Writing Prompts

I’m always on the lookout for some good prompts for writing practice or journaling. Here are a few that work both for professional and personal reflection:

“If we weren’t trying to control, what would we do differently? Make a list, then do it.” – Melody Beattie

“Tell me about a time you knew glory. Go. Jump in. Write ten minutes.” – Natalie Goldberg

“If one knew one would live 200 years, would one be as tired at 35? Is the being tired a spontaneous complicity with death – a beginning to let go at what one judges to be about the right time, half way? Or is it objectively so, that one would anyway be tired at 35 and spend the next 165 years moping around?” – Susan Sontag

“List four places in the body where you can see fear. Now list three places where you can feel it.” – Elizabeth Berg

“If you could have the characters in any painting come to life, which painting would you choose?”. – Evelyn McFarlane & James Saywell

Log off and Let Go: Advice to New Nurses About Social Media


What concerns me most about Social Media is the allure of achievement it creates, a strange kind of desire for success. It’s a weird Gollum-type behavior: “Me gots to have it. Attention. Retweets. Kudos. Votes. Recognition.” – all under the guise of engagement. I’ve been there. I’ve tried it. Sometimes I still do it. We all want to tell people what we’re ‘doing’. Well, good news, everybody’s doing something.

World domination isn’t the point of any of this. Your small project that helps other nurses, young adults, old adults, disadvantaged populations, or just a few people, can be important work. It’s ok to think small, start small, and build from your ideas.

So, I suggest a few things to young nurses & nursing students:

1. How can you use Social Media for your own professional development?

Use it to follow diverse accounts across medicine, nursing, business, technology, sociology, leadership, communication, philosophy, wellness, art, politics, & culture. Explore holistic viewpoints and integrate what you learn into your nursing confidence.

Use it to find interesting events that cultivate your professional & personal growth. Step out of your comfort zone and explore a topic that intrigues you. Try something you might never explore if you hadn’t encountered it online, but also see if it actually inspires you to “do” something offline.

Use it to make a few friends so you can encourage each other in your professional endeavors. I’ve always felt Social Media is better small. You can’t possibly be friends with 1,000 people.

2. How can use Social Media in your patient care and education?

Really ponder the education aspect in your early years as a nurse, and think about it from a nursing perspective. Be mindful though that you will have to understand your work organization’s SoMe policies, which shouldn’t stop you from being creative on your own. Create some sort of resource for fellow nurses on a topic or theme that interests you. (Example: I’m still interested on the idea of how nurse cope with loss, from an old RNchat topic, three or so years ago. How nurses grieve their patients? I still stink about it often. I’ve used the theme of grief to write research papers in Grad studies. I’ve pondered on grief while participating in narrative writing classes. I typically read and post articles on this theme. I’ve thought about how I’ll continue to incorporate bereavement in storytelling and other creative outlets.) You can also develop a patient resource using Pinterest, Instagram, your blog, etc…(be creative), or make any of these platforms your own think tank for knowledge that you can return to as you refine a project.

Please also consider watching this video: How Technology Has Innovated Loneliness. Reflect on it from your own perspective and through the lense of an elderly person who lives alone, a homeless person, someone who experiences mental illness such as depression or anxiety, a teenager learning about himself who may have been bullied, a grieving widow. As nurses, we may want to explore technology away from the buzz and glory, to explore how it could be affecting vulnerable populations.

There are different ways to approach Social Media – what’s in for me? Or, what’s in it for us? What’s in it for a certain disadvantaged group? Take the time to examine media in practice. Reflection is just as, if not more important, in creativity and achievement than output. The catch is you can’t tweet reflection – because then you’re not actually doing it right if you do.

3. Don’t spend all day online. Self-care is found in spending time in solitude. Your clinical work will be stressful enough at times, and as interesting it is to have the ability to be in constant conversation about your work (and your passion) to network and explode your mind with all the online knowledge, you will need to step away from it and explore other, offline activities to cultivate personal development throughout your career.

Read a book.

Write in a journal.

Take a walk.

Do something tactile and immersive that’s not always looking at a screen. I guarantee this will be a very important discipline to value , especially in this ‘always connected’ environment we’ve collectively created. At some point, we, as nurses, may need to tap into our holistic nature for a return to the organic so we can encourage folks to take a break from the digital, as the digital may be creating more “things to do” in everyone’s lives, more things to think about that many of us will have no control over, and possibly more stress in ways we can’t even conceive of at the moment.

Don’t give your life away to the internet. Value its worth. Learn by using it, but log off, let it go once in awhile, and reflect for a few days.


Do Nothing


Sometimes doing nothing is the mightiest action you can do.

Just for a few days – try it – do nothing.

Don’t worry about your CEUs.
Don’t overthink that project you’re working on in addition to your job.
Forget the work drama.
Halt trying to change the world for 24hrs.
Nevermind the inbox. Or the online chatter.

It’ll all be there when you return. So go somewhere alone and do nothing, where you just may accomplish a lot for yourself in those moments of nothingness.

That means no comments on this blog post too. Go do nothing. Now.

Head in the Clouds

Tech just might be another religion.
Data & Information its prayer & song.
The Internet its cathedral.
Innovation its dogma.
Forethought, a sin.

It’s A We Thing: Pop Culture, Labeling, & Women’s Health

The Crazy Woman Archetype.
Women remain silent in fear of being labeled as such.

Women are dynamic and can’t really be defined by one-dimensional archetypes.
Women express themselves.
We all know the labels are BS.

It’s funny because as a woman, I don’t classify male colleagues and friends into types – it’s just Mike or Tom or Fred, not the father, the nerdy guy, or the cute one. They’re all too dynamic to do so. It would be unfair of me to label them in all their layered uniqueness. I respect and admire these people.

One begins to realize the labels fed to us in media through the lifespan are so often superficial, and consequently, they permeate our every day interactions. Woman as crazy girl, bitch, slut, a “goodie two-shoes”, Pollyanna, smart one, the mother-type, the hot chic, the funny chic, the chubby gal, the geek. Journalism at large is a riddled with these subtleties as woman as characters. Sadly, many women’s print magazines across genres play into the stereotypes. (I know, I once read them. Nary a mention of inner strength, knowledge, flaws as beauty in many of them.)

I don’t know any woman that is only one of these characteristics. All of my ladyfriends are all and none of these things on any given day (even our bodies change a bit with hormonal fluctuations – so yeah, mid-month one of us may be a little chubbier.) In reality, those labels flip, less as caricatures of a person, more as human qualities. The “bitch” is actually a confident woman. The “slut” is just comfortable with her sexuality. The “mother-type” is a nurturer who is actually childfree. The “hot chic” is someone who decided to put on make-up and go out for the night. The “goth girl” might have an affinity for dark music, but she volunteers at a pet shelter and is coping with a breast cancer diagnosis. The Pollyanna is an introvert, not meek and virtuous. Permanence is fictional in humanity, as are the fantasy of labels. Don’t box us in.

I write this because it’s very important in healthcare as women begin to share who they are when it hasn’t been very “proper” to do so in society, that we learn to yield (listen and respond with engaged interest and empathy). This approach sends a message that openness about depression, sexuality, body image issues, abuse, loss, grief, self-awareness, and challenges in professional growth as a woman makes us powerful, creative, and genuine, not weak, crazy, or complicated. Classifying people on superficial characteristics in greater society hurts. The arrogant physician can change, as can the bullying nurse. The noncompliant patient just might not be heard by her clinicians on why she can’t afford her medication. For if we label them as such forever, that is what they shall be. So be it the anxious woman who isn’t crazy, she’s in pain.

That’s not to say we can’t or shouldn’t have opinions of people – we can’t like everyone. Labels aren’t about “liking”, they’re about pre-judgment and the communication obstacles they upheld. And yes, there’s a lot of absurdity in media that feeds off the ability to create characters out of people: queue all of reality television and soundbite news. That’s exactly what they want to do! It’s (bad) entertainment, but the bad entertainment could trickle into assumptions about genders & cultures. My point is dig deeper. Think to the top of your intelligence about human interactions. Don’t go for the easy joke…it’s too lazy. This goes beyond a private chuckle between friends.

Back to feminism. Yes, I suspect an initial labeling of a collective female voice in all its idiosyncrasies as “whining” & “complaining” (even by some women). Old habits die hard; but alas, with gender parity may also come communication parity, and for that, we should be grateful for technology. Women with men can finally speak in support of one another. Same for various races and socioeconomic groups. Storytelling can’t be stopped.

It’s not an us and them thing, folks.
It’s a we thing.

Are you ready?

Get out of your comfort zone, or at the very least just be open minded and aware that a shift is happening and how you feel about it. This has everything to do with healthcare through the lifespan and the holistic clinician, and pop culture has everything to do about healthcare too – it’s influenced you whether you admit or not.

Gender bias in research, communication styles in pt-provider relationships, healthcare hierarchy, leadership representation.

For even healthcare was built on patriarchy and as uncomfortable as the realization of that may be to many, the more we can work together to welcome in new patterns of doing, the stronger we will be at healing (note: not cure, heal) more people – man, woman, and child alike.

The holistic clinician with cultural and gender competence will be the leaders we need in healthcare.

Never fear dialogue.

Be cool.

Addendum – May 28, 2013 – just today I’ve come across a few other articles with similar themes. We’re not alone.

Stupid Things Doctors Say To Female Heart Patients

An article on Gender Bias in Healthcare Research

Successful, Female, and a Little Scary? Let Me Translate That For You, It’s Pronounced “Crazy”.

A Message To A Woman From A Man, You Are Not “Crazy”

Nurse Collegiality and Blogging

The whole point of Social Media has always been to connect and have meaningful dialogue with colleagues and like-minded folks. Although we can do that in short form via Twitter chats, the introvert in me can appreciate longform with online pals who I may never have the opportunity to meet in person.

A thinker needs to talk.

Beth Coll, on Pixel RN recently wrote a blog on why she stopped blogging, and why she’s considering starting up again. I’m glad she’s doing so. Her perspective is all her own. We need to hear it. We’ve got a vast number of nursing blogs to wander through, but the art of commenting on blogs seems to have been lost by the quickness of the streams. Sure, time is of the essence, lives are busy, but we have opportunities to connect visually through Skype or G+ to support one another as nurse bloggers. I wonder if it’s worth throwing out a suggestion for Online Nurses to e-meet once in while to dialogue about our experiences of blogging, share tech platforms, and encourage one another.

Another option is to set a certain time of the week dedicated to commenting on nursing blogs as a strategy to strengthen the network of nurse writers. There are so many of us, but we are our own islands, all over the nation (and the world). In the great sea of healthcare internet stuffs it would serve us well to build our collegiality as web nurses, especially so our distinctive specialities can complement one another. We could share resources. Plus, nurse bloggers tend to be of the more creative persuasion offering new insight into nursing practice compared to many professional organizations, and even some educational institutions.

So, those are my thoughts to champion the longform expressions in all of us that often get drowned out in the overall noise of Social Media. I never thought Social Media was meant to be a one-click information drive-through – at its best it is to educate the public and other disciplines what it is we do and why it’s so crucial that we be involved in every aspect of healthcare creativity, movement, and change through various sectors: tech, healthcare design, policy, leadership, consulting.

To do that, we need to do it loud.

We also need to think of student nurses and younger generations of nurses. No nurse left behind.

Reflect on the life of Florence Nightingale. What would she do with technology at her fingertips, access to smart, educated nurses brimming with ideas all over the world, and the appreciation of environment (the web environment) to enhance nursing and improve care?

In the meantime, keep blogging. Like improv, longform is always better.


Fear and Surrender.

Staring into the glazed-over unfocused dilated eyes of a jaundiced man with end-stage liver cirrhosis. Fear.

Witnessing him take his last breath and watching as his whatever it is was that resembled his unique life force of collective stories and emotion from his whole life through dissipate into an unknown. One last sigh. Surrender.

Collecting mementos from childhood, letters and handmade Easter cards, Playbills from Broadway plays, awards of distinction in the form of ribbons or certificates, old journals with ripped corners and folded pages to be passed on to another, some other. Tangible meaningful lifejunk. Lessons learned. Nightstand overflows. Dust bunnies. Fear.

Standing bare…aware of the harsh curves, scarred knee, discolorations above the left cheekbone, the handful of silvery hairs teasing the crown, the gaze that loves to gaze, the creative womb, smooth torso dancing, unseen whoosing hole in the atria, overworked endocrine, underworked whispers of artful endeavors, green eyes vision changing, seeing hands, worked hands, writing hands, playing hands, human earthship carrying circling, fluttering, bounding thoughts and emotions and ideas. Silly giggles. Surrender.

A news reel of three girls bound, scared and removed of all their youth, hope, young love, no kisses, no longer seeing cloudy sky or breathing air, a cat’s soft fur, wispy dancing blade of grass no more. Concealed. Fear.

A couple holding hands in rubble, smothered, breathe no more, facing toward one another in final moments, barricaded but embracing each other. Courage. Love. Surrender.

The news. Fear.

Friends’ laughter. Surrender.

Illness. Hope. Fear.

Heal. Surrender.




Fair. Surrender.

Nursing is Storytelling

There’s a lot of buzz around the action of “storytelling”. It’s a trendy term.

Some marketers hijack storytelling as the art nouveau of their work. I suppose that’s fine, but it still rings generic.

Nurses, we live storytelling. Our work is storytelling. The intimacy in the care we provide is like a Bob Dylan song because storytelling doesn’t have to be the feel good inspire-the-world marketing scheme. It’s a lived life. Storytelling – good storytelling – encompasses the grit and the grime. It is the real, and yes, sometimes it is happy, but sometimes it’s about suffering and pain and a mixture of all those things.

So nevermind that other disciplines in healthcare home in on the cure. The saving. The fix-it-all-and-you’ll-be-better-in-a-week narrative – therein lies an illusion, even in recovery there is struggle.

We’ve got the humanity. And we are here to support people of all races, all socioeconomic statuses, all ages, all genders, the tech savvy or not, to live their lives in good times and difficult times. We aim not to deny people their feelings and that is our work because it’s ridiculous to think every individual should be perfection.

Our work is storytelling and don’t be persuaded otherwise. Be skeptical of easy storytelling for a click or a head nod.

Good stories might hurt. Good stories could heal, but they also might ask further questions. True stories might not have a perfect beginning-middle-end. Honest stories have nothing to do with fame. That’s all happenstance.

Do your work. Listen to those stories. Share them. Feel them. Live them for those who don’t have the strength to tell their own.

Bob Dylan’s Time Magazine Interview 1967.

Nursing is storytelling.