Juneteenth: A guest blog post by Monicah Gikiri

Monicah Gikiri, DNP, Phd, RN, is a career mental health nurse who has primarily served health needs stemming from persistent mental illness, chemical dependency, and trauma. Monicah currently works in an inpatient setting to address mental health in children. Her education and life experience have prepared her as a nurse leader and educator to engage inquisitive minds and to continue challenging knowledge to answer the call-light of our generation. On this Juneteenth, Monicah asks nurses and our partners in care to consider honoring the day with a personal and professional plan of care and a wake to allyship.

This past month has been a container for strife and hope. It was devastating to see a father, brother, son, cousin...dying for no good reason. I was disheartened over opportunists who prayed upon this moment to loot. I was desolated to see some Americans show more outrage for damage to a Target store than for the devastation of a daughter losing a father. 

All the while, I have been uplifted by masses of friends and strangers that marched with me. I was encouraged by demonstrations of empathy and mourning.  I was heartened by all the black families that came out to support each other. 

Why should I care? I am a nurse, I don’t do politics! 

As nurses, we are community leaders in the agencies of life-saving acts of fellow humans, often silent and without accolades.  We herald and recognize Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing, but perhaps more important is to credit her (and many other examples in our profession) as leaders of community health movements.  It’s time to channel the nursing process for the greater good; to level-up caregiving as a movement for community leadership.  This work will take more than a 12-hour shift, requiring multiple phases of care, and a myriad of multi-disciplinary influences.

Try considering George Floyd as your patient; crying for breath, for help, for safety...looking to you for intervention and a plan of care.  Watch the video footage and consider these cries for help from a population that is presenting deficits of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  The lack of safety is affecting a collective population’s well being. Imagine watching that video like it’s a patient in your assignment and then going back to business as usual. 

This is a primary prevention issue. Through assessment, we have identified that a population is at risk.  We have identified that some intervention is needed to remove that risk, and we need a plan of care. It is time to put together a care plan for our community that closes the gaps on well-documented disparities and that up-levels our nursing narrative in addressing these deficits in community health.  

I don’t pretend to have any answers. I just know that if George Floyd was my patient, I would be digging deeper to understand how to rally a broader, more multi-disciplinary team. I would be asking for a care conference.

I cannot imagine being the person that was recording the death of George Floyd and how helpless they felt. This is not an isolated incident of an African American voice going unheard. We have identified that there is a systemic failure as evidenced by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, George Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Zachary Bear Heels to name a few. There is so much we can do as nurses in our community. We can demand better stands from the police force. As a mental health nurse I am trained to deal with dangerous patients every day. I have been trained to de-escalate and to find ways to keep both my patient and myself safe. We have a social contract for safety. We need to change the mindset of punishment to serving the people. 

Like in health care, for this plan of care to be successful, we need to get the right specialists doing the right work.  

As citizens and health care professionals, we have an obligation to consider the state of our community through personal and professional lenses.  This is not a one-day appearance on the lawn of the capitol if we are going to truly understand vulnerabilities and voices that need lifting and radical listening to heal.  Over the past month, I have had inspiring conversations within the community that serve my hope. 

I would like to share some videos that inspire me to consider my role and responsibility in answering the call-light that is ringing on a vulnerable population.  These links provide actionable ideas for intervention. May they bring you the eye-opening wake I feel in the face of writing my next care plan to abolish the disparities in health care.

More than funny

Black murder is normal 

Racism: what will it take to end it?

Let’s get to the root of racial injustice 

What I am learning from my white grandchildren - truth about race