Turbocharged with the cherry juice from the orchards of my hosts (Cherryfarm Bakkershof in Brustem) and the memories of the eccentric gifts of the historic Christina, who was born in this very place, I set out into a warm and grey mid-winter day. 13 degrees Celsius, I need to dress down significantly!
The showers were frequent throughout the day. As I walked along the trail, I started to understand why the oldest settlements were in locations that we would call ‘holes’: These depressions are a natural protection from the strong winds that happen to blow frequently in this flat landscape. If it weren’t for the many groves and rows of sheltering trees, it would feel like on the islands in the Canadian Arctic.
Today, I got drawn into an online conversation. It started with the following blog entry: Experiments in Living and its subsequent exchange of replies that eventually touched on the issue of need and structure of government. From the exchange I got the sense that government seems to be categorically opposite to the notion of liberty, as well as that certain national governments are being viewed as completely separate from and in opposition to the population. For me the latter seems peculiar and indicates a fundamental flaw of existing government structures. I have posted earlier some of my own thoughts about governance under the heading leadership and power – not authoritarian rule and legalized force.
Here I will share with you my reply to the above-mentioned online dialogue:
I am not sure if smaller government is my preferred vision in general.
The last few workdays, I had a chance to be with people in a professional manner again. Yes, it is in many ways a different way of being, no matter what the personal intention behind it is. There is often a very clear mandate, a professional framework, and whole lot of professional culture that determines in various ways the interactions and relationships in such a setting. I have considerable experience in the field of nursing, which operates within the health care system. This most recent experience was in the field of education. I found many commonalities in how we as professionals relate to those in our care.
The most limiting factor I find is the schedule – the work hours. Although the job mandates to relate to people, work hours are a very foreign framework: They are governed by transactional considerations in collective agreements, agency funding, institutional culture, and individual rights and responsibilities. I find this internally inconsistent with the mandate of being with – of relating to people with multiple needs. How often are we forcing our professional expertise (“we know what to do, what is best for you”), our learning goals and plans, our labour benefits (such as break times) onto the individual lives of those who we care for during work hours? It is not possible to catch that learning window when it is open, we have to pry it open: It is time to do crafts, music therapy, spell and sign… because our schedule demands it at this point.
Many times I have been frustrated by these constraints. But I have also witnessed, that it is so much easier, successful, and satisfying to be with people and weave the learning goals and activities into daily living (instead of simulating a formal lesson): Why not sing and engage in musical activity when the person we are caring for is open to engage, even if it is while out on a walk? The squirrels and ravens don’t mind if I sing and if we clap the rhythm to the song together.
Membership and belonging are important factors for well-being on an individual level. It is a topic that resonates strongly with me for a long time. In 2004/05, I have written an article on community membership and belonging from a nursing perspective with a particular focus on cross-cultural practice in indigenous communities. It was never published, but might be of interest to some.
Nursing practice with Aboriginal communities: An exploration of the question of membership.
Othmar F. Arnold, RN, MN,
For most nurses working with Aboriginal people, such a posting is a professional challenge. Nurses do not hold any formal membership in the cultural and ethnically diverse communities they serve. The importance is placed on competent and efficient delivery of needed services for populations that are known for significant health disparities and marginalization. Drawing from Nuu-chah-nulth origin stories, it appears to be important for the realization of Aboriginal health, healing, and well being that health professionals acquire community membership. The difference between the two world views poses an ethical dilemma, possibly constituting a form of cultural imperialism. Nursing science based approaches for bridging the intercultural gap are explored.