12 July 2010

The squiggle sense and the complementary nature of nursing

I once heard a quote and am not sure to whom it is attributed: “Life is bipolar and everything contains its opposite.” I have had my share of challenges trying to negotiate and reconcile what seem to me oppositional issues in my own life. I now have a new understanding of the complementary nature of polarities and paradoxes.

The squiggle sense has been proposed by scientists J.A. Scott Kelso and David A. Engstrom to represent the complementary nature and coordinated dynamics of opposites that, in fact, are components of a greater dynamic process. Such coordinated processes are linked to the way the brain processes information and engages in sense making. Kelso suggests the tilde or squiggle (~) as the symbol of the complementary nature that relates contrarities, opposites and their kin. Think about the squiggle sense and the complementary nature of nursing.

For some time, I have suggested there is a complementary nature to nursing and that the opposite of nursing is negligence. Thus, the squiggle sense of this would be nursing~negligence. I believe most nurses have a well-developed sixth sense about the complementary nature of nursing care. Now we have a way to represent—and perhaps make explicit—our squiggle sense of complementarity in terms of patient-care needs. Other complementary pairs relevant to nurses and the care they provide also come to mind.

Consider the complementary pair of any nursing problem with its opposite or desired nursing-sensitive outcome. For example, pain~comfort, anxiety~ anxiety control, impaired mobility~mobility, body~mind and self-care deficit~self care. In fact, one of the essential aspects of nursing is management of the complementary nature of human responses to health~illness situations. I wonder what would happen if nurses moved away from the development of problem lists and began to identify and note the complementary nature of each identified problem in terms of its coordinated opposite. We would then be identifying problems~outcomes and, perhaps, have a new appreciation of nursing care responsibilities in light of the squiggle sense of issues presented by individuals, groups, families and communities.

Why not explore the complementary nature website and see how the theory of coordinated dynamics resonates with your own thinking, personal experience and the practice of nursing. The squiggle sense mission is to provide an “evolving online resource for the study and appreciation of a sixth sense of the complementary nature, and its philosophical~scientific grounding in coordination dynamics, the science of coordination.” Nursing is grounded in the science of coordination. I hope you accept the invitation to explore the complementary nature site and reflect on how coordinated dynamics might influence your thinking, doing and nursing practice.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.