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Author Archives: Susan Mende

Field Notes: What Cuba Can Teach Us about Building a Culture of Health

Jan 29, 2015, 9:54 AM, Posted by Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Mende

MaryJoan Ladden and Susan Mende Trip to Cuba

Ever since President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, there’s been growing excitement over the potential for new opportunities for tourism, as well as technology and business exchanges. Most people assume that the flow will be one-sided, with the United States providing expertise and investment to help Cuba’s struggling economy and decaying infrastructure.

That assumption would be wrong. America can—and already has—learned a lot from Cuba. At RWJF, we support MEDICC, an organization that strives to use lessons gleaned from Cuba’s health care system to improve outcomes in four medically underserved communities in the United States—South Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Bronx, N.Y. Even with very limited resources, Cuba has universal medical and dental care and provides preventive strategies and primary care at the neighborhood level, resulting in enviable health outcomes. Cuba has a low infant mortality rate and the lowest HIV rate in the Americas, for example—with a fraction of the budget spent in the United States.

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A New Nurse's Naivety

Jun 11, 2013, 10:25 AM, Posted by Susan Mende

 A nurse updates information on a white board in a hospital patient's room.

After getting my nursing degree in 1980, I got my first nursing  job at Presbyterian Medical Center in San Francisco. At the time, many of the experienced nurses had been hospital trained and  lacked bachelors degrees. So where did they put me? In charge, of course! I worked the night shift. It was notoriously understaffed, and ripe for crises. I can remember the terror I felt when I realized that I did not have the experience or judgment to lead the team. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was way in over my head. I didn’t sleep for a month.

In a new book, True Stories of Becoming a Nurse, a series of essays about new nurses, one author recounts the transformation of the nursing workforce from “the old guard, the hospital-trained, diploma-prepared nurses” to nurses like me who had a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN). I had my degree, but I still had so much to learn.

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