When David Sheard spoke today, the sky opened up right into the dark ornate ballroom at the Delta Edmonton South Hotel, and the sunlight fell in.
David spoke about the heart of nursing and care. He stressed that the best nurses wear their hearts on their sleeves and don’t hide behind the mask of professionalism. Sitting there in that room, I had a sudden realization. I didn’t drop out of nursing 26 years ago because I was a bad nurse. I wasn’t too soft to be a nurse, as I’ve always said. A soft nurse is exactly the kind of nurse that the world needs.
The epiphanies in that ballroom continued. David’s talk was about the Butterfly Homes for people with dementia in the UK. He sprinkled his presentation with beautiful images and stories of humanity for the room packed with LPNs and health executives at the College of Licensed Practical Nurses’ Think Tank.
It was a relief to hear David talk. He said it took a full 20 years for him to see culture change in the world of dementia care. TWENTY YEARS. (I’m 11 years in my preaching about compassion and love in health care, so I can now see the light flickering at the end of the tunnel).
He said 35 years ago, it was just him sitting at his kitchen table with an idea that things could be different in his workplace of dementia care. Nobody was asking him to be a plenary speaker at conferences, and nobody wanted to publish his articles. That has been 30 years in the making. But he didn’t give up. He spoke in terms of the uphill climb he took to be standing behind the podium in a room full of hundreds of health professionals, thousands of kilometres away from his home in the UK.
And what is the great change he referred to? That care should be about people, not about profit. He encouraged the nurses to be people first and nurses second at their workplaces. He hires nurses in care homes who wear their hearts on their sleeves and are willing to share their personal stories. He says that nurses should be attached professionals, not detached professionals. And working in continuing care means becoming someone’s friend and becoming part of their family.
He wants nurses to cry with the people they care for, nurses who sing with them, nurses who share meals with them, and nurses who hug often and freely.
I was reminded of my own mom, a good nurse, who worked in a Veterans Home in the 1980’s. I asked her recently what were her favourite memories of her time there.
‘Oh, I remember working evenings, and tucking the guys into bed, and kissing them good night on their forehead. But I shouldn’t say that! I would have gotten thrown out of nursing if anybody found that out. Good thing I’m retired now,’ she said with a smile.
If that had been my grandpa at the Vet’s Home, I would take great heart in thinking that the nurses cared for him so much that they tucked him in bed and kissed him good night. I want those kind of people caring for my loved ones when I cannot. Nurses like my mom are the ones that need to be hired, celebrated, and nurtured.
My daughter Ella received notice that she’s been accepted into nursing school next September. I’m so very proud of her, not only for her academic achievements to get into university, but also for her big open heart. She’s the kind of nurse that we so desperately need. I only hope she can protect herself, not from the people she cares for, but from a system that currently cares more about efficiencies than kindnesses.
The revolution that David Sheard spoke about is a revolution in compassion and love. As his tag line says, feelings matter most. And I believe that love always wins. We cannot give up on these ideas. It turns out that my mom (retired nurse) me (half a nurse) and my daughter (future nurse) are on the right path after all.