Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Royal Road to Coincidence: or going to London to see the Queen

My young grandson Jack likes to know where people are and what they are doing. So every day he asks if I am going to work, and will I be travelling by car, train or plane. I don’t have a private Lear Jet, but he is fascinated by the planes he sees flying in the sky. He knows that occasionally I am up there in one, on my way to a different country on behalf of the University. On Tuesday I was due to travel down to London for a Council of Deans Health Executive meeting.

I'm not normally mischievous but when little Jack asked what I was doing I said I was catching a train to London, 'why?' he said, 'to see the Queen' I replied. He seemed satisfied with this and apparently told everyone else he met during the day that I was on a train to see the Queen. I am not sure he really understands who the Queen might be, I strongly suspect in his mind the Queen is akin to the Man who Lives in the Moon, someone Jack also talks a lot about. For him it was enough to know I was travelling on a Royal Road.

I found the Council of Deans of Health meeting interesting and very enlightening. One of the policy advisor's to join us during the day was Andrew Boggs, from the Higher Education Regulation Group. In his softly spoken Canadian accent he carefully took us through the new regulatory landscape for UK University's. This might, to many people, seem a very uninteresting subject, but actually, Andrew brought it to life in a way that was completely the opposite. He also introduced into my lexicon the notion of a Rosetta Stone.

I didn't know what a Rosetta Stone might be, a quick Google later I had one of those 'Ah ha' moments. The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodirite stele inscribed with a decree issued in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. In this case, the stele was a donation stele, which granted a tax emption to the resident priesthood. Securing the favour of the priesthood in this way was essential for the Ptolemaic kings to retain and effective rule over the people. You might want to come to your own decision about what Andrew was hinting at.

For me, the conversations started a memory train that went back to 2007, when I and a colleague published a paper entitled 'Passive patient or engaged expert? Using a Ptolemaic approach to enhance mental health nurse education and practice' - the paper explored the need to reclaim a patient centred approach to providing mental health nursing care - yes we were possibly ahead of our time. 

And in a strange kind of way, hearing Andrews words, I was also drawn once more to think about the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Ptolemy V personally sponsored the work of the great mathematician Euclid. However like me, he found Euclids seminal work the 'Elements' difficult to understand. Allegedly it's said the Euclid responded to Ptolemy asking him whether there was an easier way to master Euclid's work with: 'Sire there is no Royal Road to Geometry'.

A second 'Ah ha' moment - it was Freud, who described dreams as being the Royal Road to the Unconscious - Freud's work has been very influential in the development of my view of the world. The interpretation of Freud's work by other people has also often captured my imagination. For example, Simon Morris and 78 of his students cut out every word from Freud's 736 page book 'The Interpretation of Dreams' (which including the index ran to some 333,960 words). They scattered all the cut out words from a car travelling at 90 mph and then recorded the subsequent array of words. The resulting analysis, does, in my opinion,  describes a world reminiscent of 'the Man on the Moon, meets the Queen, while driving on the road to London'. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Getting to the heart of the matter: Compassion in Cardiac Care

Yesterday was a long day. At 07.00 I caught the first plane out from Zagreb in Croatia, to Frankfurt, and then onto Manchester Airport. I had a quick shower and change of clothes at the Bolton House. Then it was driving up the road to the quintessential English Village of Hornsby for afternoon tea, and wedding planning with youngest son and future daughter-in-law and her parents. A few hours later it was up to the House in Scotland for a house warming with friends who have just moved into their home in the village.

I was in Croatia at the invitation of the Croatian Cardiac Nurses Congress, a member of the European Society of Cardiology. I was to speak at their conference – my paper explored what ensuring compassionate cardiac nursing care might involve – which I think involves bringing together the theoretical and practice based knowledge nurses have, with patient experience knowledge and valuing these equally in our relationships with patients, carers and our colleagues. A lively and collegiate discussion followed the presentation. It felt good to be in the company of such committed and passionate colleagues.

I was also able to meet with the President of the Croatian Nursing Council, Dragica Simunec, who has written much about the development of nursing in Croatia. She was someone whose ambitions for the future development of nursing were matched by her actions. I hope both our Schools will be able to work towards achieving a better future for nurses in both countries.

The final meeting of the trip was with Professor Davor Milicic, Dean of the Medical School at the University of Zagreb. The University which was founded in 1669, is one of the oldest University’s in the world, and has over 52000 students studying programmes in 31 different faculties. The Medical School was founded in 1917, and amongst other programmes has a full medical education programme which is taught entirely in English. The medical school is consistently in the top 10 medical schools world wide.

It was a wonderful experience from the moment I arrived at Zagreb (which was much later than planned due to the world renowned efficiency of Lufthansa Airlines) and entered my hotel room to find a magnificent array of welcoming gifts, to the kindness of the night porter who at 04.30 yesterday morning (03.30 GMT) sorted out a cup of tea for me while I waited for the taxi. Thanks too, to the patient who agreed I could watch her coronary angioplasty - a first time experience for me, and a profound one too. I am very much looking forward to going back there, but right now I am looking forward to turning my computer off and enjoying a long luxurious lay in this morning! 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Nurse who Came In With a Cold: recharging the batteries

Last week was a study in human endurance. OK, OK, that’s possibly a slight exaggeration. Those who read last week’s blog might remember that I was suffering with a bad cold (not flu). Well said cold went straight to my chest. Like a REF Impact Case Study, there was a direct line of connection between my bad cold and near bronchitis. By the Monday I was coughing and spluttering and totally incapable of doing anything that required sustained effort. Cello was not impressed with his shorter than normal daily walks!

This, as it turned out, was a good thing. I was on week’s holiday at the house in Scotland. Had I not been feeling so rough, I am sure that despite being on holiday I would have looked at emails, tweeted on Twitter, and over used my smart phone and in so doing wrecked any chance of enjoying any down time. I have always admired those folk who can go off for a fortnight’s holiday somewhere, leaving work way behind.

So instead of moving my office to Scotland I left the lap-top in its case, the iPad unopened and turned the sound off on my phone. And strange as it might sound, in-between the running nose, pounding headache, hacking cough, shivers and generally feeling miserable about everything and everyone, I actually started to feel better in myself. 

As I said, I couldn't face long walks, but loved walking along the shore and through the woods with Cello. On one afternoon I was fortunate enough to see an otter playing, swimming, fishing and eating along the front as the tides turned. On another morning I went along to the local Ladies Guild Christmas Fair at the local Village Hall. Over indulged with the most delicious home made scones, cream and strawberry jam, and got brought up to date with the village gossip (shades of vanilla rather than grey!). I didn't win a raffle prize though.

Tuesday night I was able to watch the local firework display from the comfort of my lounge. Although the village firework show wasn't as ostentatious as the Sydney Harbour displays we have come to marvel at, it was as little Jack my 2 year old grandson said, ‘awesome’ nevertheless.

By the end of last week I was feeling much better physically, emotionally and more relaxed and refreshed. I know that later on today I shall have to open that in-box and tackle the emails and possibly by the middle of the working week my recharging week in Scotland will seem like far distant dream. However, I will remember in future to leave my computer and desire to stay in touch with work at home the next time I have a holiday. Roll on Christmas! If you want to create a better life for yourself and perhaps are thinking where in the world might you find this, try this wonderful guide – you might be pleasantly surprised

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Ones Flu over the Chickens Nest, and a Vision in Blue

As last week drew to a close, I felt increasingly unwell. My grandson Jack had been suffering with a cold all week, and I guess I had caught it from him. While he is getting better, I found myself spending the first 48 hours of my holiday with a pounding headache, dry persistent cough, and sucking pastilles for a raging sore throat, and generally feeling very miserable. But thankfully, I am sure it’s just a cold (a bad one mind you) and not flu.

The national flu vaccination campaign is in full flood, with ever increasing numbers taking this up. All children between the ages of 2 years and 16 years old should receive it every year. The injected flu vaccine contains inactivated strains of flu virus and doesn't cause flu. The flu vaccine is often grown in fertilised hens eggs, although egg free vaccines are available for those with an egg allergy.

Scariest hen and flu story this week was definitely that published in the Lancet regarding poultry markets in China. The story showed that these live poultry markets created a huge flu reservoir  and that following closure of some 800 such markets across Shanghai, Huzhou, Hangzhour and Najing, the number of new H7N9 bird flu cases dropped by 97%. There have been 137 cases of H7N9 bird flu deaths according to the WHO, and most of which were in the months immediately after the virus was found to be moving away from infecting animals to infecting people. 

My chickens live in the back garden. They have never been to China, and I have never heard them as much as have a sneeze. Chickens are good for the garden, and the older one becomes, gardens, so it seems are good for us.  A Swedish study published  in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last week showed that for people over the age of 60 fixing the car, doing home repairs, cutting the lawn, blackberry  picking or going hunting could reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke by 27% and death from any cause by 30%. 

I do like gardening and like seeing my hens pottering about. And in a week where I joined other colleagues to test out our University Vision I was struck by the near Wittgenstein like thought (‘roughly speaking; objects are colourless’ Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) contained in a Tweet sent last Friday which posed the question as to how people who are blind pick their socks. Its a serious and fascinating question where it seems technology is coming to the rescue, well at least in part. Technology can tell us it’s a pair of red socks, but how do we know what red means either physically or emotionally? Me, well I know right now my cold is making me feel very blue! And at 05.00, do I take the night nurse or day nurse tablets?