Today, more than twenty years after nursing was incorporated into the Chilean Health Code in 1997 as an autonomous profession, one begins to see how nurses empower themselves defending their rights at the institutional, social and political level. This is seen through events such as the establishment of the National Nursing Directorate at the Ministry of Health and the role that nursing has had in the Covid-19 pandemic. Nurses are raising their voices. In the political sphere, nurses are campaigning as representativeness to draft the new Chilean Constitution, defending/advocating care as a constitutional right and guarding professional autonomy. Another important example of nursing empowerment is the growing generation/development of nursing scientific associations. These organizations seek to socialize what nurses do, the ongoing research in different areas of care and the development of profession itself. Currently, there are more 40 scientific nursing societies in the country.
In 2005, through the Health Authority Law 19,937, self-managed hospitals were established, which brought with them an important change in their administrative organization. It implied that hospitals in their structure should consider the Medical Directorate and the Subdirectorate of care management, both with direct dependence of the hospital management. Historically, nursing had depended on the medical directorates. In this context, the nursing professional association of the time and, the scientific societies (in that period there were no more than ten) defended before the authority of the Ministry of Health and the Comptroller General of the Republic, that by then nursing was the only profession that in its definition evidenced care management as a component of its role. As a result of these negotiations in 2007, by means of the General Administrative Norm No. 19 of the Ministry of Health, it recognized the nursing profession as the most suitable for implementing the care management model in self-managed hospitals.
In this context, “Nursing Care Management” was defined as the professional practice of the nurse based on the nursing discipline, the science of caring (based on Watson’s philosophy and theory), understanding the exercise of the profession as the application of professional judgment in planning, organization, motivation and control of the provision of timely, safe, comprehensive care that ensures continuity of care and is based on the institution’s strategic policies and guidelines. This achievement was constituted a demonstration of empowerment of the nurses of the decade.
However, even when the definition indicated that “care management” was based on the science of caring, the care provided to people was mainly focused on the biomedical model. The National Directorate of Nursing: it is specified through Exempt Resolution No. 1443, on August 20, 2019, during the mandate of the Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich who formalized the appointment of the National Director of Nursing. Being a milestone for the profession, providing from the central level, support to direct and guide the care of people, develop the nursing structure for the health sector, ensure that the nursing care management sub-directorates are not only considered in in-hospital care, but also in primary care.
In parallel, there have been other relevant events in the country, which show the awakening of nurses as a professional group. An example has been the number of nurses who present themselves to the process of electing representatives to the constituent assembly, in defense of care as a constitutional right, as well as the defense of the autonomy of the profession and the rights of nurses.
Another event that has led to the empowerment of nurses has been the Covid-19 Pandemic, which has resulted in the defense of the right of profession, the union of the group to be in the spaces where decisions are made. Likewise, the growth of scientific Societies that bring together nurses for a common purpose, whether it is around the care of people, such as the defense of the rights of the profession (see the list of Scientific Societies below).
The immunization of the population through the vaccine for Covid-19, means another instance in which the nurses raised their voices to defend the vaccination process as a historical nurse’ s responsibility. To respond to the vaccination demands, other healthcare professionals were called by the authorities as volunteer. This led, the nurses defended before the authorities, that although the voluntary participation of other professionals in vaccination is recognized, the vaccination programmeshould be under the supervision of the nursing staff only. Highlighting that, vaccination does not only imply the act of inoculating the vaccine, but an entire process of organization, administration, register and following up.
One of the last events that brings together nurses as an empowered group is the call that the National Director of Nursing makes to Scientific Societies to be part of a Technical Working Table, with the purpose of generating strategic collaboration links in for the development of protocols for the management of care and research in the discipline of Care.
Agrupación de enfermeras holísticas de Chile (AEHCh)
Agrupación de enfermeras y enfermeros ecologistas
Agrupación de enfermeros perioperatorios (AGEPCH)
Asociación chilena de enfermería en estomas heridas y/o continencias (ACCHIEHC)
Asociación chilena de enfermeros educadores en diabetes (ACHIENED)
Capítulo de enfermería de la Sociedad Médica de Cuidados paliativos
Capítulo de enfermería de SOCHIQUEM
División de enfermería intensiva de la sociedad chilena de medicina intensiva (SOCHIMI)
Federación Latinoamericana Esterilización FELACEH
Fundación de enfermería Gestión del Cuidado
Fundación latinoamericana de enfermería en cuidado humanizado (FLECH)
Sociedad de Enfermera Latinoamericana en Heridas (SELH)
Red Nacional EBE Chile
Red Chilena de Enfermería en Lactancia Materna (REDCHIELM)
Red Chilena de Enfermeros En Odontología (RECHIENFOD)
Red de Enfermería en Informática Chile
Red Chilena de Gestión del Cuidado REDGECU
Red de Enfermería en Salud del Adulto Mayor- Chile (REDESAM)
Red Chilena de Historia de la Enfermería
Red en Salud Ocupacional (RedENSO Chile)
Red iberoamericana de investigación en educación en enfermería-RIIEE Chile
Red Internacional de Enfermería en Cuidados Paliativos – Chile (RienCupa)
Red internacional de enfermería quirúrgica -RedIEnQu Chile
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería en Salud Ocupacional (SOCHENSO)
Sociedad chilena de enfermeras de salud escolar (SOCHIESE)
Sociedad Cientíca chilena de enfermeras del niño y adolescente (SOCHENA)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería en Cardiología y Cirugía Cardiovascular (SOCHICAR)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería en Donación, Procuramiento y Trasplante (SOCHIENFDPT)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería Oncológica (SEOC)
Sociedad científica de enfermería comunitaria y familiar (SOCHIENFA)
Sociedad chilena de enfermeras comunitarias (SOCHIENCO)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería Prehospitalaria, Agrupación Científico-Técnica. (SOCCHIENPRE)
Sociedad chilena de prevención y control de infecciones asociadas a la atención en salud, (SChIAAS)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermeras de Pabellones Quirúrgicos y Esterilización
Sociedad Chilena de Terapia de Infusión (SOCHITEIN)
Sociedad científica de atención temprana, rehabilitación e inclusión
Sociedad Científica Docente Estudiantil de Enfermería UACh Pto Montt (SOCIDENF)
Sociedad de enfermeras de diálisis y trasplante renal (SENFERDIALT)
Sociedad Chilena de Enfermería Geronto-Geriátrica
Sociedad de Enfermeras Dermoestéticas (SOCHIEDE)
Sociedad de Profesionales en Esterilización de Chile
Sociedad Chilena de Simulación Clínica (SOCHISIM
About Luz Galdames
Luz Galdames Cabrera Ph.D. in Nursing, Mg. Instructional Design, Nurse-Midwife, Research Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Mayor. Researcher in project “Development and validation of the prototype dressing with copper nanoformulation for the treatment of infected chronic wounds, Universidad Mayor, Project ID18I10085 Funded by the Fund for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Development FONDEF 2018-2020. Director of the Nursing Specialization Program in Adult Oncology at the Universidad Mayor. Member of the International Center for Nursing Research CIIENF of the Chilean Association of Nursing Education. Coordinator of the international Care Management Network. Founder and President of the Chilean Network of Care Management Last publication Galdames l., Enders B., Pavez A. Self-regulation, Autonomy and Identity of Nursing as a profession. Science and Nursing Magazine. 2019 24 (4). Doctoral thesis Care Management: Understanding the Meanings of the Social Role and Professional Autonomy of the Nurse in Chile. Funded by the Vice-rectory for Research and Doctorate as a start-up project, Universidad Andrés Bello Chile 2014.
Contributors: Christina Nyirati Sharon Stout-Shaffer
At the time of the 2021 Virtual Nursing Theory Week, Christina Nyirati and Sharon Stour-Shaffer presented the baccalaureate curriculum they designed and now implement at Heritage University located on the Yakama Reservation in Washington State. This is the only session that was recorded during the conference; it represents the value of nursing knowledge in shaping the present and future of nursing as a discipline. The following is a brief description and a video of their presentation.
The first Heritage University BSN Program Outcome reads “The Graduate of the Heritage University BSN Program explains how nursing’s fundamental patterns of knowing –personal, aesthetic, ethical, empirical and emancipatory –contribute to understanding the complexity of nursing care in the treatment of human response”.
Carper’s (1978) Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing is the foundation of the BSN Program. Freshmen study discrete courses in each of Carper’s fundamental patterns: personal, aesthetic, ethical, and empirical knowing. The Personal Knowing course is founded on personal knowing as a precondition for nursing care. Students practice various methods of reflection to develop personal knowing in every moment of nursing care. The Aesthetics of Nursing course is grounded in assumptions from Nightingale’s theory of nursing arts and aesthetics as a fundamental pattern of knowing in nursing. An experiential course, based in the principles of performing arts, the focus is on the act of care; Students explore and apply dramatic arts foundational to holistic nursing care competencies. The Ethical Knowing course emphasizes the practice of ethical comportment in nursing care. The Empirical Knowing course students introduces students to fundamental theories, concepts, evidence, and competencies pertaining to generation of nursing knowledge.
Senior year features the community as the unit of nursing care, and is founded on Chinn and Kramer’s (2019) emancipatory knowing in nursing. The Policy, Power & Politics of Nursing course focuses on the professional nurse role in taking responsibility for shaping social policy. The two Community Oriented Nursing Inquiry and Practice and the Community Based Participatory Research courses center on principles of socially just reflective action to overcome health inequities.
Faculty developed rubrics to evaluate how students integrate the fundamental patterns of knowing nursing into clinical practice. Students complete reflective writing assignments during clinical practice each semester from sophomore through senior year.
About the contributors:
Christina Nyirati, RN, PhD
Christina Nyirati is Professor of Nursing at Heritage University on the Yakama Nation Reservation in Washington, where she serves as the founding Director of the BSN Program. Dr. Nyirati came to Heritage from Ohio University and The Ohio State University, where she directed the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs. She practiced more than 30 years as an FNP in primary care of vulnerable young families in Appalachian Ohio, and worked to reduce dire neonatal and maternal outcomes. Dr. Nyirati challenges FNP educators to consider nursing knowledge as the essential component of the FNP program as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) evolves and becomes requisite for entry into advanced practice. Now at Heritage Dr. Nyirati prepares nurses in an innovative undergraduate curriculum faithful to the epistemic foundations of nursing. Two cohorts have graduated from the Heritage BSN Program. They openly proclaim and use their powerful nursing knowledge to correct inequities in their communities.
Sharon Stout-Shaffer, PhD, RN
Sharon Stout-Shaffer, PhD, RN, Professor Emerita, Capital University, Columbus, Ohio; Adjunct Faculty, Heritage University, Toppenish, Washington; Nursing Education Specialist, S4Netquest, Columbus, Ohio. Sharon has over 30 years of experience in educational administration and teaching in both hospital and academic settings. Her career has focused on developing education based on a nursing model that includes concepts of holism and healing.
Her Ph.D. in Nursing from The Ohio State University focused on the psychophysiology of stress and relaxation-based interventions to promote autonomic self-regulation and immune function in people living with HIV. She has attained certification in Psychosynthesis, Guided Imagery, and more recently, the Social Resilience Model; she has presented numerous papers on integrating holism into curricula as well as caregiver wellbeing and resilience including Adelaide, Australia, 2011; Reykjavik, Iceland, 2015; American Holistic Nurses Association Phoenix, 2016 & Niagara Falls, 2018.
During her tenure as Director, Post-Graduate Programs at Capital University, Sharon taught the graduate theory course and co-developed a theoretically grounded holistic healing course as the foundation for graduate study; the graduate program has been endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Center. Since her retirement, she has co-developed and implemented numerous educational interventions designed to develop the Therapeutic Capacity of working nurses and nursing students. This work includes concepts of centering, compassion, managing suffering, the psychophysiology of resilience and essential contemplative practices to develop stress resilience, deal with moral distress and promote long-term wellness. She is currently teaching courses in Personal Knowing and Nursing Ethics for undergraduate nursing students at Heritage University. Her most recent publication is dedicated to holistic self-care and self-development. (Shields, D. & Stout-Shaffer, S. 2020). Self-Development: The foundation of holistic self-care. In Helming, M., Shields, D., Avino, K., & Rosa, W. Holistic nursing: A handbook for Practice (8th). Jones and Bartlett Learning, Burlington MA.)
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.comwebsite, 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’ –
Interrogating historical/social context
Framing/anticipating transformative action
What is “emancipatory”
Disrupting structural inequities
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!
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.
Recently, several Expert Panels of the American Academy of Nursing collaborated to draft a new conceptual framework and consensus statement related to social determinants of health. The year-long endeavor integrated the thoughts and expertise of 15 nursing leaders. The outcome of our work directs nursing actions toward health policies supporting actions at multiple levels (i.e., upstream, midstream, and downstream) to promote equity in planetary health-related quality of life. We propose that planetary health-related quality of life, individual and population factors, and environments are the overarching societal contexts in which population health concerns arise. These population health concerns are articulated by stakeholders who, in turn, are the catalyst for population-focused nursing actions.
These population-focused nursing actions occur at multiple levels, in a variety of settings with a variety of persons and groups, and shape health policies, systems and services. Over time, the actions and interactions depicted by the cycle change the societal contexts and may lead to enhanced planetary health-related quality of life. We underscore the crucial need to eliminate systemic and structural racism if equity in planetary health-related quality of life is to be attained. We presented our findings and implications for action during a policy dialogue at the American Academy of Nursing Policy Conference in October 2020. Collaboration on this project inspired the following call-to-action.
Call to Action
Nurses are consistently ranked the most trusted profession by the American people. This trust is earned by the demonstration of care for people, day in and day out, in a wide variety of settings. It is time for all nurses do something to address the social determinants of health. We propose three concrete approaches.
The first two approaches can be summarized as praxis. According to Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972), praxis is reflection and action on the world to transform it.
Reflection, the first approach, is often overlooked in calls for action. Yet we need to take a moment to reflect on what we mean by social determinants of health and what nursing actions in this space will help us achieve health equity. The consensus makes clear that equity cannot be achieved at any level (local, national, or global) until all forms of structural racism are eliminated. Eliminating structural racism should be a shared goal for all nurses.
Take action on social determinants to create transformative change is the second recommended approach. Action differs depending on our role. The consensus paper draws on the conceptual framework to provide several examples of population-focused nursologists’ actions to address policy issues. The common themes from the examples are that nursologists need to have a seat at the table when all policies are developed, using a Health in All Policies approach, which includes policymaking across sectors, not only those policies directly related to health, and nursologists need to advocate for policies that have been shown to effectively advance health equity.
Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic people in this country are experiencing disproportionately high rates of illness and death from the COVID-19 pandemic. To address this syndemic (Poteat, Millett, Nelson, & Beyrer, 2020), we need to address the structural racism at the root cause of these disparities. Who better to forge the path forward, than this group of nursology leaders? It is time to move to action.
Inspire action on the environment and social determinants of health is the third approach. Another population-focused nursologists’ action from the conceptual framework posits that nursologists must build coalitions to be successful in this work. Others need to be inspired to join the effort. If nursologists are unsure of how to inspire, or lack inspiration themselves, they can read a few blog posts on nursology.net or nursesdrawdown.org for examples. Nursologists can also go to #nursetwitter where there are conversations about nursologists addressing the social determinants of health along with reflection and discussion on how to dismantle structural racism within nursology. Nursologists can also be inspired by leaders who advocate for nursology by serving on boards, writing op-eds, acting as expert sources for the media, reaching out to legislators, and/or running for office themselves. Inspiration comes in many forms. There is an energy and passion required to do this work and if you have the capacity, please help inspire others to join the movement.
We leave you with the call-to-action to reflect, act, and inspire. We look forward to continuing this conversation.
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Herder and Herder.
Poteat, T., Millett, G. A., Nelson, L. E., & Beyrer, C. (2020). Understanding COVID-19 risks and vulnerabilities among black communities in America: the lethal force of syndemics. Annals of Epidemiology, 47, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.05.004
About the contributors;
The authors are writing as nursology colleagues who have worked together through the Environmental and Public Health Expert Panel at the American Academy of Nursing (AAN). Paul and Teddie are the past and current chair of the expert panel and fellows of AAN and Kelli worked with the expert panel through the AAN Jonas Policy Scholars Fellowship program.
Kelli DePriest, PhD, RN
Dr. DePriest is a health policy and research fellow at the Institute for Medicaid Innovation and adjunct faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Her research mission is to investigate strategies to leverage innovation in the Medicaid program to improve and/or inform the development of interventions and policies designed to achieve health equity for children and families living in poverty. Twitter: @kellidepriest
Paul Kuehnert, DNP, RN, FAAN
Dr. Paul Kuehnert is President and CEO of the Public Health Accreditation Board, the national non-profit organization that sets standards for and accredits governmental public health departments in the United States. Dr. Kuehnert’s career spans nearly 30 years of providing executive leadership to private and governmental organizations to build and improve systems to address complex community health needs. Dr. Kuehnert is a pediatric nurse practitioner and holds the Doctor of Nursing Practice in executive leadership as well as the Master of Science in public health nursing degrees from University of Illinois at Chicago. He was named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow in 2004, a Fellow in the National Academies of Practice in 2010, and a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2015. Twitter: @PaulKuehnert
Teddie Potter PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Potter is Clinical Professor, specialty coordinator of the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Health Innovation and Leadership, and Director of Planetary Health for the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.
As nursing professionals and women’s health advocates, we have watched in disbelief events unfolding in Barron County, Wisconsin. Embrace, a shelter serving survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Barron County, is facing backlash for displaying a Black Lives Matter (BLM) sign. Reacting to the sign, local officials stripped the organization of funding worth $25,000 and law enforcement are unwilling to continue collaborating with Embrace.
Embrace, located in Northern Wisconsin, serves a predominantly White populace, but also has a significant population of migrant farmworkers and Somali refugees. Migrant farmworker women face difficulties in accessing help following an experience of violence due to transportation and language barriers. Many refugee women also often have a history of sexual violence and trauma. Black women make up less than 2% of the population in Baron County yet constitute 10% of the population accessing help at Embrace’s shelter. Part of the St. Croix Chippewa tribe is also located in Embrace’s service area. Black women and American Indian (AI) women are disproportionately impacted by violence, but do not ordinarily seek help despite the potential for severe negative impacts such as injury or even loss of life.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) report shows that 84.3% of AI women have experienced lifetime violence (Rosay, 2016). The NISVS shows 41% of Black women have experienced physical IPV in their lifetime with homicide being one of the leading causes of death for women aged 44 and younger. It is in this context thatEmbrace seeks to serve the most vulnerable populations of women in a four-county area where they are the only available domestic violence shelter.
We are in unprecedented times with an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that not only disproportionately affects the lives of Black and Brown women and their communities, but also increases their risk of violence and homicide. A recent US study showed a surge in the incidence of severe intimate partner violence (IPV) during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the previous 3 years, and a decrease in the number of people seeking hospital care (Gosangi et al., 2020). It is important to be clear that this supports the idea that the stressors of Covid-19 including the economic fallout may exacerbate existing IPV but probably does not start IPV that has not existed before. Consistent with what has been seen in some other countries, IPV and sexual assault advocates across the state began to report an increase in self and police referrals to their agencies after the pandemic began (Luthern, 2020).
Domestic violence related homicides have been on the increase in Wisconsin even before the pandemic. According to End Abuse Wisconsin’s Domestic Violence Homicide Report (2020), there were 47 domestic violence related homicide deaths in 2018, and 72 in 2019. And frighteningly, as of September 29, 2020, domestic violence homicide has taken 69 Wisconsin lives this year. If that pattern continues, it is estimated that 93 lives will be lost this year. Also concerning is that 22% of the victims, so far in 2020, were age 18 or under.
Black communities in urban metropolitan areas like Milwaukee are disproportionately impacted by violence in general while also experiencing tensions with law enforcement. Recent acts of police brutality captured on video and circulated widely on social media have implications for community relations with law enforcement. The fear that community members have about police officers potentially using excessive and unjustified force in the policing of Black bodies (Frazer, Mitchell, Nesbitt, et al., 2018) can impact women’s help-seeking following an experience of violence. Black women may want to call the police if they feel like they are in danger from their partner’s abuse but they do not want that partner to be harmed and they usually do not want him to go to jail. They, like most abused women, just want the violence to stop. At the same time, there needs to be a non-racist police response available to abused women who are in fear for their and their children’s lives. There needs to be carefully informed triage (a concept well known to nursing) for 911 calls for IPV so that police are not brought in when not needed but can be brought to homes where there is a high risk for homicide.
Our state has also been the site of civil unrest in the past few months. In Kenosha, the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August resulted in protests requiring the declaration of a state of emergency. Clashes have also ensued between law enforcement and community members in Wauwatosa in the last few weeks as a result of protests for the February, 2020 shooting and killing of Alvin Cole by a police officer. Apart from these incidents that have created not only unrest but also continued mistrust between Black and Brown communities and law enforcement, there have also been concerns about the prevalence of the trafficking and sexual violation of young Black and Brown women. In Kenosha, Chrystul Kizer, a 19-year-old African American woman, was released this year after being charged for killing a man who sexually abused her as a child in what her defense team argued was self-defense (Fortin, 2020). Her defense team spoke of how the criminal justice system fails to protect Black and Brown women and girls and yet also holds them disproportionately ‘accountable’ for crimes that would not be charged in cases of White women and girls. This is eloquently detailed by Beth Richie in Arrested Justice.
Within the past few months, Wisconsin has had a number of Indigenous women murdered and missing. Kozee Medicinetop Decorah (Ho-Chunk Nation) was found deceased on May 16, 2020, a victim of domestic violence related homicide (Volpenheln, 2020). Stephanie Greenspon was found deceased on August 19, 2020. It is suspected that she was also a victim of violence related homicide. Her case is still being investigated by the FBI (Menominee Nation, 2020). Kaitlyn Kelly has been missing since June 17th (Conklin, 2020). There has been little mention of the missing and murdered Indigenous women in local or national media, particularly taking into account the extent of national and even global media attention drawn to the missing of Jamie Closs; Closs went missing in the area where Embrace is located, but she was eventually located.
Given all this, dialogue from law enforcement and local officials indicating willingness and commitment to community safety and wellbeing would be helpful. Instead, the response of law enforcement to Embrace’s display of a Black Lives Matter sign intensifies tensions and mistrust between the police and the communities they serve. It also seriously undermines the vital work of the only shelter in a four-county area, further endangering the most vulnerable populations Embrace serves.
Employing relevant theories to our practice as nurses and liaising with our colleagues across disciplines has now become urgent. Together with colleagues across disciplines, nurses need to support and advocate for survivors of violence. Screening and identification of resources for women is of utmost importance, and shelters like Embrace both ensure the provision of shelter and connect women with urgently needed health and social services. As nurse scholars, we wrote this blog post in collaboration with our colleagues at Women’s and Gender Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as part of building coalitions. But we also did so for the purposes of deepening our understanding of the urgent healthcare challenges experienced by the most vulnerable across our state, in the context of the rising tensions and mistrust among various institutions and agencies that exist to enhance the health, wellbeing and safety of all Wisconsin communities.
Violence is central and even essential to the sustaining of social hierarchies that inform the oppression of some groups while enhancing the privilege of others (Collins, 2017). Patricia Hill Collins (2017) points out how without human agency and resistance, institutions can engage in bureaucracies that replicate power dynamics, and even perpetuate normalized violence that maintains dominance and inequities. Law enforcement is one institution, and healthcare, of which nurses are a part, is another.
Robin Walter’s theory of Emancipatory Nursing Praxis comes to mind as one that guides us towards allyship in advancing a social justice agenda in pursuit of health equity, which is central to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the most marginalized in our communities during this time. In order to advance a social justice agenda, there is need for nursing as a profession to partner closely with domestic violence advocates and shelters like Embraceas well as law enforcement officers, who play an important role in enhancing the safety and wellbeing of our communities. We must engage in research and dialogue that would help us reimagine a criminal justice response that acknowledges the context of racism in which Black and Brown women experience violence.
As professionals, we need to respond and to meet their urgent needs for health and safety. It has never been more urgent to engage in the learning processes that Walter outlines, critically reflecting on our social location in relation to those we serve, shifting our worldview and experiencing transformation by expanding our consciousness (Walter, 2017).
Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, … & Laughon, K. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American journal of public health, 93(7), 1089–1097. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447915/
Frazer, Eva et al. “The Violence Epidemic in the African American Community: A Call by the National Medical Association for Comprehensive Reform.” Journal of the National Medical Association vol. 110,1 (2018): 4-15. doi:10.1016/j.jnma.2017.08.009 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29510842/
Gosangi B., Park H., Thomas R., Gujrathi R., Bay C. P., Raja A. S., … Khurana, B. (2020). Exacerbation of Physical Intimate Partner Violence during COVID-19 Lockdown. Radiology, 202866, Epub ahead of print. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020202866
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, & National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (2017). Sex, Race, and Ethnic Diversity of U.S, Health Occupations (2011-2015), Rockville, Maryland.
Walter, R. (2017). Emancipatory nursing praxis. A theory of social justice in nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 40(3), 225-243. Also see Walter’s Theory on Nursology.net
We are grateful for the support and input of the following colleagues from Women’s and Gender Studies: Anna Mansson McGinty, PhD, Xin Huang, PhD, Kristin Pitt, PhD, Gwynne Kennedy, PhD, Melinda Brennan, PhD, & Jeremiah Favarah, PhD
About the contributors
Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, PhD, RN is Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Her research focuses on violence in the lives of Black and American Indian women. As a feminist scholar, she seeks to creatively identify interdisciplinary interventions and to inform policy that centers the voices of women in addressing gender-based violence. Dr. Mkandawire-Valhmu also seeks to contribute to the development of feminist theory that would help to advance nursing science.
Jeneile Luebke, PhD, RN is a post-doctoral nurse research associate at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She in an enrolled member of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. She received her early nursing degrees (LPN and ADN) in Bemidji, MN, and her BS and MS Nursing from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, and her PhD at UW-Milwaukee. Her area of research and expertise include intimate partner violence in the lives of American Indian women, community health nursing and utilization and application of postcolonial and indigenous feminist methodologies. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence and is passionate about sharing her knowledge and personal experiences to help to support and empower other women to transition to survivorhood.
Carolyn J. Eichner is Associate Professor of History and Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She was a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in 2015-2016. Eichner is the author of Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune (Indiana University Press); published in French as Franchir les barricades: les femmes dans la Commune de Paris (Editions de la Sorbonne). She has two forthcoming books: Feminism’s Empire, which traces the roots of nineteenth-century French anti-imperialism in the race, gender, and class politics of the era’s first French feminists to engage with empire; and A Brief History of the Paris Commune for the 2021 sesquicentennial of the 1871 revolution (Rutgers University Press). Eichner he is currently writing The Name: Legitimacy, Identity, and Gendered Citizenship. She has published in journals including Feminist Studies, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society, French Historical Studies, and Journal of Women’s History
Kaboni Gondwe, PhD, RN is an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing. Her research interests are on maternal and child health and she is focused on studying effects on how chronic life stressors moderates the effects of perinatal stress on preterm biomarkers in African American /Black mothers and Malawian Black mothers. She completed her PhD in Nursing from Duke University in 2018 where her research focused on relationship between preterm birth with postpartum stress and mother-infant relationship. She received her undergraduate degree and midwifery training from University of Malawi, Kamuzu College of Nursing and her Master in Nursing Education and Nursing Administration from Ohio University.
Diane Schadewald, DNP, MSN, RNC, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, College of Nursing in 2013 and is currently a Clinical Professor. I have been certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner since 1993. As a board-certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, I have experience providing care for Black women as well as AI women who are at risk for or who have experienced IPV. Since working in academia, I have practiced in primary care and am currently working for an online nurse practitioner service. Prior to working in academia, I practiced in an OB/GYN clinic setting. I’m a co-author of Women’s Health: A Primary Care Clinical Guide which is in its 5th edition. I have also lectured on care of women who have experienced female genital cutting and IPV. I’m currently working on an educational research project about female genital cutting.
Peninnah Kako, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, APNP is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) College of Nursing. Dr. Kako’s research focus includes improving health care access for underserved populations, issues affecting women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Her research also focuses on violence in the lives of women. Her research aims to contribute to efforts that meet primary and secondary HIV prevention needs in sub-Saharan Africa; and build sustainable, timely, and effective interventions to assist African women and their families in accessing treatment and managing chronic HIV illness. Clinically, Dr, Kako has served in underserved populations including corrections as a family nurse practitioner.
Jacqueline Callari-Robinson, BSN, RN is a Doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, School of Nursing, Research Assistant for Tracking our Truth, and an on-call SANE Nurse for United Concierge TELESAFE Program. Previously, Jacqueline was the Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Statewide SANE Coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Wisconsin Department of Justice. In that role, she developed the Wisconsin adult, adolescent, and pediatric SANE training courses. Jacqueline was also instrumental in the facilitation and creation of the Wisconsin Attorney General Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). Working collaboratively with SANE programs, law enforcement communities, and the Wisconsin Crime Lab, the AG SART addressed patient access to advocacy driven medical forensic care and the composition, handling, and processing of sexual assault kits.
Brittany Ochoa-Nordstrum is set to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology in the spring of 2021. As a recipient of a SURF (support for undergraduate research fellow) award, Brittany is working under the mentorship of Dr. Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu on various projects pertaining to advocacy for marginalized communities of color. Brittany’s area of study is medical racism and its impacts on maternal mortality amongst African American women in Milwaukee. She is applying to Ph.D. programs across the country in Sociology and African Diaspora studies. As a third generation Mexican American, her life experiences often inform her passion for these areas of study. When Brittany is not researching, she is often involved in planning and organizing community grassroots demonstrations and fundraisers to benefit marginalized groups around the city of Milwaukee.
Nicole Weiss is a current graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee pursing a Masters of Sustainable Peacebuilding. Nicole is the project coordinator for the Department of Justice funded project: Tracking our Truth, Providing Access to Advocacy Driven Medical Forensic Care. She received her BA in International Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her areas of focus include undertaking a holistic, systems approach to complex issues within our community through facilitation and conflict resolution strategies.
Jacqueline Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN is a national leader in research and advocacy in the field of domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV). She has authored or co-authored more than 230 publications and seven books on violence and health outcomes. Her studies paved the way for a growing body of interdisciplinary investigations by researchers in the disciplines of nursing, medicine, and public health. Her expertise is frequently sought by national and international policy makers in exploring IPV and its health effects on families and communities.
“I can’t breathe.” If these words were uttered in any healthcare setting in the country, an influx of healthcare providers would rapidly respond, attempting to save the person’s life by providing immediate care. These words not only represent the recent murder of George Floyd, but mirror the racial inequities that exist for those who are struggling to breathe most in the worst pandemic in modern history.
As a nurse bearing witness to these atrocities in the city of Minneapolis, I have observed nurses organizing themselves to respond as a collective to these unthinkable problems in real-time by taking immediate action to both maintain safety and fight for justice. These nurses are engaging in emancipatory nursing, a form of nursing that has the potential to dismantle power systems that privilege some over others due to economic means, social status, or hierarchies that create health inequity.1 Nurses must struggle to find the freedom to uncover the dominant health practices that foster Western ideals of health and minimizes nurse’s role to that of a ‘helper’ or a ‘do-gooder.’2
The words, “I can’t breathe,” should call all nurses to action, first to look inward at our role in perpetuating systemic issues related to race and injustice, and then to respond as a collective to undo generations of harm that have traumatized communities and individuals for far too long. Witnessing a man struggle to find oxygen to survive, at the knee of someone who has sworn to protect and serve — undoubtedly warrants a public health crisis be declared and calls for immediate nursing action.
Many nurses voiced, in their stories, frustrations of the constantly changing guidelines from the CDC or the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) that have often created fear and conspiracy theories amongst some mostly well intended people. Unfortunately, while engaging in self-reflection, many of the nurses reported they lacked the energy to continue to participate in social media platforms as the push back from others on these sites felt frustrating and belittling with little change observed. Some nurses felt compelled to take a break from social media sites altogether because of the backlash experienced while trying to dismantle misinformation, such as information regarding wearing a mask in public spaces. Others have taken on this opportunity to do more and respond to needs in innovative ways outside of traditional systems.
Kagan, Smith, and Chinn have provided a framework of action to inspire us to break these shackles in place — known as ‘emancipatory action’ — which require four vital characteristics to be deemed such work. These elements include: “facilitating humanization, disrupting structural inequities, self-reflection, and engaging in communities.”1(p6) While strategically these four elements of emancipatory action have not been used together to tackle the racism that has existed in our care settings for the last 100 hundred years to my knowledge, I have witnessed them being practiced independently by nurses responding to the endless crises that have resulted from the COVID-19 virus and the recent racial justice unrest. While collecting stories from nursing students and nurses in my role as the director of the Health Commons and an assistant professor of nursing at Augsburg University, it is clear that during this pandemic we have taken on the burden of not only caring for patients in practice settings, but also have felt a moral obligation to provide health education to people in social circles, families, and communities.
Take for example Sarah Jane Keaveny, RN, public health nurse, activist, and Augsburg University nursing alum. While buildings closed in response to guidelines set by government bodies due to COVID-19, those who were experiencing homelessness were left with limited options. Typically those in the homeless community access the skyway system, light rail, public library, and other public spaces for shelter, toileting, and rest. But, as the social quarantine measures continued to heighten, more buildings closed, leaving them with limited options to get their basic needs met. One individual experiencing homelessness said to me while at the Health Commons , “It’s like no one cares that we are still out here. I haven’t met anyone with this disease, but I will know people who will die from it because of all these rules.”
Sarah Jane connected with the existing resources of outreach workers and community members engaged in mutual aid to respond to those displaced by social structural inequities in the pandemic through establishing Mobile Outdoor Outreach Drop-in (MOODI) where meals are offered and connections to resources are made everyday of the week at a local park. In addition, while many of the shelters began moving individuals experiencing homelessness into nearby hotels, many of those left on the streets formed or joined existing encampments. Because of the increased numbers in the unsheltered community, disproportionately representative of people of color or indigenous peoples, outreach workers were forced to secure food and water for this marginalized group rather than address long term housing or health issues. Sarah Jane has demonstrated emancipatory action through nursing practice and community engagement; while uplifting human dignity, she engages in communities to respond as a collective, outside of institutions or systems that have limited capacity to respond in the urgent manner required in this pandemic.1
As the infection rates of the pandemic heightened, where black and indigenous populations are dying at alarming rates in comparison to their white counterparts, came the news of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers when he was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill at a local grocery store.3 Nurses in our state are coming to know all too well the appalling racial health inequities that exist due to systemic racism; systems of oppression including slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and mass incarceration all tie directly to both wealth and health.4 While emancipatory knowing asks nurses to analyze root causes, such as inquiring why inequities of income related to race exist in the first place, it also requires us to take action in response to undoing these injustices.
The unrest, riots, and violence in response to George Floyd’s death resulted in further displacement of those who were living on the streets of Minneapolis; homeless encampments were destroyed due to false accusations of riot participation, curfews were enforced, and members of the National Guard were deployed. One nurse practitioner, Rosemary Fister, demonstrated disruption of racial policies in this moment when she fought for change in real-time. As people living on the streets sought to find protection from the rubber bullets and tear gas released, she organized herself and others to respond to those left without protection due to structural inequities, or “a host of offenses against human dignity including…poverty, social inequalities….war, genocide, and terrorism.” 5(p8) She was able to negotiate shelter at a local hotel for the unhoused to seek temporary protection.
As those who sought refuge in this space continued their stay past the days of the unrest, later named The Sanctuary Hotel, Rosemary envisioned a way to mobilize and change the policies and procedures relied upon in current systems. She helped organize volunteers to operate the hotel in solidarity founded on the principles of mutual aid, where everyone had membership and human connections were made. Knowing that the complexities of previous traumas and suffering wouldn’t simply end by having shelter, and as more barriers presented themselves, she knew the hotel stay for those unsheltered had to come to an end.
However, this story has inspired a movement in Minneapolis to care for those displaced, to tackle issues of poverty through various means, to approach change using all forms of knowledge while forging a plan ahead with the very people experiencing the targeted oppression as means of disrupting structural inequities. Rosemary has engaged in social justice work in ways that will shape the discipline for the future to come.
These stories of nurses engaging in elements of emancipatory action while caring for marginalized communities in innovative ways during a pandemic and during social unrest, has shed light on what nursing practice can embody. Many nurses fail to recognize, and most have yet to understand, the root source and impact of racial health disparities, which offers an opportunity to challenge our beliefs in what nursing practice should or shouldn’t entail as we are called to respond to unjust situations through collaborative action.1
Whether providing care in our acute care settings or shaping our communities, nurses can no longer ignore the words, “I can’t breathe” as we collectively gasp for air.
Katie is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Augsburg University and is the Director of the Health Commons. She has taught at Augsburg University since 2009 where her primary responsibilities are in the graduate program in courses focused on transcultural nursing, social justice, and civic agency. She also practiced for over eight years in an in-patient hospital in both oncology-hematology and medical intensive care. She has a Masters of Arts in Nursing degree focused on transcultural care and a Doctor of Nursing Practice in transcultural leadership, both from Augsburg University. Katie has been involved in the homeless community of Minneapolis for over 15 years and has traveled to over twenty countries. She lives with her husband and three children in Stillwater, Minnesota.
About Kaija Freborg
Kaija Freborg is the Director of the BSN program at Augsburg University and has been teaching as an assistant professor in the undergraduate and the graduate nursing programs since 2011. Her focus in teaching includes transcultural nursing practice as well as addressing social and racial justice issues in healthcare. She obtained a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in Transcultural Nursing Leadership in 2011 at Augsburg before teaching at her alma mater. Currently her scholarly interest in whiteness studies has her engaging in anti-racist activism work both in nursing education and locally; her aspirations include disrupting and dismantling white supremacy within white nursing education spaces. Previously Kaija had worked at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, in both pediatrics and neonatal care, for over 15 years