These are my personal reflections on health care and social justice from my perspective as a nurse practitioner.
The medical part of the title is obvious. By margins I refer to different nuances of the meaning of the word, and of its spin-offs of “marginalize,” “marginal,” etc, loosely transposed from the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster dictionaries:
Margin: a limit below or beyond which something ceases to be feasible; an area, or state, or condition excluded from or existing outside the mainstream (and an old, obsolete meaning still pertinent here is to take notes or jot things down in the margin).
Marginalize: to treat a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral.
“The center of a representational system is always dependent on the margins, despite its attempt to establish hegemony over it.”–Arthur W. Frank
Josephine Ensign was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1960. She received her BA (Biology and Religion) from Oberlin College in 1981, her masters in primary care nursing from the Medical College of Virginia in 1986, and her doctorate in public health from the Johns Hopkins University in 1996. She has done postgraduate work in medical ethics at Harvard University and in narrative medicine at Columbia University. Currently she is Associate Professor of Community Health at the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle, Washington where she teaches health policy and narrative medicine. She has worked as a family nurse practitioner for the past three decades, providing primary health care to homeless adolescents and adults in large urban areas on both coasts of the U.S. Through a Fulbright Fellowship, she expanded her research and advocacy internationally with work in Thailand and Venezuela. The focus of her career has been to increase an understanding of the lives of marginalized populations, and to develop ways to increase their access to effective health care programs.
As a university faculty member she has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on homelessness, health and human rights. Her literary non-fiction essays have appeared in the The Sun, Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Silk RoadUniversity of Iowa’s Examined Life, and Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine, Pulse magazine and Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine. She received the Zola Prize in the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest for an essay entitled “Gone South,” published in Silk Road (Winter/Spring, 2011). An excerpt/reprint of “Gone South” was published in the University of Iowa‘s The Daily Palette. She has completed a book manuscript entitled Catching Homelessness, a narrative nonfiction account of her work as a nurse practitioner providing health care for homeless people while navigating her own passage through homelessness. An essay “Next of Kin” based on a chapter from Catching Homelessness is included in Creative Nonfiction’s anthology I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse (Lee Gutkind editor; In Fact Press, 2013). She’s at work on her second literary nonfiction book project, this one on homelessness and Skid Road in Seattle. She has received a Hedgebrook writing residency for 2014.
Who I am in first person (also known as Artist Statement): I was born and raised at Camp Hanover, outside of Richmond, Virginia. The 600-acre camp was the first racially integrated children’s summer camp in the South. The land I grew up on was the site of two of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. I went to school with the son of the Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan, and dated men with gun racks in their pick-up trucks, Jack Daniels in their flasks. The land and the shadows of the South formed me; they infuse my writing.
As a Southern woman, writer, and nurse, I write about topics and lives lived at the margins of society. My goal in writing is to cultivate empathy leading to action, to be a voice for change. I mainly write narrative or literary nonfiction with an advocacy edge. Through my writing, I challenge common stereotypes of people who are homeless, of people who are marginalized. I challenge common stereotypes of nurses. I strive for an intelligent, critically thinking—sometimes provocative—nursing voice. I hope to help humanize health care through narrative advocacy.
- Note on my personal blogging ethical code: I blog as if my mother were reading every word I write. If you knew my mother, you would understand that this is a much higher ethical code than any existing blogger’s code of ethics (cyberjournalist.net has a good one).
- University Big Brother and Big Sister would like me to state the following: “This is a personal website, produced in my own time, on my own computer, and solely reflecting my personal opinions. Statements on this site do not represent any past, current or future employer, or any other organization with which I may be affiliated. All content is copyrighted.
- You can contact me either by leaving a comment (links to my personal e-mail and I will respond).