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Why Nurses Need A Google Doodle

National Nurses Day is less than a month away, and I’m not excited about it. I’ve received one too many “Code Brown Queen” cards in the span of my career. More frequently celebrated with cheesy, tongue-in-cheek gifts than genuine recognition of the achievement, skill and accomplishments of its 3.1 million members, this nurse wonders if it isn’t time to change things up on May 6th.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on the joke-y cards, magnets and sweatshirts. I don’t need the swag or even the extra attention; I’m just doing the job I feel called to, after all. But since the holiday exists, I think we should use it as an opportunity to actually further the visibility of the nursing profession in a proactive and intelligent manner.

So, this year, I’m asking for the Nurses Week gift I actually want: Nurses and their supporters to demand a National Nurses Day Google Doodle. 


Maybe, if the millions of Americans Googling something on May 6th saw a tribute to modern day nursing, we’d be able to start a conversation about our profession that’s long overdue. 

The Google Doodle team calls for suggestions that “celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google’s personality and love for innovation.” Nursing was founded on the laurels of individuals who changed the course of medicine, and continues on the backs of nurses who daily care for and protect millions of lives through creative troubleshooting, critical thinking, and fast-paced decisions. Florence Nightingale practically discovered germ theory, most modern-day hospital procedure is based on nursing research, and any nurse who has worked short-staffed, survived the shift by relying on innovation.

So why hasn’t Google celebrated us since they started doodling 14 years ago? (To be fair, they did a small, somewhat belittling doodle for Nightingale’s birthday in 2008). 

I don’t blame Google for neglecting us every year, exactly. The trouble with us nurses, is we don’t talk about what we do. Our creativity and guile and innovative genius lays locked within the halls of our practice. The tiny work-arounds we find and share with each other at the bedside change lives, but are rarely known by anyone but nurses, much less understood publicly. Nursing research, although utilized in almost every existing medical decision and implemented at the Federal level, is often poo-pooed as a soft science. And for some reason, we can’t manage to break into Hollywood as anything but drug abusers or tyrants. We’re largely missing from policy debates, few of us have paced the floors of Congress, and the pages of our newspapers are void of our heroic stories and focused opinions. It’s time we start sharing what we do in a way that those we serve can understand.

With our foundations and our future in mind, I think nurses – all 3.1 million of us – as American innovators, need a shout out from Google, the portal of the universe, this National Nurses Day. Maybe, when we’re showcased on the most innovative website on the internet, our country will realize how much we deserve to be there, and we will start actively telling them why.   

So, here’s my plan: Starting this Sunday, I’ve e-mailed the Google Doodlers a suggestion for a doodle celebrating modern-day, living American nurses, calling attention to our innate innovative spirit. In each e-mail, I’m showcasing a living nurse innovator. Sunday, I wrote about Cathy Papia, a nurse from my hometown of Buffalo, who started the White Wreath Protocol, a simple way to alleviate the suffering that comes along with dying in an ICU when a hospice unit is unavailable. Monday, I told the doodlers about Mary Wakefield, the Obama-appointed administrator of the HRSA. Yesterday, doodlers got a briefing on the profoundly innovative contribution of UCSF’s Living Legend, Patricia Benner, and today, I reminded them of Carol Gino, whose voice has peppered the profession with innovative narrative for decades.

Tune in, and share: I’m posting the e-mails I send to the Google Doodle team on my blog, This Nurse Wonders, and I’ll re-hash here, on the Facebook page, Why Nurses Need A Google Doodle, and via @12HourRN.

Nurses are amazing, multi-faceted clinicians, inventors, policy makers, artists, problem-solvers and care-givers. Long before Google became a verb, “nurse” entered the language of the globe and changed it forever. We’re still here to tell our tales; perhaps Google will give us a boost.

Nurse Radio in Liberia



Earlier this week, PBS’s News Hour featured a story about Aaron Debah, a nurse in Liberia who is the only mental health worker for a half million people in Liberia–a country that was engaged in civil war  for 14 years. The story notes that 40% of the population suffers from PTSD, and this includes the child soldiers who were forced into killing and maiming and now suffer the psychological consequences. Debah uses the airwaves to encourage people to talk about their emotional struggles, hoping that their stories and conversations will encourage others to realize that they are not alone.

Two points from the video are striking. First, Sean Mayberry of StrongMinds notes that 90% of the developing world has no access to mental health services. And the need isn’t just in war-torn countries. This week on Frontline, a stunning report on TB in Swaziland showed the emotional devastation that TB has inflicted on whole families. It’s not just the TB, including those who suffer daily with multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB. It’s the often-toxic medications that must be taken precisely or the person can develop XDR, an even more resistant and deadly form of TB. The story included examples of people with MDR and XDR who are suffering from severe depression that has sometimes led to suicide because of the miserableness and hopelessness of their lives. The need for mental health care is great.

Second, the Carter Center is working to expand Swaziland’s capacity for  mental health care by training nurses to develop their knowledge and skill in providing mental health care. Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter has long been an advocate for improving mental health care worldwide. This program will be an interesting one to watch. It doesn’t seem like enough but it’s a start.

In the U.S., we are struggling with implementing the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for mental health parity–requiring insurers to cover mental health problems to the same extent that they cover physical health problems. Certainly, the primary care workforce in the U.S. struggles to provide frontline mental health care. Mental health nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists can help our situation, though barriers remain to these clinicians being able to practice to the full extent of their education and training. In the face of Liberia’s situation, it’s hard to justify our own continuing restrictions on mental health workers in the U.S.  Time to get perspective.

Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, Rudin Professor of Nursing



Write of Spring: The Examined Life Conference

These past few years, it’s become a vernal ritual: in early April, just as the buds on the flowering pear trees are about to pop here in New York City, I get on a plane and fly to Iowa, where spring “may continue taking its time” to arrive. It seems perverse, I know. What could lure me again to the great, flat, frozen Midwest after a winter like we’ve had? The Examined Life Conference: Writing, Humanities, and the Art of Medicine, an annual gathering of health care providers and writers at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine—this year’s conference takes place April 10 – 12.

ExaminedLifeLogoAmong the featured presenters will be Andrew Solomon, whose most recent book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction and many other prizes. (He’s also the author of a much-discussed New Yorker article, “The Reckoning,” based on his extensive interviews with Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, Adam Lanza.) Also on hand will be Louise Aronson, a Harvard-educated geriatrician who holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She is the author of a short story collection, A History of the Present Illness.

I’m especially excited this year because CHMP Poet-in-Residence Joy Jacobson and I will lead a two-day preconference writing workshop, Writers as Healers, Healers as Writers, on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 8 – 9. There’s still time to sign up.

We don’t follow the format of the traditional writing workshop, in which participants critique drafts of stories, poems, or essays with an eye to improving their literary value. Rather, the focus of our workshops is on the writing process as an act of discovery and healing. We base our approach on the expressive writing method pioneered by psychologist James W. Pennebaker and colleagues, who have demonstrated a wide range of physical and emotional health benefits associated with intensive writing about trauma and other emotionally charged events. We’ve also adapted the methods outlined in Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, itself an elaboration of Pennebaker’s expressive writing technique.

Also due in April is Expressive Writing: Words that Heal, coauthored by Pennebaker and John Evans. According to the Amazon blurb, “It explains why writing can often be more helpful than talking when dealing with trauma, and it prepares the reader for their writing experience. The book looks at the most serious issues and helps the reader process them. From the instructions: ‘Write about what keeps you awake at night. The emotional upheaval bothering you the most and keeping you awake at night is a good place to start writing.’”

Joy and I will post from the conference. Stay tuned. And enjoy the Rite of Spring!

–Jim Stubenrauch is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy
and teaches writing at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing.

A Woman’s Right To Know

Roye book

A Woman’s Right to Know” is the provocative title of a new book about the history of women’s access to reproductive health services, leading up to today’s quagmire of states’ undermining of women’s rights to family planning and abortion. Written by Carol Roye, EdD, RN, FAAN, a longtime women’s health nurse practitioner and professor of nursing at Hunter College, the book provides surprising details about the religious and political alliances that evolved around women’s reproductive rights, turning the issue into a political debate rather than medical issue.

Tonight on Healthstyles, producer and moderator Diana Mason, PhD, RN, interviews Dr. Roye about the twists and turns of this curious history that includes prior support from conservative religious organizations, as well as the impact of today’s restrictions on access to reproductive services.
So tune in tonight at 11:00 PM on WBAI, 99.5 FM (, or click here to listen now:

Healthstyles is sponsored by the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College.

Emergency Department Use


Recently, a study reported that people in Oregon who became covered under the state’s Medicaid program were using the Emergency Department more than people who were eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled in the program. This story got lots of media attention, with conservatives arguing that it’s more evidence that the Affordable Care Act is unsustainable. But, as with any research, one study does not prove anything. I conducted an analysis of recent reports on ED use and have written about it in my regular post on JAMA’s News Forum. You can read it here:

JAMA doesn’t permit readers to post comments, but I’d welcome your thought on HealthCetera’s site. You can post comments in response to this blog post.

Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, Rudin Professor of Nursing


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