Guest Editorial in the Seattle Times
A health crisis on a plane and in our government shutdown
Faced with a medical emergency on a plane, everybody jumped in. On the ground, it's a political fight, writes guest columnist Kathleen Bartholomew.

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School Nurse Editorial in the Seattle Times
Guest: Students in Washington schools need nurses
Washington state ranks 43rd in the nation for nurses per student, writes guest columnist Kathleen Bartholomew

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909 Flying Lessons for Healthcare

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Seattle Times Op-Ed
The culture of health-care secrecy harms patients
Health-care professionals are silenced by a rigid culture that refuses to admit that medical professionals make mistakes, writes guest columnist Kathleen Bartholomew.

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AJN Viewpoint Editorial
A Failure to Rescue Ourselves
"Nurses need to agree on one entry point into the profession."

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AJN, American Journal of Nursing: November 2010 - Volume 110 - Issue 11 - p 11
A Failure to Rescue Ourselves
AJN, American Journal of Nursing: November 2010 - Volume 110 - Issue 11 - p 11
A Gallup survey commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and released in late January found that "thought leaders" from government, corporations, health services, and universities believed nurses had less influence on the health care reform process´┐Żand would have less influence on its implementation´┐Żthan all other groups, including patients, physicians, government employees, and insurance and pharmaceutical executives. Participants in the survey, Nursing Leadership from Bedside to Boardroom: Opinion Leaders' Perceptions, suggested that nurses were hampered in attaining more influence and leadership by, among other factors, the perception that they're not "important decision makers" and that they lack a "single voice" on national issues

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Winner: Best Media Depiction of Nursing 2009 From
The Disease Care Industry

March 17, 2009 -- On February 15, 2009, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an op-ed by nurse Kathleen Bartholomew that used recent layoffs at a local hospital as a vehicle to urge the public to rethink the way the United States provides health care. The op-ed is "We all hurt when hospitals shrink themselves into budgetary compliance." It says that the layoffs of "200 personnel" and the elimination of the chief nurse position at Swedish Medical Center will greatly undermine the infrastructure on which already-stretched direct care nurses and physicians depend. Bartholomew argues that essential support for health practice is crumbling in hospitals because the U.S. regards health care as a business rather than a right, and because the nation misallocates precious health care resources. Results include "long-term higher costs along with health care workers and leaders losing heart," with nurses bearing much of the burden. Sadly, one month after Bartholomew's op-ed appeared, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer itself shrank into budgetary compliance, and the paper delivered its last print edition today. We thank Bartholomew and the Post-Intelligencer for this powerful op-ed, which also shows that nurses are strong, expert patient advocates.

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Review of Op Ed Piece in Seattle P.I. May 7 by
The Center for Nursing Advocacy

Nurse Kathleen Bartholomew's powerful op-ed "Nurses struggle against the odds" ran May 7 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bartholomew's piece is a more comprehensive argument about the nursing crisis, and the key role it plays in problems that plague the overall U.S. health care system, which is both underinclusive and overpriced. She says hospitals are "financially flailing," and nurses feel the impact, facing sicker patients and increasingly complex care; many nurses are burning out and fleeing the bedside. Bartholomew argues that most of what nurses do is "invisible" to "the patient, doctor, and society." She focuses on nurses' critical thinking and assessment skills, explaining that nurses save lives by constantly checking medications, looking for early signs of complications, reviewing lab results and data. She argues that current pressures have reduced the time nurses can spend with patients, reducing the "compassion" and emotional support nurses can provide, and causing nurses themselves to feel unfulfilled and burned out: "An R.N. who is running around day after day with no time for lunch begins to feel like a robot because of the overwhelming volume of tasks." Bartholomew directly challenges her society's priorities, arguing that it's "not OK for a professional ball player to make $63 million a year while nurses work without meals or breaks, and patients barely see their nurses," or for there to be so many uninsured and so many preventable errors. And she urges readers to pressure the government for change, noting that until they do, nurses will struggle to "solve the problems resulting from a health care system that operates as a business, instead of a universal right."

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Nursing Advocacy


Nurses struggle against the odds
Last updated May 7, 2007 4:38 p.m. PT
Many Washington residents know that hundreds of would-be nursing students are languishing on waiting lists because nursing schools do not have enough resources -- especially teachers -- to accommodate them. But few of us realize there is a profoundly important connection between the sorry state of our health care system and the nursing crises.
Of all of the industrialized countries, the United States has the highest number of medically uninsured people. Yet we pay the most per person for health care. Waste is excessive, yet hospitals are financially flailing. Nowhere does this make more of an impact than at the bedside.
The average age of a nurse today is 47. Those nurses have worked for more than 20 years in the profession, and, quite frankly, nurses are tired. Advances in technology have not eased a nurse's workload. Patients are sicker, have a shorter stay, more medications, greater emotional and psychological needs and more than one illness. The compressed workload is the reason even new nurses are leaving the profession.
The majority of a nurse's work is invisible -- to the patient, doctor and society. Nurses must check the medications and use critical thinking to determine if a drug should be withheld, omitted or ordered. Their eyes are like Florence Nightingale's lantern, always vigilant for early signs and symptoms of a complication such as pneumonia or heart failure. They review lab results, re-assess and compare data from shift to shift. Every day, nurses at the bedside prevent patient injuries by using their excellent skills of observation.
All of those factors have driven down the amount of time a nurse can spend with a patient, and when patients barely ever see their nurse, they do not feel "cared for." As a society, we grossly underestimate the healing power of an empathetic heart, kind words, compassion and the importance of service -- until we ourselves are the patient.
When a nurse cannot spend time with her patients, she also feels an acute loss because caring is, and will always be, a two-way interaction that energizes both parties. An R.N. who is running around day after day with no time for lunch begins to feel like a robot because of the overwhelming volume of tasks. That is not rewarding, and certainly not what nurses had in mind when they entered the profession. Every day nurses struggle to keep the heart and soul of their profession alive, but with every shift, it gets harder.
As a society, we must not only question our current health care system but work to understand the complexities of what's wrong and demand change. It is not OK for a professional ball player to make $63 million a year while nurses work without meals or breaks, and patients barely see their nurses. It is not OK for a country of our stature to have children who are sicker than their parents due to depression, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity and hypertension -- and the greatest number of uninsured in the industrialized world. It is not OK for more than 98,000 people to die each year from hospital mistakes that were preventable.
As a citizen, you can demand that your elected officials address those issues without grandstanding. Only when health care consumers unite and insist those issues be engaged head-on will the current health care situation begin to improve. Until then, nurses will continue to struggle against the odds to care for their patients as the average age of a nurse continues rising. With compassion, they'll continue to strive creatively to solve the problems resulting from a health care system that operates as a business, instead of a universal right.
Kathleen Bartholomew, R.N., M.N., lives in Seattle.
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Copyright 2010 - Katheleen Bartholomew