Hierarchies Aren’t Forever: Nurses, People, and Power

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It took her decades to find her way. Then she made history. We can too.
It took her decades to find her way. Then she made history. We can too.

As I continue to explore new ways to empower nurses at the group level, I want to offer all you fine readers some of the research I’ve done in this area. I’ve thought along these lines before, you see, part of my social media learning process. I’ve learned from other’s successes and failures, and my own. Experience is the best teacher out there: always has been.

That said, here’s some of what I’ve found over the years:

In Modern Davids and Goliaths: Underdog Victories, I reviewed Clay Shirky’s exciting book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. I listed some of Clay’s real life examples: average, powerless people who used social media to defeat large corporations and other powerful forces. We live in an age in which corporations and billionaires exert overwhelming power. Unlike our last such Gilded Age a century ago, little people can cheaply and easily communicate, organize and push back: even win from time to time.

In Send Pols the Balls They so Clearly Need? Democracy Fun!, I proposed a somewhat tongue in cheek stunt based on a similar project from Clay Shirky’s book above. It didn’t work out, alas. These sorts of project must reach some participation threshold to take off, and most never get there. On the other hand, it took me little time and no money to try that one out. It often takes repeated trials, a mix of skill, determination and luck, to reach success. When the conditions are right, though: BOOM! it explodes and humbles large powers. Exciting stuff for us little guys! Think of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Teeny, tiny, then BOOM! It happens. People make it happen.

In What Komen has taught us about Power, I described the way social media advocacy humbled a large and powerful charity and forced it to change policy.

Way back when I was quite new to blogging and social media, I offered Show Some Nurse Power!  LET THEM HEAR OUR ROAR!!! Back then, I put all my eggs in one basket, into one nurse’s case. I learned the risks of such an approach. I doubt any of us working on this case through social media ever knew the full details of a detailed legal and regulatory process, with many conflicting allegations, secrets, and interpretations. We got bogged down in all the particulars and speculations, in arguments about credibility, facts, tactics, egos… it was a mess and we accomplished far less than we might have. I focused on systems issues, finding a deeply corrupt, ineffective, and abusive nursing regulatory system apparently co-opted by corporate forces to better dominate and silence their nurse employees. Much research shows how such intimidation risks patients’ health and lives. It deeply affects all of us! Yet we didn’t make much of an impact. We must do better.

I also burnt myself out that first time around, getting too little sleep and working full-time twice over, once for money and once for a cause. It was great experience and I met lots of wonderful nurses and bloggers that way, but it cost me. I left blogging and activism for about a year. Since I’ve returned, I’ve been careful not to overdo it, to pace myself and enjoy the journey, to make it sustainable. To diversify. I’m also exploring different tactics. More of the same usually gets you more of the same. That’s not good enough.

Live and learn, live and learn.

I’ll keep you posted.


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