Who could have imagined? Truth is stranger than fiction. It’s a cliché – and it’s true.
When I first made a public request for anonymous post cards about nurse or patient abuse as part of the Sunlight Project, I didn’t expect much. Oh, I had my humble hopes: perhaps some random answers from here and there, scattered about in no particular pattern. Perhaps, just perhaps it would amount to something in time.
Now, I’ve hardly been buried in mail so far, but let’s be realistic. It’s only been a few weeks so far. Who am I? No, it turns out I’m not a boy band kid blogging incognito for fun. I’m one of the billion and a half or ordinary people bloggers competing in a noisy mob for eyeballs and attention. And besides, who uses snail mail these days? Thirty five cents a card, plus whatever the card costs, plus time and effort. It’s a wonder anyone bothered at all. Few of us have that kind of attention span anymore. I picked an unusual strategy indeed.
Politicians weigh snail mail rather heavily, I’ve read. It makes perfect sense to me. For every one person willing to put in such unusual effort to send a message, how many other people didn’t bother? How many people figure their words won’t make a difference anyway, so why bother? One piece of mail stands for all the invisible others who think likewise. It matters! For more than any petition button click online or email ever does.
In my case, I’m also asking people under stress, fearful of retaliation, to send perhaps dangerous allegations to a total stranger, in Massachusetts of all places, and to trust me with them. Who trusts folks from Massachusetts? WE don’t trust us much: ask anyone around here. Living in Massachusetts, one party state that it’s been for generations now, should grant all of us a Masters in Corruption and Inefficiency. I’ll have to work on that one some time…
Focus, Greg. See what I mean about attention span?
Focus. The results so far have surprised me. Not the numbers: it’s been eleven cards so far, and lots of general comments on-line. Three today alone: that was a surprise, actually. The big surprise, though, has been the pattern. Twelve reports so far, and ALL of them from Arizona. Abuse, corruption, at least one felony – I’m still freaking out over how to handle that one. All in Arizona! On top of that, almost all of them complain about one hospital: Yuma Regional Medical Center. I’m no expert investigator, but I sense a pattern here. I have no plan to prove or disprove any of these allegations. It’s not my place, I lack the time and resources, and Arizona is a pretty rough commute from New England. I need to earn a living on the side… So I offer these allegations up for others’ scrutiny. It’s not much, but it’s something new, different. We need more of that in nursing today: new, different, grass-roots. Experiments, risks taken to improve things perhaps, and to learn in any case, to do better next time. Lots of nursing are suffering, that much is clear, as is their reasonable fear of retaliation from management if they speak up. Nurses often get fired, lose their licenses: talk about retaliation!
Hence my silly post cards. No trace, no retaliation. It’s a sign just how bad things have become in America, that so many nurses, the most trusted professionals in America, have been reduced to silently accepting abuse, silently watching patients mistreated, out of fear. What do these postcards tell you? It could be a bizarre conspiracy to make an obscure institution look bad. But it’s not. That’s my guess, anyway. It’s not.