JParadisi RN Contributes Posts to AJN’s Off The Charts This Month

My readers may want to know that January has been a busy month for JParadisi RN. The American Journal of Nursing blog, Off The Charts published two original posts written by me.

As an artist, writer, and registered nurse, I am constantly checking myself on the material I write, paint, or photograph. While I’m not afraid of a little controversy, I respect my patients and coworkers. First, do no harm. Also, I’m not making enough money writing and painting to afford losing my nursing gig, so it’s all cool. I explore my thoughts on this subject in yesterday’s post, Nurses, Hospitals, and Social Media: It Depends What Business You’re In.

If you don’t regularly read Off The Charts, I encourage you to start. It provides an intelligent, conversational way to keep abreast of the issues facing nurses and health care.

And if you want to read my other January post, follow this link: The Puzzle of Snowflakes (January 4, 2011).

Special thanks to Off The Charts editor, Jacob Molyneux.

No Winning for Losing

Manga (we've made all your favorite foods) photo: jparadisi

Every year, the day after Halloween marks Opening Day of Seasonal Gift-Eating. Nurses, you know what I’m talking about. All over America, nurse lounges abound with gifts of food given to us by patients and doctors offices. Huge canisters of gourmet popcorn, boxes of chocolate, and homemade delicacies arrive and cover all available counter space. Even if there’s no time for a lunch break, there’s always a few seconds to grab a piece of fudge. So it’s a little unfair, in my opinion, that health care is focusing on the issue of obesity, even though I know it’s right.

Many patients, female in particular, cringe when I ask them to step on the scale at their appointments.  I don’t say their weight out loud, but simply enter it into their chart. In the December issue of the American Journal of Nursing, Carol Potera reports on the emotional impact on patients of words used to describe their weight in Words Can Hurt. The information comes from a study led by clinical psychologist Gareth Dutton. I found the study’s contrast of words used by physicians versus words used by nurses to describe patient weight enlightening.

Medscape published an article Is “Fat Bias” Making You Ineffective? by Marilyn W. Edmunds PhD, CRNP, in which she calls upon health care providers to reflect upon our biases and how they impact our patients. She also asks us to consider cultural differences in perception of weight.

We’re not the only ones looking and judging, however. Recently at an art opening, another artist told me I am the only nurse he’s ever met who isn’t overweight, and it wasn’t the first time someone has said this to me. I find this public stereotype of nurses more troubling than Dr. Oz’s sexy nurses, who were really women who lost weight, although I agree the entire debacle was in poor taste.

I want to throw one more point into this post. A patient came in raging about fast food chains. I didn’t really get it until he explained that fast food is cheap, so for people living on the limited resources of disability, it is affordable. All the fat, all the sodium, the lack of nutrients from over-processing, is all he can afford. And then he comes in for his appointment and gets lectured on his A1C Hgb results, hypertension, and obesity. In his opinion, there’s no winning for losing.

Comfortable with the Squishy Part II: Look, Look with Your Special Eyes

The White that Binds (Pinning Ceremony) by jparadisi 2010 mixed media & collage

I’ve read a lot about eyes, seeing, and looking lately.

Eye doctors are concerned about a fashion trend among young women called circle lenses. These non-prescription contact lenses create a large, round eye effect, making the woman look like a doll or cartoon character. Illegal in the United States, they are easily purchased on the internet from other countries, where no studies or quality checks are conducted to determine the safety of the lenses. A lack of scientific research proving whether or not circle lenses are safe seems not to concern these women. They are comfortable with the squishy.

As an artist making paintings about identity, I’m interested in the choices people make. I was a child during the consciousness-raising of the Feminist Movement, when women rebelled against a society that saw us as dolls or cartoon characters with biologically limited abilities.Nursing rebels against the depiction of nurses as angels, bitches, and handmaidens (excellent post by Barbara Glickstein, MPH, MS, RN for Off the Charts). Accepting these characterizations creates problems about role and identity for nurses of both genders.

Can nursing make advances in the media depiction of our profession if women pursue trends reinforcing the idea we are dolls and cartoon characters? When women choose fashion over their health and safety, can nursing’s demand for safe work environments be successful? Is there a connection between the two? Do mixed messages create roadblocks?

I don’t know the answers to these questions and that is why I explore them through art. Without scientific facts to turn to, I have to be comfortable with the squishy.

And for Memorial Day…

     *Originally published on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2009.


photo: JParadisi 2009

 This fall, I’m reading the first four books of the Cherry Ames series, by Helen Wells, for the first time. Cherry Ames, if you don’t know, is an 18-year-old student nurse, whose intuitive style of patient care and indomitable spunk lead her through a spree of madcap adventures in the halls of fictional Spencer Hospital, eventually “winning” her cap and the coveted black stripe of a graduate nurse, during World War II.  

     Unlike Cherry, I did not want to be nurse as a young person, and I was not particularly interested in books about nursing. From junior high on, I felt heroes like Cherry Ames were kid stuff.  In high school, I read Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Ray Bradbury, Robert A.  Heinlein and James Thurber.  Characters such as Michael Valentine and Garp held more intrigue for me.

     I felt pretty much the same way as an adult reading Cherry Ames.  In a world of Nurse Jackies, Cherry’s declarations that,

The patient always comes first. Save the patient at any cost to yourself. That was the nurse’s creed.”


“Nursing had always been Cherry’s dream. She knew it was the finest way a girl could serve people, and Cherry loved people and wanted to help them. Nursing was the way to put her idealism into practice.”

come across as cheesy cliques.  At least, that’s what I thought until last Thursday, November 5, 2009, when the Fort Hood shootings occurred, and the stories of heroism during the crisis became publicly known.

     The first story of heroism I heard was that of civilian officer Sgt. Kimberly Munley, the first responder on the scene, who simultaneously shot the assailant as he fired upon her. She put herself (as the clique goes) in danger’s way to save the lives of others.

     On Tuesday morning, I watched The Today Show. Meredith Vieira’s guests were 19 year-old Pfc. Amber Baher, and her mother.  Amber is a soldier, credited with applying a tourniquet on the bleeding wound of one of her “battle buddies,” then carrying him to safety, while she herself was shot in the back. I don’t know if it was adrenaline, but my own personal safety wasn’t really what mattered to me,” Bahr told Meredith. “Making sure that my battle buddies were safe was my No.1 priority.”

     Another soldier, US Army Reservist Dorothy “Dorrie” Carskadon (who has family here in Portland) was injured during the shooting, reportedly while assisting one of her comrades.

     I am deeply moved by each of these stories of individuals choosing to save the lives of others, at any cost to themselves.  By their actions, they put their idealism into practice. These women, these soldiers, exemplified, on American soil, the values and commitment of our past and present veterans overseas. This type of courage happens every day, on battlefields far from home. “Their lives’ work is our security, and the freedom we all too often take for granted.”

     In healthcare, we borrow military language. We wage a war on cancer. We battle disease. Severely broken bodies in trauma units are FUBAR. Today, I went to work, hoping I would also borrow a small amount of the courage and idealism displayed by our soldiers.

I need to reconsider my opinion of Cherry Ames.