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How Novella | By Sara VanderClute


She’s not a nurse, nor does she play one on TV. And at first glance, the semi-sultry author’s photo on the dust jacket and suggestive title might lead one to think of those popular bodice-ripper romance novels that elevate the heart rate of so many a reader. But no, Amy Glenn Vega is the author of a series of books for and about nurses and the nursing profession. They aren’t written to procure fame and fortune for the author – they represent her innovative approach to the challenge of providing meaningful continuing education. That’s the day job (and no easy task) for Vega, executive director of the Southern North Carolina Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership based at the Southern Regional AHEC here in Fayetteville. Continuing education is one of those phrases that cause people’s eyes to glaze over no matter how committed they are to their profession. It often involves lengthy and lightly-attended training in a classroom setting. Vega had noticed a certain lack of enthusiasm among nurses for such classes, often accompanied by the excuse of, “We are just too busy taking care of patients.” But she also noticed that when nurses did have the rare quiet moment on break, they were often found reading, whether it was a newspaper or the newest bestseller. How then, mused Vega, could she use that inclination to provide meaningful professional education in a way that might be more appealing than the traditional classroom experience? The answer is a series of intriguingly-titled novellas, well-written by Vega, that tell a story as they address issues of great importance to the rapidly-evolving profession of nursing. The stories, involving several well-developed characters, appeal to individual nurses, whether they are male or female, black or white, experienced or new to the profession. The first two novellas are already published and enlightening nurses in this area and beyond; the third in the series, dealing with cultural diversity, is in final editing; and she’s at work already on the fourth, which will no doubt embed its lessons on teamwork and leadership in an entertaining story. One might wonder at the title of Vega’s first novella, “Lions and Tigers and Nurses.” “The one thing they all have in common is that they eat their young,” Vega says with a twinkle in her eye. “Senior experienced nurses do not always make it easy for newer, younger nurses to join their ranks.” That first novella deals with the issue of “lateral violence” or workplace hostility; not so much physical violence as the more subtle kind of undermining that one nurse might direct toward another. Mary Holtschneider of the North Carolina Nurses Association says, “For those who have never personally experienced aspects of lateral violence, it will be not only educational but a bit disturbing to learn that such things can and do happen. The general public consistently ranks nursing as the most trusted profession, but this internal abuse still abounds.” The second novella, “Broken Heart,” deals with the issue of death and dying, as experienced by nurses, both professionally and personally. Jeanne Hardy, a registered nurse for 28 years, is on the faculty of the Medical Assistant Program at Richmond County Community College. She was so impressed with the novellas that she will be using them in her fall curriculum. “Special things come in small precious packages sometimes,” she says. “These stories are a wonderful way to remember the past and a wonderful tool to teach new medical assistants of the future.” They are also appealing for economic reasons, too. Each novella contains a quiz that can be taken by a nurse for continuing education credit. Rather than pay more than $100 for a traditional class, a nurse can buy the novellas for less than $15, pay a quiz fee of $10 and earn the continuing education credit. The novellas also contain a reading list to guide deeper study of the specific issues addressed and discussion questions for any group of nurses who want to delve more deeply into the topic. In Vega’s office at SR-AHEC, the impressive credentials on the wall and the young attractive woman with big blue eyes and long dark blonde hair at the desk seem somewhat incongruous. Originally from Wilmington, Vega holds a bachelor’s degree in health education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and two master’s degrees in business administration and health administration from Pfeiffer University. “But more importantly, I’ve worked with nurses for more than 15 years,” she says. “I know patient care comes first with nurses. They don’t want to be distracted by anything that takes them away from that.” A Humor Award hangs among the diplomas and certificates on her wall as a testament to yet another facet of Vega’s talents. A blend of scientist and artist, Vega imbues her novellas with the lessons necessary for a rapidly-changing profession but with the well-developed characters and realistic dialogue that many writers never master. Her novellas are a darn good read, and not just for nurses.