Recap of The 34th Annual Conference of the Society of Rogerian Scholars October 1-3, 2021

Contributed by Conference Chairs
Jane Hopkins-Walsh and Anne Marie Leveille-Tulce 

The 34th annual conference of the Society of Rogerian Scholars was held virtually on October 1-3, 2021, drawing registration from over 100 participants from Pakistan, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Italy, France, Colombia, Belgium, Philippines, Ireland, and the United States. The theme of this year’s conference was A Fantastic and Limitless Future: Nursing Science, Diversity and Wellbecoming. The two-and-a-half-day conference program included keynote speakers, podium and poster presentations, and the annual open business meeting, organized consecutively in non-competing sessions so participants could attend all the sessions. In addition, on October 2 at mid-day, Dr. Violet Malinski chaired a Celebration of Light and Life for Rogerian scholar Dr. Elizabeth Ann Manhart Barrett who transitioned on August 23rd, 2021. The celebration of life included a candle lighting ceremony, a musical-photo collage, and written and spoken word tributes by numerous family members, friends, and colleagues.

 Dr. Barrett’s contribution to Science of Unitary Human Beings, The Power of Knowing Participation in Change (PKPC) was a foundational theoretical thread, woven within many of the presentations and keynotes over the course of the conference. Several presenters used the theory to encourage nursing actions towards greater equity and justice. For example, Dr. Jacqueline Fawcett presented Nursology Speak: Thoughts about the Vocabulary of our Discipline critiquing the paternalism and power inequities found within traditional nursing language like “compliance, adherence, concordance, allow, participant, provider “while suggesting “knowing participation in change” as alternative language, among others. Dr. Leveille-Tulce and Hopkins-Walsh discussed Barrett’s work as a framework for antiracism action in nursing, but noted that future nursing work was needed to advance Barrett’s theory away from focus on individualism to better address the enshrined and codified systems of structural racism and oppression that create and sustain power inequities for the patients and the communities nurses accompany, and for many nurses alike. SRS President Dr. Marlaine Smith built on Barrett’s theory of power of knowing participation in change in her keynote address that opened day two of the conference on October 2nd. Her talk was entitled What is your Superpower? Participating in the Change We Want to See. Dr. Smith presented an urgent call to nursing action and activism for greater peace, equity, justice and wellbecoming. 

On the first day of the conference Dr. Howard Butcher delivered the 2021 lecture sponsored by Martha E. Rogers Scholars Fund, framed by Dr. Butcher as a self-described “experiment”.  The title of his presentation was In Search of Rogerian Science: Gems, Facets, and Glittering Nonlinear Reflections in the Meaning of Science of Unitary Human Beings. To organize his lecture, he took quotes from Martha Roger’s 1970 book and other writings, wrote them on scraps of paper and pulled them from a bowl on the table. The result called to mind a Deleuzian nonlinear theoretical journey, a woven tapestry of ontology and epistemology that inspired reflection and deep thinking around living in times of uncertainty. This lecture was recorded and will soon be posted for open access through the SRS website. Side note: Dr. Butcher also manages the SUHB wiki site that is designed to allow participants to collaboratively explicate the Science of Unitary Human Beings (SUHB) and it serves as an open resource to all those wanting to learn more about Rogerian Nursing Science.

            Creativity, joy, humor, and multitude of art forms are explicitly acknowledged and deeply valued as the essence of nursing and healing within Science of Unitary Human Beings, and this value was evident in several of the presentations. Physician Dr. Maddly Guillaume presented the poster Culture and Health with Circus Art from France describing qualitative research with people who have depressive symptoms, and their joy experiences after viewing a circus performance. PhD candidate Patricia Arias from Colombia presented in Spanish with live translation for non-Spanish speakers. Her presentation was entitled Experiencias de Aprendizaje Educativo a Distancia Basadas en la Ciencia de Seres Humanos Unitarios (Remote Educational Learning Experiences Based in Science of Unitary Human Beings). Nurse educator Arias described the pandemic as an opportunity for exchange of knowledge through dynamic open energy systems and highlighted an example of a creative student-made video using circus-like performance and humor to teach undergraduate nurses about inpatient care skills. Continuing the connection to art Dr. Zahourek presented on the power of people centered storytelling through drawings, song and symbolic objects in her talk entitled Intentionality: The Matrix of Healing: Clinic Lens.

Unitary connections to more than human beings were found in podium presentation by Dr. Donna Perry about nursing research within human-wildlife relations entitled Pandimensionality, Transcendence, and Wildlife Care: Pattern Resonance across Species. As a nurse and licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Dr. Perry used Rogerian science to develop nursing interventions in wildlife centers in New England, exploring interspecies encounters as expressions of healing, transcendence and consciousness, while respecting boundaries for wilderness and freedom.

We are inspired by the 2021 conference attendees and the presenters, nurses and doctors, practicing and theorizing across many languages and cultures and joining from multiple countries and time zones, including a physician team in Portugal, Dr. Pazychyn and colleagues whose poster entitled Theoria-Science of Unitary Human Beings: A Passionate Contemplation of Vitruvian Man linked Rogerian science to Jewish Mysticism and nonlinear mathematics. Maternal and infant health inequities were addressed in presentations by Nursing PhD candidate Nakkisha Smith-Romain on virtual experiences of childbirth education, and PhD candidate Erin George on creating greater equity through birth centers. Over the course of three days shared meaning was created and explored internationally within SUHB using Rogerian concepts of integrality, unitary wholeness, resonancy, openness, acausality, nonlinearity, intentionality, energy fields and more.  While we regret not being able to elaborate on all the presentations in this post, we want to acknowledge that other presentations such as Development and Psychometric Testing of the Nurse- Patient Relationship as Healing Transformation Scale (RELATE) by Dr. Katherine Rosa and Unitary Appreciative Nursing: Evolution of a Middle Range Theory by Dr. Richard Cowling encapsulated the theme of the conference and further broadened the horizon on Science of Unitary Human Beings.

Our post conference musings and reflections include the idea that diversity was a word used in the conference title, but we critically reflect on the aspirational nature of this word as the Society of Rogerian Scholars as a collective group mirrors the overall demographics of the nursing discipline, predominantly white, straight, cisgender. Like many other nursing theory groups, SRS advances a theoretical framework that was developed by nurses during a time in history when Black, Indigenous, First Nation, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino/a/x/e and other Nurses of Color were systematically excluded from spaces of higher learning, places where nursing theories were developed, and where the theories have evolved over the past 50 years. We acknowledge the systems of exclusion within nursing leadership and inequities within access to privileged spaces of higher education in nursing persist today. The Society of Rogerian Scholars commits to work for greater health equity, antiracism and justice. Achieving this goal will require that theories like Science of Unitary Human Beings be actively and intentionally critiqued, developed, advanced, supported by diverse nurses and diverse nurse leaders who create theory by and for the diverse communities and diverse people that nurses accompany. That is a direct and necessary action path towards achieving the conference goal of Fantastic and Limitless Future: Nursing Science, Diversity and Wellbecoming. The work for diversity and equity must go fearlessly forward by continuing to speak truth to power in nursing (read Dr. Monica McLemore on “imagining new futures without being led by fear”. Dr. McLemore asks “If we are serious about health equity, what uncomfortable conversations do we need to have to make that a reality? And who else do we need to be talking with to make some transformational change happen?” (McLemore, 10/25/2021).

To find out more about joining the Society of Rogerian Scholars please visit the website. Membership dues support website maintenance, annual conferences, and the Rogerian journal Visions, an open access, peer reviewed journal available via a link on the website.

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