Monday, November 30, 2009

The San Francisco Budget Cuts, My Poem, &The 2008 Truth About Nursing Awards

I can't believe it was just a year ago that I was walking a picket line, protesting the massive 
( about $80 million by the time it was all over ) in budget cuts to the Department of Public Health in San Francisco.  I had written a poem to the mayor, not only about the cuts to our child abuse agency but pleading with him to save much needed services to the elderly, the poor, and others in dire straits.  A writer for the San Francisco Chronicle published my poem in this article:

The rhyming nurse at S.F. General

We've been hearing from a lot of nurses, doctors, counselors and nonprofit directors advocating that their particular program or job not be slashed in the coming budget cuts. But this is the first time we've received a plea in rhyme.
The Chronicle

S.F. General will see cutbacks due to the budget crisis

Carmen Henesy is one of four forensic nurses at the Child and Adolescent Support Advocacy and Resource Center. The clinic within San Francisco General Hospital treats children who've been victims of sexual abuse, child abuse or witnesses to murder or domestic violence.
In addition to conducting exams and providing medical care, the nurses are trained to conduct interviews of the children to be used as evidence by the District Attorney in court. The nurses handle every child sex-abuse case in the city.

If Mayor Gavin Newsom accepts the proposed cuts in the Department of Public Health -- he's asked for a list totaling $26.7 million -- just one nurse will be left at the clinic. The others will lose their jobs or be reassigned.  Henesy, 64, has worked at the clinic for 21 years and has been writing poetry for 58. She's had a few poems published over the years and plans to present this one to the Health Commission in the coming weeks.  Keep reading to see Henesy's ode, "The San Francisco Budget Cuts."

The San Francisco Budget Cuts
I love San Francisco,
This city by the bay,
But there's a looming darkness,
The song does not portray.
It's not the part that tourists,
Spend dollars on each year,
It's what, I'm sure the mayor,
Hopes visitors never hear.
While some are riding cable cars,
Climbing halfway to the stars,
The Public Health Department,
Is suffering irreparable, lethal scars.
Healthy San Francisco,
Is really just a joke,
The only kind of health care,
Is for the moneyed folk!!
The mayor is downsizing,
The clinics for the poor,
And some that serve the neediest,
Won't be there anymore.
The children of the city,
The most vulnerable of all,
Don't deserve to suffer more,
Just because they're small.
The same goes for the elderly,
Infirm, with many ills,
As they near the end of life,
They're deprived of nursing skills.
For children of this city,
CASARC has been the place,
To begin to heal from sex abuse,
With experts on every case.
LVNs are replacing RNs.
Unskilled workers will take on more,
This poor solution to cutting costs,
Will make incidents and errors soar.
The budget cuts are drastic,
To the poorest of the poor,
Please look at other measures,
Mr. Mayor, I implore.
Read more:

Of course, as you all know, much to my regret, my job ended in February 2009.  The agency still functions in a different form but I still maintain that, in my opinion, the services provided before the cuts, were superior. 

One surprise that came out of all this is that I was contacted by an agency called "The Truth About Nursing" whose mission statement is such:  The Truth About Nursing seeks to increase public understanding of the central, front-line role nurses play in modern health care. Our focus is to promote more accurate, balanced and frequent media portrayals of nurses and increase the media's use of nurses as expert sources. The Truth About Nursing's ultimate goal is to foster growth in the size and diversity of the nursing profession at a time of critical shortage, strengthen nursing practice, teaching and research, and improve the health care system.

I was most honored that I was among those receiving the "2008 Truth About Nursing Awards."  This organization, founded by Sandy Summers, in 2001, and seven other graduate students at John Hopkins University School of Nursing.

If you are interested in knowing more about this group, or have nurse friends, please refer them to the Truth About Nursing website at: 

I am attaching those because I thought you  might be intererested in seeing what the organization considered the best and worst representation of nursing last year.

The 2008 Truth About Nursing Awards

The Truth About Nursing Awards rank the best and worst media portrayals of nursing that we've seen in 2008.
Ten Best Portrayals
  1. Theresa Brown, The New York Times, "Perhaps Death Is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life," September 8. In this "Cases" item about one oncology patient's death, a new nurse offered a compelling look at how her practice has influenced her view of life.
  2. Lee Hill Kavanaugh, The Kansas City Star, "Nurse's Booklet on ICU Helps Kids Cope," July 6. The booklet What's All This Stuff?, created by nurse Holly O'Brien, helps families understand all the intimidating procedures and machines in the ICUs of one Kansas hospital.
  3. ER, "Haunted," episode written by Karen Maser; executive producers Christopher Chulack, Michael Crichton, John Wells, David Zabel, Janine Sherman Barrois, Joe Sachs; NBC; October 30. In this episode of the veteran TV show, skilled ED nurse Sam Taggart counters the dismissive attitudes of some physicians toward nursing, particularly the nurse anesthetist program she recently started.
  4. Carmen Henesy, "The San Francisco Budget Cuts" (poem), and Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, "The rhyming nurse at S.F. General," blog entry posted December 8. Knight's item described a clever, heartfelt poem by nurse Henesy protesting proposed budget cuts that would eliminate the jobs of 3 of the 4 forensic nurses who practice at the city's clinic for sexually-abused children.
  5. American Association of Nurse Practitioners, "Petition to End the Use of Physician-Biased Language in DTC Advertising," April 9. The AANP launched a campaign to persuade drug and other health care companies to end their frequent use of consumer advertising language like "ask your doctor," which undermines the expert care given by the more than 125,000 U.S. nurse practitioners. 
  6. Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein, HealthStyles, WBAI, New York. For more than 20 years, nurses Mason and Glickstein have produced and hosted this extraordinary radio show, which provides cutting-edge health information few others do and regularly presents nurses as the health experts they really are.
  7. Laurie Tarkan, The New York Times, "Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive -- and a Doctor," December 1. In addition to the amusing level of surprise evident in the headline, this article offers a good look at abusive physician conduct, which continues to play a significant role in poor patient care and nurse burnout.
  8. Janine Rankin, Manawatu Standard (New Zealand), "No-lifting policy sees nursing injuries drop," September 8. This report describes Palmerston North Hospital's "No Lift" policy, which relies on lifting equipment to help nurses move patients without the serious injuries that have often been part of nursing practice.
  9. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Nurses to refuse 'non-nursing' tasks as impasse escalates," September 30. This item reported on a Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union job action to protest hospitals' expectation that nurses do non-nursing tasks like "emptying garbage pails" and "defrost[ing] the fridge."
  10. IRIN, "Zimbabwe: 'I am not a nurse anymore, I am a mortuary attendant,'" December 12. A young government hospital nurse appears to be at his wit's end--and looking to join colleagues abroad--because of his nation's severe lack of health resources, which has made avoidable deaths common.

Honorable Mention
  1. NOW, "Nurses Needed;" producer Bill Gentile, senior correspondent Maria Inahosa, host David Brancaccio; PBS; October 24. This half hour television report on the U.S. nursing shortage described the critical role nurses play in patient outcomes and gave a sense of some key issues, including the faculty shortage.
  2. Julia Le, Missassauga News (Canada), "Nurse wins prize to create diabetic exercise program," November 1. Nurse educator Heather Nesbeth won a cash award from Bayer Inc. to create an innovative exercise program for people who have diabetes and experience mental illness.

Ten Worst Portrayals
  1. Grey's Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes, ABC. This popular hospital drama generally ignores nursing, except that its heroic physician characters perform many critical tasks that nurses do in real life.  
  2. Private Practice, created by Shonda Rhimes, ABC. Nurse Dell means well and is supposedly studying midwifery, but he works as a clinic receptionist and office manager for the physicians who dominate the show.  

  3. Benjamin Natelson, The Washington Post, "Lost in a System Where Doctors Don't Want to Listen," August 3. According to this physician, nurse practitioners and other "physician extenders" can handle "easy-to-diagnose" conditions like "a splinter" but need physicians for conditions that are not "immediately evident."  
  4. House, created by David Shore, Fox. Despite a couple tiny suggestions that nurses have skill, the show continued to have its physician characters perform important nursing tasks, and to effectively endorse its brilliant lead character's contempt for nurses.
  5. Hopkins, executive producer Terence Wrong, ABC, June-August. This seven-part documentary-reality series spent a few good minutes on pediatric transport nurses, but the vast majority of it--like the producer's Hopkins 24/7 eight years earlier--suggested that heroic physicians provide all important hospital care.
  6. Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld, Fox News Channel, April 1 episode. Gutfeld and his late-night guests turned a misreported story about a Spanish clinic requiring its nurses to wear miniskirts into an ironic (but still awesome) tribute to the naughty nurse stereotype.
  7. Neilson Dairy, Ultimate Recovery Team advertising campaign, August. This Canadian dairy marketed its flavored milk products with an awesome multi-media campaign using models dressed as naughty nurses, until the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario persuaded the company to reconsider.
  8. Desperate Housewives, "Sunday," episode written by Alexandra Cunningham and Lori Kirkland Baker; executive producers Marc Cherry and George Perkins; ABC; April 13. This episode included a notably disdainful portrayal of a hospital nurse who revealed confidential patient information in exchange for a free lunch.
  9. Angela Moore Jewelry, "Nurse Nancy" necklace and bracelet. This company sold jewelry featuring hopelessly angel-oriented nursing imagery, in order to "celebrate the ladies who give lollipops and band-aids a whole new meaning."
  10. Deal or No Deal, executive producer Scott St. John, NBC, October 22. This episode of the popular Howie Mandel game show featured the usual decorative female models, but this time dressed as naughty nurses, apparently to titillate a male nurse contestant, or something. Awesome!
Many of the shows listed, show physicians doing tasks that are routinely done by nurses in all hospitals and are rarely, if ever, done by doctors.


  1. hola carmen! what an original idea! congratulations on being recognized. besos!

  2. I'm so glad you were recognized for your poem and its message. Now that you forcibly retired you can be an advocate. Retirees make the best watchdog, since we are aware, outspoken, and will not rest until somebody listens to us.

    I'm with you.

  3. A brilliant post, dear Carmen. I'm so pleased your work, your poetry and your message have been recognised.

    Michelle xxx (and loud purrs in the background from Zebby)

  4. Your poetry has a flow to it that most others don't. I'm glad that was recognized. I wish the other people could have recognized the message in the poem. Health care is far too important to just start cutting away.

  5. I hope your persistant voice wakes up many to the problems!
    I am in awe of your dedication and poetry.

  6. Wow, Carmen, you've been busy since I was last over here! I had some serious catching up to do. First, congratulations on your recognition for standing up for what's right. I love to encounter other nurses that are passionate about patient advocacy and don't just punch the clock and earn their paycheck. It makes me ill that such necessary services were pared down :(, but what can you do? At least you didn't go out without a fight!

    Second, you have such a nice looking family, Carmen. I enjoyed your post about Thanksgiving, and have tucked those recipes into my "must try" file.

    Third, I'm sorry to hear that you had to miss your trip to India. That is one of my life list things to do, though I have to confess that it intimidates me a lot - I have an empty passport so far! It's just a big bummer that you had to miss out on all the wonderful things you had planned, including the poetry event. Life happens, I suppose!?

  7. Your poetry is the definite statement that is important for society.
    It is brave contents.

    You are the person who can hold a heart in the world.
    It is very difficult.
    Nobody is to be able to do it.

    It is entirely the attitude that matured such as colored leaves.

  8. Go girl, and you did. Recognition was due to you, now the message needs to be sorted.

  9. jane - gracias y un beso a ti! I wish we'd won
    the fight to save the agencies and our jobs!

    lakeviewer - you are so right. I may not be an
    active city employee anymore but I definitely
    support my collegues, especially when it comes
    to nursing and health care

    Mickle - & Zebby - it was a pretty traumatic
    time. I was the mos senior nurse being
    displaced and they wanted to reassign me..but
    after 21 years in forensics, I just couldn't
    move into openings ( full time nights, at
    that! ) in the ER, ICU, coronary care or the
    OR. At 64-1/2, with some mobility problems
    ( they did not interfere with my being a
    forensic nurse, I just went ahead and retired

  10. ruma2008 - you seem to always write such
    positive comments and I so appreciate it!
    Thank you, my friend across the Pacific!

    jcollins224 - I don't think my efforts did much
    good. I see, however, that our mayor has
    withdrawn from the governor's race and I'm
    glad. He has a pretty face but I don't
    think he is much for the common folk.

    Ratty - I so agree with you. The Dept of Public
    Health has been decimated. So many of the
    services to children, the poor and the
    elderly no longer exist.

    magiceye - I wish I had some power. I do speak
    up and I guess I will till my dying day -
    but, sometimes, I don't think it does much
    good. Like Ghandi, I believe in peaceful
    protest - at 65, I wouldn't want to be
    carted off to jail!!!

  11. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Nurse Heidi - well, you're right, I did fight -
    as I have for the forty plus years of my
    nursing life. I've never been the quiet
    sort! Not that it did a great deal of
    good. I think being a city worker the past
    21 years did take its toll on me, mentally
    and physically. If I didn't feel the
    work, taking care of sexually abused adults
    and children was so important, I couldn't
    have endured.

    It did break my heart not to go to India,
    after ten long years. I kept thinking I'd
    get there and didn't contact folks....then
    the text arrived from my friend in Mumbai,
    "What time is your plane arriving." I felt
    terrible that I hadn't informed them!

  12. I'm glad I didn't miss this post Carmen! Congratulations on the well deserved award for that poignant poem.

    As a retired RN sadly I can attest to the fact that women and children services always get shortchanged in a budget shortage. That is why I wish more women would get involved in politics and help be a resonsible voice in debate for why these programs and staffing have to survive.

    I could write a book about some of the conditions I was forced to work under and the events that I saw while I was a nurse...but then I'm sure you could, and every other nurse. We are really unsung heros aren't we?

  13. I'm glad I didn't miss this post Carmen!

    Congratulations on the well deserved "The Truth About Nursing Award" for writing that poignant poem.

    I am a retired Registered Nurse also, and sadly I can attest to the fact that women and children services always get shortchanged in a budget shortage. That is why I wish more women would get involved in politics and help be a resonsible voice in debate for why these programs and staffing have to survive.

    I could write a book about some of the conditions I was forced to work under and the events that I saw while I was a nurse...but then I'm sure you could, and every other nurse. We are really unsung heros aren't we?