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Social Issues: Teach A Man To Fish

Updated on October 25, 2014

Humanity One World

I am responding to Billybuc's challenge... If you have not heard about H.O.W. by now, please read: Social Issues: How Do We Cure Social Ills? H.O.W.

I am a nurse every moment of my life. I have been a nurse for 31 years, over half of my life now.

I have cared for the seriously mentally ill and the homeless. I have seen vulnerability and hardship up close and personal. I have also observed amazing dignity and inner strength in these very same individuals.

No one signs on to be mentally ill or homeless. Anyone who presumes that these men and women are not capable of their own unique brilliance and contribution to our society is quite out of touch. I have worked with lawyers, social workers and teachers who are currently homeless for a myriad of physical, economic or social reasons. The ever growing number of young mothers with children with unstable housing situations is heartbreaking.

Poverty has a direct impact on health. It is understandable, yet unconscionable, for seniors, veterans and young mothers to have to choose between food and medical treatment. To further complicate matters, many are either uninsured or underinsured.


About Nurses...

For the last eight years, I have gained amazing insights from the nurses I teach in a BSN degree program. I see with every class I teach that nurses, for the most part, are born leaders.

Nurses are miracle workers, often working in unsafe, understaffed, even hostile workplace settings. Nurses are able to zero in on the most critical needs of the client, while juggling their own family and financial stressors on the home front.

Yet, nurses are rarely able to acknowledge the impact they have on countless people through their careers. The nurses I teach are so humble. They love their patients. They wish for more time to spend with patients and families.

Nurses are inherent doers. Nurses are capable of assessing situations quickly, efficiently and with expertise. Competent nurses are not afraid to take action and will ask for help, willing to return the assistance when warranted.

My favorite subject to teach is a 10-week Community Nursing course. This is an exhausting experience for the nurses as two of the requirements are a group community project and an individual service learning project.

It is understandable that anxiety is high and students naturally want me to suggest topics. Instead, I work with each nurse to identify their passion...what can they do to make a positive impact on the community.

It is exciting to watch nurses gain confidence in themselves over the weeks in this class. They are visibly moved to tears at times as they give their final poster presentations. Many students continue some sort of volunteer service affiliation after the class.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

— Chinese Proverb

Do it Now...

As nurses, providing health education, including referral information, may be the most effective and long-term manner in which we can make a difference. This awareness raising may be conducted at the patient / family level all the way to elected officials.

I would like to share the project of one remarkable nurse. This is simply one example of the many miracles my nurses perform in Community class.

My student is an African American single mother who works two jobs, one in correctional nursing and the other as a nurse investigator for the Department of Health.

For her service learning project, she selected a women and children's shelter to provide supportive educational sessions. In several meetings with these young women, the nurse offered classes and written information on:

  • typical behaviors and milestones for each developmental stage
  • normal height and weight by age
  • signs and symptoms that indicate child illness
  • nonviolent ways to discipline a child such as time-out, consistency
  • low cost and healthy food selections such as fruit, cheese, peanut butter, eggs
  • empowerment and assertiveness training

It was easy to see that this project was personal for the nurse. By the end of the class, she was able to share that she had been homeless with her 4yo daughter. Staying in this very shelter, a nurse reached out to her, offering support, trust and the motivation to apply to nursing school herself. And now, ten years later and after much hard work, she found herself giving back.

In my heart, I know she has much more to give. And she will, just as other nurses do, one person at a time.

We all have the capability of teaching, sharing or supporting someone in need. It's up to us to decide where we want to make a difference.

There is no magic involved. Do something that is meaningful, as often as you possibly can. That is the very least we can all do.

© Maria Jordan ( revised October, 2014)

Michael Jackson: Man In The Mirror


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