The Importance of Memory and Reflection

The whole purpose of this blog, in part, was to share and preserve memories I feel strongly about. I didn’t intend for this writing to be about nursing but Nursing Week was well timed. The first purpose of this writing was to talk about a set of photo albums I found in my crawlspace. They didn’t belong to the previous owners either as they had the same paranormal fears. Superstition prevented us from delving into it until a friend of mine bargained to look through them in exchange for his assistance in helping me repair a crack in my house’s foundation. Many of the photos are well preserved so I made a Facebook post to see if any relatives of the albums’ owners were still seeking them. The photos range from 1923 to the late 80s and early 90s. Unfortunately, the albums remain in my basement with no-one to claim them. I still hold some hope that someone might come forward.

As memories age, so do the finer details of the things we fondly remember; and as we age, our ability to store memories wanes as well. Eventually, we may simply recall a general sense of how we felt, where we went, what we did, etc., but some of the finer details may be lost upon us: a unique steak spice (I do enjoy a good steak), a delicious cocktail (just give me scotch, neat), or some joke a tour-guide told. Mind you, some memories resonate so strongly that they get to the point in which we can almost visualize every detail from something decades ago. We can help ourselves recall these deep-seated memories through the magic of photography, a diary, or some other medium that serves as a cue for memories we treasure, like a blog.

Memory serves an essential purpose and is responsible for the longevity of many a species as well. They are simply past experiences that can be recalled within our minds, the main evolutionary purpose being to remember a situation that was favourable, say, a way to obtain food and water, and unfavourable, for example, nearly being that obtained food. Memories might be why humans may have harvested the woolly mammoth in groups, with spears, rather than alone, with no spear, the memory bank squashed as onlookers watched in horror. These memories would guide our ancestors’ decisions (IE. to hunt the mammoth in numbers) to ensure their survival, and thus, the survival of our species.

Sometimes, recalling experiences can mean the survival of another. During my nursing studies, I was often tasked every semester to complete a structured reflection developed by a fellow named Christopher Johns, we called them ‘the damn Johns’ Models’. The model was based on aspects of the ‘Ways of Knowing (Empirics, Personal, Ethical, Aesthetic)’ which were developed by Barbara Carper, a faculty member at the Texas Woman’s University. These Johns’ Models are a step by step set of questions that facilitate learning from an experience that was significant in some way, contributing to a sense of personal knowledge that influences and enhances our practice.  We hated them in nursing and I can’t think of a classmate that enjoyed doing them. Looking back, they were probably one of the biggest takeaways from the program. They allowed us prospective (and now, actual) nurses to recall how we used empirical knowledge obtained in the classroom as well. We now reflect automatically, sometimes unbeknownst to ourselves, to the extreme benefit of our clients in situations where reflection and memory can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

I ask those in the healthcare, or any career that may present a danger, for that matter, to take a moment to reflect on a time that was significant in some way, like a near miss, or something observed that didn’t seem right. Learn from it so when that situation arises again, you’ll know exactly what to do, or what not to do.

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