Composing a Profession: Writing About Working, with a Special Focus on Nursing- 2012 Workshop

Presenter: Marc Guidry

This presentation is based on the Rhetoric and Composition (ENG 131) course I taught at SFA in the Fall of 2011. All the students were first-semester Nursing majors. 

I. Overview of Nursing FIG

A. Describe what a FIG is

1. Cohort of students in same group of classes

a) Nursing History (NUR 350)

b) Special section of SFA 101 for these students (SFA 101.051)

c) Special section of 1st semester freshman composition (ENG 131.010)

2. Goals of Nursing FIG:

a) To increase students’ reading comprehension and writing skills

b) To foster their socialization into the profession of nursing

c) To enhance their appreciation for the rich history of nursing and inspire them to become the best nurses they can be

3. High Impact learning

a) Multidisciplinary (connecting the science of nursing to the history of nursing as well as the art of writing)

b) Collaborative (group work on planning and practicing for interviews, lots of peer evaluation of essay drafts)

c) Holistic (critical thinking, invention, planning, evaluation, revision, metacognition—students taking ownership of their work and reflecting on how to improve it)

d) Service learning oriented—Students had to contact and interview an area nurse, bringing them directly into contact with the local community. Selected student profiles of area nurses were published in The Daily Sentinel, the flagship newspaper for SFA’s home base of Nacogdoches, elevating the importance of the profession in the community.

 

B. Describe how ENG 131.010 in Fall 2011 dovetailed with the students’ other classes.

1. All writing assignments involved some aspect of nursing.

a) The Reporting Information Essay required students to write on a major debilitating disease; they had to define it, analyze its causes and effects, and describe treatment from the perspective of nursing care for the disease. This assignment accompanied the reading of Bed Number Ten, by Sue Baier and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker, about Baier’s traumatic experience of a severe case of the crippling disease known as Guillain-Barré syndrome and the often poor care she received in the hospital during her long convalescence.

b) The Profile Essay required students to interview a practicing nurse from East Texas and describe their experience in the profession.

c) The Literary Analysis essay required students to analyze a novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, whose protagonist is a nurse who becomes the first female American surgeon (based partly on real-life story of Mary Edwards Walker, 1832-1919).

d) The Arguing a Position essay required students to defend a position vis-à-vis a current medical controversy (e.g. whether the Affordable Care Act will improve the quality of medical care for Americans, whether Texas schools ought to dispense birth control to students, whether lower back surgery is worth the risks involved, whether doctors and nurses ought to assist in the suicide of a terminally ill patient, etc.).

2. All major reading assignments covered some aspect of nursing.

a) Bed Number Ten, Sue Baier and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker

b) My Name Is Mary Sutter, Robin Oliveira

3. My Name Is Mary Sutter was chosen partly to accompany the textbook from NUR 350, A History of American Nursing (Judd, Sitzman, and Davis, 2010), which has a   chapter on Civil War era nursing (the period the novel is set in).

 

II. Breaking Down the Reporting Information Essay Unit

A. Rhetorical Triangle for Reporting Information Essay (Explaining a Concept Essay)

1. Purpose (See accompanying handout, “Reporting Information Essay Unit.”)

2. Audience (See accompanying handout, “Reporting Information Essay Unit.”)

3. Author (See accompanying handout, “Reporting Information Essay Unit.”)

4. Text/Length/Style (See accompanying handout, “Reporting Information Essay Unit.”)

B. Sample Reporting Information essay from the FIG—See accompanying handout, “Parkinson’s Disease: The Struggles of a Life Altering Disease,” by Brittany Patterson.

C. How this assignment can be modified for a high school class

1. Discuss how the Reporting Information Essay topic can be translated from nursing to different professions students have an interest in. Each student can choose to explain a key concept relating to a profession they may be interested in pursuing.

2. Sample issue questions for Reporting Information Essay based on different professions:

  • Geologist—Why have we been experiencing so many earthquakes in East Texas this year?
  • Auto Mechanic—How is it possible for a diesel engine not to have a spark ignition?
  • Cosmetologist—Why does someone need a license to braid hair professionally in the state of Texas?
  • Plumber—What types of pipe can be used to run a natural gas line in one’s house? Is there a preference?
  • Banker/Finance—What is the difference between commercial banking and investment banking?
  • Farmer—How have irrigation methods in Texas evolved over time, and are there more effective ways to combat drought today?
  • High School Teacher—What is the flipped classroom and in what scenarios would flipping the classroom provide better learning for students?
  • Carpenter—Is it easier to build a wood-framed or a metal-framed home? Are metal- framed homes earthquake proof?
  • Doctor—Why are surgeries increasingly being performed in utero to fix certain conditions like spina bifida, when this can be risky to the mother?
  • Chef—What is the local foods movement and how is it affecting menus at restaurants?

 

III. Breaking Down the Profile Essay Unit

 

A. Rhetorical Triangle for Reporting Information Essay (Explaining a Concept Essay)

1. Purpose (See accompanying handout, “Profile Essay Unit.”)

2. Audience (See accompanying handout, “Profile Essay Unit.”)

3. Author (See accompanying handout, “Profile Essay Unit.”)

4. Text/Length/Style (See accompanying handout, “Profile Essay Unit.”)

B. Sample Profile Essay from FIG—See accompanying handout, “The Dark Side of Nursing,” by Briana Jones.

C. How to do an interview

1. Oral history resources—can be used for conducting any kind of interview

a) Baylor University Institute for Oral History, “Introduction to Oral History”

http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/43912.pdf

 

b) Oral History Association, “Principles and Best Practices”

http://www.oralhistory.org/do-oral-history/principles-and-practices/#general

 

2. Guidelines for conducting interviews of nurses in the FIG

a) “Nurse Interview Questions” (handout)

b) “Format for your nurse interview transcript” (handout)

c) “Schedule for Nurse Interviews” (handout)

d) Release forms for nurse interviews (handout)

D. How this assignment can be modified for a high school class

1. Students can interview someone working locally in a career in which they have an interest and create a formal essay out of the interview. It can be any field.

2. Selected interviews from Studs Terkel’s book Working: People Talk About What They   Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (NY: Pantheon, 1974)—a pioneering work in oral history—could be used as readings for such an essay unit. The          beauty of Terkel’s book is not only that it provides vivid interviews, most often with blue-collar workers, about the trials and triumphs of their jobs, but it also invites the reader to reflect on the meaning of work in people’s daily lives: whether a job is the same as a career, whether work is primarily a source of money or meaning in a person’s life, whether alienation is a normal facet of the job or a perversion of what work should be. It will also serve as a window into the labor conditions of a more industrial and harder-  nosed (yet less mechanized) America. You might want to give particular consideration to the interviews with Roberto Acuna (a Chicano migrant worker in California), Lincoln James (a black worker in a Chicago rendering and glue factory, where spoiled meat and bones are transformed into industrial products), Phil Stallings (a white spot-welder at a Ford factory on the South Side of Chicago), Grace Clements (a white worker at a      Chicago luggage factory where the conditions border on the Dickensian), and Bud Freeman (a successful jazz musician on the tenor saxophone).

E. Exercise—Break participants up into pairs. Ask them to interview each other for 10 minutes per interview about the first job they got after they began high school. What was the job and what kind of tasks did it involve? Why did they take it? Was it fulfilling? Was it creative in any way? Did it change their life for the better?

 

IV. Breaking Down the Literary Analysis Essay Unit

A. Rhetorical Triangle for the Literary Analysis Essay Unit

1. Purpose (See accompanying handout, “Literary Analysis Essay Unit.”)

2. Audience (See accompanying handout, “Literary Analysis Essay Unit.”)

3. Author (See accompanying handout, “Literary Analysis Essay Unit.”)

4. Text/Length/Style (See accompanying handout, “Literary Analysis Essay Unit.”)

B. Examples of Using Primary and Secondary Sources to Analyze Robin Oliveira’s My Name Is Mary Sutter for historical accuracy

1. Mary and Stipp’s first amputation—p. 149-51 (handout)

a) Compare to passage from The Practice of Surgery by Samuel Cooper

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/leg-amputation.htm

b) Compare to reenactment of Civil War surgeon’s amputation of a leg, from video produced by the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T5v_QbFZDU&feature=related

2. Mary’s misunderstanding of suppuration of a wound as something beneficial to the patient—pp. 170 and 196

a) A History of American Nursing, discussion of advent of germ theory of  infection, pp. 47-8 (handout)

b) Ehistory archive (hosted by the Ohio State University Department of History) on Civil War medicine

http://ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/features/medicine/cwsurgeon/introduction.cfm

C. Sample Literary Analysis Essay from FIG—See accompanying handout, “Factual Yet Cliché: The Historical Aspects of Mary’s Journey,” by former student (handout) .

D. How this assignment can be modified for a high school class

Of course, you can have your students analyze any literary text for formal features like plot structure, character development, setting, symbolism and imagery, narrative perspective, and theme. If you want to stick with the overarching theme of work, there are two recent anthologies of fiction centering on the working life:

  • David Gate’s Labor Days: An Anthology of Fiction about Work (Random House, 2004)
  • Richard Ford’s Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories about Work (Harper, 2011)

There are also some classic American stories about work, such as Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener; John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

E. Exercise—Show the participants the short film, “Microscopic Life in a Drop of Water” by Dr. Robert Berdan (accessible via YouTube— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5KFVAJH5TU&feature=related), and then have them read the brief passage from My Name Is Mary Sutter where Blevins tells Mary he is trying to solve the problem of dysentery and shows her bacterial microbes through a microscope. Ask them to discuss how using New Media resources like this video helps to bring the discussion of imaginative literature alive for students.

 

 

Bibliography

“Amputations and Artificial Limbs in the Civil War.” You Tube. YouTube, 24 March 2009.Web. 18 July 2012.

A video produced by the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia, about surgical conditions in the American Civil War, complete with a demonstration of how a leg amputation was performed in army field hospitals.

Baier, Sue, and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker. Bed Number Ten. 1986. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1995. Print.

Baier’s moving account of her medical care after contracting an extremely severe case of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which rendered her unable to do anything but open her eyes for months and partially crippled her for life. She details both the best and worst examples of the medical care she received from doctors, nurses, and therapists at a Houston hospital, where she was confined to “Bed Number Ten” for almost a year, with an emphasis on the stunning ignorance of most of the staff as to how to care for a patient as helpless as she was.

Berdan, Robert. “Microscopic Life in a Drop of Water: A Short Film.” YouTube. YouTube, 16     Jan. 2011. Web. 18 July 2012.

Microscopic organisms living in a drop of pond water as viewed in a light microscope by Dr. Robert Berdan.

Cabrera, Alberto, et al. “Collaborative Learning: Its Impact on College Students’ Development  and Diversity.” Journal of College Student Development 43.1 (2002): 20-34. Print.

Freshman interest groups increase the academic success of minority students by integrating them more fully into a structured learning community. FIGs also help break down racial and ethnic stereotypes due to students from different backgrounds having to interact with each other in linked courses.

Cooper, Samuel. “Amputation of the Leg.” Son of the South. Son of the South, n.d. Web. 18 July 2012.

An excerpt from Cooper’s book, The Practice of Surgery, originally published in 1813, detailing the best procedure then known for amputating a leg. The book served as a “how to” guide for American Civil War surgeons. In My Name is Mary Sutter, Oliveira has Mary read directly from Cooper’s book in order to talk Stipp through his first amputation, which he performs on the leg of a young Union soldier.

Ford, Richard. Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work. New York: Harper, 2011. Print.

An anthology of American short fiction about the working life.

Gates, David. Labor Days: An Anthology of Fiction about Work. New York: Random House,2004. Print.

An anthology of American fiction about the working life. Features mainly short stories but includes fairly long excerpts from some novels.

 Goellnitz, Jenny. “Civil War Medicine.” Ehistory. The Ohio State University Department of History, 2012. Web. 18 July 2012.

An overview of medical conditions and practices during the American Civil War, including a description of the unsanitary environment of Union and Rebel army camps and field hospitals and the rampant spread of infectious diseases.

“Introduction to Oral History.” Baylor University Institute for Oral History. Baylor University,2012. Web. 18 July 2012.

Primer on the procedures, ethics, and dissemination of oral histories.

Judd, Deborah, Kathleen Sitzman, and G. Megan Davis. A History of American Nursing Trends and Eras. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 2010. Print.

Textbook for the History of Nursing (NUR 350) course taken by students enrolled in the Fall 2011 Nursing FIG at Stephen F. Austin State University. Includes a chapter on Civil War era medicine, which provided background for reading Robin Oliveira’s My Name Is Mary Sutter.

Oliveira, Robin. My Name Is Mary Sutter. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.

Historical novel about the struggles of the midwife/nurse Mary Sutter to become American’s first female surgeon (based loosely on the life of Mary Edwards Walker). Rejected by the all-male medical college in her town of Albany, New York, Mary runs away to Washington, D. C., at the outset of the Civil War to serve as a nurse in the Union Army and eventually learns to how to perform leg amputations on the battlefield, enabling her to set up shop as a surgeon in New York City after the war.