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NSRH Speaks: Lifting Up & Listening, No. 1

In light of the recent election - everything that came before, and the many challenges that lie before us - we've decided to open our ears and hearts (and our blog) and provide space for our community of nurses and nursing students to share feelings and thoughts. Throughout the month of November, our blog will feature the stories, emotions, and perspectives of our community in this moment. We aim to lift up the critical perspectives and voices of nurses, nursing students, and midwives working to advance sexual and reproductive health for all.

If you would like to submit your story to be featured on our NSRH blog, complete this form. Anonymity is optional, we cannot guarantee that all submissions will be posted. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

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Before working in abortion care, I had no idea nursing is what I would be called to do. Graduating in 2018 with a political science/public admin degree and gender & sexuality studies minor, my post grad journey landed me working as a patient advocate at an independent clinic. This is where I discovered my passion for providing dignified and patient centered care to people seeking abortions. 9 months in to this amazing job COVID hit, bringing with it an entire staff lay off. Now, Minnesota has only 1 clinic in the entire state that provides abortion care to the state limit. So here I am, almost a year into a pandemic and now starting nursing school. I am determined to work in later term abortion care as an RN- I know I was meant to do this.

- Sarah, MN

 

As a nursing student in such times, each day is truly a challenge. I’m currently on my 3rd round of mandatory quarantine this semester, and while it’s been hard (and often quite lonely), I have had the opportunity to sit with my goals and decide exactly where I want to take this career. When I decided to go into nursing, I thought I wanted to work in labor and delivery. I knew I loved women’s health and thought L&D was it for me. However, the last couple years have opened my eyes to my true calling: sex education. In wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, combatting rape culture became a priority for me. I feel that advocating for and providing comprehensive sex education is the best way to use my position as a future nurse. With reproductive rights also at stake, my focus in politics has been on much more than just the presidency. I graduate this spring and cannot wait to get to work; continuing to learn and helping others to do the same in hopes of creating a better world with access to comprehensive sex education, reproductive health and justice for all.

- Samantha, NY

 

We talk a lot about trauma-informed care - so much so that it’s become a buzzword. We’re told to be trauma-informed when we speak with patients, in the way we care for them. We focus these efforts so much on our patients that we forget about our students. Students deserve trauma-informed education and educators. Our students should be lifted up, made to feel like they can accomplish this tough, tough work. We can empower without causing trauma. We can uplift without lowering standards. Not just in a pandemic. This is the way forward. We cannot traumatize our students and expect them to be at their best at the bedside or in the clinic. Students are people, too. We must humanize the people doing this work if we want our patients to have positive experiences and outcomes.

- RN, Student Nurse-Midwife

Weaving Community

NSRH has been weaving a network of nurses, nursing students, midwives, and allies committed to high-quality, gender-appropriate, full-spectrum healthcare, since 2006. Starting early next year, this informal network will transition into a structured membership program. This organization has gone through many transitions during its young life. Many of you first came to know us as Nursing Students for Choice (NSFC), some of you became aware of us when we were Nursing Students for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSSRH). Now we are Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSRH). This latest iteration has represented the greatest leap for us. While our work with students remains the backbone of our work, we are excited to be able to expand our community to formally include nurses, midwives and other professionals.

To accomplish this expansion, we are implementing a membership model that provides entry points for a wide range of individuals: from nursing and midwifery students (who will always enjoy up to four years of free membership); to practicing nurses, LPNs, midwives, and doulas; to retired practitioners; to allies including doctors, activists, and educators. Our membership model is grounded in trusted community: you will always know that your fellow members are aligned with your commitment to quality, evidence-based SRH.

We have adopted the language of weaving to explain our work, because it best reflects the multilayered, intersectional, multi-dimensional nature of this community. The nursing sector is incredibly large, broad, and complex; as are the myriad obstacles that we face in our work for sexual and reproductive health and justice. This metaphor of weaving is also deeply personal for me. The funny thing is that the connection did not hit me until I was sitting at my loom maybe 300 threads into "sleying the reed", as weavers call it, a delicate process of threading each individual thread through a "shaft." How perfect is that! What better a representation of the work of building community? In weaving you have to attend to each and every individual thread in order to weave them together into a beautiful and intricate textile, which becomes more intricate the more threads, textures, and colors you add. Each and every thread is critical to the composition; there are no outliers.

"Sleying the reed" is just one element of "dressing the loom," preparing the loom for weaving. We have been "dressing the loom" over the past year, laying the foundation for this new membership program. We have a new strategic plan, new database, new learning management system, new staff, new website, etc. All elements necessary for crafting the beautiful, intricate tapestry of community that we will all weave together. 

Our shift to membership will support this important work. Here is a sampling of what our membership program will offer:

Community

  • A trusted network of peers, experts and allies in SRH
  • Networking opportunities
  • Access to members-only directory
  • Regional chapter support
  • Connections with affinity groups aligned with your interests

Education

  • Online courses through the NSRH Online Institute
  • Ability to track your Continuing Education Hours (CEs)
  • Members-only workshops
  • Members-only Newsletter
  • Discounts to NSRH Conference
  • RN Clinical Training Program

Advocacy

  • Updates on pending policy changes affecting SRH and opportunities to engage in advocacy
  • Advocacy training
  • Press training
  • Invitations to participate in collective actions

Recognition
Opportunities to:

  • Submit content to the newsletter
  • Be spotlighted as a member
  • Apply for fellowships
  • Apply for Awards

Professional Development

  • Access to the NSRH Job Board
  • Ask an Expert
  • Pop-ed Workshops

Pleasure

  • Discount to NSRH Store
  • Restorative Empowerment Circles
  • Virtual book club
  • Fun jams
  • Free swag

There will be a number of major changes as we transition to the new membership model over the next several months:

  • Beginning in November, our weekly newsletter will shift to bi-weekly for non-members. Members will receive an additional monthly members-only newsletter with specially curated content.
  • In November we will launch programming for our Founding Members. Everyone who signed the Membership Pledge before September 16, 2020 will be considered for a Founding Membership. We were so excited to have received over 200 pledges!
  • Chapter Support programming will continue with several enhancements.
  • Nursing students will be able to apply for a free Nursing Student Membership in addition to their participation in their campus chapters. This means that students will now have access to NSRH benefits regardless of whether or not they have a chapter on their campus.

Full Launch March 2021!

We will continue to keep you posted as we prepare for this important and exciting transition. 

During these times it is more important than ever for nurses who care passionately about sexual and reproductive health to have a safe and trusted community. Whether it's negotiating power structures in your clinical setting, advocating for the diverse needs of your patients, or seeking comprehensive training in your course of study, we know that we do better when we work together, learn from one another, and share spaces of safety, healing and joy. The loom is dressed, let's get to weaving!

 

Lina Buffington, PhD

NSRH Executive Director

Justice is a Verb

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
- Malcom X

Yet again, we have seen the state fail to protect the lives and dignity of Black womxn and POC.

We stand with Dawn.
We will not stop saying your name, Breonna Taylor.

Last week, nurse Dawn Wooten’s testimony revealed what far too many are unwilling to acknowledge: Pervasive imbalances of power within healthcare leave many nurses and healthcare workers unprotected in their work serving and supporting vulnerable populations. From lack of PPE during the COVID crisis, to limitations on abortion provision for advanced practice clinicians, hierarchies within the healthcare field directly affect nurses’ ability to safely care for their patients--and themselves. Nurses should not have to be martyrs. Dawn Wooten should not have been forced to be a martyr.

Power: Nursing and social justice are inherently linked. Therefore, it is the role of nurses and other healthcare providers to challenge power structures and systems that inhibit the health and wellness of their communities. This includes transforming relationships of power inter-professionally and between providers and patients.

We must acknowledge the systemic oppression and criminalization of many of our patients. Immigration detention facilities are notorious for their blatant violations of human rights, and their abuse and mistreatment of detainees, including being neglectful of reproductive health care. ICE has no business dictating the reproductive lives of people and infringing upon the ability of immigrants in ways that impact their ability to reproduce, or not, or impact their ability to parent their children.

This brutality seeps far beyond the walls of state-run facilities, and into our homes and communities. The criminalization and murder of Breonna Taylor was a direct attack on her human right to live, to thrive, to become the nurse that she aspired to be. She deserved more. NSRH condemns the over-policing and undue criminalization of people of color - regardless of community or immigration status.

Safety: Criminalization and policing of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people in ways that interfere with and obstruct bodily autonomy, humanity, and life is inhumane and a threat to our communities. We support healthcare provision free from the obstruction of law enforcement.

Informed consent is the basic right of every patient and the responsibility of every provider. While we’d like to think that our society has evolved beyond our violent history of forced, coercive, and nonconsensual sterilization of Native, Black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Japanese women, and people with disabilities; the atrocities inflicted at the Irwin County Detention Center has revealed that this is not the case. We condemn the inhumane actions of the Irwin County Detention Center, which violated the bodily autonomy of migrant women by removing their reproductive organs without informed consent.

Nurses are often recognized as being the most trusted healthcare providers in the nation. We see this “trust,” not as an emblem of honor to be taken for granted, but as a call to action.

Trust: Patients should be trusted to know what is best for their body and their family and are deserving of access to the services and care that support those choices.

Intersectionality: Oppression is systemic and intersected, and our approach to healthcare is rooted in affirming the various identities and experiences of patients and providers. We collectively challenge racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, sexism, and all oppressive structures and systems.

In order to address these inequities we must begin to dismantle the silos between healthcare professionals. To support this work, NSRH is building relationships with physician organizations, like Medical Students for Choice and Reproductive Health Access Network, creating opportunities to foster interprofessional collaboration that centers patients as the agents of their own care.

Integrity: Our work is rooted in the trust of individuals, their communities, and the nurses and other healthcare providers who care for them. We honor and recognize the credibility and expertise of providers at all levels.

While we work to dismantle these harmful systems, we are also weaving a new future centered on collective healing, liberation, and pleasure. We believe that pleasure in its truest form is radical, especially in a society obsessed with the infliction of pain.

Pleasure: Pleasure is a form of care and a radical act in the fight for sexual and reproductive freedom and justice. We believe in centering consensual sex as a form of pleasure.

As we seek solid footing during these unsteady times we, at NSRH, are looking to our organizational values and thinking about how we can live those values in the work to achieve our vision for a world in which all people have access to just and dignified comprehensive healthcare. With the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her legacy continues to show us that leading with honor requires that we advocate for our values and work towards a just society for everyone.

NSRH is honored to stand with Dawn Wooten, Breonna Taylor, and with all nurses (past, present, and future) who willingly and unwillingly become martyrs, placing their bodies and their lives on the frontlines in the name of justice.

In Community,

NSRH

National Nurses Week 2020

Nursing Work Is Advocacy Work

By: Krystal Kilhart, NSRH Membership Intern


With the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the visibility of nurses speaking out against injustice in our healthcare system has gained attention. Death tolls of patients and healthcare workers alike continue to rise with little to no intervention from the government. There has also been increasing rhetoric around frontline workers like nurses being celebrated as heroes in our fight against COVID-19. This adoption of war like language is priming the general public for an acceptance of mass deaths of nurses and other front line healthcare workers that are entirely preventable. 


Since the start of the pandemic, nurses have been speaking out against this problematic language calling out the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), insufficient ventilators and other lifesaving technologies, improper sanitation and quarantine measures, lack of paid sick leave and hazard pay. From protesting against state decisions to lift stay-at-home orders in Arizona to demanding PPE outside of the White House in honor of fellow healthcare workers who have lost their lives to COVID-19, nurses are joining the outcry of thousands of other essential workers whose lives are being placed on the line. As Jillian, a nurse in Brooklyn, NY, put it: the wartime rhetoric makes the deaths of health care workers seem “inevitable, and unavoidable, when really we’re being sacrificed...” 


Although this activism has steadily been gaining attention, it should not be mistaken for something new. Nurses have been actively speaking out against injustices in healthcare and patient treatment for decades. For many nurses, it is a necessary facet of the work they do. In particular, nurses working in sexual and reproductive healthcare have always advocated for their patients’ as well as their own rights and safety. Just weeks ago, registered nurse and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL) led the Black Maternal Health Caucus in passing the Momnibus Act 2020 to address black maternal mortality and morbidity in our nation. 


Nurses working in sexual and reproductive health clinics experience daily threats of violence and domestic terrorism. From the assasination of Kansas doctor George Tiller in 2009 to the recent upsurge in statewide abortion bans under the guise of COVID-19 protections for patients and healthcare workers, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare remain under constant threat. Nurses have been at the forefront of activists’ fight to ensure unrestricted access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Just last year, Maine Governor Janet Mills (D-ME) signed a bill allowing nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other qualified medical professionals to administer abortions involving oral medication and in-clinic procedures.


Nursing and social justice are inherently linked; both healthcare and advocacy are essential means of protecting patient, provider, and community health and well-being. In a healthcare system that places profits over human life, nursing and advocacy have been and will continue to go hand in hand.