Self-Care Through Art Journaling

By La Rainne Pasion

Debbie Bamberger is a WHNP-BC with over 30 years of experience and a member of NSRH's Board of Directors. This February, we talked to Debbie about her love of SRH provision and how she uses her creativity for self-care:

What is your role in sexual and reproductive health?

I am a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner by training, but these days I prefer to refer to myself as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Nurse Practitioner, since I take care of people of all genders. I graduated from UCSF in 1994 and have been providing SRH services since then and even before. I am aspiration-abortion trained and provide in-clinic abortion services at Planned Parenthood in Oakland. I've also done extensive training of clinicians in providing IUDs and implants, and I helped work on the new law in California that will mandate that all public universities provide medication abortion in their student health centers by 2023. 

What do you love about being involved in this kind of work/activism?

I love providing this type of care to people. Taking care of people's sexual and reproductive health needs incorporates justice in many forms--reproductive justice, of course, but also racial justice, social justice and more. Providing abortion care is also an intimate and powerful moment in which to meet my patients where they are on their journeys. 

I recently completed my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, and I hope to find a way to bring restorative justice practices to the SRH workforce.

You’re also an artist. What inspires your art?

I started art journaling five years ago, having no prior art practice, and I found it completely transformative. Art journaling is journaling through art, in a book. I use it to process, spew, express, forgive and connect. 

How do you see art-making as a form of pleasure? Or as a form of self-care?

I art journal for pleasure and for self-care. I love making a page that looks beautiful, but the process of making it is extraordinarily cathartic.

Do you have a story to tell? We welcome you to submit your story or blog idea to us so we can feature you in our newsletter or on our blog. Email us at [email protected].

Pleasure in Re-member-ing

By Lina Buffington, PhD, NSRH Executive Director

Each month we will highlight and explore one of our values; it is apropos that we should start in February with a focus on pleasure, and not because of Valentine's Day. As most folks know, February, which also happens to be the darkest, coldest, shortest month of the year, is also the month officially designated as "Black History Month". Throughout this month, corporations, organizations, and the media will often spotlight civil rights leaders and activists as well as exemplars in the arts, sports, education, and industry by hosting festivals, exhibitions, and television specials. Black authors are highlighted in bookstores and libraries while companies like Amazon might highlight Black entrepreneurs on their platform. Though the history and achievements of Black people are inextricable from the history, wealth, and culture of the US, this month provides a small window of opportunity to shine a light on what has remained a gaping absence. 
But what does all of this have to do with pleasure? What does Black History Month have to do with pleasure when so often the focus of this month is on struggle--the struggle for freedom, for humanity, for civil rights, for justice, for equity? I do not believe that Black History Month is the only month for folks to finally finish that copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or watch the film Roots, or make a trip down to their local museum of African American arts/history/etc. I believe that the history of ALL peoples of this Nation are worthy of continuous study. I believe that Black History Month is a time for celebration, and at the heart of celebration there is pleasure. While I do not wait until a government designated time to celebrate my ancestors, I see this month as a time of collective celebration, of collective remembrance. It is through this act of re-member-ing that we keep those we have lost alive and present.


For this month each year we call their names as a collective: Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, Sojourner Truth, Mary Edmonia Lewis, Zora Neal Hurston, Octavia Butler, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison…we say their names and in that act of re-member-ing they live again. We share images of them and stories, we read their words, and look at their art, we listen to their music and watch their plays. Through these acts of re-member-ing, we introduce them to our children, carrying forward their work into the next generation, and the next. There is tremendous pleasure in the cultivation and nurturance of this connection to our ancestors. When I think about Harriet Tubman, who I think about a lot, I reflect on her words:

 

 

 

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

 

 

 

 

In the face of some challenge, often one so much smaller than any of the challenges that Harriet faced, I think of her and marvel that this woman had the audacity to dream. She had the audacity to follow the stars when all around her was darkness. I marvel that some small seed of that magnificent human being lives in me and I draw from that. I call that up in myself and keep moving forward. Harriet Tubman is worthy of remembrance and of celebration, and if there are those who only hear her name or think of her in February, so be it. The contributions of Black people in this country are worthy of celebration. The fact that we made it through and over and continue to live is worthy of celebration, and so I happily claim this cold, dark, month for Harriet, and Malcolm, and Micheaux, and all of them. For me, there is tremendous pleasure in that.

This Moment


By Lina Buffington, PhD, NSRH Executive Director


We find ourselves in a unique moment, simultaneously pregnant with hope and possibility and deep sadness and uncertainty. I have regularly found myself walking the line between grief and hope, anger and exhaustion. Like many, I breathed a sigh of relief on January 20, 2021 at 12:00pm. Not because I think that this changing of the guard represents some magical moment of healing and redemption for this nation, but because I no longer have to live with the very real danger of having a vocal white supremacist in office. I no longer have to lie awake at night knowing that “he” has the power to unleash nuclear holocaust upon the world. I now have hope that there will be a coordinated national effort to address the devastating impact of COVID-19 in this country. So, I sleep a little more soundly, I breathe a little bit more easily. All while knowing that we are far from out of the woods. I will never forget just how close we came to completely dismantling any semblance of Democracy in this country. I will not forget that 74,222,593 million cast their votes for white supremacy, or the ease with which an “angry” white mob overtook the Capitol as the result of collusion at the highest levels of government. We must not allow ourselves to forget that, as usual, it was the work of those most marginalized (particularly Black women) who kept the wolves at bay. We must acknowledge that communities most impacted by systemic racism and poverty cannot continue to carry the burden of democracy on their backs—Every back has limits. It is imperative that every one of us who claims to love justice, who claims to be a champion of freedom, take responsibility for the maintenance of this tenuous “Union”. We must not simply give lip service, turning “Black Lives Matter” into a slogan for t-shirts and window dressing. We must invest our resources in those communities that continue to do the work of protecting a dream of democracy that remains unrealized for so many of us. We must demand that calls for “unity” and “reconciliation” be mediated by a real and deep sense of justice and equity. We must continue to push our organizations to do better and be better when it comes to hiring and promoting BIPOC folks. Funders and investors must do better and be better when it comes to investing in organizations and businesses led by BIPOC folks doing the critical work. As Amanda Gorman so eloquently reminded us in her inauguration poem, this nation still has a “Hill to Climb”, but some of us have a much more steep and rocky terrain. Some climb on horseback, some in all-terrain vehicles, some with no shoes and empty bellies. If “we” are to make it over this hill it will require that those traveling with greater ease think more about how we might better facilitate another’s climb. How might we go back for those who have the hardest climb and carry them, rather than expecting them to carry us? These are the kinds of questions that we continue to wrestle with both as individuals and as an organization. We understand the critical role that nurses play in realizing the dream of comprehensive healthcare for ALL and so NSRH remains committed to doing the work of doing better and being better in our service to you.

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. 

 

Black Maternal Health Week 2020

 

Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health is honored to participate in this year’s Black Maternal Health Week 2020 organized by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. This year’s theme is “Centering Black Mamas: The Right to Live and Thrive.”


As nurses, providers and advocates for sexual and reproductive health, we work every day to address injustice within our healthcare system. According to the CDC, nearly 700 women die every year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy or its complications. Black women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. While we know that racism, poverty, and social inequity of all kinds puts many of our pregnant patients at risk before they ever see us, it is our job to interrupt and end cycles of violence that perpetuate these systems. It is our job to provide quality, compassionate care to all pregnant people, and believe them when they tell us what they are experiencing and need. It is our job to interrupt anti-Black racism when we see it operating in our healthcare systems, processes and protocols, even if it means questioning a colleague or supervisor. It is our job to educate ourselves and each other about reproductive justice, the history of reproductive coercion and other racial justice issues that affect our patients, as well as build consciousness about the conditions and cultures our patients are coming from. It is also our job to build opportunities for our fellow nurses of color, particularly Black nurses, to advance and thrive in healthcare. It is our job to listen to Black Mamas. 


We know that ending racism and addressing its impact on healthcare is a long game that will take all of us. We also know that our battle to provide care in the face of COVID-19 has just begun. We have a lot on our plates, and we are part of a collective grief that will take many years to heal from. This is the time to move into our power as nurses, to speak truth to power, and make sure we support Black Mamas in living and thriving. 


If you would like to learn more about Black Maternal Health Week 2020, we invite you to attend the #BMHW20 Webinar Series and online local events.