertly snarky but fake validating tone I said, “Yes I do know.”

First, there is nothing in my booth that says I cure cancer. I am not a doctor and I’m not even providing nursing care- what I do is called education. I even have a disclaimer that says all of that.

She gave me the side-eye like she didn’t believe a word I was saying. “Kombucha is better than any of that chemotherapy or radiation or those other cures that just poison you. People who drink Kombucha are completely cured- but the medical profession doesn’t want people to know that. There’s been research too. It’s all been hidden and it’s done in Russia. There’s this one place in Russia where everybody drinks Kombucha and nobody has cancer. You should look it up.”

She almost stopped but before I could reply, she continued, ”I know this goes against your western medicine point of view, but it’s true. You need to look it up. And I know, because I’m a PhD candidate.”

Oh, Lord.

I don’t think she saw my business card that says I have a PhD. I know she didn’t read anything in my display. I didn’t say anything to her that would convince her that my point of view was entirely driven by Western medicine. I scrambled for something to say that would either make her shut up and go away, or disappear. I didn’t have any water to throw on her.

“Well that’s great, with a Ph.D. you will be able to research that and when you have the evidence you can shout it from the rooftops.”

“Oh, it’s already there. They just don’t want you to know.” And she whirled out of there as fast as she arrived.

So...I hope she enjoys her doctoral program at Trump University.

No Ph.D. program can possibly fix stupidity or social ineptitude.

Debriefing for the masses

1.If she were truly a legitimate Ph.D candidate, she would:

• have an understanding of the scientific method. I can only imagine her professors hazing her when it came time to take her comprehensive exams.

• know better than to make assumptions,

• realize that we learn more through observation and listening than we do by asserting our opinion loudly and forcefully with a complete absence of self-awareness,

• have humility instead of arrogance- the more you learn, the less you know. I would have to say if you take nothing else away from a doctoral program, this is it.

2. I didn’t even get a chance to ask her if they did randomized controlled trials. Not that she would have understood what that means. You can do any kind of research you want, but you can’t try to pass it off as more than it actually is. You have to state the limitations. If there was no control group, then you must state that. If subjects are assigned other than randomly to the study groups, or if it is subject to bias or being contaminated by other variables in any way, you must also state that.

3. I did in fact look it up, for my own amusement. I was curious as to where she got this information and what she was reading that made her such an expert.(I didn’t even get a chance to ask her if she’s ever had cancer or anyone close to her has.)

As it turns out, most of the studies done on Kombucha that have been documented in peer reviewed journals are from 10- 20 years ago. Most of them were on green tea, not specifically on Kombucha, and the tea demonstrated certain activities in rats, mice, or in test tubes, but not in humans. It’s quite a stretch to take findings from animal or in vitro (test tube) studies and assume those findings will be duplicated in humans.

There have been more recent studies of the effects of Kombucha tea, but there has been no body of evidence based on repeated studies and similar or consistent findings. Anyone who cites “a study” and tries to generalize from that study’s findings also does not understand science. I’m not saying that they never will find evidence of benefits in the future, but the necessary body of research to draw conclusions has not been done.

The antimicrobial and antiproliferative findings of the tea were in test tubes, not in live subjects, and in Japan, where their culture, diet and just about everything, is different from the U.S.-you can’t generalize across cultures when there are so many confounding variables.

I could not find any human clinical trials of kombucha tea. And also, it’s a fungus- if you are suffering from a cancer that weakens your immune system- such as some blood cancers like leukemia- you might be hurting yourself more than helping by drinking that swill.

4. You can fix ignorant, but, as I said above, you can’t fix stupid, or social ineptitude.

So, like JP Sears would likely say, in his wisdom, yes, you have the right to be offended and to remain ignorant. You have a right to your own beliefs, but remember they are beliefs, not facts until shown to be real with scientific evidence. Furthermore, don’t even try to pass your beliefs off as facts and don’t spew and proselytize them as fact. By sharing your beliefs as facts, that’s deception, and with cancer, it could get someone killed.

5. Videos, documentaries, and advertisements that sell products making claims to cure or prevent cancer that fan the flames of ignorance, paranoia, and conspiracy theories is deception. When you make assumptions that you know better than years of scientific research that has millions of cases of demonstrated benefits and successes, you are acting without compassion, and certainly without empathy, unless you ask someone who has had cancer and been treated for it and find out what their experience and outcome has been after 5, 10, or 20 years.

6. People need to understand the difference between what they know and what they believe.

What's Missing

Most misconceptions behind the misinformation about cancer stem from a few misunderstandings.

We can fix ignorance. We can get people to think more critically and raise their level of understanding and awareness of the world around them. They need to be willing to do some work. They also need to be willing to be challenged in some of their ingrained beliefs.

The most common misconceptions about cancer that I hear from the lay public are:

1. Cancer is one disease that behaves predictably and each person’s cancer is like every other person’s cancer, so there must be one cure. There is no thought given to the differences between individual people, their environment, experiences, or their immune systems.

This is a holdover from the old, old days when we thought cancer was just one disease and we had much less knowledge and understanding about cancer. The lay public has not caught up in their knowledge, so we need to improve cancer literacy and bring it up to date.

What we know is that cancer is a disease of the cells’ genetic material that results in uncontrolled growth of those cells. It manifests in hundreds of different ways and cannot be completely predicted or generalized from one case to the next. It can arise in different organs or parts of the body and be triggered by different chemical signals, proteins, and alterations in genes that cause cells to behave differently than normal.

2. Mistaking “genetic” for “hereditary” and thinking that when we are talking about genetic mutations we mean hereditary mutations that are passed along from one generation to the next. What we know now is that most cancers are caused by somatic mutations in a person’s body- in your DNA- that affects the way your cells in your body function-not anyone else’s- that have nothing to do with the germline passed down through families.

3. They think cancer is caused by something definable outside of our bodies, and that it’s a matter of simply avoiding that thing and you can avoid cancer.

4. They think we can cure cancer with one thing- we just haven’t discovered that thing yet, and when we do, it will be the end for cancer. (See conspiracy theories below)

5. They think that cancer can be cured now. It depends on how you look at it. Since we can eradicate detectable cancer cells in the body, but there could always be a stray cell or more somewhere, we don’t know that for sure even with our most advanced technology, PET scans or blood tests. If the cancer is treated and never comes back, we tend to think that’s a cure. But we use the term “remission” because we never know if it will come charging back one day. We also know that if the person doesn’t have a trace of the cancer for many years, likely they are in permanent remission (or cure, if you wish to call it that). But you can never assume completely. And that is why people who have had cancer always have anxiety about it coming back.

6. This is the thing that peeves me the most: They want nutrition to be the holy grail of health. Because they can control what they put in their mouths, they get this false sense of security and arrogance that they can keep from developing cancer. Some people are like that with exercise. They think that stringent exercise programs will prevent it. They will not.

What we do know, through bodies of evidence, is that the healthier and fitter you are, the less likely you are to die from most chronic diseases. And if you do have cancer, and need treatment, the healthier and fitter you are, the better the outcome is likely to be. Less loss of muscle mass, less fatigue, fewer side effects from medication and treatment, and faster recovery after treatment.

7. Some people think cancer is contagious. It is not. They think death is contagious too, even when the word is spoken. that’s why they are so scared of having the conversations about cancer and advance directives and end of life planning and all of the other things we could do to make our lives so much more comfortable, meaningful, and enjoyable all the way to the end.

8. Medicine has the answers, so if we do get sick someday, we can rely on medicine to cure us, like antibiotics for a cold (being sarcastic, again: What we know is that antibiotics will not help a cold caused by a virus. Antibiotics work to kill bacterial infections.)

The problem with this mentality- thinking medicine will cure it- is that it ignores the responsibility of the person for staying healthy. Too many people live unhealthy lifestyles and have bad habits that lead to chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and chronic lung disease. They think medicine will save them. And they think the same way about cancer medicine, but when they are diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer or a very advanced cancer, they expect medicine to save them, when it often cannot.

Yes, we do a good job of advancing medicine and medical interventions, but not on building supportive social skills and services. We follow the money, not the quality of life. You might be able to get the medicine, but you can’t get your life back. So you need to take responsibility for that too. You can’t act like a victim when medical interventions don’t do what you wish they would.

I think we could combat this victim mentality by giving people the skills, tools and knowledge to take better care of themselves, of course that would require they were self-disciplined and motivated enough to use it. It's not that simple of course, but if people would take more responsibility for their own health it would help.

I’m not saying there is no greed or deception in mainstream medicine, quite the contrary. I think the healthcare industry is polluted through and through with greed in this world of mergers and administrative growth on steroids. People with fewer resources, who don’t have access to healthcare, education, income, and opportunities are at a great disadvantage and we should be fixing those inequalities now. The current status of the healthcare industry in our country is shameful and self-serving.

Conspiracy Theories

To the people who say there is a conspiracy around cancer- that “they” already have the cure but “they” won’t tell us because then the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry would stop making money- how is making money on drugs any different than making money on the untested supplements and natural products you are pushing with claims of better health?

While the healthcare industry is far from innocent when it comes to greed, and I think think they are even more subject to political influence than they were in the past- there is no difference in my mind between medical industry greed and the greed of the multi-billion dollar natural medicine/food/supplement industry.

The only difference is that in mainstream western medicine, the science is better established. It adheres more closely to the scientific method, does randomized trials, has far larger numbers of subjects, and has more regulatory oversight and safeguards than the supplement industry. Like anything else, this could change. But show me the bodies of evidence so I know you’re not just selling me what you believe.


I think educating the public is one of the best solutions. We need to get people to understand the importance of having the tools, skills, and knowledge to be able to survive encounters with the healthcare industry.

I wrote a book with lots of solutions in it, for people at all levels of involvement in healthcare. The prevent-prepare-prehab section in the appendix is a rough description of what I'd like to pursue- building cancer literacy among the public. People tend to push the idea of cancer aside, which is understandable. It’s scary, but it’s even scarier when you have no idea what’s ahead of you.

Having a little knowledge and preparation beforehand is not that difficult, and could make a big difference especially for those who have no family members or close social connections who are healthcare professionals. Having someone to advocate for and/or with you when you confront a serious illness is essential. The industry is too complex to go it alone, even if you are a healthcare professional.

The moral of the story is, drink all the Kombucha you want, I harbor no grievance against you. Bathe in it, mainline it, dry it and snort it, just don't tell me to use it to cure cancer.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Nurses Week Takeaways from DC Part II: Spoken Words

Happy Nurses' Week. Here are some takeaways from my speech in order of appearance. Some of you might not like what I have to say, but I'm speaking my mind.

"I want you to go back to where you came from and convince at least one of your colleagues to get off their butt and do something about safe staffing- grow a pair, say something, step out of their comfort zone and take a risk."

I don't know about you, but one of things I find absolutely maddening and frustrating is the deferential nature of so many nurses when it comes to speaking up to management. For people who can be fierce advocates for their patients, and some of whom are willing to stick a knife in their own colleagues' backs, when it comes to speaking out about things in the workplace, they run and hide under a table and pee on the rug.

And then they sit behind the nurses station when the manager disappears and bitch about it among themselves in whispers. Pathetic.

"Then…I challenge each of you to have three conversations this year, out of your comfort zone. I want you to talk with that nurse colleague, and a physician, and with someone in administration, preferably an executive. I want you to find common ground with them as a human being and have a conversation. Break the ice by asking them, what is the most difficult part of your job… Let them know you’re interested in what they have to say. And then… creatively propose a way to start solving the problem of safe staffing. Together. Follow through. Commit."

We need to start talking with people, to get out of our everyday routine and realize that unless we start to take steps to change our situation, we won't ever make things better. Don't expect things to happen overnight. The point is, all of us, taking little steps as individuals, can create a powerful force. If you're too scared to have these conversations alone, find a teammate to go with you and back you up.

Don't be intimidated by executives. Just because they wear suits and make lots of money does not mean they have some kind of magic powers. Remember that inside that suit is a human being who could just as easily put on a pair of scrubs. Not that they would have a clue what to do next, but the point is, they are people. If you can relate to them as another human being and not some unapproachable authority figure, you'll have a much more relaxed conversation.

Sometimes physicians can be rushed, abrasive or unapproachable. They are always short on time because they are just as swamped with their patient load as we are. But by refusing to take time to interact within the greater community of healthcare, they are missing out too. They isolate themselves and this is not a good thing. I talk extensively about this in my book, Navigating the C. Physicians need to make themselves available and approachable by taking steps to take control of their own working conditions.

"When we have those conversations, there are a few points I want you to take away, remember, and use."

1. "There is a difference between safe staffing to avoid sentinel events and staffing that is adequate to improve a patient’s health after being hospitalized or being treated in a healthcare facility."

When you look at healthcare like any other business, the whole idea is to make money. But we're not just providing gadgets made on an assembly line. People and illnesses are unpredictable, they don't act in a linear, measured way. You can't set safety standards to cover all possible scenarios. There has to be some human judgement involved. It's not a factory setting.

Maybe with one nurse to 6 patients nobody dies on a given shift, but did every one of those 6 patients get their medicine on time? IV tubing changed? Dressings changed? Blood glucose checked on time? Call lights answered? Education completed with time to ask questions including on the day of discharge? Linens changed? Ambulation (walking) around the unit? Baths? Trips to the bathroom if an escort was needed? Did the nurse get all of the charting done and check all the orders within the limits of that 12 hour shift? Report given to oncoming shift without any omissions?

2. "Today’s nursing jobs are not the equivalent of a regular desk job. They shouldn’t be compensated like a desk job. Hour for hour, we put in a lot more work and have a lot more responsibility than your average paper pusher. It beats us up, physically, emotionally, spiritually. 36 ≠ 40! Think about that."

I know a lot of nurses (and laypeople too) think that working three 12 hour shifts a week is great because you get four days off, but you pay a price for that. How do you feel that first day off? Are you just as perky and productive, ready to jump out of bed and take on the day with full energy? Maybe if you're 23 and just out of school, but the longer you work and the older you get, the less resilient your body is going to be. It takes a day or two to recover your energy after working those back to back long shifts.

A 12 hour shift is never just 12 hours. Most nurses don't get paid breaks so they are scheduled for 12.5 hours- usually something like 7 am to 7:30 pm, or 7 pm to 7:30 am. Whether they took that break or not, and it's usually not. Add any time it takes to drive to and from work, find a place to park, walk into the building, get ready for report. For most nurses it's a good 14+ hour day. That leaves little time between shifts for basic self-care- like enough sleep, time to prepare and cook a healthy meal, spend time with your family, take care of pets, doing chores around the house that can't be put off, and so on.

Nurses might be considered full time at 36 hours a week, but they don't get paid any more for the hazards they endure, they don't always get ample vacation time, almost never get sick leave that isn't coming out of their vacation time, they never get compensated for missing lunch, they get in trouble for working unapproved overtime even though they can't finish all the documentation of their day within that 12 hour time frame because they were busy taking care of everything that came up around their patients' needs all day. Some nurses who are represented by unions might get some of these perks, but in most states, especially those deep red, "right-to-work" states, they don't get any extras.

During those long shifts nurses get progressively more tired, they get hungry, they aren't quite as focused and sharp at the end of a shift as they were at the beginning, or at the end of a run of 3 long days. They have to be on the lookout for physical hazards to patients, signs of a patient's conditioning worsening or deteriorating, making sure medication doses they give are correct, checking over the doctor's list of orders to make sure those are correct, tracking down physicians and ancillary staff, taking phone calls, interacting with family members, and things that happen without regard for a nurse's physical needs for food, bathroom, having a moment to clear their mind and think, or even getting off their feet to sit down for a moment.

And did I mention, responsible for the patient's life?

I think nurses should get paid a full-time, fully benefitted comfortable living wage for doing something on the order of three 8-10 hour shifts per week, so they have time to rest and recharge without burning out, so they can come to work able to fully focus on their patients' care. Yes I know this is a utopian dream, but I'm saying it because I mean it. Seriously.

3. "Nurses need to be able to do our jobs without sacrificing our physical or mental well-being. We need to see that we’re not stuck forever with only lateral options for career moves. We need to know that by advancing ourselves, we don’t have to sacrifice our integrity."

Nurses are subject to all of the emotions that any human being has. And we are working around some of the most vulnerable people in the population, as well as the stresses they bring in with them, that likely landed them in the hospital in the first place. Along with their family members and any other dysfunctional behaviors that they harbor in their everyday lives. And we often are on the emotional receiving end of those dysfunctions, when they are paired with fear and misunderstandings in regard to the patient's condition. We are subject to verbal and physical violence from stressed out patients and family members, as well as the internal, lateral and vertical workplace dysfunctional behaviors like bullying.

Nursing is a profession with a wide range of options for work, but within big healthcare organizations, the pyramidal nature of the hierarchy means there are few options for advancement. And more often than not, those with aggressive and less cooperative tendencies tend to move up the ladder, regardless of their leadership and people skills. Once they leave the bedside, managers are bound to serving the aims of the administration and no longer can prioritize their staff's needs.

Management is bound to keep administrative secrets and respond to staff concerns with carefully scripted messages dictated by the highest ranking administrators. Honesty is not always possible if a manager wants to keep the trust of the higher-ups.

4. "Keep your intellectual curiosity alive- don’t rely on dumbed-down, pharmaceutical and hospital industry-funded continuing education for all your career needs. They won’t help you go above and beyond. Strive to grow personally, strive to grow beyond the scripted, measured, limited status quo that keeps us stuck."

Attend any professional nursing conference and you'll see the vendor booths stocked with glossy, full color literature and trinkets from pharmaceutical companies, attractive marketing materials from healthcare organizations looking to recruit employees, and sponsorship logos and banners from industry leaders on every visible surface, screen, and object.

Continuing education is offered as part of the deal for listening to pharmaceutical companies tout their latest drug, so nurses only hear the industry side of things. They might get a nice dinner and a glass of wine too. They tell nurses the message they want them to hear, without any opposing viewpoints, critical questioning, or an explanation of the results of randomized trials that might lead one to question whether the thing they're selling is really as good as the profits they'll make.

Ever since I left the hospital setting, I've had much more energy and curiosity because I'm not so fried, and I read journals and medical and nursing newsletters, the latest research findings, I can seek out good continuing education on my own instead of having it fed to me passively. I've encountered a brick wall with my local chapter of my professional organization- I've offered on multiple occasions to talk with them about the work I've been doing, cancer survivorship topics, social media usage by nurses, and other ideas, and have been either ignored or told we can't afford to do that. Why? Because I'm not a pharmaceutical company with a budget to pay for a catered dinner and wine for a couple of dozen nurses.

Fuurthermore, speaking of professional organizations, nurse entrepreneurs with small businesses simply cannot afford to have vendor booths at these big conferences. The price per vendor booth is something like $3000. A small business cannot recoup that.

"We hear a lot about VALUE-based care these days, it’s one of those favorite buzzwords that the scripted bots of the healthcare industry love to hear rolling off their tongues. But healthcare won’t be successful unless those who deliver the care have human qualities to care. And exhausted, burned out, chronically understaffed nurses can’t care. Let’s start using value and care as verbs instead of nouns. How about if we VALUE nurses so we can CARE?"

I think this is self-explanatory.

"But most important of all- let's get back to value- each of us should think about what we value. We’re here for patient safety. We can’t live our values if we’re not authentic. When we know who we are, what we value, and why, we are grounded, and are less likely to be swept away by the strongest gust."

Hopefully this, above and below, is self-explanatory, too.

"If you take nothing else away from this rally, resolve to define your values around your work. Why did you become a nurse in the first place? What’s your number one priority as a nurse? Live and work in accordance with those values. Encourage your fellow nurses to do the same. Moral distress is not good for your health, or your patients’!"

"Patients and nurses alike, each of us only gets one life for sure. Let’s make sure each of us can live it fully."

Take it away, nurses...

Nurses Week Takeaways from DC Part I: Politics and Nursing

It’s Nurses’ Week again.

I'm going to write two posts of Takeaways from the Nurses Take DC rally in Washington in April. There's so much I want to say, I can't fit it in a single post.

For the first post, I want to go back to Pam Robbins’ presentation in DC, Ascend to Political Nurse Advocacy, because she pointed out so many important considerations for engaging all nurses in our cause. I am paraphrasing many of the statements she made and adding my interpretations here.

I’ve talked about some of these points in my book, Navigating the C, in regard to my experiences in healthcare, in an oncology nursing context, but it applies universally to all nurses, and all of healthcare. In my second post of Takeaways, I am going to incorporate some of what I said in my book along with the points I made in my speech in DC.

First, FEAR
Pam talked about fear being the biggest thing that holds nurses back. Part of it is the antiquated, unenlightened approach to thinking about gender and the roles we have associated with gender in the past. It’s time to discard those ways of thinking and be people. Yes, we have differences and that makes things interesting, but we are all first human beings.

Nurses MUST stop being martyrs and stop shortchanging ourselves with self-deprecation. If we want to be leaders we must overcome these fears, placing more value and believing in ourselves. Too many nurses are terrified they will lose their jobs for speaking up.

And I can tell you from personal experience, they will do everything they can, no matter how ridiculous and petty, to get rid of you do if you do. But if we don’t speak up, it means our patients’ safety is forever compromised. We cannot afford to risk their lives.

Nurses need to articulate our value to the public by getting out there, speaking to journalists, being interviewed, being visible on social media. We need to speak up in our professional organizations, who should also be involved in such matters, as unhappy nurses will not be as productive or influential in their careers.

Every professional specialty organization, such as AACN, ENA, ONS, AORN and so on, needs to take a stand WITH their nurses, instead of siding with those who will take advantage of nurses. The power gradient against nurses increases when our professional organizations do things that don’t truly help us. They may talk a good game but it is important for nurses to look closely at the policies they come up with.

That is why Nurses Take DC has offered similar but better legislation that works in nurses’ best interest. Working nurses should be in control, have more control, and right now, many professional organizations do not want to yield that. They mostly support industry interests and will back the administration’s interest over staff nurses. All you have to do is attend a nursing conference and you will see the disproportionate influence of pharmaceutical and hospital industry funding.

The fear extends beyond the workplace to participating and speaking within these organizations, too. Recently, I found it interesting that when I posted my reply to a post about the nursing shortage on the discussion forum of my professional organization, I only received one public reply. But I received several private replies from people, which tells me the level of fear is pervasive, to the point of not wanting to speak out even on these specialized forums.

If you’re one of the many (maybe majority still?) of nurses who say, I can’t lose my job, my livelihood depends on it, I have a family, a mortgage, my kids, or I’m a single parent, here is what YOU need to do.

  • In the workplace, form a coalition of nurses so you stand together when you approach management with an issue. Don’t leave each other alone- have each other’s backs.
  • You don’t have to necessarily be vocal in your workplace, either- you can be a nurse constituent and contact your legislators with your concern. Your employer won’t know about that.
  • There’s Flo’s Whistle, and anonymous reporting tool for unsafe staffing conditions in an easy to use app.
  • You can also become active in contributing and leading as a nurse in your community.

Here are some other practical interpretations I got from Pam’s presentation at Nurses Take DC.

Nursing Culture and Education
We need to start educating nursing students in both policy and taking political action. That is a tall order and a giant shift in the nursing school curriculum. Unfortunately, the abusive culture of nursing often starts in nursing school. Instructors exert their control over students and show them the ropes of the eat their young culture. Nurses need leadership skills and we need to start learning these early on in our careers.

Nurses can be, and have been, awful to each other. Nurses get so little recognition and expressions of appreciation. When there’s so little to go around, they fight over it, like a scarce resource, like dogs fighting over a bone. They feel constantly abused and taken for granted, and this feels like another reminder of just how insignificant they feel. It sounds like middle school all over again, and in many ways, it is. Stop it. Don’t be nasty. Grow up, act like mature adults. This applies just as much, if not more, to management. Leaders need to set examples, not be part of the problem.

Public Perception
Nurses need to learn how to stand up for themselves, to have a voice in their workplaces and in their communities, to be visible, audible, and persistent. The public does not have a realistic perception of what nurses do, how important we are, and our potential for stepping up our influence in public policy.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a report in 2010 based on Gallup opinion leaders polls conducted in 2009. Pam discussed some of the findings:

  • While opinion leaders nurses are the most trusted profession, the same opinion leaders perceive nurses as having little influence over healthcare reform in the near future.
  • Nurses are not perceived as important decision makers or revenue generators, and that we do not have a single (unified) voice on national issues.
  • The public views nurses as functional doers rather than thoughtful strategists. We need leadership skills, and we need to start early.

Paternalism in Healthcare
Healthcare is not all about medicine and physicians. Nurses are the ones who keep patients safe and alive, during times when the doctor is not there, which is over 99% of the time. Really. If the doctor is there for 5 minutes a day when the patient is in the hospital, that’s only about 0.3% of the time! So nurses are watching you 99.7% of the time. And nurses check the doctor’s written orders to make sure that everything is appropriate and safe for the patient, and we correct them if they are wrong!

I really think we need to start changing the language around healthcare workplace relationships between physicians and nurses- doctors writing “orders” still sounds so paternalistic, as if they are ordering us around, like we are their handmaidens.

Doctors write a medical treatment plan, and nurses have a nursing care plan, so it should be referred to as something more egalitarian, that can be established mutually in the interest of the patient’s safety. They can’t exist without each other, and they are important, I would even say that without nursing care, patients would be in trouble if they only had the medical treatment. Because nursing care will keep you going even in the absence of medical treatment.

In our politically divisive times, we also need to make the case that this is not about being pro-union or anti-union, Republican or Democrat, red/blue or purple state- but it’s about issues that affect everyone.

One thing that I add is that nurses wouldn’t think of refusing care to someone because they believe differently or have a different political affiliation, we accept everyone as our patients and give them equal care. This issue is beyond political divisions. Every single person is a potential patient.

And every one of us are, also.

Apathy and Democracy are Incompatible
We live in a democracy, but few of us take full advantage of the power it affords us. As citizens, we have the right to vote and make our voices heard, yet only a small percentage of the voting-eligible public votes! Only a miniscule proportion ever get involved in the legislative process.

If you saw something being done to your patient that would cause them harm, you wouldn’t hesitate to stop it and speak up on behalf of the patient. But when it comes to our country, and public health, safety, and well-being, few nurses use their advocacy skills.

If nurses would think of our country as their patient, insist on only the highest quality care being given, and protect the public from harm, we would make great strides.

Takeaways-What we need to do
1. Lose your fear. It’s power in numbers, and by banding together, you can help each other deliver a stronger message. When a colleague expresses a need to change things, don’t treat them as if they were radioactive. Instead, get behind them, support them, and bring others on board.

2. Don’t downplay the achievements of your colleagues, don’t put them or yourself down. When someone is recognized for an achievement, it’s common for backstabbing, envy, and resentment to well up among those who feel even more diminished if one of their colleagues is being publicly honored. When we raise the profile of nursing through one of our colleagues’ work, we lift all nurses’ profiles.

3. Stop making it about political affiliations. This is about everyone, we are all potential patients. This is about the public’s best interest, all of us.

4. Nursing education must start preparing nurses with skills on political advocacy, negotiation, and articulating the value of our profession to the public. If we can get the public to understand what we do, and articulate that clearly, we can show that healthcare is not all about medicine and physicians, the holistic approach to nursing care is what moves patients away from illness and toward wellness.

5. Research by nurses should hold equal status to medical research. You can give all the medicine you want, but unless there is someone there to make sure they are being cared for safely and that medicine is administered properly, all the medicine in the world won’t save a life. It’s not all about medicine and physicians. Nurses are the ones who keep patients safe and alive, during the times when the doctor is not there (which is most of the time).

6. Look at the different nurse staffing bills in front of Congress. Both the ANA and Nurses Take DC bills are based on evidence, but unless you have regulation with staffing ratios in writing that holds the employers accountable, you have nothing. We must hold our employers, as well as our professional organizations, to account and transparency.

While they are similar in many ways, note the ANA’s bills (S. 2446 and H.R. 5052) do not include a mandate for employers to commit to a staffing plan for their employees, in writing. The Nurses Take DC bills (S. 1063 and H.R. 2392) do have such a mandate, with proposed ratios in different clinical areas. Employers would not be able to avoid the staffing plan mandate. This protects both nurses and patients.

For more information about the Nurses Take DC movement, visit

The next post will be about takeaways from my speech at Nurses Take DC.

photo credit: Andrew Lopez

(Note: a variation of this post was recently published in Oncology Nursing News)

Nurses Take DC 2018

photo credit: David Miller

Last week, I attended and spoke at the Nurses Take DC rally for Nurse:Patient Ratios Now in Washington DC April 25-26. The purpose of the event is to bring nurses together to support federal legislation: Senate Bill 1063 and House Bill 2392: The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2017.

Why do I post about nursing and healthcare on my running blog? Because it is an integral part of my life. Running is what keeps me going, it provides my energy and recharges me for the daily work I do, especially as a solo community figure working directly with people who are going through the trials of the healthcare system.

All of my readers, no matter how fit and healthy, are equally vulnerable to an encounter with the healthcare system, whether through illness, injury, accident, or a family member's experience.

Every person is a potential patient, and it's important to understand what nurses do, the importance of nurses, and why nurses are taking to grassroots advocacy to further our agenda through the legislative process.

For too long, nurses have been deferential to a healthcare system that has treated them as second class and given us less respect when we can not be replaced- the healthcare system would collapse if we were not here. But those in power talk out of both sides of their mouth, while they talk about a nursing shortage, they have not shown the moral or political will to do anything about it.

Nurses' top priority, above all, everything we do, number one on the list, always and forever, is patient safety. You can give all the medicine in the world and use all the technology you want, but nurses are there to ensure that the patient is not harmed in the process of administering that medicine and coming through the healthcare facility where they are treated without harm coming to them.

No matter how sophisticated and cutting-edge the interventions are, no matter how advanced the medications are, there is always, always, always risk involved-potential for adverse effects, mistakes in the form of human, mechanical, or technological error, and someone has to look out for the patient, providing checks on the system from admission to discharge from the facility.

About six months ago I was contacted by one of the organizers, someone I knew only through social media. I was surprised and honored to be asked, as most of my advocacy work has been in the form of writing about nurse working conditions and their impact on the patient experience. I discussed it extensively in my book, Navigating the C, as it applies to cancer care, but the premise is applicable to all of healthcare.

After catching the shuttle to the Denver airport at 2:30 am on Wednesday, I arrived in Washington late in the afternoon, the day before the rally. It was raining. My hotel was the headquarters for the event. That evening I an education offering, called “Ascend to Political Nurse Advocacy”, presented by Pamela Robbins, MSN, RN.

Pam has long been active in political advocacy for nurses and quickly drew the audience in with her explanation of the similarities between the nursing process and the political process, to make it relatable to all of us. It was a useful toolkit all packed into less than two hours. I met many people I've only talked with o social media, including my friend Andrew Lopez, who has been instrumental in encouraging my progress from hospital staff nurse to nurse entrepreneur and advocate.

The first night I was exhausted from traveling and went to bed early. I was still catching up on my sleep from the Palmer Lake 24 Hour, and three hours of sleep before traveling added to my sleep debt. I knew I would see everyone at the rally the next day.

Thursday was a beautiful clear day, perfect for the rally. I shared an Uber with three other nurses to the rally. We were dropped off right smack in front of the Rayburn House Office building- where the House of Representatives offices are. Yes, where the power, money, and influence happens. There was a long line that stretched all the way down the street of mostly white men in suits, with name tags indicating the entity they represented, obviously industry lobbyists waiting to exert influence.

My immediate gut reaction was resentment- I wanted to tell every one of those suits how their money-backed influence was ruining democracy, but I was quickly distracted by my companions who pointed out the capitol building across the street and the fact that we were there on a beautiful spring day that you couldn’t have asked to beat.
I quickly forgot about the lobbyists as we crossed over to Capitol Hill. It was breathtaking, seeing the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool, and the white columns and dome of the legislative seat of power of our country.
There were about two dozen speakers, including legislators themselves- Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez from Illinois both made appearances and spoke.
Dr. Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio was the keynote speaker, she's been involved in the movement for more than 20 years and reminded us to raise hell. “If you don’t fight for what you want, don’t complain about your situation!”
As the speakers took the podium, their tone ranged from powerful and inspirational to exhausted and shell-shocked. The stories of some of the nurses who had been fired, harassed, and threatened for speaking out were both maddening and heartbreaking. It still strikes me as beyond the pale that administrators should be so fearful of nurses who choose to speak their minds, but it happens all the time. And that is why we’re here, to support each other so no one has to be fearful.

I felt that my speech went well, I included some takeaways for nurses to go back home for effecting change in their own communities. I will discuss those in the next blogpost. If you want to listen to my speech, it is here.

Nurse staffing ratios are critical, but there needs to be regulation of the hospital industry, because without mandates, they will find workarounds, and nurses will continue to find themselves understaffed and compromising patient safety.

I remember 2012, when some well-staffed hospitals, in the middle of merger mania, experienced notable changes in their attitude toward nursing. Where the independent hospital might have had top-notch staffing and support, as well as respect for nurses, nearly overnight, nurses were told the staffing ratios were changing, their benefits would dwindle, and older nurses started disappearing left and right. Nurses were told point-blank, if you don’t like it, you can leave. I left. Why should I work in a place where I’m not respected or valued?

As time went on, it became apparent to nurses that they were making good on their threats, and no longer valued us for what we brought to the workplace. They only wanted us to fill the staffing matrix, keep our mouths shut, smile, and nod as they nickeled and dimed our benefits and job satisfaction away from us.

And we are always told it’s our fault if we can’t multitask, that we can’t be in two places at once, or remember everything because we are doing the work of two nurses.

Nurses are asking for national legislation to hold decision-makers in the industry accountable, so that our patients are not in harm’s way when we care for them in a facility that is supposed to be helping them.

After the rally was over, Pam and I went to lunch at Union Station, which is an amazing building, where the Amtrak trains come through and the architecture is mind-blowing...we headed back to the hotel via the Metro, which I learned was not a good means of transportation for me. All the lurching and stopping left me seriously nauseated!

Back at the hotel, we had an after party with nurse humorist Terry Foster, who is hilarious. It was a chance to talk further with some of the organizers and discuss future action, as well as relaxing and getting to know a few people better.

Friday it rained again, and I had some time in the morning before I had to catch my flight, so I went to get Starbucks and then walked along the Mt. Vernon bike trail along the Potomac.
I posted a couple of videos on social media about my thoughts and experiences, and said goodbye to the people who were still around in the lobby of the hotel.
I headed back to the airport to fly home with a sense of empowerment, a tool kit, some great advice, and feeling much less alone. For me, the best part of attending the rally was the new friends I made- colleagues who share my passion for making change, ready to work hard and not give up, willing to go back home and spread the word, bring more nurses along next year, and help others lose their fear.

I learned about turning your concerns into political action and how nurses can effect change in our profession. Despite what you might think about political divisions, apathy and fear are truly our biggest enemies. Here is a link to the House Bill 2392 sponsored by Rep. Schakowsky.

We can use technology to our advantage when talking to legislators, because there is new app called Flo's Whistle that helps report unsafe staffing conditions by legislative district. Nurses can show their representatives in Congress what is going on in their districts and they'll have data to back it up.

My next post will be about Takeaways from my speech to the DC rally, to keep nurses motivated and focused forward all year. For more information about the Nurses Take DC movement, visit