Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Topic: From Nurse to Caregiver to Educator

My nursing profession began in 1985. Now, I am a nurse educator. I am so proud to be a professional nurse. It is my sacred profession! Passing the state- boards on the first try aided me to realize that I took my studies and training seriously. I vowed to use my knowledge and skills to be a rainbow in the lives of patients and families facing health challenges. As a nurse, there were always unknowns, surprises, and innovations, and as technology has taken over, it has good and bad entities. My two cents is, while technology has improved our practices, it has also made us somewhat lazy. I tell my students, there are no short-cuts in nursing. It can be challenging and rewarding, but it is what we signed up for. The flaws and imperfections will forever be in our practices. It is up to us as practitioners to take the bitter with the sweet for our patients. Notice, I did not say take abuse and discord. We are professional nurses, and while some things can try our last nerve, remaining professional and remembering why we became nurses should be at the forefront…the laying on of hands…is what we do best.

When I read this morning, so many nurses are leaving the profession, my heart hurt. As we know, the pandemic has tried our minds, body, and spirit. It has taken us away from our family. It has taken family, friends, colleagues, and a few enemies, I’m sure. But nurses are caregivers. One cannot remove that reality. Caregiving is hard work! Nursing is hard work! I, as many reading this post, have experienced the hard work that has occurred from front-line workers since the pandemic began. Acute care hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living arrangements, and group homes have faced unimaginable circumstances, but the question I pose is…who has a crystal ball that alerts us that danger, destruction, or a global pandemic is upon us? And even if we saw those things coming at us, as nurses and caregivers, do we abandon the ship; or do we help those who cannot help themselves?

Please know, I am not debating the situation and circumstances around caring for COVID-19 patients. My anger and frustrations are tied to the massive amounts of misinformation and the politicizing of the provided way out of this horrible calamity. Doctors, nurses, and allied health care workers are weary, straining every avenue when caregiving is necessary. I wonder, and I want you to wonder, who will take care of us if we need to go to the hospital. The nursing shortage has been a debate for years. It was suggested that years back, there were not enough educators in universities and colleges to admit and train students to become nurses. Now nurses have left and leaving the profession due to the magnitude of the care required and the dwindling feelings of unsafe working conditions. We have student nurses in training now and rethinking their decisions because of what they are experiencing as student nurses. I’m concerned!

While I experienced my personal anxiety and stress as my niece suffered and died from COVID-19, I cannot picture the nurse caring for her, throwing up her hands, and walking out. We are facing tough times, as healthcare professionals, as nurses, as caregivers. In all that is going on around us in the health care profession, we must find our happy place. We must remember why we became a nurse. I experienced many outcomes that did not turn out as I’d hoped. Losing a transplant patient or doing CPR for an hour and still, the patient dies; never meeting her newborn was gut-wrenching, but my reality on that day but, never felt the desire to leave because of the consequence.

Our society has forgotten we are our brother’s keeper. We must do things to support each other, help each other, provide for each other, and care for each other. As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, while at the bedside of a patient, challenged by many situations, I never wanted to jump ship because it got tough. I did protect my license, and that is what you should do.

There are Nurse Advocacy Associations that help with the Nursing Safe harbor act. It is a law that nurses can access if working in unsafe conditions are present. The Safe Harbor for Nurses Act allows registered and licensed practical nurses to refuse assignments under certain conditions without fear of retaliation or other adverse action by their employers. See the link below for more information. Be safe, be well!

Nurse Advocacy Association — Safe Harbor



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Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman


Dr. Hickman is the author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor and The Black Book of Important for Caregivers.