FMM 2 3 2023 The Best of Us, the Worst of Us

“We’re one people, and we all live in the same house. Not the American house, but the world house.” ~ John Lewis.

The best authors pull you in with their first sentence.  It was Charles Dickens, that great storyteller, who has one of the best first sentences of all times, which inspired the title of my Friday Morning Message today.  For I have been thinking of professions that, like the little girl in the nursery rhyme with the curl in her forehead: ‘when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.’

What is it like to belong to a profession that is the butt of so many jokes?  Even Shakespeare contributed to the tearing down with his line: “…let’s kill all the lawyers…” And yet the first person we need when we are in trouble is a lawyer.  Dentists belong to another group of professionals that we hate even when we are experiencing the exquisite pain of tooth ache.  I once read that dentists have the highest suicide rate of all professions.  Who have you ever heard say: ‘I can’t wait to see my dentist’? 

Journalists have also found themselves turned into pariahs, often for asking tough questions or exposing well hidden lies.  But there are of course those who are more motivated by greed for a titillating story that generates many views, rather than providing truth and context to a complicated tale of criminality.  But who represents the profession?

I belong to the profession of nursing, which for the most part is held in high esteem. For over twenty years, in a Gallup poll on how the public view the different professions, nurses have held first place for having honesty and high ethical standards.  Which of course is something to be proud of. When you are vulnerable, at your worst, your hope is that the nurse who is caring for you is not going to be posting your picture on Instagram, or stealing your valuables when you are unconscious.  But the recent news about the scam involving nursing schools in Florida, has been painful, embarrassing, and a disgrace to those of us involved in the profession of educating future nurses.

I used to joke that the worst thing that happened to the nursing profession was when they started to pay us a decent wage.  In the days when nurses’ wages were a pittance, the motivation to get into the profession was more of a vocation; a calling.  The job is a hard one, physically and emotionally exhausting while also requiring you to stay on your toes intellectually.  The hours are long, the demands are heavy.  A nurse constantly has to be evaluating and changing their list of priorities.  This is not a case of first come, first served.  The nurse will have to make decisions, and sometimes that list is horizontal, not perpendicular.  The onslaught of COVID-19 revealed the extent to which healthcare is dependent upon its nurses, but it also caused many older nurses to go into retirement, depleting the profession of its wise, experienced elders.  The shortage and demand created a completely new pay scale, and many nurses became used to the ‘mad COVID money’, and now healthcare agencies everywhere are feeling the pinch. 

Nursing schools had to cope with the challenges of COVID also, teaching pre-licensure courses on-line during the lockdown was less than ideal.  But those of us with honesty and integrity gave it our best shot.  If we had shut down the schools during this time, if we had said that you can’t become a nurse without hands-on learning, without live clinical experiences, without face-to-face interaction and engagement with your instructors, then the nursing shortage would have been even worse. 

Meanwhile, some unscrupulous people saw that the incentive to gain that nursing license was so high, that they came up with a way to facilitate the process.  We don’t have all of the details of the scam, but the selling of transcripts and diplomas gave people the opportunity to sit for the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exams without having to complete the hours of classroom and clinical learning.  They then had to pass the exam before they could begin earning that crazy money, and holding people’s lives in their hands.  It may be that some of those who knowingly benefited from this had prior knowledge, perhaps they were foreign trained physicians who saw this as a faster way to enter the system.  Although any nurse can tell you that ‘nursing’ is way different from ‘doctoring’ (as one wise Professor once told us, think about nursing your drink versus doctoring it!).  But the group with prior knowledge was only one category of those who participated in the scheme.

This week I had to travel to a Florida Board of Nursing meeting in Panama City, Florida.  I kept joking that I heard it was lovely there, this time of year.  It is in the panhandle of Florida, on the Gulf coast, a tourist destination with quaint beach houses and brightly painted resorts.  But inside one of those beautiful resorts, the agenda was full of betrayed, traumatized, sad and angry victims of the scheme to defraud.  One by one, they came before the board.  These were people who had attended one of these schools of nursing, not knowing that the education they were receiving was far below what was required to become a nurse.  Many had attended classes, participated in some kind of clinicals, and thought that they had done everything they needed to do to sit for their nursing license.  They had invested their time and their money, sacrificing their personal life to achieve their goal.  They had submitted their applications, only to be told that their name was on the list supplied by the FBI, and their transcripts were deemed to be fraudulent.  They had two choices: they could either withdraw their application without penalty, or they could have their application denied by the Board.  They could then appeal it, but if they lost that denial would stay on their record. 

What was saddest and most infuriating to me, was that those who came before the board, who had (probably) unknowingly been victims of the fraud were all (yes, all) people of color. Many were foreign born with English as a second language.  They would have been easy prey for the predators, not knowing how to do their due diligence, to look up the school of nursing on the Board of Nursing’s website, to see that the school had been closed down. One of the schools of nursing had been closed down by the Board in 2017, yet many of those defrauded were enrolled after that date.  Some had been recruited in New York and New Jersey, and had been assured that the school had a ‘satellite’ campus in New York. 

We have often heard our own students complaining about how hard our program is, that they want to go to that ‘easy’ school up the road.  To which we would respond, any nursing program that is ‘easy’ is probably doing it wrong. Little did we know how much wrong was being done. 

As humans we all have within us the potential to be the best or to be the worst at whatever we do.  No profession is without those who will sink to the lowest level.  All we can do is hope that we can be touched by our ‘better angels’ to do the right thing, to act with integrity, knowing that actions have consequences, both intended and unintended. 

This Friday morning I hope that justice may be served for those who potentially caused harm to many people.  I hope that those who were unwitting victims of the fraud may find themselves a good lawyer or a class-action suit. And I would remind everyone, that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  As they say in Jamaica, ‘long cut draw sweat, short cut draw blood’.  There is a reason why nursing school is tough: being a nurse is tough, but is one of the most rewarding professions you could ever be proud to be a part of.

Have a great weekend, Family!

One Love!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: