Friday, September 8, 2017

A good nurse could be a good journalist, or the other way around

My daughter and I recently exchanged several texts that included links to some work by Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for the Atlantic monthly. I called her attention to this deep, difficult, painful, powerful, and essential piece, "Donald Trump is the First White President."

"It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power."

I've read it once to the end. Some passages were confusing, even after several attempts, so I need to go back and keep trying. Others, like the one above, cut as cleanly and quickly as a new scalpel.

My daughter responded with this video of Coates describing what led to his career in journalism. 

It's easier to approach than his current piece on the president*, or his earlier one from January, "My President Was Black." It's maybe a better place to start.

Watching it reminded me of a conversation I had back in the early 80's, when I had just started the second part of my nursing career selling software to hospitals for the now-defunct Burroughs Corporation

I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the company had established the headquarters for its ill-fated effort to develop and support hospital applications for admissions, medical records management, patient accounting, order entry, and so forth. I was there with my branch manager and several others from the company, hosting a site visit for our customer, a large community hospital near Boston. 

The hospital entourage included their VP's of Finance, Nursing, Quality Assurance, and Information Management, as well as another half-dozen non-VP's. We rented three stretch limos for the three day stay, which included some serious business, and even more drinking, partying, and general boondoggling.

The hospital was an installed account using some of the company's earlier software on less-expensive hardware. We really had no chance of keeping them - our products and services were terrible for many reasons. But we spent a lot of money going over the falls, and managed to have a pretty good time on the company dime. 

We were all sitting by the hotel pool late one night, after an extended road trip where our instructions to the limo drivers was, "You pick the place." They had taken us deep into the woods, I think into South Carolina, to a large roadhouse for too much beer and some mud wrestling.

The VP's of Nursing and QA and I talked about nursing, and how we had each gotten to that place by the pool. I don't recall much else, but I do remember saying how I believed that the skills and temperament required for being an excellent nurse were quite similar to, no - EXACTLY LIKE, the skills and temperament needed to be an award-winning journalist or a killer international spy.

I believe they humored me. I thought it was profound at the time, though of course it was mostly the mud wrestling talking. 

I never really thought about it again, until I watched the clip my daughter sent.

"So much of the pain is what's in your head," Coates says. So much of our fear is in what we imagine. Taking that first step is what really counts, because then they begin to lose their foreboding, until we're walking right along with the people we care for. 

Burroughs now exists in a smaller version that, as far as I know, has nothing to do with computer hardware or software for hospitals. I don't know what happened to my nursing companions after that trip, and after we lost the account.  

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about earlier today. That spy thing was just foolish.