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Former editor discusses career progression, nursing

Monday January 14, 2013
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As Nurse.com (Nursing Spectrum) celebrates its 25th anniversary, we talked with Janet Boivin, RN, BSN, BA, who was editor of the Greater Chicago edition from 1992 to 2010.

Nurse.com: Why did you become a nurse?

Janet Boivin: I was in that last generation when women became either nurses or teachers. It was just beginning to change, but I grew up in the last remnants of that. I was a candy striper and in the Future Nurses Club in high school. Then after I graduated, I went to a four-year school of nursing, which at that time still was relatively new.

N: What was your first nursing job?

JB: I worked at a medium-sized hospital in Massachusetts in the orthopedic/stroke unit.

N: How did you get into writing?

JB: I worked in that unit for a couple of years and then decided to try something else. So I went back to school and got a degree in journalism. After I graduated, I got a job at a small daily newspaper in Massachusetts. I continued to work in newspapers full time, but also continued to work as a nurse part time. It helped [in journalism] that I was a nurse because it was something I had that other people didnít have. While the two careers might seem like they have little in common, it worked out better than anticipated.

N: How did your nursing background help you in journalism?

JB: No. 1, in nursing you have to pay attention to the details, which you also need to do in journalism with getting your facts straight. As a nurse you have to juggle many things at once, and in journalism youíre usually working on more than one story at a time. As a nurse you have to ask questions of your patients to find out whatís going on with them, and in journalism you have ask your sources. And in both fields, you have to be able to relate to people.

N: How did you feel when you became the editor of the Greater Chicago edition?

JB: I was happy when I found Nursing Spectrum because there was nothing like it when I first became a writer that would enable me to use my nursing background and my news reporting. It was wonderful, and I was able to do many stories in Nursing Spectrum that I never would have anticipated when I first went into journalism, such as going into a war zone.

N: What kind of changes did you implement at the magazine?

JB: What I tried to do when I came onboard as an editor was to focus more on news and trends that were occurring locally in the state. So we tried to focus on things nurses needed to know to help their careers but may not be able to get in their clinical journals.

For example, when I was there we covered regulation extensively and the Illinois Nurse Practice Act. We followed that as it changed and wrote about new regulations that were adopted that affected Illinois nurses. It was just a few years ago that Illinois decided that when nurses want to renew, they needed 20 credit hours.

N: You recently took a nursing practice update course and returned to clinical nursing. How was that?

JB: There were 16 of us in the course. We felt like student nurses again, and we were all terrified. But we all made it through the program. I realized that I missed working with patients.

One thing that I learned when we did our clinicals at Alexian Brothers is new nurses are a lot more independent. They just donít follow orders. They really need to understand whatís going on with patients, what the different lab tests indicate and then really need to proactively contact the physician if they think a patientís condition is changing for the worse. I was really impressed with how much they now are working independently.

N: Where are you working?

JB: I work in a clinic for residents of McHenry County who have no health insurance or who are underinsured — the Family Health Partnership Clinic. Itís a wonderful resource for the community because our patients would otherwise fall through the cracks.

N: What did you like best about working for the magazine?

JB: I liked having the contact with nurses in the state and going out to different communities and hospitals. It was very rewarding to go out in the community and have people comment on the magazine and tell you how helpful the information we provided was to them.

N: What would you still like to accomplish in your career?

JB: I accomplished everything I wanted, so now I need to figure out what to do next. Iíve been able to do much more than I ever anticipated 30 years ago when I graduated from journalism and nursing school.

N: How do you hope nursing changes in the next 25 years?

JB: I hope that the profession as a whole will recognize the value of gaining more further education. Weíre still struggling over that whole thing of having a BSN and entry into practice. I hope that gets resolved and they fully realize the importance of gaining further education.

N: What do you remember most from nursing?

JB: Working with frightened or lonely patients who nurses are able to help. Brief moments. I remember when I was a young nurse working with a young woman who was seriously ill and it was nighttime and she asked me to stay with her. She didnít want to be alone. Those are the moments that most nurses remember. We probably all have had several patients who will stay with us forever. Also, my first front-page story as a newspaper reporter was about a leukemia patent when I was still a nurse. He was dying and was an interesting character. He was a petty criminal, but was very charismatic. The story was about his final days and the front-page story ran. Then I learned he had died when his obituary came across my desk. I remember patients and moments like that.

Joe Grace is a regional editor.

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