My name is Megan. I have a lot of ideas but don't find enough opportunities to express them and listen to what others have to say. I get frustrated when I read articles and the comments that ensue because I feel like I can't really add my own two cents. It is rare you actually find a good, respectful dialogue in those comments.

So this is my attempt to share my own thoughts and opinions based on what others have said. I love reading or hearing the thoughts of others, and this is not an attempt to correct them or change anyone's mind. I just want to put my own feelings out there.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me"

Background

Anyone who browses social media knows about the policy changes recently made in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There has been a sort of uproar about it, with people yelling on both sides. I guess that is what always happens with something so controversial. For me, the hardest thing is trying to figure out what is really going on. I have read things from both points of view, and many seem to contradict each other. As I have tried to figure out my own point of view, one comment stuck out to me that I have pondered on a lot. I tried to find it again to be able to reference, but was unsuccessful. Luckily, I found another one that was similar, but even more specific than the first. Usually I like to summarize an article, then give my opinion and response to some of the comments made to it. However, I have read many well written articles on the topic. It would be hard to pick one. Also, I don't actually want to talk so specifically about the policy as all these other articles have. 

Summary

Instead of summarizing an article, I will quote from a comment I read:

"A woman I love very much does not get to have her child baptized, who was set to be baptized this Saturday. Her and her husband got a divorce because he could no longer pretend he wasn’t gay and is now happily married to a man. They are all happily coparenting together. The gay father was in complete support of the child getting baptized and had given his consent, even bought scriptures with the child’s name on them as a gift and was planning on attending the baptism. Because of this new rule, this child is not allowed to be baptized. The child is staying home from school today because the child was up all night sobbing. This child does not understand why he cannot be baptized when a week ago he would have been able to. Everyone else in his class will be getting baptized, everyone else in his extended family will be getting baptized. He is not allowed, despite going to church every Sunday, even with his father on the weekends he spends there. Despite paying tithing faithfully. Despite looking forward to this for as long as he understood was baptism was."

My Two-Cents

Does this make anyone else's heart break? What a difficult time for this young child. His baptism had already been scheduled and arranged. And now it has been taken away. (as a sidenote, I have not found any information about whether or not it matters if the child actually lives with the parents involved in the same gender relationship when they turn 8 and want to be baptized. I can only find that it specifies they cannot live with that parent when they turn 18 if they want to be baptized. Maybe further clarification will come on this later.)

I assume many would use this example as proof of how horrible and punitive the Church policy is. Without diminishing this child's pain, I wonder at the stories of children who would be adversely affected if the policy were not put in to place. I don't think an example on either side necessarily proves that the policy is good or bad for the church as a whole. Those who lead and direct the church have a very difficult responsibility of trying to make policies that will help the most. I don't know if they try to help the most people, or help avoid the biggest problems, or how they decide how to define what will actually help "the most". However, I do know that it is their job to set the policies. I also know that specific policies of the church are not the way to attain exaltation. True, certain policies may hinder or help specific people along their way, but faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and participation in saving ordinances (whenever they come) is what really saves us. And we have our agency regarding how we will respond to all the challenges and blessings we encounter.

To be clear, the fact that I am not questioning my membership in the church does not mean that I am a "blind follower." I understand that there are people who will willingly follow and obey without much of a second thought no matter what the Church does. I do not fault them. There are others who challenge anything that isn't immediately appealing to them. Some of them choose to leave the Church. I do not fault them either. I am of the type that considers the things that come up, evaluate my faith in Christ (not necessarily my faith that a church administered by men is perfect), and tries to figure out how I need to move forward to be more like Christ. My own personal opinions about "hot-topics" actually tends to change from time to time. I ask that you do not fault me.

So the Church as an organization has to make decisions that will affect its members on a world-wide level. That is a difficult task. I do believe those involved in making these policy changes were trying to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it was right. So I will not try to persuade anyone of the validity of the changes.

Instead I would like to point out something that has a much bigger impact on the individuals that make up the Church's membership. There has been a change made that affects us all on large scale. But how will we respond on a personal level? Isn't that what determines our own, personal salvation? People keep talking about the second Article of Faith. But that only talks about punishment for sins, not challenges we all face. Every one of us faces trials because of the actions of others. So rather than focusing on the challenges some children will face because of the choices of their parents, lets focus on ridding ourselves of any sin of commission or omission in regards to those sweet souls.

In the story quoted above, what do you think the ward has done for this boy? I hope that his Primary President has come to cry with him. I hope she assured him that he is loved and cherished and worthy. I hope his bishop came by. His primary teachers. In a case like this, I hope his Stake President came over to show his love and support. Perhaps none of these people understands why this child will be left out of many opportunities within the ward. I hope they all promised that wonderful boy that Jesus Christ is aware of him, and knows how to heal him. That the Savior will always answer when that boy knocks at the door. 

I hope in the years to come that the Ward Council makes a special effort to ensure that the boy and his family are well taken care of. I hope it opens up a dialogue within the ward about LGBT issues. That people are able to address it openly and with love. That at least in this boy's ward, the members learn to show love and compassion to people affected by it. That as they come to know the boy's father and his father's husband, they will see that people who choose to live this lifestyle are often wonderful, kind, and generous. Even if the only contact with the boy's gay parents are during special events like the boy's primary program or scouting award ceremonies, perhaps barriers will be broken down.

I hope no one is allowed to make this boy feel inferior because of his background. I hope that it doesn't become a scarlet letter that he feels is posted on his chest. I hope that everyone can know what the situation is, and treat him just like all the other kids. I hope he is never made to feel ashamed. And I hope that in ten years, after participating in scouts and church, after developing friendships with other young men and women as well as adults, after testing the power of prayer and learning all he can about the scriptures, that he will be able to focus on the day of his baptism with joy. I hope he will have been so loved and included that he was able to forget the bitterness of having to wait. And that he will come out stronger for it.

It is my personal opinion that an outcome like this would only happen if this boy is treated with true charity. The Church clearly teaches that we should love and treat everyone with respect. Many of us still have a long way to go in figuring out how to do that when it comes to the LGBT community. I should hope that we would realize that this is an opportunity for all of us to reach out more and understand better something that makes many of us uncomfortable.

I know that some have scorned the idea that children of parents who are in a gay or lesbian relationships can still participate in church activity despite not having the blessing of baptism. I assume this is because of the fact that the child will be left out of some situations. That is a fact. But if that child truly has a testimony and a desire to participate in the gospel, it is our responsibility to support them. Even if we don't agree that they should have to wait. We need to include them in every way possible. To ensure that they know that the love of their peers and leaders is unconditional. To accept them where they are. To teach them about Christ.

It is easy to point at the leaders of the Church and explain why they have made mistakes. Perhaps they have. Whether you believe that or not, it doesn't change your responsibility. Be like Christ. Love everyone you encounter. And show your love through action.

Regardless of whether or not a child has been baptized, it is our job to comply with the Savior's request- "Suffer little children to come unto me" (Luke 18:16). We can do that by showing them how to trust and rely on the only One who truly understands where they are, and who they can become.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Families, and Why My Facebook Profile Isn't Colored With Rainbows


Background

I don't think this section of my post needs much explanation. If you haven't noticed, the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states is quite the topic right now. I can hardly see anything besides articles and opinion pieces on the subject. It is a touchy one. It seems everyone has taken a side on the issue, and necessarily must dislike all those who have chosen the opposite approach. Or at least think less of them. It is pretty impressive to me how long, laborious, and heated this debate has been.

Summary

I didn't choose just one article for this section. I have read several, and none of them seemed to fill all the crevices that should be addressed. Then again, there is no way I could do that here either. So here are just a few things I have noticed. (As a side note, I personally am most interested in the way these relationships affect children, so most of my observations here address that point.)

Pro Same-Sex Marriage

  • Studies show that children from same-sex parent homes fare just as well as those from heterosexual parent homes. They are even more openminded and accepting of others.
  • The law needs to allow same-sex marriage to protect children in these homes. Because at least one parent in same-sex relationships are not a biological parent, they don't have legal rights to do things such as provide health insurance through their work, make medical decisions, take custody of the children if their partner dies, or have the law help with separation problems such as custody and child support payments.
  • To deny a same sex-couple marriage is to deny them the happiness they deserve, just like heterosexual couples.
  • Legalization of same-sex marriage is opening our culture to be generally more open and accepting of everyone, and this is a positive step for us all.
  • Many adults that grew up in homes with same gendered parents are well adjusted adults who love their parents and are happy to see equality for the ones they love.
  • If religious people care so much about marriage, they should just do it on a religious level, and take it out of the public sector completely. Let people do what they want and stop trying to force others based on your own personal beliefs.

Against Same-Sex Marriage

  • Studies show that children fare better when raised by a mother and a father, rather than two parents of the same gender.
  • Since families are the building block of society and government, the more we redefine and allow changes to the traditional model, the less stable our society becomes.
  • Children fare best with two biological parents. Since homosexual couples cannot offer this arrangement, applauding it and encouraging it is detrimental to the many children who will end up in homosexual homes.
  • Children need both a male and a female role model at home to help them with different aspects of growing up and to help avoid sexual confusion.
  • Children are not objects used to fulfill adult satisfaction. 
  • Several adult children of same gendered parents have come forward against same-sex marriage and have given their first-hand accounts of some of the difficulties of these situations. One mentions also that many of these children do not speak out for fear of being labeled a homophobe or hurting the people who raised them (that they love, but still feel a mother/father upbringing would have been more ideal).

My Two-Cents

I have had a hard time coming to terms with this issue because of my personal religious bias. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I feel I need to support the traditional family. I do believe that there are certain standards of morality that God has prescribed for us to follow. I personally believe that each individual can find the most happiness by following the commandments. I don't presume to say that people choose whether or not to be gay/lesbian or any other gender-related term. I don't say that they should deny who they are. But I do believe that God can make them much more. 

As I think about the situation around me, I have wondered if my stance is purely following of the religion I am part of, or my own personal opinion. You might say that I have been brainwashed or indoctrinated my whole life, but I just can't say that I truly would change my mind even if I chose to leave this church. 

At the same time, I have loved and honestly respected the feelings expressed by some of my close friends and others that I know. At least the people I know genuinely want fairness and love to rule out. They do not yell at me or call me a bigot or tell me I am stupid for my opinion. The ones I have talked to are all heterosexual and just view the situation as a civil rights issue. In all the personal conversations I have had, things have been very civil and fairly debated. I have appreciated the kindness that has been offered to me considering the cruelty that I have seen between others.

While I think about the issue, I just can't think of same-sex marriage as a stand alone conversation. I personally feel that the entirety of family, intimacy, having and raising children, and marriage are all intertwined and the topic of homosexuality is only a very small part.

The first problem we have is the issue of promiscuity. I do not believe in sex outside of marriage. Period. I believe it is irresponsible. I believe it dilutes the importance of something that can be so wonderful and amazing and even sacred. While many believe our bodies are something to be pleasured and played with, I disagree. I believe that we should learn to harness our passions (sexual and otherwise). This does not deny us of wonderful experiences, but rather makes us better people and helps us experience physical pleasures in a much more sophisticated and appropriate way that is much better for us personally and as a society. I find it frustrating that so-called "responsible adults" live in such an irresponsible way.*

Besides broken relationships, STD's, and other side problems related to such behavior, the most detrimental is the effect on children. If people would simply choose to marry before becoming intimate and remain faithful to their spouse, many problems would be virtually eliminated. For instance, there would be far fewer unwanted pregnancies. Abortion would probably be considered only on a rare occasion. Children would be born into homes where they had a biological mother and father there. Women wouldn't have to wonder who the father of their child is. True, these issues would not be completely resolved. There would still be problems. But they would be far less common.

Another problem is that of divorce. I understand the merits of the option of divorce. I truly do. But our culture has made it seem like no big deal. We talk about what your first, second, and third marriages should offer you. When things get a bit bumpy, we tell our friends to split. I feel that a very big problem is that we just don't take marriage seriously enough. It is a big commitment, and should only be ended after long, serious contemplation and attempts to repair, and with a good reason.

The thing that I see happening is that not everyone can be a part of the ideal family. Even if most people married before conception and stayed together while raising their children, there will always be situations that don't fit that model. There are good people who make bad choices. There are bad people. There are people who make the best decisions they can based on what they grew up with and what they believe. Because some people might feel bad that they don't fit into the "perfect family," we have widened the definition so everyone fits. We don't want anyone to feel bad. Well, I personally think that is the worst approach. To make hard situations okay or even glamorous just so a few people don't feel bad is ludicrous. 

Instead, we should help people not feel bad by simply loving them anyway. For example, we should applaud single parents because of the amazing job they do. We should not applaud single parenthood in general just because many children who come from single parent homes turn out great. I know a few single parents, and at least the ones I have come across are pretty extraordinary. But they also don't love their situation. And their children do miss the other parent.

Even though I am a religious person,  I definitely disagree that marriage is just a religious institution. Marriage is a societal protection for children to help them be raised in a family. I actually get the sentiment that people should be able to get married to someone of the same sex because they love each other and want some of the benefits such as making medical decisions when the other is incapacitated or having someone on their health insurance plan. Many of the things I read from children of same-sex couples said they felt that they did agree with civil unions or similar arrangements, but do not like the idea of allowing marriage because of the can of worms it would open for children.

My hold up with the whole situation is just that the other basic issues I have talked about would really have to be resolved in order to make a solid argument against same-sex marriage. As it is, there are plenty of children in situations much worse than  those with two loving parents, regardless of gender. There are kids in bad situations with a mom and a dad, with a single parent, or with same-sex parents.

I personally believe that children have the best chance with their own mother and father who raise them in a loving atmosphere. The research is controversial between straight and gay couples, so the matter definitely hasn't been settled by science. I just think that gender is an important issue for everyone, and having a parent at home from each side of the equation is the best way to go. It just makes sense. Even from a LGBT standpoint, you never know what your kid will need. If a boy is being raised by lesbian moms and decides he is gay, he has no male influence to help him out. I know people cringe at the word "natural" when it comes to this, but I think it fits. Naturally, kids should have both influences. With them. In the home. The argument that some other random person can be a role model for them if they need it just isn't enough.

So basically, my opinion is that our culture is already toxic to families and the children trying to grow up in them (and without them). Same-sex marriage will allow many more children to be raised with two moms or dads. Although this situation in and of itself isn't the worst possible situation for kids to be raised in, it doesn't mean we should celebrate more deviation from the traditional family. That being said, gay marriage is not the root of the problem. I think we should focus on keeping as many kids as we can with their own mom and dad.

* I just wanted to add a little addendum to clarify the comment immediately preceding the * in this post. I have been thinking about it all day, and I worry that I portrayed anyone who Makes different sexual choices than I do as an irresponsible person. That is certainly not the case. I simply meant that I feel society's acceptance of this behavior is harmful to us all on a large scale, and to many on a personal level. However, just because someone decides to have sex outside of marriage doesn't necessarilyr mean they are an irresponsible person.  Or a bad person. Nor do I look at someone who had kids outside of wedlock and judge them and think about what a bad choice they made. My treatment and opinion of them has very little (if anything) to do with their sexual choices. The same thing goes for anyone in the LGBT community. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

Background

I am a mother of two children. I am amazed at what people say to me when I am pregnant or have a little one. It doesn't matter if the person is a complete stranger or a close friend. I have simply come to expect that one of the first things they say will be a comment about my body. Here are a few examples:

"You are so tiny!"
"I can't believe you are 8 months along, you barely look pregnant"
"I look ten times bigger than that when I'm pregnant"
"You don't even have pregnant face"
"He's only 1 month old? You don't even look like you had a baby!"

And then there are the envy comments:

"I wish I looked that skinny."
"I would kill to be so small after having a baby"
"You are smaller pregnant than I am normally"
"You are so lucky"
"How do you stay so thin?"

And my personal favorite:

"I hate you."

I don't even think I can count how many times I have been told that someone hates me. Since I wore a size 00 in junior high, people have been telling me they hate me. In fact, as I grew to a size 0, and later to a 2 and even a 4 (heaven forbid!) I felt self conscious and that I must be on the road to weighing 600 lbs. Of course, virtually every time someone says they hate me it is in a silly, joking way that is sometimes meant to be a compliment. However, I know that these types of compliments have a hint of truth. I have been told many times that I am the "kind" of girl that snaps right back in to place right after having a baby. Well, to prove you people wrong, I had my husband take a picture of me one week after having my baby boy.


Kind of looks like my 30 week baby bump picture could look, right? Now, I am not trying to prove that I am large. I am not trying to garner pity. I just want you all to know that I am human. In fact, I do still have a small pooch. Many of the shirts I wear hide it very well. Not everyone can say that two months postpartum. True, I slim down quicker than many. But that doesn't mean that I don't feel frumpy sometimes. And I shouldn't have to feel guilty about sometimes wishing I were my pre-pregnancy size just because my current size is still smaller than a lot of other people. I have my body and you have yours. Isn't the variety in people one of the wonderful things about life?

I sometimes feel villianized because of this thing that I actually don't have much control over. I am thin because of genetics. But sometimes I feel like the fact that I walk around in public must hurt everyone's feelings because they don't look like me. And there have even been times when I have seen other people that are smaller than I am and thought they were so skinny. It is just engrained into our society to obsess over it.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic over the past several months. I just came across this article that proves I'm not the only one that thinks it's not okay to hate skinny people just because they are skinny.

Summary

The article starts off by showing a picture of a girl standing. She is very thin and virtually has no bum. There is a caption on the picture that says "I guess she lmao'd." The author points out that any kind of jab or joke is at someone's expense. She explains this about the comment:

"As LMAO is short for 'laugh my ass off,' in texting/tweeting speak this caption is implying that this young woman 'has no ass'- that she 'laughed it off.' And that is an incredibly hurtful thing to say about any person".

She goes on to say that although our society tends to view slender women as desirable, it doesn't make it okay to make fun of them. She refers to Jennifer Lawrence, who stated that she didn't ask for the attention and scandal surrounding her hacked photos just because she's famous. Then mentions a famous YouTube vlogger who says she grew up insecure because people would always ask her "why are you so skinny?" The video where she addresses it is here:


Because it is so relevant, I will summarize the video as well. These two are bloggers/vloggers that are just answering some questions they have gotten. This video addresses the fact that Zoella (the girl on the right) is very small all over and is frequently asked why she is so skinny. She says she finds it very offensive, and that it is equivalent to asking someone why they are so chubby. They point out that being "skinny" or "fat" both have a variety of factors that contribute to how a person looks. Medication, genetics, lifestyle, as well as other things make people the way they are.

According to them, the words "thin" and "skinny" are equivalent to "fat" and "obese." They say that no matter how a person looks, you need to be careful how you talk to them because they might have body image issues or self-esteem issues that you could exacerbate.

They mention that it is worse when strangers make these types of comments. If a person is worried about a friend because they are too large or too small, they can go about addressing it in a better way.

Also, many people think that they are giving a compliment when they comment about how skinny someone is. However, skinny people don't usually take it that way. They recommend saying that someone looks nice rather than thin, skinny, tiny, slender, etc.

My Two Cents

I think the takeaway message is simply that it is annoying when people obsess about the way you look. I am very grateful that I am slender, I feel blessed that I have the genetics that I do. But I don't need every person who talks to me to remind me that not everyone looks like me. I am already aware that I am "lucky" as so many people say. I do agree that there are better ways to say things. I have one good friend that said this to me the first time seeing each other after my son was born: "Wow, you look great." I loved that compliment. I felt like she saw me as a person, a friend, and a human being rather than a stick to be coveted.

However, I also want to mention that I do not promote labeling more words as offensive. The video talked a lot about how certain words, comments and questions are offensive. I believe that our world would do better to be slow to take offense. It is not very often that I am actually offended by what people say about my body. Usually I just wish that they would care a little more about who I am instead of what I look like. I am not trying to justify myself or anyone else in being angry over such things. Rather, I would like to promote kinder words and greater love toward each other by caring about individuals instead of being fixated on appearance.

In general, I think we can do well to remember that we are all beautiful. I remember once in high school thinking about the fact that we are all God's children and He must think that each person is absolutely, stunningly beautiful. For a while I consciously tried to view people in that light. I was amazed at how gorgeous each girl around me seemed to become. It was like I couldn't see their zits,  clear skin, messy hair, perfect hair, worn clothes, designer clothes, extra weight, lack of weight, pale skin, tan skin, burned skin dark skin, injuries, oddities, frailties, or any other actual physical attribute. We are all beautiful simply because we are human beings. I wish we could start seeing each other that way.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The "Hard" Parts of Nursing

Background

There are a lot of hard things about being a nurse. For instance, it is not uncommon to get pee or poo on your shoes. You have to find a compassionate way to calm down a confused patient who is swearing and telling you how awful you are (or one who isn't confused). You have to be good at the math you do. A simple calculation gone wrong can in some cases cost a life. It is a constantly changing environment where you have to adapt to everything from where the syringes are stored to minute vital sign trends to administrative rules.

But the thing that I find most people asking about is how I emotionally handle death and illness all the time. It has been about a year now since I worked in the hospital, but it was a common question. Or sometimes people would not ask me how I do it, instead just stating that they couldn't handle that stress and emotion.

Well, it can be a very hard thing. I came across this article a few months ago and enjoyed it. An honest perspective on dealing with death, specifically. This nurse works in an Emergency Department, so sees death more often than I did on my unit. But I can still relate to some of her feelings. The article can be found here.

Summary

The author starts by saying how awful it is to see death in her workplace so often, and that most of the time these are people who did not expect death to come to them so soon.

She has a picture of an ER trauma room at the top, and talks about how it looks so shiny and fancy and makes you think that you would want to be there if anything happened to you. But when she looks at it, she sees the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into working on so many individuals, sometimes unsuccessfully.

She then acknowledges that working around so much death would seem to provide no peace to those who endure it on a regular basis. And although as a nurse it can sometimes be hard to move past the heartbreak of it all, there are good moments too. When a life is saved, there is a victory. When a life is saved against incredible odds, there is a huge triumph. She says "nothing can compare to saving a life."

She mentions that in the moment you have to focus on the task at hand, doing this and that. Then, later you can look back and evaluate the situation. Remember that your patient was a person. She says "For me, it’s in that very moment I find strength and peace in what we do. There is always something beautiful, even in the worst of situations."


Lastly, she notes that while it can be hard to keep going, knowing that there is a chance for each patient to fight and win makes it all worth it. Even with the ups and downs and hard moments, it is still possible to find peace.

My Two Cents

I loved this article, thought it was very well written, and recommend you read the actual thing instead of my summary if you can. It isn't too long, and the language is so much more poetic in the real thing than in my summary.

I am happy that this wonderful nurse has found peace in the chaos, but must admit I feel slightly different about the situation. In fact, I like this topic because it has grown into something more important for me in my career. Let me try to explain without being too long-winded.

When I first decided to be a nurse, I couldn't even tell you what nurses did. I despised hospitals and would get queasy if someone said the word "blood." Not at the sight of blood, mind you, but the simple expression of the word. I never imagined I would want to do anything in the medical field, so I never bothered to learn about it. I would say I didn't really understand what a nurse does until my preceptorship at the end of nursing school. I suppose that is a bit pathetic.

So then, after the fact I had to find my reason for being a nurse. What was it that would keep me in this profession? What could I find that would sustain me? Yes, I had done the work and the school and the testing to become a nurse, but why would I continue on this path?

It didn't take me too long to figure it out. For me it wasn't the schedule or the high-tech instruments or the excitement. It wasn't the many kinds of nursing jobs or flexibility in hours or locations to work. It wasn't any of the other top reasons that most nurses like nursing.

For me it was because of the suffering. Not because I like suffering. But because I could do something about it. For me, that is empowerment. That is meaningful. That is what people talk about when they say you are a great nurse. It means that they were scared, but you helped them feel at ease. It means that in spite of losing their loved one, they knew they were in good hands. It means that when they find out they are going to die, you help them navigate through the emotions. It doesn't mean that you heal everyone and save every life. It simply means you ease a difficult situation for someone else.

I like to focus on what I can do to make their bad situation a little less bad. I can do that by providing excellent medical care, by explaining something better, by walking to the cafeteria to get the flavor of yogurt they want. Whether I'm there or not, this person is having a bad experience. Why shouldn't I focus on the ways I can make it a little better for them?

Don't get me wrong, of course it is amazing when we save a life. But I don't view the deaths as the hard things to get past and the resuscitations as the reason to keep coming back. I just want to make sure each experience, no matter how it turns out, is not as bad as it could have been for those involved.

Ask me why I am a nurse. Go ahead. The answer is that I get the chance to help people when they are experiencing their most vulnerable, scary, difficult moments. And while I can't fix everything about their situation, I can make them and/or their loved ones feel a little more empowered, a little more brave, and make things a bit easier for them. Regardless of the outcome, if I can succeed in those things, then I can find peace in any situation.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Today's Women in the LDS Church

Background

An article I read this weekend has really had me thinking. I have read several articles about the Ordain Women movement the past few weeks. Many of them pro, and others against. It is an interesting topic to me, and I wonder about all of the drives for it and the intense anger against it. Many of the articles I have read have been kind. People are simply trying to express their views on one side or the other. Each side will give reasons for why women should be ordained to the priesthood, or why they should not. Although most of the articles are nice, the comments are often nasty and unbecoming of members of the LDS Church.

There are other feminist movements of the church, this just happens to be the one I have seen the most about. I believe it is simply because of the LDS Church's General Conference happening this weekend, and the Ordain Women supporters going to see if they can be admitted to the Priesthood Session. It makes this a very current issue.

But a further discussion on that topic can be held at another time. That is not what I want to comment on today. Today I want to comment on an article called "Why Aren't the Women Included in This?"It is from a website called rational faiths.com, which raises my eyebrows a bit. I don't believe that Mormonmism can really be called rational in many ways... Yet the article was still interesting to me. It can be found here.

Summary

The article highlights an interview from Sister Chieko N. Okazaki who has served in all three women's general auxilliary presidencies, most notably as the First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency from 1990-1997. The author highlights points of the interview where this highly ranked sister admitted that women of the church are often not consulted and sometimes not even informed about things going on in the general councils of the church.

For instance, the Relief Society presidency felt that a curriculum change needed to be made in Relief Society. Sister Okazaki worked hard, prayed, and put together a draft of a new manual that could be used instead. When she presented it, she was told that the brethren had already considered that a change needed to be made, and they were almost finished with the new manual for Relief Society and Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. Interesting that no one even in the General Relief Society Presidency knew that this was taking place.

A few smaller examples were also included, such as the fact that the Relief Society President at the ward level is only included in Ward Council meetings, while her presence in Bishopric meetings was suggested as a very needed and helpful possibility for change.

Also mentioned was the fact that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is often cited as doctrine, but the article argues that this is incorrect. Any new revelation that is truly doctrine should be canonized as scripture. The Proclamation has not. In fact, the official word on the document is that it is a "guide that members of the Church would do well to read and follow." (See "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" by Boyd K. Packer in the October 2010 General Conference).

The author then mentioned some of the movements within the Church, such as Ordain Women and Young Mormon Feminists. She pointed to some historical data that she feels proves that women's roles within the church have been diminished. For instance, when Joseph Smith, Jr. organized the Relief Society, they were much more autonomous and he referred to them as a "Kingdom of Priests." Women were also anointed with oil and provided blessings by the laying on of hands for those who were ill.

The movements mentioned above are defended as the sisters are explained to be faithful women who are aware of their history and simply want to be included in the church that they love so dearly.

My Two Cents

This article had a big impact on me. While I still would not wear pants to church in protest or affiliate officially with any of these organized groups, I have had my own moments of feeling down as a woman in the church. It can be very difficult. And I have seen it on so many levels- in families, in wards, as I have served in "higher" positions, from other things I have heard, and now at the general level from Sister Okazaki. The fact that I am a woman has probably tested my faith more than any other piece of doctrine or personal experience.

When I first read this article, I spent a day reliving some of the strong hurtful emotions I experienced as a youth. I still remember driving with my mom, telling her that I didn't understand why I couldn't have the priesthood. She told me that if women could have the priesthood, the men would become lazy and the women would have to do everything. That comforted me even though I knew that this could not be the actual reason. I had very low self-esteem as a teenager, and still struggle much of the time. When I was young, my female identity was one of the hardest things for me to accept. Somehow, though, I have been able to find a sense of worth as a woman in the LDS Church. That part no longer bothered me until reading this article.

The article was very well written. It actually made me feel bad about myself as a woman again for a day or so. I thought about some of the times that I felt I should have been listened to by my church leaders or even my dad or my husband and blamed it on my gender. I felt convinced that the Lord's Church should not be run in a way that causes this kind of inferiority.

Despite my initial reaction, I took a few days to think about it. I applied many of the General Conference messages to the thoughts running through my mind. I came to the conclusion that it is rather unfair to base such a widespread argument on a few examples. Yes, there may be times that women could have been included but were not. Yes, there are times when work is doubled because of lack of communication, times that women would have done things differently, and times that many people would feel that a woman's opinion and thoughts would have improved something. All of those things may be true.

But all we know on the topic is what the world has taught us. We live in an age when we have been taught to celebrate women's rights. We have been taught that we need to feel like we've been treated as inferior so that we can rise up and take what we deserve. We have applauded the "advances" that women have made in the world, and now want to apply those same principles to the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ. His Church. And I don't say that because Jesus Christ was a man. But because He knows much better than any of us do. The world has taught me that I am not good enough yet and need to keep fighting to get everything I deserve. But the gospel has taught me that I am a loved, cherished daughter of God and am already of infinite worth.

When we view the roles of women within the infrastructure of the church through the world's eyes, it looks unfair. It seems like things could be better. We feel diminished in our self worth because of our perceived diminished role within the church. It is easy to feel that way. But maybe we are just taking our worldly experiences and attempting to apply them to something that isn't as related as we think it is. Rather than being upset that the church is causing me to feel inferior, I am upset that the world would try to tell me that I am inferior because of the church I belong to.

I'm not necessarily saying that the way the LDS Church is run is perfect and how dare we ever question anything about it. I'm just saying that perhaps this shortcoming is not as big of a deal as we want to make it out to be. That we get distracted by specific follies and divert our emotions and attention to something non-docrinal that truly has no bearing on our eternal well-being. Maybe it is true that the Bishop of your ward should have listened when the Relief Society President recommended a name for a calling. Maybe it would have been wonderful. But no one is going to lose out on their eternal salvation because of it.

Now, I do not believe that women should just sit back and "take it," as it were. I have no problem with women politely brining such issues to their immediate leaders and kindly pointing out what could have been avoided or helped by involving women more. I think it would be very effective and needed for people who know each other to communicate this way. I hope that the highest levels of the Church were able to read Sister Okazaki's interview and made changes because of it. However, openly demanding or demonstrating to make a point just doesn't do it for me. I would never want to bring negative attention to the church I love so much.

The important thing for me is to know that Heavenly Father loves me, Jesus Christ atoned for my sins and was resurrected, and His gospel has been restored and can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. Other things may not be perfect. I may not always agree with how things are ran. But my testimony does not depend on those details. If I spend too much of my time worrying and focusing on them, however valid my concerns might be, I will be an easier target for deception and distraction. As people we are not yet perfect in this world. And as we try to run Christ's Church on the earth, it will not be perfect either. I will not just sit back and take whatever is going on around me, but will share my feelings with patience, love, and forgiveness. Then I will return to my testimony as my focus whether a change is made or not.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If You Had to Choose, Would You Rather be Pleased with Customer Service, or Alive?

Background:

An article published on Medscape recently discussed some of the drawbacks of the new focus in healthcare. The government in America has decided that what healthcare providers get paid partially depends on how much their patients like them. It is their attempt to get rid of the "fee for service" type of payment that has ruled until now. According to them, the current system rewards for doing things. Thus, the onslaught of unnecessary procedures. It is thought that doctors and hospitals will order things like expensive MRI's when there really isn't a good reason for them just because they can bill for it.

So the new idea is that reimbursement should be based on how happy the patient is. If surveys show that your patients love you, a more substantial check is in the mail. If you happen to care for a more unhappy population, better start pinching pennies.

Summary:

This article was written by a physician who sees the problems with this arrangement. The article can be found here. However, you may be required to put in a username and password. Since most people probably don't have that, here is a quick summary:

The physician in the article had presented on RSV at a conference, emphasizing that antibiotics should not be given for this viral disease. The reasoning is that antibiotics don't attack viruses, they attack bacteria. Also, giving antibiotics for unnecessary reasons causes resistance for the individual and society. Later, he had conversations with multiple other physicians who stated that they knew this was true, but their patient's and the parents weren't happy unless they got antibiotics. Since reimbursement is tied to patient satisfaction, physicians felt that they needed to give out the antibiotics. One said his satisfaction scores rose 7% just by giving antibiotics to anyone who came in with some kind of cold or cough.

The author states "I believe that this little-known company, Press Ganey, [the company organizing the surveys] from South Bend, Indiana, has become a bigger threat to the practice of good medicine than trial lawyers." He argues that this system encourages healthcare professionals to provide care based on what the patient wants, rather than what they need. Often, these two things do not match. He also cites research that shows that the most satisfied patients get the most care and are the most likely to die. In other words, over-treating someone because they want it, just to make them happy is not beneficial. I might add, financially or physically. 

To prove his point a little more, the author tells of a time a woman came in asking for a medication for her prostate, just because he had a coupon for it. He also points out that it discourages physicians from approaching sensitive topics, such as obesity and smoking. A smoker doesn't want to be told that smoking is causing their illness. So if you want full reimbursement, don't address that. Just treat the problem without encouraging treatment of the cause.

Now I hope I have summarized fairly. Please don't get the impression that they physician was at all implying that the average patient is stupid and doesn't know anything. Simply that they don't have the training and background necessary to understand why they do and do not need certain things.


My Two Cents:

As I read through the comments, I saw mostly agreements to the fact that this is a problem. Granted, only medical professionals are allowed to comment. That does make the discussion rather one-sided. Being a nurse myself, I do very much agree that patient satisfaction truly has little bearing on whether or not good medical care is given. Some people say they would rather have a nice doctor who may not be as expert as another. In many serious situations, I would rather have a complete jerk of a doctor if he was the best in his field. But just because he isn't nice to me doesn't mean he deserves to be compensated less. In fact, if he does a better job, I would be willing to pay more.

From the hospital perspective, there are not many situations that someone is happy to be there. Perhaps if you have just had a happy healthy baby. But other than that, most people would rather not be in that particular predicament. That makes for sad, grumpy people filling out the surveys that determine pay. Pretty inaccurate and unfair in my opinion. Plus if even one thing is not up to par, say the food is bad, people tend to perceive that as being a total bad experience, and when given the chance to comment make it known. They often overlook the other great things that happened. (For instance, if their life was saved).

All that being said, I think some healthcare professionals take an approach that is unfair to their patients. For instance, the article stated that "Patients aren't the best judge of what is best for them." While that is often the case, I do not entirely agree. Every person needs to be heard. Every body is different. Because of that, no one prescribing or carrying out care for another person can assume that they are always right about what is going on or what the best treatment is. And I don't think that it is fair to say that the reason patient satisfaction shouldn't drive reimbursement is because patient's don't know what's best for them. In reality, it is simply not a measure of quality of care. But that doesn't mean your doctor is always right.

Here is one comment I especially appreciated:
"I agree that we should do what is right, but we must not forget to tell the patient WHY we made our decision."

THANK YOU. I simply think this is such an important point. Patient's may not have the training and background that physicians do, but most are capable of learning about their own specific ailments. In my opinion, providing health care is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Best results will be achieved if the provider of care explains what is happening, what the options are, and what each option would mean to a particular individual. Then a discussion can ensue where the patient can weigh the risks and benefits for them. It then becomes their own decision whether or not to take the medication, go through with the procedure, or begin the treatment. In fact, this approach may provide the best care for each patient while maintaining high satisfaction for most.


It is also something that rarely happens. I think there are a lot of things patients would not ask for or want if we were completely honest and upfront with them about the risks. I also think people have a false sense that everything that happens in healthcare is safe. Even if you do mention the fact that a procedure can cause severe infection, bleeding, loss of function or even death, people don't take you seriously. Better education on the part of the professionals would really help rather than hurt.

Just as an example, whenever I started a patient on a new medication,  I would print out a 3-5 page information packet on the new drug. I would highlight under "indications" the reason it had been prescribed for that patient. Then I would highlight other important information, especially potential side effects. There were so many times people were so surprised to hear all of the problems medications can cause. It was as if they never imagined that something prescribed by their doctor could hurt them in any way. But they can. I think if we were upfront about these possibilities, more patients would pay attention to what they are taking. Hopefully more would have a relationship with their pharmacist and always have him/her check their list of meds when a new one is added for possible interactions. This is just one example of an area where health care providers do not share enough information with their patients.

As another side note, physicians should not have to feel that they have to provide care they don't agree with. Patients should have a choice, and their providers should have a choice. If the two do not match, that partnership should end. It should be a kind and understanding separation, not one of judgement after a battle of wills. No doctor knows what is best for everyone. Their opinion of what is "best" will always be tainted by their own views of life, death, illness, and the social issues that surround these and similar topics.

Let us all show each other some respect and work as teams instead of competing against one another to see who is "right."

What Nurses Don't Say

I recently came across a blog article called "30 Things Nurses Almost Say, But Then Don't". The blog article can be found here, and I highly recommend you read it and a few of the comments before continuing. If you decide you don't have time, here is a brief overview:

Nurses are good people and want to help you. But their work is hard and frustrating at times. Sometimes, we just wish we could be more frank with our patients than we really are, even though shortly after thinking any of the thoughts we probably feel a little guilty about it. Here are a few of my favorites from the list.

4. I require nutrition to function. My taking lunch is not to punish you. I really need to eat.
7. I noticed you’re able to sleep, eat, and/or talk on the phone with that 10/10 pain. Interesting.
12. Don’t abuse the call light. It may disappear.
19. My feelings get hurt too.
22. Removing your oxygen mask doesn’t help you breathe better. You will die.
26. Just because I’m sitting doesn’t mean I’m not working.

I very much enjoyed the article. I thought it was fun and a lot true. I don't actually want to comment on the article itself, because I thought it was well-written without being mean. However, I was surprised by some of the comments. A battle began between people who had been hospitalized feeling upset about the call light remarks and nurses/the author defending the jabs. The author was clear that she was simply trying to be humorous, and not in any way wanting to downplay the importance of people using the call light when they need something. There were a lot of people expressing their views of poor service when they called and no one came for more than 15 minutes or people were rude to them when they called or that they never knew what to call about.

Here are my two cents on the issue, that is surprisingly more sensitive than I ever thought.

First of all, underutilization is a much larger issue than over-utilization. I would say maybe 20-40% of my patients would use the call light correctly. (I forgot to mention I am a nurse and worked on a hospital unit for 3 1/2 years. That's why I feel like I can comment on this). These are the people that call when they need something, and understand that it might take a few minutes to get something less important, but are also grateful when their request is fulfilled. 

More often than not, patients will sit in their beds waiting for someone to come in so they can ask for something. While that is okay for some things, many things people want are either easily granted or important enough that I want to know about it. For instance, I personally want my patients to be comfortable. So if you find yourself cold and want a warm blanket, just ask. If I am available, I will get it right away. If not, I will still probably get it to you sooner than if you just wait for me.

The other part to this that is not helpful is to send your family members out to the nurses station to tell me what you need. This plays into #26 above. True, I feel more obligated to get that cup of ice right now because you are standing there and your loved one might get it a whopping 3 minutes sooner than if you just requested it over the call light. But whether you mean to or not, you are giving off the impression that your loved one's ice is more important than the charting I am doing, the antibiotic that I need to hang, or the possibly life-changing results I might be looking up at the moment. I feel like you are assuming that I don't care. You think I am a bad, mean, lazy nurse. Because of those traits, you must stand there to babysit me and make sure I fulfill your request NOW. After all, I am just sitting at the desk. I can't speak for all nurses everywhere, but I personally will always try to get to the wants and needs of all my patients as soon as I can. And that almost always means that I need to prioritize and organize. It is not very organized for me to get up in the middle of typing something to grab something for your family member. Nor would you want me to stop in the middle of charing on said loved one to get someone else something. Common courtesy.

Now, please understand that if there is something that needs to be taken care of right away, I have no problem with a family member coming out to get me. If my patient is throwing up, seizing, has a sudden change in condition, or has diarrhea and really needs to get to the bathroom now, there is no problem. It's the other stuff that can wait 5-10 minutes that cause this issue.

But the thing that I think bothers people is when nurses complain about patients using their call light too much. For me I would say this happened only 5-10% of the time. We talk about it because it can be such a rock in our shoe. Usually these people just want attention, company, or truly think they are the only patient out there. There have literally been times I have gone in and out of the same room 4 times without any other stops to get things, only to have the call light ring again 30 seconds after I think I'm finally done. Most of the time it goes something like this: 

"I was wondering if you could refresh my water." I bring more water. "I forgot I also need a warm blanket. Or two." I get them a few warm blankets and tuck them in. "Could I actually have you fix this IV tape? It has been bothering me for an hour I just didn't think of it before." I get  another dressing, spend a few minutes fixing everything up, and think everything is good to go. I leave the room and before I can even sit down, hear the call and see the light go on over the door. I pop my head back in, and learn my patient also wanted a yogurt before going to bed. Keep in mind that every time I would get something, before and after would ask if there was anything else they needed. The answer was always no until each individual task was complete.

Now none of these things are bad in and of themselves. But it would be enormously helpful if people could make a list or let me do two things at once. I would much rather get you fresh water and a warm blanket, instead of water and then a blanket. I have never had this problem with a patient who is incapable of figuring this out. I would never be bothered if someone was in a mental state that made it impossible for them to understand what they are doing. But those aren't the people that do it.

So in my opinion, nurses complaining about abundant call-light use does not reflect on most people. I would bet the people that get offended by the comments would not be categorized in that group. The people that we do complain about likely don't even know it or don't care.

As a nurse, I want you to use your call light. I want to know what you need. I do wish there was a better system because there are times that whoever answers the call light doesn't tell me. Then you wait and wait and don't get helped. That frustrates me possibly more than it frustrates you. I don't know how to fix those kinds of problems. Just know that when nurses complain, it probably isn't about you. And if it is and you were reasonable, it just means your nurse needs to cut you a little more slack.