Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Be an informed consumer!

In medical news, the CDC is calling into question the 'safety' of the Gardasil (cervical cancer) vaccine...this is after repeated assurances to consumers that this vaccine was safe to give our young teen daughters. ( One can assume that this vaccine underwent the lengthy FDA approval process, yet now, we as consumers are being provided with the news that this vaccine may not be as 'safe' as initially reported. However, this post is not about the Gardasil vaccine, but about the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, which is being rushed through the approval process in order to be approved for distribution this fall. (To read about the vaccine testing and approval process, go to ) We're being asked to cheerfully roll up our sleeves to receive not one but TWO separate injections that 'may' provide protection about a flu which could 'possibly' mutate to become a more virulent and deadly illness. Am I the only one who remembers the mid-seventies Swine Flu vaccination fiasco, where the vaccine program was halted after millions of people had already received the first injection, and the side effect of Guillian Barre Syndrome (ascending paralysis) was discovered?

This is in no way meant to discourage people from receiving the vaccines this fall. However, each individual MUST take responsibility for making an informed decision regarding the H1N1 vaccine. There is an abundance of information on the valid information on the Internet (stick with the sites from reputable organizations, i.e. .gov or .org, or from various medical associations). Get educated, then make an informed decision for yourself and your family!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The more things change...

Many years ago (more than I care to remember!), after much pleading, my father agreed to take us (my two younger sisters, my mother and me) to a Boston Red Sox game. The year was 1966, the year the Impossible Dream Team was just a glimmer in Tom Yawkey's eye. I was a faithful watcher of televised games, always in black and white, of course, and often listening to Ken Coleman broadcasting the play-by-play late into the night on my transistor radio tucked carefully under my pillow. Younger readers of my blog may not believe this, but in 1966, attendance at Red Sox games was so pitiful that tickets were easy to obtain. My father bought the tickets at McCarthy's Smoke Shop in Brockton, and I began the painful countdown until the day I would get to see my favorite players in person.

The big day finally arrived, and off we went, Mom, Dad, and three daughters ranging in age 11 down to age 7. I remember the noise, the colors, the crowds, and the excitement, all swirling around me. But what I was not in any way prepared for was the site that greeted me as I walked up the ramp to our seats. Green grass, so bright, so perfect, it hurt my eyes to look at it. I realized then that I had never ever seen an image of the field that was anything but black and white. I stood at the top of the ramp, unable to move, in awe of the view of the field in 'living color'. At age 11, it was love at first sight; a true and passionate love for a field, a game, and the men who played it. I don't remember the details of the game, who won or lost, the final score, or even the name of the opposing team. None of that mattered. The only thing that mattered is that I had finally been to Fenway. No matter where I lived, how far away I travelled, how many ballparks I visited, going to Fenway Park would always be special, and I would never forget that first trip up the ramp to see the green grass of Fenway Park.

Fast forward 40+ years. As a mentor for a city organization this year, I was matched with a mentee who has an interest in my career, nursing. So, we had a couple of breakfast meetings, went on a few field trips, and although she was pleasant and polite, even as the program was drawing to a close, I didn't feel like I had made any difference in her life....I had failed as a mentor! When an opportunity arose to take her to a Red Sox game, I jumped at the chance, selfishly figuring I may as well be getting something out of this arrangement, even if she isn't. So, off we went, on a cool night in May that threatened rain. After parking and walking to the concourse, I noticed her interest piquing. She was texting her frends about being there; a step in the right direction. I brought her over to watch Jim Rice and Dennis Eckersly as they were doing the pre-game show. She didn't know who either one of them were, but politely expressed interest. We walked into the Souvenir Store, where I bought a hat for my California daughter, then headed inside and bought sodas (yes, fellow Sox campers, soda, not beer!) before we sought out our seats.

As we walked up the ramp, her face brightened. Speechless, her eyes roamed the field surface, shining brightly green despite the gloomy weather, then scanned the skyboxes, brightly lit like a necklace around the inside of the park. She craned her neck to see the scoreboard above us, already showing amazing plays of the previous week. And she smiled.

I saw a little bit of myself that day, as I imagine my father saw a little bit of himself in me those many years ago. This is how Boston Red Sox fans are created; it is as much about the scenery as it is about the play, and hopefully, someday, I'll bring one of my own grandchildren here to bear witness to the incredible, awesome power of Fenway.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A "Good News" Story

As most of you know, I've played baseball at Red Sox Fantasy Camp in Ft. Myers, FL for over ten years. What started as a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to meet and play baseball with some of the Red Sox stars of my youth has become an annual event, and I'm proud to say I'm now a member of a wonderful, if somewhat crazy, 'family' that gets together once a year to play baseball. I know most of you are too young to remember Bill Monbouquette, who pitched for the Sox from 1958-1965, but he's been a camp 'regular' for many years. A year and a half ago, Bill was diagnosed with leukemia, and following an arduous battle with chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, is now recovered and competing once again in charity golf tournaments; we're looking forward to seeing him again in February at Sox Camp. Bill and his wife Josephine are wonderful people, and I'm so happy that this story has had a good ending. Last summer, after participating in a bone marrow donor screening done by Dana Farber on his behalf, I wrote the following:

A Baseball Story, 2008

I know enumerable stories have been written about encounters with former Major League baseball players. This may come off as just another one of those; but as I look at the picture sitting on the desk in my office, I can’t help but think that this story is different….made more important, maybe, because time is running out, and I have unfinished business that won’t wait much longer.

This story dates back to a time when girls did not play baseball; pre-title IX. Two generations of girls have been born since then; playing sports with all the advantages that I never had. This story is not about that…not really. It’s about a memory, and a story that I have tried to tell several times to the man involved, but each time words fail me.

Baseball has been in my blood as long as I can remember. My grandmother Sadie, passionate Red Sox fan, passed the love of the game on to me. From the early sixties, I have only brief snapshots of memories; Gramma, pitching the ball to me in the back yard. Five years old, skinny and shirtless, I swing with all my might, and yelling “Strike!” when I make contact. I guess I confused baseball with bowling back then, and a different grandmother might have let it go. But to her, it was important that I understand the game, and she explained that a strike was good in bowling, but in baseball, it meant something very different.

Another snapshot: watching the Red Sox on a black and white TV, circa 1960, and the man with the funny name is pitching. Mom-boo-cat. Although the picture on the television is grainy, I have a clear memory of my grandmother saying that Mom-boo-cat was a great pitcher. Now, I’m sure my grandmother spoke of Ted Williams; she may have mentioned Earl Wilson and Frank Malzone. But to my five year old ears, those were ordinary names. Bill Monbouquette is the name I would remember.

Gramma died in 1988, at the age of 99. A stroke, and eventually a broken hip, would be the cause of her demise. But she left a legacy of passion for the game of baseball, passed down to her daughter, her granddaughter, and her great-granddaughter....which brings me to the reason for this story.

In 1996, I celebrated my fortieth birthday with ultimate fantasy for a Red Sox fan. One of only three women to attend Sports Adventures Red Sox Fantasy camp in Fort Myers, Florida, I was able to play baseball for a week with those who loved the game as I did. Gramma’s girl finally fulfilled her dream of playing for the Boston Red Sox! The bonus, of course, was getting to meet ex-Red Sox players…famous ones…like Carl Yastrzemski, George Scott, and Rico Petrocelli. But the man I wanted to meet most was the man with the funny name….Bill Monbouquette. I wanted to explain to him what meeting him meant to me, and what great memories his name evoked, but I feared that saying “You were my grandmother’s favorite player” would sound trivial. I didn’t want to insult the man by making him feel old, and secondly, I truly didn’t know if he indeed was her favorite player. But his is the name I remember her saying, and I can hear her saying today as clearly as I heard it when I was five years old. But the real reason for my reluctance is that I feared telling him would cause my throat to close up, and then tears would come. This, of course, was even before Tom Hanks said “There’s no crying in baseball.” Even so, I never told him, but always thought: “If only Gramma could see me now!”

Over the years, I’ve returned again and again to fantasy camp, and have gotten to know Bill and his wonderful wife Josephine. And, I have had other opportunities to tell him about how important that is, yet words have failed me each time. This year, things are different. Bill Monbouquette has cancer. We weren’t sure he would be able to come to camp, but he did. One night after dinner, he walked to the podium to a standing ovation, and told us about his diagnosis, the treatments, and the kindness of the Boston Red Sox and the people at Dana Farber. His throat closed up, and the tears came, and I knew then that sometimes crying in baseball is justified, especially when life has handed out a huge dose of bad luck.

But, back to the picture on my desk, the one I cherish above all others. It is not of Bill and me, but of Bill and my twenty-eight year old daughter Jen, taken this year at fantasy camp. He, despite chemotherapy, still is looking strong in his gray away Red Sox uniform, she in her home Red Sox uniform and wearing her catcher’s gear. She is looking up at him with great intent while he talks to her. I would like to think they were talking about baseball, but in all likelihood, he is talking to Jen, a veteran herself, about his pride in his own two sons, both serving our country. But the subject doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Gramma is looking down, seeing her granddaughter and great-granddaughter playing baseball with the Boston Red Sox, and they have become friends with the man with the funny name, Bill Mom-boo-cat. I know she’s proud. Its time to tell him how important that is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Community Health Nursing (and a shout-out to Katie!)

In my previous post about job opportunities for new grads, I neglected to mention another career path in nursing that is oft-overlooked by students. Katie R., public health nurse extraordinaire, reminded me that community health and public health nursing are career paths that are available to new nurses. Health care is increasingly being provided in settings other than hospitals, whether it be in a client's home or in the booming business of assisted living or 55+ communities. (It's a little disconcerting to think I'm less than one year away from qualifying...for the 55+ community, that is). Partners has a year long orientation program for new grads who are interested in home care, which suggests that there is still a nursing shortage in that area. And if you doubt that public health nursing is a growing industry, then you've been living in a cave for the past month or so.....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thoughts on launching my nursing students into the 'real world'

In conversations I've had with many of my nursing students over the past few months, one recurring theme has surfaced. With few exceptions, they are all without firm job offers following graduation. The nursing job market has been impacted by the recession, perhaps not as much as other professions, but impacted nonetheless. Hospitals are cutting back on staff, even in some cases laying off nurses (unheard of until recently!), and those that are hiring, are understandably reluctant to hire new grads that require a huge investment of money to orient. So, panic has set in! Almost unanimously, they have applied to hospitals, and are seeking positions in the ED, ICU, L&D, Pediatrics, short, critical care areas that require a much higher level of knowledge and experience than new grads possess. Now, perhaps with the nursing shortage of the past ten years, these positions were filled in desperation by hospitals who needed a warm body with "RN" after his/her name, sometimes with unfortunate results. But this is a different time in nursing, and hospitals are unwilling to take a chance the unknown quantity that is a new grad.

So, here is one last piece of advice (not that they ever listened to me anyway!) for all those new grads out there: I know your heart's desire may be working in a hospital in your 'dream' job, but the reality is, very few of you will land that position. You can stress out about, complain about it, whine about it, but (although doing those things may have gotten through the last two or four years) that's not productive. You WILL eventually get there, but for right now, take a look at rehab, long term care, assisted living, nursing homes, etc. (And for the student to whom I suggested this, who answered, "I didn't spend the last four years getting my BSN just to wipe old peoples' asses", well, there is a very hot place in hell awaiting you!). Most of you new grads are young....early to mid-twenties....and you have a long work career ahead of you. Start building your addition to working in long term care, do volunteer work, take CEU's in the specialty area of your dreams, network, join your state nurses association and attend meetings. The HR person who is going to give you your dream job is NOT going to knock on your door! And, you might just find that you like working in a non-critical care setting, because...and here's a newsflash for you....the growth industry of the future will be in caring for the elderly.

So, I wish all new grads out there the best of luck in their job search. Congratulations, and welcome to the always rewarding, sometimes frustrating, occasionally terrifying, field of nursing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


In re-reading my first post, I realize that it portrayed me as a very dark, very unfunny, very serious person...which, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am NOT. Interestingly, though, it was written just prior to two articles appearing about patient safety and medication errors occurring in Boston hospitals. Medication errors, now THEY are unfunny. Despite all of the safety measures and the new technology in place, medication errors happen with alarming frequency. (Any nurse out there who has never made a med error, raise your hand. Ah, I thought not.) Anyway, my apologies for the tone of the post. I do love my job as a nursing faculty member, although I would throw it all way if I were offered a contract playing second base for the Boston Red Sox. (Are you listening, Scott Boras?). I've pretty much closed the book on that idea, for many reasons, but primarily because I am now old enough to be the mother to most of the Sox players....although being Tim Wakefield's mom would have meant that I was a very precocious twelve year old.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I'm told blogging is easy and that anyone can do it. Perhaps the physical part of it is. It's easy enough to sit with the laptop and type. But the hard part is deciding what to write. It is said that one should write what one knows, so I will start there. I can say with complete confidence that I "know" nursing. I know what it takes to become a nurse, and I'm not talking about which courses one must take in order to graduate (although I am intimately acquainted with that part of it). The 'becoming' a nurse, now that is a little more difficult but not impossible to convey. I try to explain it to my nursing students, hoping my experience will save them a lot of time and grief later on, but of course, at this point in the academic year (with two months to go til graduation) anything I try to tell them is falling on deaf ears. They are about to leave a very sheltered, very controlled world in which experienced clinical instructors, preceptors, etc have watched over them, held their hands, kept them from making mistakes. The rules are about to change, and I fear for them. The world they are going to enter is one in which they will hold patients' lives in their hands. One in which a medication error can mean the difference between life and death. One in which a call bell left unanswered for too long can mean a patient falls and is seriously injured. One in which the shift is not six hours long, with an hour preconference and an hour postconference, but one in which they will hit the ground running and not stop to eat, drink, or pee for 8, 12, or even 16 hours. And in this new world, not everyone will be 'nice' to them. Their inexperience will be the stuff of staff gossip. The off-hand comment will be repeated by others until it bears no resemblance to the original, innocent comment. I want them to know this, not because I want to scare them, but because I want to make the transition less painful. They are all my children in a way, and like any good mother, I want to protect them from what I know is in store for them.