As a young child, I spent a lot of time homeless or living in the seedy parts of town. Many nights were spent in fear. One night, I awoke to the sounds of a man banging on the door, yelling obscenities and threatening to kill us all. I was about 10 years old, and we were living in a very poor part of town. We had no phone and no way out, except for the door the inebriated man was banging on. My mother handed me a hammer and told me that, if the man got through the door, I was to use it to break the bedroom window, grab my sister and jump. Our one-bedroom apartment was on the second floor.
I will never forget the fear in my mother’s eyes as she held our only source of protection—a kitchen knife. Thank goodness, the door was strong and, once daylight broke, the intruder left.
Memory of the fear and struggles my mother encountered in her daily life inspired me to become a nurse. I knew I could make a real difference to people in need and give back to my community in so many different ways. As a nurse, I would be able to provide compassionate care in a medical setting.
Women’s health has always been my passion, and that is why I chose to be a labor and delivery nurse. In my maternal-child nursing role, I became even more aware of the many women who find themselves in violent or abusive situations, who feel not only helpless, but also unworthy of a safe and fear-free life.
During a visit with my sister, she signed us up for a class offered by Divas in Defense, a program that builds self-esteem in women and provides them with the physical and mental tools they need to ensure their environment is safe. The class taught me to be more attentive to my surroundings and, after completing it, I felt more empowered to move safely through my world. I decided I wanted to share what I had experienced with others and, if possible, to have the program included among the many opportunities offered for women at Central Baptist Hospital.
To accomplish that goal, I knew I had to be proactive and get my nursing peers on board to support me in presenting my idea to Karen Hill, chief operating officer and nurse executive at Central Baptist. In the process, I learned to be persistent and extend myself beyond my comfort zone.
Starting a program from scratch isn’t easy and can be intimidating when you need institutional buy-in. I had a clear purpose, however, and was passionate about the subject, which was a good place to start. I knew I wanted to make the project a team effort, so I spent time compiling a vision statement and made a poster detailing my plans for peers to review and critique.
To test my idea, I made a series of small presentations on my unit and offered people the opportunity to sign a petition requesting that Central Baptist Hospital sponsor the first community Divas in Defense program in our state. Because a staff member in the surgical services department had been the victim of domestic violence, awareness within the hospital of the need for such a program was palpable. More than 100 people signed the petition, which I presented to Hill.
Having gained the confidence and support of my unit and co-workers, I needed to make sure the business side of my proposal was ready for presentation to the hospital’s administrators. Working through the business side of establishing the program at Central Baptist was challenging, and I learned a lot about business plans.
I also learned about the many questions that have to be answered and the things that need to be explored before finalizing a program proposal that requires resources. I came to realize that, although I had a great idea, I had to be willing to slow down my timeline to research the details and think about the “what if.” Hill helped by answering my questions, and she also made sure I asked all the right questions of the program sponsors in Atlanta. This pre-program preparation enabled me to do my best in presenting my idea, with Hill, to the hospital’s director of community education. As chief nursing officer, Hill gave me ongoing support and the opportunity to give a concise, detailed presentation outlining the resources that would be needed.
My hard work paid off, and the project was approved. The hospital sponsored Renee Phillips, RN, also a labor and delivery nurse, and me to attend certification training in Atlanta and to bring the program back to our employees and community. Prior to this, Divas in Defense had not expanded beyond Atlanta, Georgia, and we were thus among the first instructors certified outside the Atlanta area. Our community education department made space available and helped notify others about the offering. We also presented the process and outcomes at the hospital’s annual Evidence-Based Practice Symposium.
As a staff nurse and patient advocate, I am amazed to have accomplished something so dear to my heart. With the establishment of Divas in Defense at Central Baptist Hospital, I now have the opportunity to provide care both physically and emotionally to women. I feel so blessed to work as a nurse. I am able to touch lives, and my life is touched daily by the women I care for and by my co-workers. My mother is very proud of me, as I am of her. RNL
Kim McGinnis, BSD, RN, is a labor and delivery nurse at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. Karen S. Hill, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, is chief operating officer and nurse executive at Central Baptist. She also serves as editor-in-chief of JONA, the Journal of Nursing Administration.