The missing link?

Nurses have always kept me feeling safe when I’ve been at my most vulnerable. Like the time I had spinal fluid leaking after back surgery, and they reassured me that I just needed to stay still for a few days so that I didn’t get a headache. Or the time I had brain surgery, and they helped me stand up for the first time afterwards even though I was secretly afraid. It was nurses who chatted with me when I didn’t have any visitors, or when my parents were gone, and nurses are who I’ve seen gain the trust of the patients who I volunteer with time and time again. I talk about nurses and patients on the oncology floor I’ve spent a great deal of time on here in the context of nurses being connectors and bond builders from day one through puppy photos, turning machine alarms off, and frequent medication administering to build trust and respect.

If nurses are able to connect with patients so well, and have this knack for earning trust and respect, why aren’t there more nurses at Stanford Medicine X (MedX)? Perhaps it’s because they don’t know about the conference, or, perhaps they don’t think that the conference is for them just yet. I think that that may change after this year. A panel is dedicated to this topic of MedX nurse absenteeism, in fact. The panel, “Where are the nurses?” is moderated by Pamela Ressler, and consists of Perry Gee, Beth Toner, and Terry Fulmer. The panel is slotted for Sunday morning, is set to focus on the philosophy of nursing to help contextualize illness from the nurse’s perspective for this year’s MedX attendees. They are using the hashtag #MedXNurses to track conversation throughout the conference. This form of tracking is a great way to keep information and reactions to the panel categorized within the conference, but it’s also a great way for nurses to track the panel outside of the conference, too. I recently got a chance to talk with fellow Student Leadership Program Advisor, Anna Clemenson, RN, about nursing school itself. Her insights on preceptorship, new nurse graduates, and mentoring student nurses got me thinking about the idea of mentorship outside of school and office walls. With the help of a nurse preceptor acting as the “training wheels” on a bike for the first few weeks as a new nurse graduate, Anna was able to function as an independent nurse while also feeling comfortable enough to ask questions. I would imagine that entering a conference such as MedX as one of few nurses would be intimidating – I know that I was very aware of my “patient” status when I attended last year for the first time. If nurses who currently attend MedX could bring new nurses with them to MedX next year as part of a Nurse Leadership Program just as how Anna and I function within the Student Leadership Program, perhaps the number of nurses in attendance for the future would increase. As far as increasing the attendance of seasoned RNs, I suppose we’ll just have to attend or watch the livestream to find really out from the experts themselves – where are the nurses?

Data and demographics are everything. The current demographics of MedX tell us who is present (patients, providers broadly defined, researchers, and technologists). What we need to be focusing on though, is who are least represented. Considering who is least represented, who is most represented, and why that is tells us something about power. It also tells us something about the importance and role that networking plays, given that this conference provides access to so many people with the same health care interests. Before we can draw any conclusions as to who networking is or isn’t important to, we have to think about the cultures that feed off of networking, and those that maybe do not as much. Technology companies and research partners thrive off of who you know and what you can produce given those connections. Can the same be said for physicians? What about nurses? While we are all brought together at MedX to change healthcare, we still have to consider what drives the world outside of the conference, and think about what motivated people to attend in the first place. Is the lack of nurse presence due to the lack of pressure to network? Regardless of if networking plays a role or not, the presence of nurses, or rather lack thereof, is felt. How might non-nurse MedX attendees gain a better understanding of patient care through the perspective of nurses in health care? How might patient care be defined through the lens of the nurse, as opposed to the patient, physician, or researcher, and what key differences in training or experience could that reveal? I’m looking forward to finding out.


Image description: Woman who has black hair, bands, and a bob haircut is wearing a white lab coat and is holding and feeding a baby with short black hair. Diagonal sign across the image reads: nurses save. Photo courtesy of Susannah Fox.


Disclosure: This post is one of several as a part of the Stanford Medicine X ePatient Scholar Program – Engagement Track, for which I receive financial support for travel, lodging, and registration fees for this conference. The views expressed in this post are my own.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s