Decolonizing Nursing: What? Why? How?

On September 23, 2021, Nursology.net and the Center for Nursing Philosophy sponsored a powerful panel presentation focused on the topic “Decolonizing Nursing.” Seven nurse scholars of color shared their perspectives and their current work to bring the perspectives of people of color to the center, to empower anti-racist thought and action, and to activate real social justice in nursing and healthcare. The panel was moderated by Miriam Bender, PhD, RN, Director of the Center for Nursing Philosophy at the University of California Irvine. Peggy Chinn and Marlaine Smith from the Nursology.net management team provided technical support for the event. We are delighted to share the recording of the event below!

Screenshot of the webinar presenters

The Panelists were:

  • Lisa Bourque Bearskin, RN, PhD, Thompson Rivers University (BC)
  • Lucinda Canty, RN, PhD, University of St. Joseph (CT)
  • Barbara Hatcher, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, Hatcher-DuBois-Odrick Group, LLC
  • Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, PhD, RN, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Daniel Suárez-Baquero, PhD, MSN, BSN, University of California San Francisco
  • Bukola Salami, RN, MN, PhD, University of Alberta
  • Jennifer Woo, PhD, CNM, WHNP, FACNM, Texas Woman’s University

The time ran short for addressing questions posted in the Q&A for the webinar, but we have shared the questions with the panelists, and future blog posts here will feature panelist responses to these questions!

Spontaneous feedback was posted in the “chat” throughout the panel discussion – all expressing deep appreciation to each of the panelists for their riveting presentations. Toward the end of the webinar, additional comments reflect the whole of the experience for those attending:

  • Such an amazing discussion!
  • Raising my hands to all of you.
  • Thank you! Love from the Philippines!
  • Thank you all so much for such a fruitful presentation.
  • What a wealth of knowledge and sharing, SO grateful
  • WOW! I can’t wait to share this with my faculty team
  • Can we have a part 2? This has been emotional and insightful and empowering. Thank you to each speaker and organizers and hosts
  • This panel was so energizing and inspiring! Thank you all!!
  • Thank you to the speakers for opening hearts and minds
  • Thank you for the eloquence with which you shared!!!!
  • Thank you for such an inspiring event. I am hopeful for the future of nursing

Watch the recording!

Thelma M. Schorr (Dec 15, 1924 – )

Guardian of the Discipline

Thelma Schorr is among the greatest of nursing journal editors, serving at the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) company for forty years from 1950-1990. She progressed from editorial assistant to editor-in-chief, and then ten years as president and publisher. When she assumed the editorship of AJN, Thelma assured that the journal provided news for & about nursing, often unavailable otherwise, because this content covered labor issues that hospitals would rather suppress.

Thelma was the de-facto “founder” of the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE), gathering together a small group of editors in 1982 to form a new kind of network dedicated solely to the improvement of nursing literature (see inaugural photo below). She was instrumental in creating INANE as an independent “non-organization” functioning as an international collaborative – a collective of nursing editors and publishers focused on meeting the practice, research and education needs of the nursing profession, maintaining a tradition of “non-organization” (meaning that there are no formal officers, no elections, no dues!). (see https://nursingeditors.com/about/). Thelma was honored with INANE’s Margaret Comerford Freda Editorial Leadership Award in 2020, recognizing her enduring influence on nursing journal publishing.

Early in her career prior to joining the AJN company, Thelma launched her illustrious career in journalism by engaging the press to address a health crisis of the time. As a staff nursse at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, she was alarmed that the hospital was keeping active TB patients on an open ward. She fought to have them isolated on a separate unit and no one would listen. So she contacted NY CBS reporter Gabe Pressman and he broke the story, forcing NY Health & Hospitals to provide isolation units for active TB patients.

— Thelma Schorr (circa 1990)

From that early start, Thelma became a life-long mover and a shaker.  She led the way to establish the role of the journal editor as an independent, autonomous function not to be driven or manipulated by organizational or commercial interests.  With the rise of feminism in the 70s, Thelma’s editorials emphasized that nursing was not to be subsumed under “medicine,” that “healthcare” was the proper umbrella term. Gradually public media followed this lead. She envisioned possibilities for nursing as a significant discipline in its own right (not as assistants to physicians) and shaped all of her actions to reflect and promote nursing’s professional identity.

Thelma Schorr at age 93

During her tenure at the AJN company, she directed the publication of multiple nursing journals and pioneered the inclusion of continuing education articles in nursing journals. Along with Anne Zimmerman, she co-edited Making Choices, Taking Chances: Nurse Leaders Tell Their Stories in 1988, and in 1999, co-wrote with Shawn Kennedy, 100 Years of American Nursing.

Thelma is widely known for her dedication to first-time, inexperienced authors to learn to write for publication.  She welcomed creative ideas and encouraged nurses to value their own experience and knowledge.  She pioneered the practice of making  continuing education available in print journals, making it possible for all nurses to pursue life-long learning to improve patient care. For this, AJN received magazine publishing’s highest award – the Ellie (elephant statue) from the American Society of Magazine Editors. She also pioneered programmed instruction, which was a forerunner of computer instruction. These were offered in the 1970s, long before personal computers & Internet.

Thelma’s editorial leadership has left an unmatched mark on nursing, one that all nursing editors seek to emulate.

— Inaugural INANE meeting attendees

Seated, L to R: Unidentified, Elinor S. Schrader (Editor AORN), Thelma M. Schorr (editor, AJN), Rozella Schlotfeld, Dean Case Western University & guest speaker), Sue Hegyvary (Associate dean and Assistant V.P., RPSLMC, Chicago & introduced symposium).Standing, L to R: unidentified, Julie Stillman (Little Brown and Co.), Patricia (Tucker) Nornhold, Peggy Chinn (Editor ANS), Leah Curtin (Editor, Supervisor Nurse), Alison Miller (C.V. Mosby Co), Richard H. Lampert (Appleton-Century-Croft), Shirley H. Fondiller (assistant to the dean for special programs and projects, RPSLMC, and Program Coordinator for the first National Journalism Symposium, April 1981)

Note: portions of this post were previously posted on the INANE website – https://nursingeditors.com/awards/margaret-comerford-freda-leadership-award/recipients-of-the-margaret-comerford-freda-leadership-award/)

Sept 23 – Panel Discussion -Decolonizing Nursing: What? Why? How?

A webinar panel presentation sponsored by Nursology.net in association with the Center for Nursing Philosophy 

September 23, 2021, 6 – 7:30  PM Eastern (US & Canada)

ALL ARE INVITED!

Panelists

  • Lisa Bourque Bearskin, RN, PhD, Thompson Rivers University (BC)
  • Lucinda Canty, RN, PhD, University of St. Joseph (CT)
  • Barbara Hatcher, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, George Mason University
  • Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, PhD, RN, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Daniel Suárez-Baquero, PhD, MSN, BSN, University of California San Francisco
  • Bukola Salami, RN, MN, PhD, University of Alberta
  • Jennifer Woo, PhD, CNM, WHNP, FACNM, Texas Woman’s University

Moderator  – Miriam Bender, PhD, RN, University of California Irvine

Register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Education Exemplar: St. Mary’s College School of Nursing – Kurame, Japan

Photo of the Misericordia Bell, The bell, which hangs In the tower of the St. Mary’s College Library, is a symbol of Misericordia et Caritus, which is the founding philosophy of St Mary’s College. Retrieved from http://st-mary-ac.sblo.jp/

We are delighted to announce the addition of an Education Exemplar describing the St. Mary’s College School of Nursing program designed using the Roy Adaptation Model! You can access the new Exemplar any time from the Nursology.net “Education Exemplars” main page. Or go directly to the St. Mary’s Exemplar here

Caring Science, Mindful Practice MOOC

Kathleen Simpson, Distinguished Watson Caring Science Scholar, offers a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) at no cost for people worldwide and from all disciplines to learn about caring science and how to apply caring science in their disciplinary service. Kathleen is a Professor of Nursing at East Carolina University.

The “Caring Science, Mindful Practice” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a 4-week long learning experience offered twice a year, with a session beginning in the first week in February and another session beginning the second or third week in September. The next session of this course will begin October 6th, 2021 and end November 3rd, 2021. It is free and open to anyone who has access to the Internet. It goes over 4 weeks and is roughly the equivalent of 0.5 academic credit.

For complete description and to sign up, visit the course website.

Sept 23 – Panel Discussion -Decolonizing Nursing: What? Why? How?

A webinar panel presentation sponsored by Nursology.net in association with the Center for Nursing Philosophy 

September 23, 2021, 6 – 7:30  PM Eastern (US & Canada)

ALL ARE INVITED!

Panelists

  • Lisa Bourque Bearskin, RN, PhD, Thompson Rivers University (BC)
  • Lucinda Canty, RN, PhD, University of St. Joseph (CT)
  • Barbara Hatcher, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, George Mason University
  • Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, PhD, RN, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Daniel Suárez-Baquero, PhD, MSN, BSN, University of California San Francisco
  • Bukola Salami, RN, MN, PhD, University of Alberta
  • Jennifer Woo, PhD, CNM, WHNP, FACNM, Texas Woman’s University

Moderator  – Miriam Bender, PhD, RN, University of California Irvine

Register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Sept 23 – Panel Discussion -Decolonizing Nursing: What? Why? How?

A webinar panel presentation sponsored by Nursology.net in association with the Center for Nursing Philosophy 

September 23, 2021, 6 – 7:30  PM Eastern (US & Canada)

ALL ARE INVITED!

Panelists

  • Lisa Bourque Bearskin, RN, PhD, Thompson Rivers University (BC)
  • Lucinda Canty, RN, PhD, University of St. Joseph (CT)
  • Barbara Hatcher, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, George Mason University
  • Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, PhD, RN, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Daniel Suárez-Baquero, PhD, MSN, BSN, University of California San Francisco
  • Bukola Salami, RN, MN, PhD, University of Alberta
  • Jennifer Woo, PhD, CNM, WHNP, FACNM, Texas Woman’s University

Moderator  – Miriam Bender, PhD, RN, University of California Irvine

Register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Nursology and the Bold Future of Nursing

Recently I was invited to give a presentation for faculty and students at the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University, based on my keynote address at the March 2019 conference “Nursing Theory: A Fifty Year Perspective, Past, Present and Future.” Download the text of that speech here.

True to the lifeways of pandemic time, I could only be present with people at Villanova University virtually, and developed a set of slides for the presentation. So in a spirit of sharing, here are the slides – the message of this presentation calls for all to boldly claim the essence and value of nursing/nursology, and to recognize barriers that stand in the way of fully enacting this essence in our practice. (Note: if the slides do not show to the end, view the slides here instead)

Theorizing as Emancipatory Action; Emancipatory Action as Theorizing

Over the past year those of us managing the Nursology.net website have experienced two unintended consequences – growing awareness of the importance of fundamental nursing/ public health knowledge and action, and the imperative to examine the structural and interpersonal dynamics of racism. As the web manager of this Nursology.net site as well as the NurseManifest.com website, the home of “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing,” I have had a front-row seat from which to witness and participate in these two complimentary processes.

From the NurseManifest sphere, we have addressed (explicitly and implicitly) questions such as: “How does our activism contribute to our discipline?” “What are the fault-lines in nursing created by our failure to address racism in nursing?” “How can we engage in authentic reckoning with racism in nursing?” “How can this reckoning shift nursing to more fully engage in facilitation of humanization for those who have historically been harmed by racism?” “How can nursing knowledge be decolonized to fully embrace the knowledge and wisdom of Black, Indigenous, Latina/x, and other nurses of color?”

From the Nursology.net sphere, we have addressed (explicitly and implicitly) questions such as: “What does decolonization of nursing knowledge mean?” “What dynamics have persisted to bring us to this point in history where the scholarship and theorizing of Black, Indigenous, Latina/x and other nurses of color are strikingly absent from our historical record?” “How can we move away from performative action, to fully abandon white privilege in nursing, and to welcome nurse scholars of color to the center of our discourse?”

I do not have direct answers to any of these questions. In fact I believe there are no specific “action” prescriptions that can provide “answers.” The response to all of these questions is what I believe to be critical emancipatory process — a process that begins with a recognition of the fundamental realities of racism and dedication to the hard work of deepened awareness and action for change. In the first chapter of the text “Philosophies and Practices of Emancipatory Nursing,”(1) Kagan, Smith and Chinn identified the following characteristics of emancipatory knowledge and critical theory that informs emancipatory action, as revealed by the chapter authors who contributed to the text:

What is “critical’ –

  • Unpacking hegemonies
  • Upstream thinking
  • Interrogating historical/social context
  • Framing/anticipating transformative action

What is “emancipatory”

  • Facilitating humanization
  • Disrupting structural inequities
  • Self-reflection
  • Engaging communities

Taken together, these characteristics point to a deep understanding of what it might mean to bring knowledge and action together as one – the process and understanding that emerges from “knowing what we do, and doing what we know.” In my experience growing up and becoming an “elder” as a fully colonized white woman, I know all too well the experience of separation of mind and body, of understanding and experience. But there is a glimmer of recognition when I encounter instances – my own and those revealed to me in stories others recount – when experience and understanding come together as one – when we recognize the importance of personal knowing and doing. And, recognize when that unified experience reveals new knowledge, new understanding. This process of action/reflection is theorizing at its best. African American scholar Anthony James Williams described this process of theorizing that he observed in his mother and grandmother:

Everyday black women theorists are often forgotten, undervalued and rarely considered theorists due to their lack of formal training and scholarly publications. But for my maternal lineage, the social patterns they observed became lessons. Those lessons then became theories about the social world they incorporated into their daily lives. Keen observation on their part lead to mental maps of where it would be safe to walk as black women, raise their children and avoid white violence. As the wife of a man in the military, my grandmother inevitably had her own theory of residential redlining based on her lived experience well before any academics published on the topic. (2)

Now is the time to engage in the critical emancipatory act of centering the voices of nurses of color who have been undervalued and discounted, only rarely recognized as theorists. The privileged white gaze from which nursing scholarship views the world recognizes only that which appears consistent with white experience, white culture. To face the realities surrounding white complicity that perpetuates racism is a possibility that is either far too frightening, or simply not comprehensible. But comprehend we must if we are to ever move to a reality where all experience is celebrated as valid and valuable, where skin color is not a determinant of whether you live or die.

The time has now come for all in our discipline – nursologists, nurses, students, educators, administrators, policy-makers – to make a strong and unequivocal turn away from all words and actions that render advantage for those whose skin is “white” and that disadvantage all of those with dark skin. It is time to abandon performative words and actions that claim to care for all, and turn instead to dismantle dehumanizing forces of racism and restore full humanization for all. For those who have white skin, it is time to reckon with your own complicity, unveiling the fault-lines (rifts, splits) created by the persistence of racism, and engage in the healing that must be done. For those who have dark skin, it is time to gather the courage to speak your truth, calling on your keen capabilities to discern injustice. For all of us together, it is time to form strong bonds of connection and support for this difficult path. It is a difficult path, but it is the path that will lead us to mental maps – to theorizing the healing that must take place. As we have experienced in our “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” journey, it is also a path that is lined with moments of pure joy!

Sources:

  1. Kagan, P. N., Smith, M. C., & Chinn, P. L. (2014). Introduction. In P. N. Kagan, M. C. Smith, & P. L. Chinn (Eds.), Philosophies And Practices Of Emancipatory Nursing: Social Justice As Praxis (pp. 1–20). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
  2. Williams, A. J. (2018, June 15). Who Teaches Academics to Theorize? Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/06/15/theorizing-black-scholars-differs-white-western-academic-standards-no-less-valid