Every year the New York Times Magazine publishes essays on notable people who died during the year. Of the 44 people profiled for 2015, two were nurses. The first, Kathryn Barnard, discovered her passion for early childhood development when she was assigned as a student nurse in the early 1960s to a 10-month old baby whose mother couldn’t stay with him in the hospital. For 12-hours a day, she held and rocked the sick child, acting as a surrogate mother. This experience was instrumental in shaping her future. Later, along with engineers from the University of Washington, she would design a rocking incubator for neonates that mimicked the womb, complete with a continuous recording of a heartbeat. The article points out that although the incubator was never adopted for widespread use, rocking chairs based on her research are standard in neonatal units today. She theorized that babies communicate through touch and devoted much of her research to investigating how nurses can encourage touch and ultimately bonding between mother and child, particularly when the mother is depressed or distracted by the realities of poverty.
The second is Belgian nurse Augusta Chiwy, most likely not a readily recognized name to many. In December of 1941, a surgeon named Dr. Jack Prior, desperate for nurses to assist in the field hospital, and hearing there was a nurse in this home, pounded on her front door. He begged her to volunteer her services and expertise; German bombs were falling, resulting in numerous casualties. Dr. Prior knew she was Black, and he reasoned that, as a volunteer, she wouldn’t be bound to the United States Army rules that prohibited Black nurses from treating White soldiers. Luckily for the soldiers, the 23-year-old, home on a short vacation from her job as a general nurse, agreed to follow him to the field hospital where she worked at his side, heroically treating soldiers with horrific injuries until a 500-pound bomb was dropped on the hospital. The only other nurse was killed, and was hailed a hero. It would be many years before Augusta Chiwy’s contribution was recognized. She continued on at a nearby makeshift hospital that housed 600 wounded soldiers. Some soldiers from the Deep South resented being cared for by a Black nurse. Dr. Prior, ever grateful and loyal to Chiwy told them they could accept her care or be left to die. The trauma of war left Chiwy with what would likely be diagnosed today as post-traumatic stress disorder. She was unable to speak for two years after seeing a soldier killed by a land mine and she didn’t return to nursing for 20 years. Fortunately historian Martin King heard of her heroic service and set about finding her. After tracking her down in a Belgian nursing home, he was able to interview her multiple times in her later years. Thanks to King she will be remembered for the brave contribution to the allied forces.
As always, this issue brings you articles to inform your practice. Dr. Pickering and colleagues wrote an article on best practices from identifying elder abuse and neglect in the home. As our population ages, home healthcare clinicians will be increasingly called upon to recognize and intervene in such cases. Dr. Boerner and colleagues wrote an excellent article on the experiences of home health aids when a patient dies. As the home care staff most likely to spend prolonged periods of time with patients, it stands to reason that home health aids experience grief with the passing of long-term patients. The authors explore the role of employer policies in providing support during this difficult time. Dr. Heather Hamilton explored the lived experience of African American caregivers of patients with heart failure. Her study informs the delivery of culturally competent support to caregivers that serves to improve quality of life for both the heart failure patients and their caregivers. The article by Fowler and colleagues describes a project that used a unique website to connect caregivers of people with dementia in a geographic region with an interprofessional group of health providers and caregiver peers. This innovative project can be easily replicated by other home care agencies. Finally, an article by Ishikuro and team describes a study that sought to determine the level of knowledge about home blood pressure monitoring among Japanese nurses. While it was conducted in Japan, there are obvious implications for nurses and other home healthcare staff in North America.
All this and our usual departments to keep you up to date on the latest in home healthcare practice. Be sure to read the Commentary this month by Marilyn Harris. Based on communication between Marilyn and myself, she asks you the reader, about your professional name and title, a topic of interest to both of us.
Maureen Anthony, PhD, RN
New York Times Magazine (December 28, 2015). The Lives They Lived 2015