Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: May 2005

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Social Class and Healthcare

Is social class THE most important determinant of healthcare outcomes?

Read This post at 'The Health Care Blog and decide for yourself.

Here is an extract:

social class determines every aspect of each patient’s episode, “from the circumstances of their heart attacks to the emergency care each received...It shaped their understanding of their illness, the support they got...[and] their relationships with their doctors. It helped define their ability to change their lives and shaped their odds of getting better.”

Just within the realm of health care services, the same disparities apply to stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic viral infections (HIV, hepatitis C) and a raft of other episodes and conditions. Of course, we could examine most of the other issue areas at the core of contemporary life — education, retirement, child care, leisure, on and on — and find in these that social class is also at the root of discrepant life chances and life styles.

Sister In White

Nurse blogging is getting bigger and better every day.

I love to promote new nursing blogs, and here is another brand new student nurse blog:

Sister In White

Here is an extract from her first post:

i am supposed to be working on several assignements for school but instead i decided to start blogging. me? yes! and i don't even like writing. i know good writing when i see it but i don't consider myself much of a writer. so let's see how long i have patience in trying to keep this blog going...

so ok. this blog is going to be my feeble attempt at journaling my way towards a degree in nursing as well as trying to conceive and carry another baby to term. i am hoping to have the baby before i'm done with school. one can always hope, right? currently i am on sick leave because i've been diagnosed with a burnout. yes, a nursing student with a burnout. haha! i'm already burned and i haven't even graduated!

I think this will be an interesting one to watch!

If you are a nurse or nursing student starting out in blogging, send me a link to your blog - I'd love to give it a plug.

Nursing Moments - The Archive

Crzegrl has put up a Nursing Moments Carnival Archive so that it is easy to keep track of both past carnivals and posts to Future editions of the Nursing Moments Carnival.

Meanwhile Geena at Codeblog - Tales of A Nurse has put out her last call for submissions to Nursing Moments, so get those submissions in before it is too late!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Oldham Trade Unionist Cleared Of Damaging Fascist Flowers

I recemt;u reported on how a rather stupid prosecution had been launched against Martin Gleeson, secretary of Oldham TUC, after he protested when the far-right Britich National Party had gatecrashed a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Nazi holocaust. (which include many people with learning disabilities, who were among the first to be killed in the holocaust)

All charges against Martin Gleeson have now been dropped. Here is the press release from Oldham Trades Union Council on this issue:

Oldham TUC Secretary Martin Gleeson Vindicated after Criminal Damage Charge is Dropped

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is not in the public interest to proceed with a charge of causing criminal damage to a wreath laid by the BNP on Holocaust Memorial Day against Oldham TUC secretary Martin Gleeson.

The incident occurred on Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27th), when BNP prospective parliamentary candidate Anita Corbett laid a wreath alongside those laid by representatives of Oldham Borough councillors and MP's. This caused considerable upset among the participants in the ceremony, some of whom were of Jewish heritage and lost family members in the Nazi Holocaust. Despite the well-known history of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic statements from the BNP's most prominent figures in the late 1990's, the BNP representatives seemed oblivious to the significance of their actions, which were cynically designed to raise their "respectable" profile among the civic dignitaries and hence their appeal to the electorate.

The insult was heightened by the failure of Corbett to abide by the clear instructions made by the organisers, which were that organisations other than those specified on the programme should wait until the end of the ceremony before placing their tributes. Corbett effectively gatecrashed the official part of the ceremony, and laid the BNP wreath with its distinctive red, white and blue logo prominently displayed.

Martin Gleeson was present to lay a wreath on behalf of Oldham TUC and community anti-racist group Oldham United Against Racism. He was appalled by the actions of Corbett, and decided to make a protest by placing his wreath on top of the BNP one in such a way as to obscure the BNP logo from public view.

The police officer present - Chief Superintendent Keith Bentley - had made a point of reiterating the instructions of the organisers to the BNP representatives before the start of the ceremony, and yet took no action when Corbett blatantly contravened them. Amazingly, Bentley then responded to a complaint from BNP representative Mick Treacy by arresting Martin Gleeson for alleged criminal damage.

Mr Gleeson was held for seven hours at Oldham police station, and was eventually charged with causing criminal damage by recklessness to a wreath to the value of £20, belonging to Anita Corbett. At a subsequent hearing at Oldham Magistrates Court, Mr Gleeson entered a plea of not guilty: intending to argue that he had lawful excuse for his actions at the subsequent trial. In his view the BNP's presence and actions had caused alarm and distress to many of the people present, and his visible protest had in fact alleviated that distress.

This incident produced a wave of outrage from trade unions, anti-fascist groups and individuals throughout Europe and even from Canada and the USA. Several union General Secretaries including Derek Simpson of Amicus and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber gave their full support, and Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Michael Todd was deluged with protest letters demanding that the charge be dropped.

After initially backing the prosecution, the CPS finally accepted the representations made by Bindman and Partners Solicitors that it was not in the public interest to proceed, and the charge has now been discontinued.

We find it perverse that Chief Superintendent Bentley - the most senior officer in the town - saw fit to take the course of action that he did, incurring many thousands of pounds of legal costs from public funds. Yet he failed to take any action against the instigators of the incident - the representatives of the BNP. This raises serious concerns about Greater Manchester Police's approach to community cohesion.

Oldham TUC and Oldham United Against Racism consider the discontinuance of the charge to be a vindication of Mr Gleeson’s actions, and we take great encouragement from this in our ongoing campaign to heal the divisions in our community.

(Contact us at )

Thinking Nurse sends best regards to Mr Gleeson, and hopes that lessons will be learned from this expensive fiasco

The Devil Makes Work For Idle Thumbs

This BBC News Report caught my attention.

Any suggestions for the titles and themes of the games they might bring out?

Friday, May 20, 2005

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

You Are a Pundit Blogger!

Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few

I am always very sceptical about these blogthings. This one seemed worth posting, or was it simply that my vanity forced me to post it?

Rise of Anti-Recruitment Movement In USA

This post on Michael Moore's Website might surprise some of us in Britain who tend to believe that the people of the USA are solidly behind the occupation in Iraq.

Just like here in the UK, there is a growing movement opposing the occupation.

Here is an article about the growing counter-recruitment movement that is beginning to build in US high schools, written by a participant in the movement that forced the US army to retreat (at least for one day).

Nurse Blogging

Seyms has posted an interesting article on the irresistable rise of nurse blogging.

She points out the way that a new community of nurse bloggers is coming together, assisted in no small measure by the 'Nursing Moments' Carnival of Nursing blogs.

She suggests some of the motives for nurse blogging:

Three particular motives for nurse blogging are apparent to me, althought there may well be more. Firstly it is about exchanging ideas, developing reflective practice though an interactive process, talking, thinking, communicating. Secondly it is about advocating for nursing, having a public voice, things to say to the world, "this is what it is like on the other side of the clipboard", "this is what we care about". Finally but perhaps most obviously it is about the humourous and the human side of the profession - the little daily events that are funny or tragic, moments that epitomise human nature; rich pickings are to be found in all aspects of nursing.

Nurse blogging is getting bigger, partly because we are beginning to find each other. At one point I genuinely believed there were only 6 nursing blogs in existence - now I seem to find a new one every day.

Here is a particularly good one: Sonic Nurse.

The site is beautifully laid out, absolutely impeccable taste in the choice of templates. The political commentary is interesting too, particularly for those of us who view US politics from outside, I admire it's rather uncompromising, forthright style. I recommend that you take a look.

Here is another site that does not flinch from it's subject matter: Death Maiden a nurse who cares for people near to death.

Here is a useful site for nurses interested in the use of information technology in their work: Informatics Nurse

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Agony of the Manchester United Fan

For the first time in my life, I actually feel sorry for Manchester United fans.

Fans of the British football team Manchester United, are faced with confusion and uncertainty as Malcolm Glazer, the American sports tycoon tightens his grip on the premiership club.

From a club that was achieving success and running debt free, Mr Glazer's intervention turns it into a club with huge debt liabilities.

In this BBC News Report former Manchester United director Greg Dyke is quoted as saying that the family will be forced to relinquish it's holding by 2010;

More than a third of Mr Glazer's £790m offer for the club, is debt secured against United's assets, such as its Old Trafford stadium, while a further £275m comes from loans from three US hedge funds.

"I think most of us who have looked at it think he can't conceivably fund that bid," Mr Dyke told BBC Radio Five Live.

"He's clearly bought this on borrowed money and I don't think a club like Manchester United could sustain that."

Fans are rightly questioning how Mr Glazer aims to repay these debts - speculation has included higher ticket prices, and even possible sponsorship deals that would see Old Trafford renamed!

Given this situation many Manchester United fans are aiming to hasten Mr Glazer's departure by refusing to buy Man Utd merchandise, or even to buy match tickets, starving him of the funds he needs to repay the debt.

This must be agonising to fans in two ways, one in not being able to show allegiance to their team, and in having to explain to their children why they cant have the Man Utd wallpaper and bedspreads they have been promised for Christmas.

The other is that in starving Mr Glazer of funds, they are also starving their own team - they see it as analogous to chemotherapy - in aiming to rid the body of a cancer, it is neccessary to cause a certain amount of harm to the body itself.

Who will win? The power of the corporate dollar, or the power of the ordinary fan?

Those of us who do not support Manchester United will watch closely - after all, who is to say that our own teams will not be next

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nursing Moments #2 - Bigger and Better

Geena at Codeblog, Tales of a Nurse is hosting the next edition of 'Nursing Moments', the exciting new Blog Carnival that relates specifically to Nursing and Nursing Issues.

Geena is aiming to post the carnival in early June, and wants submissions in by 1st June, so please get writing your submissions!

All the signs are that the second Carnival will be even bigger and better than the first, with several submissions already received during the excitement created by the first carnival.

'Nursing Moments' is now the property of a dedicated team of Nursing bloggers who have formed it's editorial board, and, in a sense, it is also the property of everyone who contributes articles, plugs it on their own blog, or simply enjoys reading it.

I think it is fair to say that the launching of 'Nursing Moments' was one of the proudest achievements of the 'Thinking Nurse' blog, and if nothing else survives of my blogging but 'Nursing Moments', all my efforts will have been worthwhile!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Human Solidarity In Nursing - Theory and Practice

To what extent should social consciousness be a part of nursing theory, and of nursing practice?

I have just received an excellent and aposite reply from 'RNegade' to my post on the need for social consciousness in nursing theory. The reply is so relevant to the serious social questions facing Nurses today that I am reposting it here in full, followed by my reply:

The problem I see with a Theory of Nursing as Human Solidarity is that unless it is grounded in concrete nursing situations, activism becomes something nurses do outside their work. Assuming this would be on the level of the "grand theories," the same sort of inapplicability that kept practicing nurses from using these theories would likely occur.

For many of us, activism is part of our identity as nurses, but in the US it amounts to lobbying efforts and political work outside our roles as nurses. Perhaps it is different in the UK.

The need for social consciouness in nursing has never been greater. For example, who were the nurses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo Bay that allowed alterations of records, use of mental health histires as means of determining vulnerabilities to be exploited in interrogation, and concealment of torture injuries, and concealment of homicide through insertion of tubes post-mortem to mimic patient care that was never given?

We ought to rein in our own unethical colleagues, and publically repudiate their actions. At the same time, we must closely examine how structural and discursive elements constrain nurses from preserving human rights.

The social consciousness question hinges on autonomy with accountability in the direct care sphere. To the extent that nurses cannot or will not protect patients from human rights abuses, the door is open for neglect, maltreatment, inadequate treatment, and selective access to services. Nursing education, at least in the US, is geared toward conformity.

Collectively organizing or individually acting in response to a poor care situation is not considered an essential "skill," or a great deal more time would be devoted to it. Social consciousness is needed on the global level as well as in the microcosms of a society that are replicated in the care situation. These include gender, racial, religious, class, and sexual orientation biases.

Analysis of cases needs to include the effects of these biases on the health of the patient, and the degree to which the care situation is potentially a context for reinforcement of repression. Foucault describes "discipline" in part as a function of the roles played by police, teachers, nurses, physicians, etc. who create expectations for correct behavior. There is no argument when a nurse tells someone to remove their clothing and put on a patient gown. It is an expectation that does not require a reason, because patients already "know the drill."

Recognition of the subtle, and direct ways that nurses already function to reinforce the powerlessness of patients' predicament in the care situation should come first. We cannot rest on the consensus that the core of nursing is care, and thus we are opposed philosophically to oppressive and dehumanizing conditions.

Nurses perpetuate discourses that conceal abuses, disparities in care, and deferral to profit motives. For too long we have been preoccupied with our constraints as an "oppressed group." We are highly educated, and indispensible to the functioning of any health care system. We are not powerless.The frame for opposition to dehumanization is the hands-on daily work of nursing. It is there that critical examination and exposure of nursing complicity in oppressive practices is most needed, and admittedly, most difficult.

I am making the case for social consciousness in nursing practice. Thus far, in the US, theory has not guided practice, except to some degree at the middle range and situation-specific levels. We have an ethical standpoint in many international nursing documents about human rights, and our support of the right to health and health care. Theory would seem to be a potential bridge to the application of stated values. Practices, however, are the substance of care. To accomplish structural change is more a matter of organizing than theorizing.

Thankyou for your comment RNegade, this is precisely the kind of debate and discussion I hoped to provoke when I started this blog. The questions you raise go directly to the heart of the crucial questions facing Nursing as a Profession in the context of a world society with such a breathtakingly steep gradient of wealth and power between a small elite and the rest of society.

I appreciate the thought you have put in to your comment, and will attempt to reply to your points paragraph by paragraph.

You suggest that a theory of Nursing as Human Solidarity should be grounded in concrete care situations, it is something that should apply to nurses in their work, as well as what they do outside work. I agree. 'Activism' as you term it, can take many different forms, and the form it takes within the workplace would neccessarily be different from that in the nurses 'own' time.

I would argue that simply being in possession of social consciousness would change the practice of many nurses in a way that makes their response to patients, different and more appropriate, their care responding to the person's social situation, rather than to a textbook version of an idealised patient.

People whose health is challenged tend to be disempowered by this very fact - you illustrate yourself the question of the powerlessness of patients when they are expected to wear gowns etc. Ill health and disability are shunned and feared in our society which focuses as you say on productivity and profit.

The question of health itself is inextricably linked to social and economic factors, with people from the most oppressed sections of society experiencing the worst health outcomes. In my own area of nursing, for example, people with learning disabilities are 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 than the rest of society.

You suggest that a theory of Nursing As Human Solidarity could be as sterile as other 'Grand Theories' of nursing. It couls be that these 'Grand Theories' were so sterile because they confined themselves within the walls of the hospital, excluding the social realities outside,

These social realities disrupted these theories because they exist in the hierarchies of healthcare organisations, in legislation affecting healthcare, in the economics of healthcare and in the life experience of patients and nurses themselves.

Your points about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are well made. I have made similar points about the role of nurses and other health staff in the 'euthanasia' by the Nazis of thousands of people with Mental Health problems and Learning Disabilities in 1930s Germany.

These are the dire potential consequences of a lack of social consciousness within the Nursing Profession: By not having an explicitly stated 'Theory of Nursing as Human Solidarity', these nurses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo have instead adopted the implicit 'me first' values of western capitalist society, and accepted unquestioningly the existing power structures and the unethical actions that flow from these values and structures.

There is a need for theory here, unless we have an alternative to offer, all that remains are the hegemonic values of the powerful corporate elite.

A theory of Nursing as Human Solidarity would put human rights at the centre of Nursing Practice, making the preservation of human rights a key ethical responsibility of the Nurse. As you state so well "The frame for opposition to dehumanization is the hands-on daily work of nursing." This does require leadership, the willingness to speak out and preparedness to swim against the stream. This can be in big and small ways.

In the UK Nurses have an ethical obligation to challenge poor care practices and inadequate care situations. Legal protections for 'whistleblowers' are in place. Individually nurses still feel very exposed when they do challenge existing practices in this way, and there is a clear need for collective organisation that will back up those who stand up in this way.

You argue that "Practices, however, are the substance of care. To accomplish structural change is more a matter of organizing than theorizing." Theory without practice is indeed sterile, but practice without theory is blind.
There is indeed a 'theory - practice gap' in nursing, but this does not mean we should throw theory out of the window, instead we should be looking at ways to make our theories better and more directly relevant to the situations facing nurses.

The existence of the gap could be because existing theories have neglected to take into account the realities of how the social, economic and power structures of society affect the care situation and care practices.

A theory that directly and accurately addressed some of the unpalatable truths about our society might be more relevant and applicable to the day to day work of Nursing

Friday, May 13, 2005

Radio La Colifata

This radio station from Buenos Aires is a brilliant example of patient empowerment; people with mental health problems getting together and telling their own stories.

In my article on blog therapy I talked about the 'Pennebaker disclosure effect', a phenomenon whereby talking or writing about your most traumatic experiences causes genuine mental and physical healing.

I think that this must be happening at Radio La Colifata too, but also far more.

Paulo Freire wrote in his brilliant 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed' that in order for a person to change their world, it is neccessary first for them to name it. By attaining a voice for themselves, these sufferers from mental illness have found a way to talk about their worlds, to broadcast their experiences, and to become known by millions of listeners.

I would love to hear a British version of this Radio Station - for once real life and bitter experience breaking through the airw

Hewitt to Continue With Creeping Privatisation of the NHS

The new British Health Minister, Patricia Hewitt has made it absolutely clear that she intends to increase the role of the private sector in the NHS even further.

In this post, just before the election I warned that

The reality for the NHS (and other public services), is that whatever the result of the general election, there are dark days ahead: Privatisation via PFI and Foundation Hospitals, will be stepped up. Workers will face further casualisation and attacks on their conditions, such as retirement age and pensions.

The future of our public services depends not on which dishonest bunch of politicians comes to power, but on the determination of public service workers, and the British people to defend them from these politicians, and the big business interests they serve.

Looks like my words were only too accurate.

The message for people who wish to keep hold of the NHS, and to stop the government's ideologically driven privatisation drive, is "If you value it, fight for it"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Clarity, Fractals, Uncertainty and The Meaning of Nursing

I found this 'flight of ideas' scrawled on the back of a photocpied article. I wrote it over a year ago, in response to a discussion on the 'Nursing Philosophy' email discussion group about the concept of 'clarity'.

One or two of my ideas have shifted since then, but I felt it was worth posting the piece, just to see what I was thinking about back in those heady days...

Clarity, fractals, uncertainty and nursing

I have been enjoying the discussion held here about 'clarity', a discussion I found interesting because it coincided with some of my own thoughts about uncertainty.

One contributor pointed out that it is possible to make a statement of apparently absolute clarity, but that to another observer, with another perspective, who demands definition of the terms, the statement can seem to be totally obscure.

The problem arises as words are broken down and their meaning analysed, because the very terms that are used as definitions may themselves be challenged and broken down even further.

Some philosophers (I.e. Frege) have sought to create mathematical models of language and meaning, trying to find a 'binary code', the most basic units of meaning that fit together according to rules of logic to eventually build up into units of communication.

One problem is that if such fundamental units of meaning were to exist, there is no reason why they should obey conventional rules of logic that govern higher-level language, any more than sub-atomic particles are governed by the same laws of physics as bricks and bicycles.

Meaning could be structured in a similar way to the fractal. However closely you look at a fractal, you find ever more deeply nested fractalising patterns, structured in layer upon layer of complexity. (It is worth reading Hofstadter's book 'Godel Escher Bach' for a deeper explanation of this phenomenon).

Fractals are deep expressions of uncertainty, it is impossible to predict whether a particular point at the edge of a fractal pattern will be one colour or another until the equations they are based on have been fully computed.

Similarly in language, no matter how deeply the terms we use are analysed and defined, there must remain areas of uncertainty, that could seem 'larger' and more complex than the seeminlgly simple expression that contains them could ever have suggested.

Putting words, grammar and meaning under a microscope becomes an infinitely frustrating process! - But perhaps we are looking in the wrong place. We are surrounded by a landscape of meanings that has been co-created by communities of human beings over centuries.

Perhaps meaning lies not in the words, but in the intersubjective process of exchanging words and meanings, one human being with another.

Sometimes far more clarity, complexity, meaning and beauty can be expressed in a poem, or in a short dialogue between a nurse and patient, than in reams of precisely written academic literature.

When I work with people with learning disabilities, I try to attend to what they say, and what they mean, and to express myself in ways that lie within their understanding.

This may not really be 'simplifying', but perhaps could be seen as working at a different level of complexity, in the fractalised structure of language, an attempt to relate, despite our different experiences and understandings.

Through such listening, and adjusted communication, somehow the need for connectedness is met, horizons touch and somewhere in this process of inter-relating lies what it means to be a nurse, and what it means to be a human being.

Nursing Moments: Future Editions

The first edition of 'Nursing Moments' was a great success, and volunteers have been queuing up to host future editions.

So far the schedule is as follows:

Nursing Moments #2 (early June)will be held by Geena at Codeblog; Tales of a Nurse

Nursing Moments #3 (early July) will be held by Jodie at Nurse Ratchett's Alter Ego

and Nursing Moments #4 (early August) will be held by Crzegrl at

You can send your contributions to me at 'thinkingnurse AT coolgoose DOT com' or to the carnival hosts themselves, the main thing is to GET WRITING NOW!

Blair Vader

Spotted this on Bloggers of the Left Unite which despite being a socialist website, is actually at times quite funny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Guantanamo Bay - The Backlash Grows

Todays events in Afghanistan, where Jalalabad has erupted in rioting bear out the predictions of those who have criticised the strategy and tactics used by the USA in their so-called 'war on terror'.

Angered by reports that during the interrogation of one of the captives at Guantanamo, a copy of the Koran was flushed down a toilet, students took to the streets, buildings linked with the west were torched and troops shot dead three people. This in a country that we are told is 'grateful' to the West for overthrowing the Taliban.

I have always felt that the 'war on terror' would have equal success to the 1980's 'war on drugs' - where at the end of the 'war', many times more peoplw were using illegal drugs than before. Indeed the two seem to be linked - 90% of the heroin used in Britain and the USA is grown in Afghanistan, enriching the warlords that the US invasion helped to put in place.

I cannot say that I share the demonstrator's anger at the flushing of a book down a toilet. I realise that they see it as a blasphemy, but in my eyes far worse blasphemies were inflicted on human beings at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo Bay itself. The deaths of thousands at the World Trade Centre and the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Bush and Blair's wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were also blasphemies against humanity.

Guantanamo bay, where people are held without charge, and without the evidence against them being scrutinised by any kind of court is a blasphemy against democracy and justice. Even in the USSR at the height of Stalin's terror, they would hold 'show trials' to justify the incarceration and torture of whoever the Stalinists believed was a threat to the USSR - the political and military apparatchiks in the USA have dispensed with even this gesture toward due legal process.

The way to combat terrorism, would be to tackle it at it's roots. People go down the blind alley of terrorism because of their rage and hopelessness at poverty, injustice and national oppression. They may use the language of religious fanaticism, but this is a symptom rather than a cause of the situation they are in.

A 'war on poverty', an end to imperial adventures and the return of the huge wealth in natural resources to the people unfortunate enough to live above them might begin to repair some of the damage done particularly in the last two decades of Western interference in the Middle East. Until then I fear that the backlash we have seen so far is only a small taste of upheavals yet to come in that region.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Keep Your Eyes On The Road And Your Hands Upon The Wheel

My big news today is that I am on my way to pick up my first car, having passed my test 3 weeks ago.

I have managed to spend nearly all my life without a car, but with qualification looming, it would be practically impossible for me to get a job in my branch of nursing without one.

I have been preparing myself for becoming a driver by watching 'Top Gear' and learning how to moan about speed cameras, car tax, road humps and other methods of harassing the 'law abiding motorist'. I think I am already getting quite good at it. All I need now is a beaded seat cover and a pair of backless driving gloves.

Monday, May 09, 2005

An Alternative to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders

In the recent general election, all the main parties focussed on crime, and in particular anti-social behaviour by young people.

Working-class people are the most likely to be the victims of crime and anti-social behaviour and are therefore understandably concerned about them.

But all the evidence shows that the knee-jerk policies of New Labour, Tories and Liberals do nothing to seriously tackle them. ASBOs simply DO NOT WORK.

On the contrary, it is the government's 'anti-social' policies of cuts and privatisation which make the situation worse.

Below I have decided to feature three examples of the alternative approach that three local campaigners have taken to the problems of disaffected youth. (I have taken the examples from an article inThe 'Socialist':

"Community action in Coventry

ST MICHAELS Ward has the highest unemployment in Coventry. Outside the city's main areas investment in community and youth facilities has suffered and issues involving young people and local residents have grown.

Rob Windsor, Coventry

A year ago these problems came to my attention when I was representing St Michaels as a Socialist councillor.

A group of young people were playing ball games and bothering residents including a man with a heart condition.

Local residents were fuming. There was a clear possibility of an "us and them" situation between them and the youth involved.

I helped set up a meeting attended by over 35 local residents. The police and community wardens also came.

The meeting was angry but constructive, partly due to the tone we set that there was a lack of local facilities for young people.

It would have been easy just to demand that the police turned up heavy-handedly but instead we used the local warden service to approach the youth.

They did so and discussed with them - one young lad was excluded from school and had nothing to occupy him.

The wardens helped set up a course for him and helped occupy others.

The police were involved and their presence increased but not in a heavy-handed way. Within a month the problems had dissipated in that area.

There were sporadic problems and news that problems had shifted to other streets but for a good few months the area was quieter.

A heavy-handed approach would not have got this result - it may even have exacerbated it.

Stretched police resources would in any case have made such an approach impossible to sustain.

Whilst New Labour's Anti Social Behaviour Bill had some measures that working-class people would support such as closure of crack houses and measures against fly-tipping, it helped to create a myth that deep rooted social problems can be tackled by bits of paper and bureaucracy.

In reality the prisons are overcrowded and the courts can't cope. And the more ASBOs are used for low-key offences, the more swamped the system to enforce them will become.

But New Labour spinners try to use these issues to grab votes and deflect people's attention away from the real robbers, like the capitalists who run Ford stealing the livelihoods of Coventry workers.

Socialists have to be careful - simply blaming capitalism won't help communities having to cope with the "Do what you like and stuff the others" approach initiated by Thatcher and less hope for a secure future for working-class youth.

The community should be really 'empowered' to deal with these issues by strong residents' and community groups that would seek to help young people as well as deal with problems.

Young people need jobs and facilities

KIDS GET into crime because there are no decent jobs, no facilities, and problems at school. It does feel like there's an increase in petty crime by younger teenagers. Some of the problems come from the collapsing education system. But the other problem is the lack of youth facilities.

Lynn Worthington, Socialist Party election candidate, Wythenshawe and Sale

There are well over 8,000 young people in Wythenshawe and nothing for many of them to do.
A lot of the facilities are unaffordable or only open during the day.

Playing games in the street has been made a crime by the council. Meanwhile, the football pitches are so overpriced they're forcing out local teams.

Newall Green school's all-weather pitch is so expensive only Manchester City FC can afford to use it!

All this leads to nothing to do after school, but hang around the streets. Willow Park housing company in Benchill has found an 'answer' to the problem - ASBO the kids for swearing, and send leaflets to every tenant with the swear-words the kids were using!

When the local community first posed the issue of youth facilities during the housing transfer to Willow Park, the company promised a purpose-built youth facility. Years on and it still hasn't been built! The father of a local young person said to me: "Instead of building more housing, why can't the youth have a place to ride their midi-motors (bikes), why can't they give them a little bit of ground and let them use it? Then the youth won't be annoying people with their bikes."

It's about time the council started meeting the needs of all the community. We need proper youth and community facilities funded by the council and democratically run by the community.

The key jobs for young people in Wythenshawe used to be Direct Works and the airport, as well as the factories. The engineering works used to do apprenticeships, but it closed down seven years ago. Most of the other factories have gone as well. Direct Works used to offer apprenticeships, but these have gone now it's been privatised.

At the airport, to do any job - even cleaning - you need a driving license! This is impossible for most young people. We need real job creation, decent jobs with decent wages, and public money pumped into Wythenshawe - not just token efforts.

We've been campaigning in Benchill for more and better youth facilities. We've gone petitioning from door-to-door and collected hundreds of signatures. We lobbied the Area Committee (the local meeting of councillors for Wythenshawe).

When I pointed out the need in Benchill for youth facilities at affordable prices, one of the councillors agreed. But they still haven't done anything.


United campaign gets results

"IF YOU close this place where are working-class young people supposed to go for sport? This is all there is round here." This was an angry question thrown at the Liberal councillor and chair of Leisure Services during our first public meeting to fight the closure of St Mary's Leisure Centre in Southampton last year.

Nick Chaffey, youth worker

St Mary's is one of the most deprived inner city areas in the country. All the problems of housing, low income, poor health and crime are magnified and make life here very hard.

When the council's intentions to close the local leisure centre were known it caused a lot of anger in the area. The youth project I work for use it regularly for holiday activities and 'Midnight Football'. On Saturdays there is a free session for young people.

The centre is used by hundreds of people every week, for football, weight lifting, climbing, fitness and squash.

There is absolutely no doubt that these facilities offer young people an opportunity to use their time positively and keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

We only had a few weeks to stop the closure going ahead.

After our public meeting, we got as many people involved as possible, collecting signatures on the petition, lobbying councillors, getting in the news and building for our demo.

The support was tremendous, young people, parents, all the different groups of users at the centre, got stuck in.

The demonstration was the highlight of the campaign and one of the biggest local demos for some time. It soon became clear that we had won the argument.

In the days running up to the council budget-setting meeting, the council had a sudden change of heart and announced they were going to keep the centre open.

As socialists we understand that it is the profit system that drives the policies of cuts, privatisation and closures which all the main parties are pursuing.

But this campaign was the music of the future and a lesson to all of us who were involved what a strong and united community can achieve.

Noam Chomsky on US Healthcare

I picked up a little book called "Doctrines and Visions" (Noam Chomsky, Penguin 2004) for only £1.50.

The book is meant as a foreword/afterword to Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival" (2003), but it actually stands very well on it's own, and being pamphlet sized, (and cheap) makes it quite accessible to readers who are new to Chomsky.

The book is mainly a rather excellent analysis of the balance of world power, between the two superpowers (that's right - I said two!), one being the US political/military/corporate elite, the other being the world's people.

His analysis is excellent, and has been borne out, almost to the letter by subsequent events in Iraq, and the rest of the world.

Being interested in health issues, I was particularly interested in this paragraph on the problems of Health Care in the USA:

It is no secret that a major domestic problem is the exploding health care costs in the mostly privatized US system, far higher than comparable societies and with relatively poor outcomes, results traceable in large measure to the enormous inefficiencies of privatization and the control of government by the pharmaceutical industry, which tops the profit ranking year after year. As in the past, large majorities favor national health insurance, most regarding it as a 'moral issue'. Eighty percent regard universal health care as 'more important than holding down taxes', and favor legal imports of precription drugs. But if these questions arise at all, the proposals are held to be 'politically impossible', because of 'tangled politics'. That is true: disentangling the politics, we discover that the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and other private powers will not allow it, so the will of the public is out of the political arena.
These are among the many signs of serious erosion of a democratic culture under dedicated multi-pronged assaults.

In Britain we must be vigilant not to allow our own health and education systems to be 'privatised by stealth' through PFI and other Labour schemes, otherwise we will be up the same creek as the American people, without a democratic paddle...

Technical Problems

My apologies for the technical glitch that meant the same post was published no less than 7 times over on my blog. Hope it didnt make my blogging seem any more repetitive than usual...

I know why it happened, which is halfway to preventing it happening again.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Aftermath of The Stinking Election

The most stinking election in living memory is at last over.

I dedicate this poem by John Gay to all the participants in the mudfight, whether they won or lost their seats:

'The Politician'

I see him mad and drunk with power
Stand tott'ring on ambition's tower,
Sometimes in speeches vain and proud,
His boasts insult the nether crowd,
Now seized with giddiness and fear,
He trembles lest his fall is near.

One rather scandalous story for an election in 2005 was the problems Stephen Pritchard of Tarleton in Lancashire had in voting. Stephen is a company director of an organisation that arranges accessible travel and accomodation for tourists and business travellers with disabilities.

It was therefore highly ironic that he should arrive at his polling station yesterday morning, only to find that there was no wheelchair access, and that in order to get in to vote, he needed 3 men to lift him up the steps.

To add insult to injury, when he tried to vote, the polling booth collapsed.

Clearly the concept of 'Universal Suffrage' has been lost on the election officials at Tarleton!

Despite all my attempts to get to sleep, and avoid the election coverage, I ended up watching the results coming in.

I was very moved to see Reg Keys get such a large vote in Sedgefield, and to listen to his speech. Reg Keys' son was killed in Iraq, so Reg stood in Tony Blair's constituency as a protest against the war.

Blair stood stony faced, shuffling uncomfortably behind him as Reg suggested that one day Blair might apologise to the people for engaging in the Iraq war, and be able to visit wounded soldiers face to face.

Across the country, Labour suffered the public's anger at the way they have been lied to about Iraq. George Galloway defeated Blairite Oona King, in what could be a highly significant development. I think Galloway could go one of two ways, either using his position in parliament to build a New working class party in oppositon to New Labour and their war, or he could spend all his time trying to get back in to the Labour Party, as Ken Livingstone did in a similar situation, which I feel would be a waste of all the immense efforts his supporters put in against the Labour Party machine to get him elected.

Blair's majority has been significantly reduced. This means that if he wants to carry on with his programme of creeping privatisation in the Health Service and Education, he is likely to find it much more difficult, particularly if all the people who value these public services take action to defend them: If you value it, Stand up for it!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Ancient Japanese Game of Go

When I am not learning how to be a Learning Disability Nurse, and not blogging, I like to play a rather fiendish game of strategy known as 'Go'.

The basic principles of the game are very simple. You either have black or white 'stones', and place them alternately onto a grid, at the points where the lines cross.

If you fill all the points around an area of the board, that area becomes your territory. The aim is to surround as much territory as possible, without becoming surrounded yourself.

From such simple rules however, a game of immense depth and complication emerges. Games can last for months. Masters of Go sometimes play full chess amtches against each other to relax in between moves!

A full size GO board is 19X19, leading to an immense number of possible permutations of the game. So far, unlike chess, there is no computer programme that can even come close to beating the best human players.

You can play go online at the system works well, and there are a good bunch of players there of all levels of ability, so it is easy to get a good game.

I play as 'Mostly Harmless' - here is a link to a discussion on the philosophy of Go.

Another good place to limber up and gain Go skills is Go Problems here you dont actually play an opponent, but try to solve Go puzzles, ranging from basic beginner level, right up to downright impossible.

If you decide to take up Go, the motto is 'lose your first 100 games quickly'. To be a Go player, you need to forget about quick and easy victories. Rather like life, you build up your skill and awareness slowly and incrementally, then still lose anyway!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

'Nursing Moments' #1 The Carnival of Nursing Blogs

This is it! The very first carnival dedicated to the ways of thinking, feeling and acting we call 'nursing', an activity of 'Head and Heart and Hand', the place where science and art meet, clash and fuse in the strange and wonderful synthesis of daily life.

Managers of health services say that they see nurses as 'valuable human resources'. These pieces of writing demonstrate that we are more than human resources, we are 'human beings', engaging on a daily basis with other human beings in a way that no other health profession can - people see nurses for the most crucial and intimate of reasons, at all stages of the lifespan, at all times of day and night. Nursing is about life and quality of life, about health and human potential, about the mutual support and solidarity of the human species.

The first contribution, is from EmJC of The Unlikely RN She goes straight to the heart of the issues that affect every nurse:- human bodily fluids in Master of the Urethra "It's funny, people used to (and still do) make fun of my nursing school decision and joke about the poop and pee and puke I'd have to deal with. I would haughtily tell them "Oh ho. The days of bedpans and nurses in caps lifting patients and cleaning up vomit are long
gone - the modern nurse isn't responsible for such things..."
Personally I would rather wade knee deep in the human effluvia that EmJC deals with, than watch another Party Election Broadcast!

Jordan Barab gives us British nurses a warning of the kind of innovation our Health Service DOESN'T need in his account of how a 30 Minute Promise policy brought in by the hospital managers led to him being badly injured at work. As our health service faces creeping privatisation, how long will it be before this kind of scheme crosses over the Atlantic?

Geena gives us a picture of a typical day in her life in Tales from the CCU, while Jodie S. looks at life with people who face death Tumour Board

Krybabynurse is a brand new nursing blog - here is an extract from one of her recent posts: "I 've been in situations where I've thought something was funny, only to be looked at strangely, because apparently what I'm talking about is a serious issue. I know somethings in healthcare are really serious, but there are some things you just can't change (for example, bring somebody's legs back), so why not just have a laugh about it and move on??" Do you agree? You will have to visit her blog, read her full post, and make your own mind up…

EmJC has a second bite at the cherry with this article: Oh Sh*t! dealing with her feelings of mortification at uttering these scatological expletives in the presence of her patient:
"A cardinal rule of the health professions involves never ever using the word "Ooops" or saying "Oh Shit". So I decided to break it on Friday. I was helping a patient perform some perineal-area cleansing which involved fussing with her hospital-issue panties. I was being very gentle and careful and totally forgot the woman had an indwelling catheter and came close to pulling the damned thing out. I went with "Oh Shit" instead of "Ooops""

Finally I offer you a couple of posts from my own blog A Charter for Human Caring In Nursing and my tirade against the Harvard Referencing System the most miserable instrument of mental torture ever inflicted on British Student Nurses.

If you have enjoyed 'Nursing Moments', then you might consider one of the following actions:
1. Submit an article to a future edition
2. Host a future edition.
3. Post a link to this carnival.

Cheers, and Happy Nursing!

Cost of the War in Iraq
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