When Nurses Grieve Together

by Nursetopia on September 4, 2015

Oncology nurses experience grief. All nurses experience grief. It’s part of the job we agreed to as life also encompasses death.

As a nurse leader, grief over a patient death is very similar to the grief I experienced as a frontline nurse. While I do not routinely put my hands on patients daily, I still get to know patients and their families in my role, and I get the pleasure of caring for them in ways they may never know. In addition, I get to hear nurses and the rest of the team talk about patients in care meetings or in the break room as they munch on a homemade treat a patient just happened to bring for the group. Stories and story-telling moments are vital learning sessions in healthcare, and it’s important (and sometimes fun) for me to hear these stories of our patients throughout their care.

And conversely, the grief over a patient death as a leader is different from the grief as a patient’s nurse. That bond is entirely different. Entirely.

The longer I am in leadership, the more tenderly I view my nurses and team during seasons of patient loss. It is humbling watching a group of nurses attend a viewing together or stop by an end-of-life patient’s room one-by-one, only to leave with tear-stained faces. It’s moving caring for a multidisciplinary team passing the Kleenex box around a gathered office space during work hours. It’s endearing hearing a handful of nurses share unknown stories with a family who may have never been in the care environment to experience them, showing either a completely different side of a patient or reinforcing the truest of true personalities and characteristics throughout even the hardest of health times.

Nurses are seriously some of the strongest, most courageous, versatile, and resilient people I’ve ever met. Even in their grief, they are amazing. That gathered grief shows the deep sincerity of their care to people who were once strangers to them but now forever a part of them.

Not everyone grieves together. I believe it is a sign of a strong team when grief is shared, though. What do you think?


Just Ask: Getting Over the ‘No’

by Nursetopia on July 18, 2015

She Could Say NoThere once was a time in my life that I would assume some of my ideas or requests would automatically be squelched with a “no” answer. My assumption would actually limit me from even asking or discussing the request or idea. One thing is for sure -the answer will always be “no” to something that’s not asked.

I had to get over the fear of “no.” In light of many other things in work and care, being told no is not really that big of a deal, but when you’re told no over and over again, you can start to think your ideas are rubbish and simply stop generating ideas altogether. That’s not good for any organization.

“No” for the sake of “no” has never really set well with me; I have always wanted to know the why behind the answer. Most people are this way, which is why leadership communication is important to validate ideas and questions. Just because the answer is no doesn’t mean the idea or request wasn’t valuable. I’ve learned that both when I’m told no with an explanation or I do the same thing with those who follow me, often times a subsequent idea results to overcome the explanation’s barrier. It’s a beautiful thing – respectful, transparent communication.

Receiving a “no” answer is really no big deal, but it does take practice – just like everything else – to maintain professionalism and competency within the situation. “No” comes in all forms, but it mostly signifies the opportunity to grow – to research more, collect additional data, strengthen a business case. It’s a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block.

Get over your fear of “no.” Just ask.


Tacos – whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, are a big deal in Texas. And so are our nurses. You likely feel the same way about the nurses around you, and what better way to say a little thanks than to bring your favorite nurse a taco or two…along with a Nursetopia card, of course?


To download the wide version, click here.


To download the long version, click here.

Happy Nurses Week!


May is full of wonderfulness – graduations, the beginning of summer, Nurses Week, and yes…Oncology Nursing Month. Now, as an oncology nurse I realize my bias; that’s okay, it’s a good bias.

Seriously, I love oncology nurses. They give, give, give. They are brilliant healthcare professionals, and I am proud to belong to the specialty.

Shower the oncology nurses around you with appreciation all month long. There are oodles of free, printable cards here; just click the Freebies & Giveaways link above to start sharing the love.

Happy Oncology Nursing Month!

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This week, Baylor Scott & White Health live-tweeted a heart transplant via #HeartTXLive. The Twitter stream follows the story of “Jane,” a North Texas mom in her 30’s, living with cardiomyopathy since birth who found out Monday morning a donor match was found. By Monday evening, the entire country heard Jane’s story and watched as she received the gift of life through organ donation. Social media buzzed, and traditional news outlets began sharing the event, as well.


I was glued to the feed, and going back through #HeartTXlive again is just as enthralling and inspirational. Not only did Baylor Scott & White Health honor an organ donor and family giving such a precious gift, but they gave Jane a new chance at life while highlighting a complex surgery, team, and process. They pulled back the curtain on transplant surgery and showed the world what incredible care happens everyday without millions of people in concert. Individuals from all over social media chimed in with #ImADonor, and Texas organ donation organizations saw a 30% increase in residents registering as donors.

Those aren’t numbers. A 30% increase in registered organ donors means hundreds of people in need have greater chances of having a match. That’s the gift of life. And it all came from one person who registered as an organ donor and a family who chose to give through their grief. What a legacy.

Thank you to Jane and her family – for their courage in sharing their story in such a vulnerable moment; to Baylor Scott & White Health – for forward-thinking and using social media as a powerful, altruistic tool; and to Jane’s donor/donor family and organ donors and families everywhere – for giving life.

If you’re not an organ donor and want to give life to others, register with your state and let your family know your wishes.


Valentine’s Day is Saturday. For many in healthcare celebrating at work, the celebration will happen all throughout this week and next – whenever people are together. I love a good card, and since I couldn’t really find valentines for my coworkers and team members that I adored, I decided to make my own. And now you get to share in the fun, too, because they’re all free. Happy Valentine’s Day…or Week…or whatever. Simply download, print, add an encouraging note on the back, and share the love to brighten someone’s day.

We go together like cisplatin and hydration. Download.

Vday 2015_CisplatinAndHydration

We go together like methotrexate and leukovorin. Download.

Vday 2015_MethotrexateAndLeukovorin

We go together like cold beverage and a regulatory-approved ‘drink corral’ in a non-patient care area. Or like routine distress screening and pivotal medical visits. Download.

Vday 2015_Distress Screening And Drink Corral

We go together like carboplatin and the area under the curve. Or like skin assessments and weekly treatment visits. Download.

Vday 2015_Carbo_and_Weekly Treatment Visits


Don’t work in oncology or have an idea for another healthcare-related Valentine card that’s a little different? Leave a comment. I just might make it and publish it here for you and others to enjoy!

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Go Mo-Mo-Movember Pinterest Board

by Nursetopia on October 22, 2014

Movember Pinterest BoardIn one way or another, I am always raising awareness of cancer. As much as I love my job as an oncology nurse leader, I would love for there to be no need for my services.

Events are popping up left and right these days, and while it’s tough work, it is personally satisfying to create something from nothing with great people to raise awareness of site-specific cancers and help screen community members for various cancers that can be detected early per national, evidence-based screening guidelines. I always refresh my memory as I prepare for cancer awareness talks or events, and it seems I always, always, always learn something new.

November, or Movember, as it is now well-known, is quickly approaching. I’m working on a few things in my area, and before I start, I always like to brainstorm – with people and by myself, with tools (such as the Internet) or with only my big-dreaming brain. Part of my recent brainstorming for Movember developed into a Movember/Mustache Mania Pinterest board. I’m simply sharing with you, as well, because it is far too easy to get sucked into Pinterest!

Do you or does your health care system do anything for Movember or to increase the awareness of men’s cancers? I want to know; I’m still looking for ideas!

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Meneko McBeth, a 35-year-old nurse from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, submitted the winning entry into Lay’s ‘Do Us A Flavor’ Chip Contest. McBeth’s Wasabi Ginger-flavored potato chips will join the Lay’s chip line after several months of voting. Her flavor stood against other entries such as Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Mango Salsa, and (gulp) Cappuccino, which seemed to be a social media picture favorite of confused shoppers this summer. According to Yahoo! Food, McBeth will receive the greater sum of either $1 million or a percentage of the annual chip sales.

Congrats to Meneko on her haul! I wonder if her unit or department has a plethora of the salty snacks?


Murphy’s Laws of Nursing Leadership & Management

by Nursetopia on October 16, 2014

Oye VeyHeard the phrase “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”? Yep, Murphy’s Law is prevalent in nursing leadership and management just as it is in other areas of nursing and health care. Here are a few gold-standard Murphy’s Laws for nurse managers and leaders.

1. The day you’ve set aside and diligently blocked from meetings will be the day a stomach virus sweeps through the unit, causing severe short-staffing to the point of needing your clinical assistance for direct patient care. Good job blocking that calendar, and best wishes for “catching up!”

2. Your boss is guaranteed to call you on the one day you leave the office early. And he’ll need some numbers for a report within the hour.

3. The “Can-I-Have-5-Minutes?” conversation will take over your next scheduled meeting – that you lead – and end up with at least three action items to complete.

4. A patient will request to speak with you right as you realize you have yet to empty your bladder during the day.

5. The moment you are fully staffed, at least two team members indicate they need leaves of absence.

6. The probability of Joint Commission showing up for your organization’s unannounced survey increases with the number of days remaining until you leave for your long-awaited vacation.

7. The week after you ask team members to purge storage closets will be the one week of the decade in which something from that storage closet will be requested.

8. Minutes before your budget is due you will remember an ancillary expense that could potentially lead to a major variance.

9. The copy machine will jam and run out of toner as you try to print your presentation for the multidisciplinary board.

10. The candidate you love for the open position will be screened out of the HR system via a glitch, leading to weeks of attempted correction.

Creating these just makes me laugh. Leadership is a trip. In so many great ways.

What other Murphy’s Laws do you have in nursing leadership and management?



Send Nina Pham, RN, A Note of Encouragement

by Nursetopia on October 15, 2014

Ebola is the word of the day, month, year. Honestly, before a few weeks ago, I knew very little about the disease. My, how that has changed.

As a Texas nurse, I’ve thought about healthcare professional colleagues throughout the state often over the last month. I have incredible statewide colleagues. Really. I’ve thought about the Dallas healthcare team as they took care of one of the most high-profile patients of the year. And, I’ve thought about them all as now two of their own – our own – Nina Pham, RN, and a second, yet to be identified nurse, have tested positive for Ebola.

Anyone and everyone who has ever been on the frontlines of care knows how difficult healthcare is under “normal” circumstances. It’s everyday, invisible heroics.

I keep placing myself in the other nurses’ shoes – contemplating potential thoughts and feelings during a shift. What an internal dichotomy. It’s mainly Nina Pham, RN, though, whom I have thought of lately. Reports have indicated she is spending time reading and resting; that sounds nice, for sure. But not in an isolation room that is in the proverbial spotlight of the developed world. What is she thinking? What is she reading? What will life be like after her discharge as she is on the road to recovery? How does it feel to have close colleagues care for her now? What do her day-to-day moments look like? Is she steering clear of the free-flowing media? Does she know so many people are thinking of her?

THR Facebook PostAfter a Facebook update from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital yesterday, I realized I don’t have to wonder about that last question. I can actually tell her I’m thinking of her via the hospital’s “send an email to a patient” feature. I love that. I absolutely sent her a quick note.

It’s no surprise to regular Nursetopia readers that I am an avid advocate for notes of encouragement. Because I believe there is more good in this world, this seems like a perfect opportunity for the healthcare profession to support Nina.

If you’re thinking of Nina and want to encourage her, stop what you’re doing, and send her a note now. Help brighten her day and her spirits. As soon as the second nurse is named, we can all do the same for her, as well.