Friday, 26 May 23:00
The days seem endless here, in a good way. This sleepless, sun-filled city bestows enough hours of positive, brilliant energy in the day to stave off an entire season of winter blues. Right now, as I struggle to stay awake enough to keep my promise to myself to reflect and write at the end of each day, a ska band is playing a slow version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance just half of a block from my balcony window. I’m officially enamored with Barcelona.
This morning, I met AJN Editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy at the Centre Convencions International Barcelona to observe the meetings of the Council of National Nursing Association Representatives (CNR), and check in as a member of the press. This is acting President Judith Shamian‘s final Congress, and I was sad that my jetlag kept me in bed past the opening presentation that commended her advocacy and celebrated her coined phrases – challenges to the global nursing community to act, have a voice, get involved in policy.
After a sunny coffee break where Shawn and I caught up and made a plan for our coverage throughout the week, I met up with NYC colleages to tag along on a tour of Hospital Clinic Barcelona that Dr. Beth Oliver, Vice President of Cardiac Services for Mount Sinai Health System, had arranged for a handful of nurses through an international contact. We met with members of the nursing leadership team, who personally walked us through a presentation of the hospitals history, architecture, place in Spain’s universal health care structure, and current clinical offerings. After this, we headed to the floors, where we saw intensive care units that were higher tech and more sophisticated than any I had ever seen or worked for in New York. It wasn’t until after we finished and entered the noisy streets that Beth and I turned to each other and said, “Oh my goodness, did you notice how quiet it was in every floor?”
From there, I parted ways with my US friends and spent the rest of my day walking the city. I hiked up the hill (and stairs!) to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, watched the city behind eager tourists taking selfies, and perused their collection of international art, particularly enjoying a simple, small exhibit by a Barcelona native, Torné Esquius, called “Poetics of the Everyday.” The empty halls of the museum posed a stark contrast to the heavily trafficed museums back home, and I enjoyed taking my time to look at pieces, or taking no time at all.
While I love site seeing and art viewing, my favorite part of my second day in Barcelona was spending time learning from other nurses at the hospital. I most enjoyed hearing the details of the Spanish health care system, and the structured take the government has on educational levels, specializations, labor agreements, and advanced degrees. I marveled at the detail of the presentation materials given by these nurses who spoke of their many degrees and accomplishments, seemingly spurred on by the laws in place here in Spain that systematically move nurses through required educational minimums for practice; structure that we sorely lack in the US.
I also loved “collecting” the simple design solutions that this hospital had mastered: Huge numbers on each glass sliding door of each room. Buttons that made the lights in the ceiling mimic the pattern of the sun to decrease delirium. Basic, clear hand hygiene signs. Plastic, easily cleaned room-dividers instead of fabric curtains (brilliant!). A code cart with a compartment that had a clear, locked lid containing the intubation blade and battery pack in plain view, right next to the defibrillator. Even in rooms so small that bed rails touched each other, I didn’t hear a single call bell ring, and nurses seemed engaged and happy, even with patient rations higher than our own.
Perhaps I am just seeing everything with vacation eyes. I don’t know. Either way, the day brought me closer to the realization that there is so much to learn, so many perspectives to consider, so much to be open to. I can hardly wait for the day tomorrow, when thousands of motivated nurses will end their journeys together at the Congress’ opening ceremonies. Being here makes me remember why I love our profession so much, how unifying it is, how our common struggles, maybe not exactly the same, only bring us closer together and more apt to move in unison.