Bucket list: a list of things you want to accomplish before you die. Derived from the saying, “kick the bucket,” a euphemism for dying–although no one seems to agree on the derivation of “kick the bucket.”
I recently ran across my own bucket list that I wrote when I was twelve years old. I wrote it as part of a seventh grade creative writing assignment. My mother kept all of my childhood writing and presented the packet to me before she died–something for which I am eternally grateful. My short stories about toothbrushes coming to life give me glimpses of my younger self that cannot be accessed through any other medium. Here is my bucket list at age twelve:
- Own a pair of sandhill cranes
- Have a zoo where all the animals can run free
- Have a greenhouse as big as a football field
- Learn to ride a unicycle
- Go to Australia
- Keep an otter
- Build my own house over-looking a lake
- Write a children’s book
I believe that I wanted to be a writer, a naturalist, or a veterinarian–most definitely not a nurse. My favorite books were (not surprisingly by my bucket list), Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water.
What would my bucket list, my hopes for the future of health care be like? Since I am no longer young and idealistic, my health care bucket list comes out sounding way too jaded and cynical. So I turned to question to my younger and hopefully still idealistic senior nursing students. “What are your hopes for health care?” was my specific in-class reflective writing question to them a week or so ago. I asked them to write out a list of their top ten hopes.
Out of the 140 or so students, the vast majority listed some version of “universal access to quality and affordable health care.” Another frequently listed item was “provision of culturally humble health care,” as well as “eliminate racism in healthcare.” Many included ‘an emphasis on community-based primary health care,” and “more funding for public health.” Improved patient safety efforts, especially through good interprofessional health care team communication and safe nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, was a top-listed item. Closely related to that was “improve working conditions to reduce nurse burnout.” Improved access to better mental health services (including the astutely stated question “why are mental health units so ugly?”) and reducing stigma for mental illness and substance use issues, were also frequently mentioned. “Improving end-of-life and beginning-of-life care” as a way to improve quality of life as well as better use of our health care dollars was another top choice.
Here are some additional student ‘hopes for health care’ that make my heart sing and that give me more than a bucketful of hope for the future of health care:
- To see the person, not the illness.
- To create a nursing image that represents our smarts and not just our compassion (and nurses aren’t asked, “why didn’t you become a doctor?”)
- To have more nursing involvement in policy change. Use my knowledge of the challenges faced by my patients to inform policy advocacy.
- To ensure that ‘the least among us’ receives the best care possible, and “that I am courageous and prepared enough to advocate for the least among us.”
- That we realize our patients have backstories that need to be recognized in order to provide the best care for them.
- Full scope-of-practice for nurses uniformly across the country.
- I hope I still have hopes for the health care system.