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The Challenges of Late Summer 2021

Guest Author: Candice S. Rettie, PhD.

It is my pleasure to share our newest blog and introduce our guest blogger, who is no stranger to the Consortium or to writing blogs.  Candice Rettie, Ph.D. was the Consortium’s inaugural Executive Director and has graciously offered to write this quarter’s blog.  Thank you Candice. We appreciate everything you have done for the consortium and continue to do!
~ Kerry Bamrick, MBA, Executive Director


September: The Challenges of Late Summer 2021
Guest Author: Candice S. Rettie, PhD.

Late summer is a season of predictable change: endings and beginnings; graduations and new jobs; birds migrating; summer’s robust reds, greens and yellows morphing to burgundy, sage and tan. Then there is unpredictable change. Energy and deep frustration is elicited by the current polemics, whether it is about uncontained wildfires and roaring hurricanes; public health policy and access to healthcare, politics and education or the economy and international relations. All add to the visceral uneasiness of the time. In this volatile atmosphere, newly graduated nurse practitioners (NPs) begin their first days in autonomous practice or begin an intense year of postgraduate training. The same holds true for novice physician assistants (PAs). As these advanced practice providers (APPs) move from graduate school to practice, their major focus must be continually perfecting their clinical acumen while delivering competent and confident healthcare. All this in the midst of buffeting, external forces.

Thinking about the challenges facing new APPs, I was inspired by Maria Popova’s most recent Brain Pickings column. Popova described how Franz Marc, an emerging young artist from the early 20th century used bold primary colors to capture societal and cultural chaos, turbulence and uncertainty:

“…Marc created a kind of synesthetic color wheel of tones, assigning somber sounds to blue, joyful sounds to yellow, and a brutality of discord to red. Marc went on to ascribe not only emotional but spiritual attributes to the primary colors, writing to [Lisbeth] Macke: ‘Blue is … stern and spiritual. Yellow … gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two!’”

“…[Marc] created a sensibility where ‘a so-called dissonance is simply a consonance apart’ producing a harmonic effect in the overall composition, in color as in sound.”

His Blue Horses series captured the balance between the dissonance and consonance of pre-WWI. These paintings continue to resonate today as we experience planned personal disruptions partnered with unplanned and potentially overwhelming external pressures.

The Tower of Blue Horses (1913) embodies perfectly today’s healthcare environment. For me it symbolizes the pervasive challenges in the healthcare landscape and the powerful positive response of the healthcare community, especially APPs. Crimson earth captures the brutal and deadly impact of the current healthcare environment. The commanding presence of the blue horses embodies the fundamental resilience, partnership and efforts of individual practitioners and staff, joining together as one community in response to an overwhelming need. Clear yellow halos and vibrant orange rainbows herald the immutable compassion and caring that each provider brings to the fight. What an incredible time for APPs to be joining the workforce!

Popova closes her column with an excerpt from poet Mary Oliver’s 2014 book of poetry, Blue Horse: Poems, a response to Marc’s work. Oliver writes, “[Marc] managed to make such timeless portals into beauty and tenderness in the midst of unspeakable brutality.”

“I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.

Maybe the desire to make something beautiful

is the piece of God that is inside each of us.”

In this season of cherished endings and new beginnings, I pray that:

  • We remember that change and chaos provide fertile ground for growth, beauty, kindness, thoughtful action and inspired care giving.
  • Experienced mentors, colleagues, friends and family are generous with their wisdom and compassion as they guide those entrusted into their care.
  • We celebrate the predictable and reassuring beauty of each day’s sunrise and sunset.