You may have noticed that, for a nascent organization/publication, we have mentioned Peggy Chinn’s Nurse Activism think tank a whole lot so far. There’s an important reason for that. Peggy’s think tank brought together this eclectic group of nurses with diverse interests and ideas. We would never have met one another otherwise, I think, but this gathering was a unique opportunity to meet, think, and exchange ideas. The think tank at UMass Amherst in the summer of 2018 was where we – Vanessa and I – began midwifing the idea for a radical nurses collective. Our radical nurses collective was born of sharing our stories of activism and of dissatisfaction with the status quo in nursing and healthcare.
Later in the same summer, I was lucky enough to present a paper at the International Philosophy of Nursing Society’s (IPONS) annual conference. It was another incredible oasis of big ideas, critical discussion, and free collaboration. There, nurse philosopher Martin Lipscomb gave a talk connecting nursing judgement and labor to the work of Hannah Arendt. In that talk, Lipscomb argued, among other things, that nursing labor is prioritized over the contemplative endeavors encouraged by IPONS.
The idea that we – we as a society and we as nurses – need time to think is one that resonates deeply with me. To be sure, nurses think all the time while on the job – how’s this patient doing? do I need to titrate this pressor? when will the labs result? what is going to happen next that I can preempt? – but this thinking is in service to the patient. This kind of thinking is critical for nursing and patient care, but it is not exactly what I am after. This kind of thinking starts with and is generally confined to the stuff that goes on “inside” healthcare, within the walls of the hospital or clinic. And while this is essential to the care of patients, it is not adequate to address the problems we face as a profession and a society. When you are furiously engaged in the fight to keep someone alive in the ER, there is not a lot of bandwidth left to think about the problems that bring your critically ill patients to the ER. And when your 12 hours is done, you go home, you have a beer, and you sleep it off so you can be ready for the next go-round.
This will not, however, lead us toward a better and more equitable healthcare system. So we must make space to think. Inspired by Peggy, sustained through our collaborative efforts here at radicalnurses.com, and emboldened by the power of sharing our ideas, we would like to announce our very own nurse activism think tank. We are calling it “Activism and the Art of Nursing” and we want you to join us. We know that nursing is an art. We know many of you are artists. We want to explore the idea of the art of nursing and the connections between art, activism, and nursing. So save the dates – July 13 and 14 in Augusta, Georgia – and sign up here (https://goo.gl/forms/Mt8MMjFW7V5ORT5s1) to stay in the loop. More details to follow. We are very excited and hope to see you this summer.
Jess Dillard-Wright is a radical nurse, midwife, nurse educator, and PhD student living in the South.