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Interview with Rita Batchley, RN and Author of Labor Pains

Rita Batchley is not your ordinary RN. She is a teacher, author and speaker who happens to believe that nurses hold the key to real healthcare reform. Since graduating from nursing school over 28 years ago, Nurse Batchley has helped to deliver more than 3,000 babies and now, in her breakout novel Labor Pains, she delivers a gripping story that breathes life into the spirit of nursing. This timely story is sure to be loved by today’s nurses as well as those yearning to be delivered into a world where the primary ingredient in medicine is caring.

As “The Nurses’ Nurse,” Rita has dedicated her life to support nurse to patient ratio laws and she tells the effects of nursing on nurses as only someone with her experiences can. Rita contributes essays and editorials by way of her blog, The Nurse’s Nurse. She has dedicated her life to support nurse ratio laws.

What event or series of events led you to pursue nursing as a professional choice?

Nurse Rita BatchleyI grew up in NYC during the ’70s (think American Hustle); the inflation and job opportunities were limited. I wanted a career that was recession-proof. Fiercely independent, I moved to California and married young. I needed to advance myself in a direction that would allow me to live anywhere, a job that was as versatile as it is challenging. One day there was a press release announcing a two-year nursing program at the local junior college. I was always fascinated with the sciences and the integration of the physical and social sciences was a perfect fit for me. It took me five years to complete that two-year program but it was worth it. Years later, while pursuing a BSN I read Suzanne Gordon’s book, From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public. Her work sparked a fire that motivated me to write Labor Pains, my debut novel about a nurse hero.

Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your career in nursing and the steps you took to overcome them?

As a labor and delivery nurse for the last twenty-five years, there were moments I wanted to give up because I was so discouraged from the lack of adequate staffing. Instead, I’ve devoted my life to safe nurse to patient ratios. In the process, so many people have asked why I chose to write a novel to support this cause, rather than penning a memoir or citing research. My answer takes me to the very core of nursing and what resonates most in my practice: the power of people and the relationships we cultivate by caring. In the 90’s the hospital industry tried to de-skill nursing by giving our jobs to unlicensed assistive personnel. I went back to school part-time for my BSN which allowed me to network with a whole new world of nurses that gave me insight and opportunity. I joined my state nursing association, The California Nurses Association and I became very involved in leading the change I wanted to see in nursing. Nurses deserve respect. I became the chief nurse representative for our 750 nurses throughout the Ventura County Health Care Agency. Since then I have helped make enormous changes in our workplace due to the passing of our state-mandated ratio law.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

I want people to know what nurses do to protect them, but the silence of who we are and how we suit up for jobs most people couldn’t stomach in a million years, is not easy to disclose. In my book, Labor Pains, this mystery of who nurses are and what we do unfolds. We are scientists, yet the main ingredient of our medicine intuitively looks to soothe that certain something that niggles deep within. At the bedside, in the office or during visits to a patient’s home, it’s the nurse who gets to know the idiosyncrasies that make each patient tick. Every chapter strikes a chord right where a nurse lives: in being a patient advocate.

Now I am working to promote and market Labor Pains because there is so much further we need to go for the awareness of what nurses can do. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, nursing will be on the front lines for fighting for better access to positive medical outcomes. Our job to educate others on their options is the key to starting a social movement for working towards universal health care.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you or the activities you spend the most time on at work?

As a hospital nurse specialist I do a variety of jobs. I’ve worked in Labor and Delivery doing direct patient care, I’ve worked on our hospital’s electronic charting system, I teach and I write. The beauty of a nursing career is that you’ll never be bored. It’s a dynamic profession that will grow with you as long as you have the willingness to learn new skills.

What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy connecting with people. Advocating for nurses and patients, bringing justice to the forefront, this entire aspect makes nurses healthcare heroes. When I plant the seed of self-confidence in others a million roots of positive change take hold.

What advice would you give to new graduates for getting hired after graduation?

Hospitals spend a lot of money to train new-hires. Tell a prospective employer your commitment to loyalty. Find a hospital that supports mentoring; get a job at a teaching hospital or one that encourages you to learn.

What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new graduates to mine their own strengths to further their careers?

I am tenacious. Co-workers told me that hospitals would never change, that the nurse ratios wouldn’t work. I will continue to work for safe patient care and improving access to care.

Never give up. Align yourself with integrity, courage and take action. What you focus on becomes your truth. Choose wisely.

We’d like to thank Rita for being so generous with her time and sharing her insights and advice with our readers. You can learn more about Rita Batchley at her blog, The Nurse’s Nurse.