One Big Wish: Celebrating International Nurses Day

We’re celebrating International Nurses Day (May 12th) with a true, personal story about nursing. As a middle child in a family of ten children, Dr. Coyne reflects on the impact her childhood has had on her career in children’s nursing.

Written by Imelda Coyne, PhD, BSc (Hons), HDip N (Hons), RSCN, RGN, RNT, FTCD, FEANS

Most of my career has been about promoting the importance of listening to and seeking children’s views in matters that affect their lives. On reflection, I think that my nursing career and research were influenced somewhat by my childhood and my nursing experiences.

Growing up as a middle child in a family of ten children meant that it was often difficult to have one’s view heard. All of my siblings were strong, opinionated characters whereas I was quite shy and reserved. It was challenging to find my place in this large family and to have my views heard, never mind respected. Having a voice was further challenged by my education in a private boarding school managed by nuns from a religious order. The nuns preferred children to be seen and not heard and were keen on discipline and rules. Likewise, the hospital where I did my nurse education in children’s nursing was a strictly controlled hierarchy managed by nuns. My schooling and nurse education were similar disempowering environments in the 1980’s. It was frustrating to not have a voice, and to lack autonomy and decision-making. Similarly, at this time, there was not a culture of seeking children’s views nor of involving them and often children had to undergo procedures with minimal preparation or information.

I always wanted to be a children’s nurse but witnessing children’s pain and suffering was very hard. Things like the sight of blood made me feel really squeamish so I thought a few times that nursing might not be the career for me. I remember one time being in a room with other student nurses watching a nurse tutor demonstrate how to bathe a baby. When the tutor told us that the baby had a serious heart problem, I felt my legs going wobbly and I slumped to the ground. When I came around I was in the ward kitchen surrounded by the concerned faces of my peers. The tutor quizzed me about whether I had my breakfast and my general health. I was reluctant to admit that it was not a case of a missed breakfast, instead it was because I felt so upset over the fact that a baby only a few weeks old had a major heart defect and would require life-threatening surgery. On another occasion I was assisting a senior nurse and doctor to perform a lumbar puncture on a small toddler (who was very distressed) and when I saw the long needle I felt weak and had to excuse myself. I found it upsetting that children had to often undergo painful and distressing procedures. However, I persisted and became a children’s nurse as that was always my end-goal.

After qualifying as a children’s nurses, I gained experience in neonatal, gastrointestinal and cardiac intensive care units for about fifteen years. As I moved up nursing grades, I found myself doing more administration than I preferred. Being with the children and families was the most enjoyable aspect of my job so I felt increasingly sad that promotion meant less ‘hands on’ clinical practice. Then a colleague advised me to change to nurse education as there I could influence the next generation of nurses and demonstrate care at the bedside. I was so pleased when I got my first teaching job in the nursing school in Great Ormond Street Hospital as it combined teaching with clinical practice. Nowadays there are more opportunities for nurses who want to remain ‘by the bedside’ such as, advanced and clinical nurse specialist roles which is really important as they can make a significant contribution to nursing care quality.

Although I have encountered many challenges I have maintained my focus which is about making a difference to children’s lives. At times when some jobs have been difficult, my passion for children’s rights and well-being has sustained me and kept me pushing ahead in my career. Despite all the challenges, I was delighted to become the first children’s nurse from Ireland to obtain a nursing doctorate in 2003. At that time most PhD in nursing focused on education or management topics whilst my PhD was based on clinical nursing research. I was fortunate to be mentored by an inspirational nurse, Professor Sarah Cowley, from King’s College University of London. My PhD was titled, A grounded theory of disrupted lives: children, parents, and nurses in the children’s ward. While I was researching this topic, I became even more aware of how ‘silent’ or ‘invisible’ the child’s contribution was to communication interactions and pursued this further in my postdoctoral work.

Since then, I have held several academic posts in the university sector and collaborated with many inspiring children’s nurses and nurse academics. In my current post as Professor of Children’s Nursing and Co-Director of the Trinity Research in Childhood Centre I lead a team in the delivery of high quality teaching, clinical practice, and research. I believe in supporting and encouraging nurses to do higher level studies and to take a research-based approach to patient care. I have helped many undergraduate nurses to publish work in peer-reviewed journals. Through chairing the Irish Undergraduate Awards nursing committee, I have helped undergraduates to receive awards for excellent essays. They are the future leaders who can make a real difference to children and families health and wellbeing.

Although I have published widely on the necessity to involve children in their care and treatment, it has not always been easy or straightforward. I remember one paper in particular because it was challenging to get it published (rejected by two journals). I was reporting research on children and young people’s experiences of participation in communication and decision making in a hospital setting and the paper was eventually published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. So when this paper was chosen by the editor as the best research paper in 2011, I was surprised and delighted in equal measure. This led to the dissemination of my research across the world in leading health service journals and websites (e.g. Health Service Journal, Hospitalist News, Medical News Today, MediLexicon UK, MSN Health USA, Med India), nursing and medical organisations worldwide, UK and USA government committees (e.g. Associate Parliamentary Health Group UK, The Office of Minority Health), websites (Medline Plus, Healthfinder) and radio and TV websites ( ABC network, CBS radio network, Fox network, WorldNow network and Raycom Media Network).

I continue to promote child-centered care through my teaching, research and academic positions, ensuring that children are central to the development of interventions and research when it concerns their lives by presenting my research in academic and non-academic forums. For example, we developed an intervention to prepare adolescents for transition to adult health care services which was successful because adolescents and young adults with chronic conditions actively participated in every stage of the research. Young people were key to the design, style, wording of the information and website They co-produced videos of themselves speaking about their transition experiences which were hosted on the website. A International hockey player for Ireland, a young man with diabetes launched the intervention. The website won the best hospital project award in 2014 which was all due to the young people’s efforts and guidance. It is important that we find creative ways to engage children and young people and consequently I was excited to collaborate with the Oxford Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Advisory Group, UK on a theatre play ‘People Are Messy’ which explains how children and young people can help with identifying research priorities and designing clinical research.

My current research focuses on nurse-led interventions to support adolescents and young people’s transition to adult healthcare services. As children increasingly survive with long-term conditions, they need support and guidance on how to develop self-care skills. My research has revealed how children hold a marginalized role in communication interactions and decision-making in healthcare encounters. We must find creative ways to enable and promote children’s ways of expressing their views and experiences. In one study, we used a simple technique where we asked hospitalized children if they had three wishes, what would they wish for. For most children, their wishes were about their communication interactions with healthcare professionals. They wanted to be informed, allowed time to ask questions express their views, and be listened to. This helped reduce their fears and anxieties. As one child said ‘My one big wish is that nurses and doctors would explain things better to children.

If I had one big wish, it would be that adults give children time to voice their needs and preferences, listen to what they have to say, and if adults cannot accommodate their preferences explain why they cannot do so. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with children as they have taught me a lot about compassion, love and caring.

Dr. Imelda Coyne is the co-editor of Being Participatory: Researching with Children and Young People (Springer, 2018).


Surgeon Storytellers Delight and Awe in Washington, DC

Last Monday, October 17, 2016, Springer Nature Storytellers returned to the stage and opened the fall season with a live surgery-themed show in Washington, DC, the location for the 2016 American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress(ACSCC).

Co-hosts, Shane M. Hanlon and Farah Z. Ahmad, photo by Michael Bonfigli

After a busy first day in the exhibit hall, Springer staff, authors and curious members of the public gathered at Busboys and Poets, a beautiful local neighborhood hangout in the historic Mount Vernon Triangle district, just steps from ACSCC, for an evening of storytelling by surgeons themselves. Guests staked out their spots in the theatre-style set-up, enjoying a drink on the house and indulging in complimentary refreshments as they waited for the show to begin.

Without a chair to spare, co-hosts, Shane M. Hanlon and Farah Z. Ahmad, both members of our partnering organization, The Story Collider, took the stage and warmed up the audience with anecdotes and experiences related to surgery, from their own lives.

Dr. Mahul B. Amin, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Our first storyteller and Springer author, Dr. Mahul B. Amin, Editor in Chief of the much-anticipated 8th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, took the stage with a smile and an enthralling tale of growing up in India, remarking on how his father’s career as a door-to-door physician impacted his work in developing personalized patient care  as one of the world’s leading pathologists.

Dr. Marie Crandall, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Dr. Marie Crandall took our breath away with first-person accounts of the devastation a trauma surgeon witnesses due to gunshot fatality among Chicago’s youth. Her passion and motivation to change the circumstances within which she works, including details of the incredible research she has led, left the audience suspended in disbelief.

Amy Oestreicher, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Before a brief intermission, Amy Oestreicher, a storyteller from The Story Collider, injected a patient perspective into the mix with a remarkable personal account of having experienced over 30 surgeries to-date.

With drinks topped off and guests back in there seats, Dr. Kathy Hughes shared how building a social media presence and committing to science communication has helped her create an important balance between the nature of her job as a surgeon and her life-long dream of being a writer.

Dr. Kathy A. Hughes, photo by Michael Bonfigli
Dr. Rob B. Lim, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Before the night came to end, Dr. Robert B. Lim, author of the 2016 Springer title, Surgery During Natural Disasters, Combat, Terrorist Attacks, and Crisis Situations, shocked the room and yet gave us quite a few laughs with his accounts of being deployed to Iraq as part of a Forward Surgical Team in the United States Army.

Our opening show was a huge success and we can’t wait to give you an opportunity to hear these incredible stories for yourself here on the blog once the podcasts have been published.

Our next stops are Springer Nature Storytellers at the American Society of Criminology 2016 Annual Meeting next month in New Orleans (registration is now live) and Springer Nature Storytellers at American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2016 in San Francisco. Stay tuned for more updates and as always, if you have a story that you’d like to tell, visit our Pitch Page to find out how you can become a Springer Nature Storyteller!

An Astronomer’s Guide to Storytelling

In January 2015, Dr. Kaspar von Braun, an astrophysicist at Lowell Observatory, told his story at our Springer Nature Storytellers event in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. We asked him to share his experience and advice for future storytellers. His response can be summarized in two words; “Do it.”

On January 6, 2015, I had the honor of participating at a Springer Storyteller event in the old Town Hall in Seattle. There were about 300 people in attendance (some astronomers but largely members of the public), 5 speakers (all professional astronomers), and a team of MCs to warm up the crowd for the next speaker.AAS Show

As many astronomers can attest to, one tends to give a large number of talks in the field, normally around 45 min in length, supported by 30-60 PowerPoint slides that illustrate the subject. Not in this event, however. The goal was to tell stories, not present science: campfire over conference, so to speak. The only prop was a microphone on stage, which the speakers were told not to touch for noise reasons as the talks were being recorded as podcasts. There was no projector, no screen, no podium, no laser pointer, just you and the mic, and you had 10-15 min in which to tell your story, for which the speakers were encouraged to emphasize the personal and human aspects more than the science. I very clearly remember the moment of walking up to the microphone on stage with nothing in my hands, no computer waiting for me on some podium, and no projected talk title with my name underneath it. Adrenalin is a good drug.

To be honest, this challenge was one of the fondest memories I have of that evening: memorize a short, personal, and coherent story, and thereby not using any props at all. The single best aspect of the evening, however, was the quality of the talks given by the other speakers — I went last, and as I listened to the other speakers, I felt increasingly inadequate the closer it came time for me to talk. It turns out that I was not the only one thinking like that. Later, as we speakers enjoyed a “we did it” drink together, we all confided the exact same emotion I had felt: “Your stories are so terrific! What am I doing here???” There were serious masterpieces where you could feel that the story does not often see the light of day due to its very personal nature. Every astronomer goes through some trials and tribulations, but also quite funny experiences, on the way to being a full-time scientist, and all presentations one tends to give along the way are, by request and necessity, practically only about the science. To glimpse an insight into the personal histories and experiences of some fellow astronomers was a big honor to me and hopefully to the public audience — this is very, very rare.

I would be amiss if I did not mention the quality of the overall setting — the preparation of the event was exquisite, the mood of the audience was fantastic, and the little warm-up skits performed by the MC pair in between our talks were of high, stand-up comedian level. It was truly a humbling and at the same time adrenalin-filled experience, and I would recommend doing this to anyone who is not afraid to speak in public. The Storyteller team did a great job of preparing me to give a talk like that weeks ahead of the event, but at the same time never tried to influence what I was going to say. They just gave advice on what to emphasize.

To offer advice to anyone contemplating doing this — in two words: do it. And when you do, focus on the personal aspects and let the science take a back seat.

Interested in becoming a Springer Nature Storyteller? Visit our pitch page to submit your idea and learn more about the program and our upcoming fall shows!

A Call for Stories: Springer Nature Storyteller Fall Shows!

Springer Nature Storytellers is a unique program available to Springer Nature authors (read: have published with Springer, Nature, Macmillan Science and Education, Palgrave, BioMed Central or SpringerOpen brands) to harness the power of storytelling and increase exposure to their work within their field and beyond their scholarly circle.

Our storytelling events are an empowering opportunity for authors to talk about what they do and why it’s important to the public at large and we’re very excited to be bringing this live event to three conferences this fall:

American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress, October 16-20 in Washington, D.C. 

Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, November 16-19 in New Orleans, LA 

The American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting, December 12-16 in San Francisco, CA

We want to hear your story! We’re looking for researchers with engaging stories that will leave their audience with a strong message (This podcast is one fantastic example of the type of storytelling we’re looking for). Stories may address:

-What inspired authors to become researchers

-Why a researcher studies his/her field

-What a researcher hopes to accomplish through his/her work

-A researcher’s most surprising finding(s)

-Obstacles overcome and surprise twists that led to new discoveries

-And anything else specific to your experience as a researcher!

If you would like to tell a five-to-ten minute story at one of these three meetings, in partnership with The Story Collider, please send a two-to-three-paragraph summary of your story idea to and include the intended conference name in your subject line, e.g. “Story pitch for ACS  meeting.” Please submit your story idea before the respective deadline: August 12th for the DC show, September 16th for the New Orleans show, and October 7th for the San Francisco show.

Check out our Pitch page for more information!

Richard W. Hartel & AnnaKate Hartel: Father & Daughter, Co-Authors

Richard W. Hartel and AnnaKate Hartel, father and daughter, offer their different perspectives on writing collaboratively. 

Snap 2016-01-27 at 13.15.18
Richard W. Hartel and AnnaKate Hartel, co-authors

Richard’s Perspective:

“Would you like to write a book together?” I asked her.

Seemed like a logical thing to ask her since she was planning to get English and writing degrees.  Although initially she was hesitant, she finally agreed to do it and we started writing together.  Mostly it was my stuff that she contributed to, until the day she agreed to write one of her own, on cake preferences.  That didn’t go so well since we have very different writing styles. Over time, we figured out those differences and made Food Bites work out – it was great to see it published.  I think we were both pretty happy that we had worked together to get something in print.

After finishing Food Bites, we took some time off from writing together, even though the idea for the next book began to take shape. I took a sabbatical at the college she was attending to work on two books, one of which was Candy Bites. One chapter in particular came together that year – the one on the Baby Ruth bar in the movie, Caddyshack.

For this chapter, we conducted an experiment to test whether a Baby Ruth bar actually floats. We put college pool water on our kitchen counter and tried to float a variety of different candy bars.  The only one that floated was the 3 Musketeers bar.  The Baby Ruth bar sank immediately, proving that the moviemakers were taking unscientific liberties to jazz up the scene.  For us, it was a fun way to work together and we got an interesting chapter out of it.

It took several more years before we compiled enough new chapters to complete Candy Bites, but we’re pleased with how it turned out.  So pleased, in fact, that we’ve started working on ideas for the next one, Chocolate Bites (forthcoming).

How did I get to this point, where I can write books on ice cream and candy? Actually, a lot of people ask me that question these days, but my research work is on candy, chocolate and ice cream, so it’s a natural step for me.

My career certainly wasn’t something I mapped out and planned as a little kid.  No, my career has been a series of stumbles and uncertain steps, at least until I got hired at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This is where I’ve really been able to blossom, in part because of the mentorship I received early in my career as a professor and in part because of the opportunities.  The University of Wisconsin, particularly the Food Science department, already had an established reputation in ice cream and confections before I ever started.  But my background was almost ideally suited to this environment.

In my first year, one professor put his arm around my shoulders and said “Rich, you know something about sugar, so I’m going to introduce you to the candy and chocolate industry.”  The next year, another professor put his arm around my shoulder and said “Rich, you know something about crystallization, so I want you to work on this ice cream project with me.”  Twenty some years later, I’m the expert.

Why do I write?  I don’t know, probably for the same reason I like to teach.  It forces me to learn new things and to focus my thoughts in such a way that others can understand them. Although sometimes it can be extremely frustrating, like when the words don’t come together very well or when my ideas are all jumbled, when the words do fall into place, there’s no better feeling of accomplishment. My wife says I should get a hobby, but really, my hobby is writing.

But I also write, in part, because it lets me work with my daughter in some meaningful way.  Being able to say I wrote this book with her is a pretty cool feeling.  Not everyone has that opportunity and I feel pretty fortunate.

Their first title, Food Bites
Their first title, Food Bites

AnnaKate’s Perspective:

“Think that might be something you’re interested in doing?” he asked.

I hesitated. “I don’t know, Dad. It sounds like a lot of work and what with classes and everything, I don’t know if I’ll have time to help,” I finally replied. I wasn’t lying, writing a book did sound like a huge undertaking, particularly right before my junior year of college. But it was something we’d always talked about doing, something we had planned for and dreamed about.

“We’ll use a lot of the articles we already have,” Dad said. “It won’t be any more work for you than writing those were.” It was like he’d already thought of all my arguments before we’d even started talking.

I sighed. There was no refuting that argument. “Okay, let’s do it.”

He smiled. “Good. But I don’t think we should include any of the candy articles. Save those for the second book,” he said. I shook my head. It was just like him, planning the second book before the first was even written.

“Sounds good. And maybe don’t include the boxed cake one,” I added.

The first time my dad asked me to help him write, I was in high school. He had been writing articles for the local newspaper, trying to explain food science to a general audience. A friend from the University of Wisconsin, where my Dad is a professor of Food Science, had been helping him but the librarian had other duties and I had always done well in my English classes.

I was ecstatic about it. Seeing my name in print, like a real writer! It was all I had ever wanted, since I was in the second grade. For a long time I didn’t think it would happen. When it came to reading and writing, I was a late bloomer. I went through several years of special reading lessons at elementary school. It was actually these lessons that solidified my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to have them.

Our writing sessions were always relaxed and informal. Once a week or so, we’d sit around the kitchen table and read what he had written. I’d offer suggestions—a different word here, a change in verbs, or even a different avenue of thought. Sometimes, I’d ask questions. A lot of the science was too advanced for me and I’d need clarification. If I asked too many questions, he knew the article wasn’t ready and he’d have to work on it more. If it wasn’t clear to a high school student, it wasn’t at the level the newspaper expected.

During that first year together, we started to dream of the book. Any great idea either of us had was saved for the book. We visited candy factories and discussed the ramifications of automation. “That’s one for the book,” we’d say. I took a class in Latin American history and talked to him about the impact of sugar and cacao plantations. “That’s one for the book,” I’d say. We even went as far as taking pictures for the cover. It was just a big idea but it gave us something to aim for.

When I was a senior in high school, about a year into our partnership, Dad asked me to be the lead writer on an article. “I thought you could write the boxed cake versus home made cake article,” he said. “You could do a taste test in one of your classes.”

I accepted the challenge with relish. This was my opportunity, my chance to really show who I was as a writer. And, since this was less about science, I could make it all my own. I thought I was brilliant—what teenager doesn’t—and wanted to show off. The article I gave Dad was nothing like anything we’d ever submitted to the newspaper before.

That week, we gathered around the kitchen table as usual. “Here’s the article. I made a few changes,” Dad said, handing me a paper copy of what I had written. And it was completely changed! All of my brilliant turns of phrase, my irreverent style was gone! It was just like every other article we’d written together. I was crushed.

“But Dad, this is completely different. You said I could write this one and you’ve gone and changed it!” I said. I could feel tears coming. I’d worked so hard and now it was gone.

Calmly, he explained that we were a writing partnership and that meant that one article couldn’t stand out from the others. They had to be consistent. It was a science article, after all, and we needed to focus on that.

I didn’t take it well. I screamed and cried and vowed never to speak to him again. I made the family miserable for a week. The article came out and I saw my name first in the byline, ahead of Dad’s, but I still wasn’t happy. I neglected my English work and became obsessed with biology and geology. We still had our weekly article meetings, but I was less enthusiastic about them. The glow of seeing my name in print had gone.

When I went off to college, we stopped writing the articles. The newspaper we wrote them for was bought out and the new owners decided not to continue the articles. But the idea of the book never really died. We talked about it less frequently, but it was always there, in the back of our collective minds.

At college, I started taking many writing classes and tried out many writing styles. Reluctantly, I began to realize that Dad had been right. While my original essay may have been a better reflection of my particular style, it wasn’t in fitting with the tone we had cultivated by writing together. I was still disappointed, but no longer resentful.

And then, almost out of the blue, he called and asked if I wanted to write a book. It was almost like not talking about it was the secret to making it happen. The first book came together easily, just as Dad had promised. It wasn’t long before we were toasting to our success.

A few years later, he called again. “It’s time we did the second book,” he said.

I was out of college, working full time as a proofreader, and this time, I didn’t fight it. “Okay, let’s do it.” But I was more hesitant than ever. This time, there would be no articles to rely on and no excuses not to help write chapters. The sting of the boxed cake article was still fresh after all those years.

I had nothing to worry about. Even though there were still fits and bruised egos, we had learned from our mistakes. And while it was never as easy as the sessions around the kitchen table, it went smoothly. Our partnership matured and our books are better for it.