My very first performance on stage in front of a large crowd happened in 1980 when I was a junior in High School in Broken Arrow, OK. It would be the first time my Parents would see me perform. I recall the sheer terror I felt in the wings just before walking out in front of my entire high school in a Kermit the Frog costume with green panty hose and was met with roars of laughter at my then ridiculous state. I took center stage on a stool,, was hit with a green spot and sang “Rainbow Connection” with the HS choir as back up. The laughter turned to complete silence 2 measures into the intro and we delivered the sweetest heartfelt arrangement that captivated the theatre. I recall looking into the faces of many during that song and realizing that as I was pouring my soul out to them, they were being touched by the experience, and I realized then what the job of a singer really is: To move others and inspire an emotional connection to touch a life and nourish the spirit. I will never forget the face of my mother in that moment with her tears welling up, and the look my father had as he saw for the first time the level of courage an artsy wimpy and nerdy kid has to muster to step on a stage in panty hose and rock the house! I had the kind of mother that supported me in all my wild adventures, She inspired me to never let fear or doubt kill any dream I could imagine.
Approaching my mid fifties now, and I still carry these experiences as useful reminders that creating art, music, dramatic performance is important for its own sake. It is giving away something of ourselves to others. It’s not for any glory or recognition, instead it’s a need to help others somehow with the love we have inside for meaningful expression, love, joy, happiness, and connection to others that cause us to take the risks and expose our souls in such a public way.
The artist is a healer of imagination and the mender of dreams. Art is spirit therapy, medication for the soul, and therefore necessary in hospitals and healthcare systems.
A faint smell of diesel managed to settle inside my nostrils in spite of the red clown nose covering them. Making my way to the train, the smell was joined by a burning unreachable itch, followed by a potential sneeze, aching to blast its way through the rubber nose glued to my face. All discomforts aside, Tater the Tramp had some magic to do, and some people to meet. This Make-A-Wish Train, filled with special kids, was about to pull out of the station, leaving their troubles behind for a while. A mighty band of clown friends, along with an army of entertainers, magicians, singers, face painters, balloon artists were along for the ride too.
BNSF Railway of North Texas, based in Fort Worth, brought a special train with luxury cars into the Stock Yard Station to provide a joy ride for medically fragile children and their families. They had no difficulty filling it with fun for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as entertainers of all types rallied together to bring their healing arts on board. Sharing their gifts with these beautiful families, performers with heart helped these brave kids put their struggles aside for a few hours to be surrounded by joy and wonder.
On a cool October afternoon, incredibly courageous kids, families, magicians and clowns “seize the day” for a magical journey together to celebrate our lives and each other. This is a Love Train! Carpe Diem
Even through difficult times, we have incredible capacity to use love to strengthen our endurance of suffering to experience joy. Creating joyful moments in clinical settings and elsewhere is my mission. The nurse part of me seeks comfort and relief for my patients, easing the mind and healing the spirit when health is challenged. Creative presence and clinical understanding work well together, behind the red nose.
Magic has its way of finding us in the most unlikely of places. The joy we offer to others through art, returns to us in the very act of doing it. We are all on the same train, going the same direction. The rails are set in perfect parallel for each of us. We should enjoy the ride as much as possible together.
“Trains move swiftly to their journey’s end.” The lyrics from “Believe” (Polar Express) remind me that we are only together for a brief time so we should try our best to appreciate the present moments fully. We move forward and onward, whether we are paying attention or not. If we can stay in touch with our own inner child, and with each other, we will do better to experience fuller lives staying connected in the moment. Christmas has this magic message too, and it is something that we could carry with us all year through.
This picture was taken before I knew Brett Wolf and his fiance Robyn Sanford. Just before boarding the Make-A-Wish train, the volunteers posed for a group picture. It was not until years later that I realized it captured the moment of three strangers whose’ lives would be forever linked and tragically changed. Seemingly random events, when individual lives intersect, can lead to such profound destinations. The tramp clown, magician and his lovely assistant are strangers here. None of us could have imagined the destinations we would eventually arrive to. “Destinations…are where we begin again.”
As the train returned to the station, Brett, Robyn and I were now friends. Artists from different worlds brought together in this common work of compassion. There is no greater calling in life than to offer your gifts to others. Brett shared his knowledge and friendship to make my magic stronger. Healing magic is something we can all use in our lives. When it seems the magic slipped away, we can find it again.
I’ll leave you with this Vocal Majority performance of “Believe” in hopes you will find your magic too!
And now for a big dose of pure Happy from the O’Jays..Just because it’s Friday, and I just learned how to link videos into my blog posts! So get up and dance! Right now. Wiggling in your chair doesn’t count.
These lyrics from “Be Still My Soul” touch my heart, and are a powerful reminder to me that friends make life worthwhile. We support our friends through trouble and triumph, sadness, and even in death. “..when all is darkened through a veil of tears” we know our friendship has not ended, it has only changed locations.
I lost a very close friend 2 short years ago, and his impact in my life continues on through my clinical performance art mission. Magic Nurse was a concept and a passion I was trying to incorporate into an effective mission to relieve suffering through art. My friend Brett Wolf was a great magician with a servant’s heart, who encouraged me to develop this concept organically, and let it grow into whatever it would become.
Any purposeful effort of good intention will find its way into the light of the world. Brett was a kind and brilliant man, and I am a better person for knowing him. As long as I have breath in this life, I will try to honor the memory of my dearest friends, and minister to a distressed world through my art, on their behalf as well as mine. I’ll carry the torch a little way further, with hopes some of my friends will pick it up again and keep it going when my time is done too. “Be Still My Soul” reminds us that no matter what happens, love keeps moving forward.
I truly believe the arrangement for “Be Still My Soul” was delivered by God to Jim Clancy to be penned as a prayer for his chorus. Standing on the risers, tucked inside a massive arc of 100+ guys, we each discovered immediately that this song cut deep into that walled off place inside, where men stow their sadness and bury their fears.
The Vocal Majority is the greatest men’s barbershop chorus in the world. The bonds of friendship among the men in this group is very strong. At the direction of Jim and Greg Clancy, we become one massive instrument of pure vocal music excellence. We work in the art of harmony. When we are together, we are doing God’s work to enrich the lives of others through our music.
There are a few profoundly moving songs that affect us with such intensity that it causes tears to flow as we sing. Not just occasionally, but nearly every time we perform them. “Be Still My Soul” is one of those songs where tears come quickly for me.
I felt empathy in those moments when Clancy connected with his men, so deeply moved, as he directed this arrangement. Jim’s expression changes for that brief second of acknowledgement. Then he continues his gaze across the risers to find another tearful face, then another, and another. I know I am not alone. The men to my left and right, are also remembering loved ones beyond the veil of tears too. When Jim’s eyes light upon me for a moment, he knows my grief is there, just behind the joy of singing this incredible song. With kind reassurance, he directs us all gently on; pouring out our souls for those in the audience who need this message also. That is, after all, why we do this.
During the recording sessions for the album “Then Sings My Soul”, the latest Vocal Majority CD, every guy knew inherently that we were creating something very special. A spiritual collection of songs that touched on every aspect of the wonderful gifts and promises our loving God offers us. We knew, as we offered our voices to this project, that a small piece of ourselves would stay here on earth and minister to people, long after we passed on. I told my wife the very night we recorded, “Be still my soul” that it must be played at my funeral. My kids needed to hear that incredible mix of voices, and know their father was in there doing what he loved. My heart continues on for them in the music we made, when I go to be forever with the Lord.
The chorus members know too well that life is fragile. In time, we know we will come together for another solemn purpose, with great sadness, to offer up prayerful tributes for other fallen brothers who will leave their places on the risers too soon. As we have done so many times before, we honor our friends and sing them into Heaven. Our band of brothers feel a deep connection through the music we create with each other, that when one voice is missing, it affects all of us. We never take for granted the moments we have together as a chorus. Many have gone before us, and many more will come after.
I see the faces of my dearest friends who left this life too early, when we perform this song. I lift their memory as a blessing in tearful prayer each time. Then quietly wipe my eyes afterward, trying not to draw attention, composing myself for the next song. I am grateful when stage lights are brought down. Drying the tears, I hear a quiet chorus of sniffles in the darkness. I am not alone.
Dearest friends, I pray you find the comfort in these lyrics we men of the Vocal Majority intended you to have. “Be Still My Soul” is our gift to you, especially if you are feeling grief or pain. You will hear love in our voices. Love that endures forever.
When we recorded Be Still My Soul, we knew God was with us that night. The silence between the notes had as much majesty as the harmonic chords had, ringing with overtones. Angels rested above us and made sure this one was a keeper!
Of all the artistic projects I am involved in, performing with the Vocal Majority has opened up every creative gift God has offered me. There was a divine hand that guided my way through magic, music, clowning, and performing art to bring me to this chorus. As a Registered Nurse, I combined all my creative arts to become a “Magic Nurse” to find creative ways to heal others. This is not just entertainment, it is spiritual healing and compassionate presence. My batteries are recharged every Thursday night at chorus rehearsals. The magic of this work allows me to take that love and friendship to the bedside of my patients. It motivates me to help others find their own magic too.
If you are in Dallas on any Thursday night, I invite you to visit! Guests are always welcome to join us on the risers, our rehearsals are open. Sign in as my guest and lets sing together! Life is too short to miss opportunities to use your gifts.
Farewell to the New Underclass of Registered Nurses!
After years of progressive Nursing engineering, Associate Degree Nurses (ADNs) were finally voted off the island. Diploma nurses have also gone the way of the dinosaur. We call this progress for the advancement of nursing as a profession. The old RNs of yesteryear, whether diploma nurses or ADN, are no longer needed at the bedside, unless they return to school to get a Baccalaureate Degree to stay in the game.
Most organizations have already emptied their clinical ranks of LVNs, Licensed Vocational Nurses. Now it looks like RN’s with less than a BSN are next to go. Many RNs feel Magnet accreditation is to blame for these educational requirements. That is only partly true.
Magnet accreditation is Designed to attract BSN nurses to facilities with higher nursing standards. In spite of common belief, Magnet does not have ADN to BSN ratios for accreditation by the ANCC. (American Nursing Credentialing Center). I cannot imagine it was intended to penalize existing RN’s with Associate degrees.
However, Magnet does expect Nurse Managers, and Nurse Leaders to have a BSN. Hospitals define their own internal educational advancement goals for nurses, then benefit by meeting those stated goals. Hospitals working toward meeting Magnet standards have already adopted new-hire preference for BSN nurses. Some ADN nurses are accepted, provided they are actively enrolled in BSN programs. Filling vacant nursing positions has been a struggle for as long as I can remember.
The main driving force for the BSN standard into nursing comes from the Institute of Medicine. In 2010, new demands were raised requiring the nursing profession to have 80% of all nurses to hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020. My hospital has accepted that request. Notified in writing: all RN employees must have a BSN at the turn of the decade. Several nurses chose to go back to school to stay onboard, many others chose otherwise. On January 1, a sizable number of ADNs with several years of valuable experience will be leaving.
I appreciate the intended goals set for our profession. I am proud of our nursing heritage and the advances we have made in the last 100 years of Nursing Practice. New nurses entering the profession will follow this honorable call to service and advance our practice. Doctorate level nurses will increase with this new push for advanced degrees also. The great nurses of my generation will step aside to let them nurse on. The next 100 years of Nursing could see technological miracles we cannot even imagine.
As two pathways into the profession are closing, I fear there may be fewer people drawn to the field due to higher educational costs and time commitments. There are people from all walks of life who are called to be caregivers and comforters to the sick. Many middle aged adults enter the field as a second career, to give back to their fellow humans. The Diploma and Associates programs were a fast track to the bedsides of those who would benefit from such love.
ADN nurses, bridging to earn the BSN, are getting a pretty good deal though. Most, if not all, school expenses are reimbursed by hospital employers. Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement for advanced clinical education too. My hospital is among the best for this. The future is actually bright for Nursing. What gives me pause however, is how we are failing to honor Nursing’s past at this mile marker. We will say goodbye to some talented nurses needlessly, as healthcare plunges into an unknown future.
I think we need to find a better alternative for hospital nurses. Many have only a few years left to go, before they would have finished their careers naturally.
Seriously …What’s the rush?
Average age of nurses is steadily increasing. 53% of working nurses today are over the age of 50. I see no value in sending anyone off into the sunset before their time. We might get another 10 or 15 good years out of them. . In the twilight years of our nursing careers, many older nurses stay in it for the pure love of caring for people. Experienced hospital RNs, regardless of their degree, help new nurses stay safe and secure as they grow into their careers. I feel it would be a tremendous waste of talent to let good nurses slip away too soon. We really should be asking them to stay!
It could benefit us to grandfather these awesome nurses instead. (or shall I say “grandmother”) Let them finish their careers with dignity. Let’s respect the years they have already given us, by allowing them to choose when it is time to lay down the stethoscope.
There are terrible things nurses experience in our work that would completely freak out the average, non-medical person. How many times have you been asked, “What’s the worst thing you have ever seen?” and replayed an endless stream of visual human tragedies burned into your memory. I have one or two stories that quickly end this line of questioning. Nurses have stories to tell, and you could be telling them in your own blog. Even the gross ones if you like.
Writing a blog is like having your own online magazine. You can post anything you want and share your creative thoughts globally. Many popular blogs have thousands of followers on every subject. You can write about anything you want and find yourself connecting with others who dig what you have to say. If you are not following any bloggers, you are missing a whole new world of online publishing that is all the rage. Blogging has become the new medium for information exchange, and we all have access to share in it.
Starting a new blog is free on many popular blog sites. Two of the most popular are WordPress.com and BlogSpot.com. You can start with a free introductory site for as long as you wish. You may upgrade your site later, as your writing takes on a life of its own. You are head author, photographer, and publisher of your own online journal. Write your best stuff and you can share your creativity with the world. As you continue to improve as a writer, you may even decide to write your first novel. Then there is no turning back.
Writing is a talent we are using every day in our work. Writing can be fun, and many nurses may not be taking advantage of creative writing as an outlet for stress. Writing offers opportunity to record your knowledge and experiences in your life and career. You can also write from the heart to express the emotional side of our work. We share in the triumphs and tragedies of the people we care for every day. We have feelings about what we are experiencing too. Turn your thoughts into words, and let your voice be heard.
We never share specific patient information of course. We are free to share our work in more general terms. We can speak of medical matters without violating any confidentiality. Poetry and fiction are also ways to share our nursing heart. Unburdening ourselves in a creative way allows us to express the intensity of what we do as nurses. We have tools today where anyone who desires to have a voice, can create and publish stories. Readers across the world can find and follow you as we used to follow our favorite columnists. Many people are blogging today, and it is growing every year. There is no reason not to start right now! Just try it. You’ll be surprised how much fun writing as a hobby can be for you. If you are timid about putting your work out there, keep your writing in draft mode until you are ready to post and share. Free your mind and get used to sharing your ideas. You will get so much back the more your share!
Oh and by the way, thank you for visiting my blog! Be sure to subscribe and share my site with all your friends. I will follow you too! I can’t wait to hear your story!
I am Rob Divers, RN/Clown/Magician. I am thrilled to share of a recent trip to Israel I made to visit a remarkable program called “The Dream Doctor Project”. http://www.dreamdoctors.org.il Dream doctors are professional medical clowns who work in hospitals throughout Israel to alleviate stress and anxiety of patients and assist medical staff with procedures and therapies. This being the “business” purpose of my journey, there is also a spiritual and personal mission at work also. I am an RN of 20 years with experiences in ER and pediatrics. I have taken a new direction in my nursing career to explore the benefits of using performing arts like magic, comedy and music integrated with my nursing practice. In 2012 I started a new business as a clinical entertainer. You can learn more by visiting my website at: http://www.magicnurse.com I have discovered a better way to connect with patients, following the inspiration of the Patch Adams movie, then ultimately from Patch himself.
I first learned of the Dream Doctor project as I studied clown arts early in 2012. September that same year, I accompanied the real Patch Adams on a clowning mission to distressed communities in Costa Rica. This experience prepared me to take my clowning to new levels to find integration between the performing and healing arts. No program in the world does it better than the visionary medical clowns in Israel. The Dream Doctors are trained in theater and select medical related studies. They enjoy the only program in the world where a college degree in medical clowning is available at the university in Haifa.
My adventure began when I contacted the Dream Doctor Project early in March 2014 to arrange for a trip to Israel to visit their program. The program administrators enthusiastically welcomed me to come the following September to work with their best clowns at multiple hospital sites. They arranged for me to visit hospitals in Jerusalem, Haifa, Afula, and Tel Aviv. This two week adventure, being my first time in Israel, had enough time built in to explore the historic and holy locations in between hospital days. This trip had special gifts in store for me that I could not have realized as my adventurous spirit was drawn to this remarkable place. Against the advice of dear friends and family concerned for my safety, I was compelled to follow through with this plan. Fortunately the rockets have stopped, and life is peaceful there for now. During the hostilities, Dream Doctor clowns visited bomb shelters in addition to their hospital work, to help their communities. This is serious clowning to be sure!
I was so impressed with the care and professionalism the medical clowns have for their unique role as part of the healthcare team. The first facility I visited, Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, was a pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility with a rich cultural diversity of Arab, Palestinian, Russian, Armenian, and Israeli children all in one place. There is mutual care and respect for all faiths and nationalities within the hospital, and no better ambassador than the universally accepted role of the clown. Funny is funny no matter where you are from. The therapeutic clown assists physical and occupational therapists in motivating children to meet therapy goals by finding new ways to make the therapy fun, and playful, and even enjoyable. This is where the clown is a true artist in improvisation and therapeutic game play. I spent quality time with the psychologist who oversees the therapeutic clowns and we agreed how powerful a clown can be to draw out the imagination and joy of a child experiencing difficult physical and emotional trauma. The clown therapist is a great long term friend and playmate to help these brave patients work towards improved function. Here the clowns are actually scheduled to participate in the therapy sessions, and really make a difference in the outcomes.
The clowns are not just for kids only. Further north In Afula at HaEmek hospital, I found the clown artist is appreciated by adult patients as well. I spent time with a gifted theatrical artist and professional dancer who has focused his skills to making the experience for dialysis patients more pleasant as they spend 4 hours a day 3 times a week receiving dialysis. It was like theatre in the round being surrounded by several patients in this open unit where a stage is created when the clowns arrived. I found a great use of my ukulele here, and the Elvis songs were the most popular among the ladies especially. Once again I found the multicultural experience to be the same, seven different languages were spoken by the variety of patients in dialysis chairs, but everyone understands the clown. And who doesn’t love Elvis?
In Tel Aviv, I visited 2 major hospital systems, and worked with many more clowns in pediatric wards in a variety of units including trauma ICU, and cancer units. The clowns that work with the most critical cases have the best hearts and minds of them all. It is difficult to face the most fragile of these innocents to look past the disease and injury to see the child and play with them in the state they are capable of enjoying. The clown is there to be a friend, a playmate, a spectacle, but most importantly to give power to the child to direct the play in the direction they wish to go. Empowering the child, where they have no control over anything else in the hospital, is the unique gift the medical clown gives to their patients. The medical staff sees these positive effects, and supports their clown partners fully. In a subtle and special way, the clowns relieve the staff of stress as a bi-product of changing the energy in the clinical spaces, and
everyone feels the love!
I had spiritual and meaningful experiences on many levels in this journey. While at the most revered Holy sites where my faith is based, I felt closer to the reality of seeing where these miraculous events took place. To breath the air and share this place with other pilgrims from around the world. To be able to pray in these places, and touch the western wall. I gave thanks to God for all he has done, and is yet to do in my life. I am without words to adequately describe these moments in my adventure, I am just so very thankful to have. connected with these amazing places.
I am so thankful to all the Dream Doctors I met and had the pleasure of performing with. I am especially thankful for Karin who guided every step of my journey and looked out for me as I traveled around the country. In addition to the hospital experiences, where she gained administrative approval for me to work with patients at every location, she treated me to theatrical performances of 2 amazing productions written and produced by Dream Doctor clowns outside of their hospital work. The capstone of it all was sharing in a celebration dinner where ALL the clowns, and program administrators were gathered to celebrate the upcoming Rosh Hashanah season. Since many of the clowns work in all parts of the country, they often only see each other at gatherings like this. It was like being at a large family reunion, and the love these clowns have for their work and for each other is beyond inspirational. A company of healing artists gathered together filled the room with such joy. They are a shining example of a loving work for the benefit of their society. I could only imagine what it would be like if we in America could do the same for our neighbors!
God Bless you Dream Doctors!
Thank you again my dear clown friends for sharing your time, love and knowledge! I will never forget you!
What began as a personal mission to find the healing powers of magic and performance art, has taken a turn into the anarchy of expression found only in the upside down world of the clown. In 2012 I closed a loop by seeking out the source of inspiration I found early in my nursing career from the Patch Adams movie. I wrote Patch a letter to share with him the impact his movie had on me back in 1999, when my mother and I spent one of our last afternoons together watching his movie. She was diagnosed with lung Cancer only a few weeks prior, and she wanted to spend her last days in HIS hospital to have fun with the time she had left. She wanted me to go work for Patch, and be a funny nurse.
Patch replied to my letter soon after I sent it, and invited me to join him on a clown mission. I accepted his offer and we journeyed to work in distressed communities in Costa Rica as a humanitarian clown. I was super jazzed for the opportunity to work with the real Patch Adams. “Chase your wildest dreams!” Patch said, closing his letter. I did, and continue to value that heartfelt charge. It remains a potent mission statement for compassionate people. As a care clown, I dug deeper artistically as I experienced Patch’s clown philosophy in action. I found how clowning was a universal way to express love to a hurting world. The care clown mission work showed me how to energize my passion, and revealed to me why performing art was a joyfully human way to connect with suffering people.
Every aspect of performance is a gift given from the heart of the performer through the hard work of developing skills to express it. Music, comedy, poetry, magic are all gifts to be given to others. The performer, the caregiver, and the clown are all simply trying to love the world, because the artist inside them understands we are all in need of it. When I found my clown, I found a source of courage and abandon to give of myself more honestly. Clowning opens up a new world for the artist. Everything is an opportunity to connect and play!
This is a lead in question I ask every child I have performed magic for. “Do you know any magic words?” is in fact a very loaded question, but it’s main job is to help me with two important things. First, it gives me a clue if the child has had prior experience with magic, and therefore knows that a magic word is about to do something very unexpected and interesting. “Hocus Pocus”, Abra Cadabra”, and my favorite: “Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches”. When there is no traditional magic word uttered, I offer ones they are sure to know: ” Please” and “Thank You” are always magic words. I then proceed with the line ” We will use your magical word, and my magical hand gestures and see what happens” The question also invites participation. When the child repeats the magical command, they expect magical results, and are promptly rewarded. The patient gains great magical ability, having just performed a spectacular magic effect, and the crowd goes wild!! Well, maybe not a crowd, but Moms and Dads and anyone else nearby just experienced a small bit of unexpected joy and wonder. The child has accomplished a mighty deed, and they will talk about it for years.
This is the place where Performing arts joins the Science of Medicine to turn Fear into Cheer in the pediatric clinical practice setting. Making Magic Medical rounds throughout a variety of clinical settings, MagicNurse Rob has found dozens of magical effects for just the right time and appropriate situation. Whether confined to a wheelchair or gurney, in a hospital bed or in a procedure room, the right magical distraction, at the right time, can melt fear and anxiety away in an instant, and create a fun moment for the patient and their family. Adding a little magic at the right times is what makes a Magical Care Provider so special in the caring professions.