Who, if not you, will tell your stories?
All that I have learned about nurses is largely the accumulation of stories from books, lectures and people. Nurses are the living vehicles of stories of care, compassion, and the face of healthcare at its finest.
Who if not you, is better to tell your stories?
‘The authenticity and immediacy of a story of lived experience takes us into the experience of another and it results in broadening the perspectives of those that lived the experience and those who will learn from it in the future.’ (Rossiter & Clark, 2007)
Many of my nursing colleagues in the Las Vegas area and beyond are engaged in writing their stories related to the recent Las Vegas tragedy in the hope of learning as a meaning-making activity for processing this tragedy.
The Stories from Las Vegas
On October 2, 2017, a gunman aimed an automatic weapon from a hotel room into a crowd of thousands gathered for a country-music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
This tragic event is now listed as the deadliest mass shooting in United States’ modern history. Fifty-nine concert spectators were killed in the shooting and more than 500 were injured.
What is still impossible to process, is being made human through the stories of the survivors and first-responders. Stories of how spectators shielded others from further injuries with their own bodies. Stories of trauma surgeons and nurses who operated on hundreds of patients who arrived in mass to the local trauma centres during the hours and days following the shootings.
One of the first victims to be identified was 29-year-old Sonny Melton. Sonny’s wife describes him as a caring soul, the ideal husband and a dedicated registered nurse. Sonny’s widow described how she would have surely been killed if it were not for his quick actions when the assault of bullets began to spray throughout the crowd of more than 22,000 spectators.
“He saved my life. He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back,” she told a radio station in Tennessee. “I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.” (Crilly, Ward & Horton 2017)
The story of Sonny and his selfless acts during his final moments of life captivated my heart and reminded me of the power of storytelling.
One can only hope that the nurses and other first-responders to this tragedy will be encouraged to tell their stories in the weeks and months ahead. It is possible that those of us that were not involved in the actual events of that tragic day can learn valuable lessons from our colleagues’ experiences.
A Lack of Rural Nursing Stories
This area of healthcare in particular, could benefit greatly through the power of storytelling. All that I have learned about rural nursing is largely the accumulation of stories from books, lectures and people that they have shared during my visits to rural hospitals.
However, if a graduate student that I am mentoring asks for a reference to a repository of stories from rural nurses, aside from a small number of texts and periodicals, I would be at a loss to guide a student towards a broad base of references.
When I mentioned my concerns during our staff meeting this week, one of my Associate Directors suggested that I review writings from the Federal Writers’ Project which was established in 1935, by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The aim of the project was to compile local stories, oral histories, ethnographies and books from geographic regions and residents who possessed information that had yet to be recorded.
Rural nurses are the living vehicles of stories of care, compassion, and the face of rural healthcare at its finest. Who if not you, is better to tell your stories? So, like President Roosevelt, I challenge you to begin the process of telling your stories, by taking pen to paper, fingers, to keyboards or voices to your recorders.
Share your experiences with each other and celebrate your power to provide a legacy for the next generation of rural nurses. You have the power to build an incredible mentoring vehicle through your lived experiences. It is through the art and science of storytelling that nurses can stay informed, stay inspired, and stay together – even when we may be continents apart!
- Crilly, R, Ward. V & Horton, H 2017, ‘Las Vegas victims: A nurse who sacrificed his life to save others, schoolteachers and a police officer among the 59 killed,’ in The Telegraph, 4 October, viewed 6 November 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/02/las-vegas-shooting-first-victims-identified-death-toll-rises/
- Rossiter, M & Clark, MC 2007, Narrative and the practice of adult education, Krieger Publishing Malabar, Florida. ISBN-13: 978-1575242224
- Weiser, K & Legends of America, ’20th Century History Federal Writer’s Project – Real Life Stories’, Legends of America, viewed 6 November 2017, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/20th-fwp.html