Did you know that nurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States? According to a 2018 Gallup poll (and for 17 consecutive years before that), nurses were consistently ranked the highest out of 20 professions for honesty and ethical standards. People trust nurses. Which is why having a cannabis-focused educational conference for nurses, complete with continuing education units (CEUs), was a huge deal. Welcome to the 2019 Cannabis Nurses Network Conference, created by Heather Sobel, RN, which ran February 28 – March 3. “Nurse Heather” to those who know her, this bilaterally-braided blonde took care to create an dynamic education experience.
I asked Nurse Heather how she felt the conference went. “CNNC received a warm and generous welcome from the City of San Diego,” she told me. “City Councilwoman Barbara Bry demonstrated her support for cannabis education for nurses by appearing personally during the conference to present opening remarks, stating, ‘There’s a lot more to do to treat the many people out there who need help with cannabis, and that’s why this conference is so important.’ We are revolutionizing the future of healthcare. The discovery and science surrounding the endocannabinoid system is a paradigm shift for all practicing nurses. Once you understand it, there’s no turning back.”
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to address the conference attendees twice — once by myself on Thursday and once as part of a panel on Friday. My Thursday solo presentation was entitled “Cannabinoid Assisted Intimacy,” and I began by offering an overview of pleasure-based anatomy — something I was disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that most of the professionals of the room had not received. When I asked the room who was familiar with the clitoral legs as part of the internal clitoral structure, only a few hands went up. Definitely not more than 10 hands. In a room of 200 medical professionals.
I believe that medical training programs are doing nurses a disservice by giving them incomplete information about human anatomy. One of my goals leaving the conference was to have the opportunity to give guest lectures for nursing programs so that students feel more equipped to talk about sex with their patients. Human sexuality (and especially having accurate knowledge of pleasure-based anatomy) is relevant in all areas, from oncology to dermatology. Once I got them excited about proper terms for anatomy (“Vagina is the hole, vulva is the outside bits — you wouldn’t call your face your throat, would you?”), I moved on to how cannabis can positively impact sexual experiences, whether solo or partnered, and I stressed the need for more science and solo fact-finding.
I told them that I cannot singlehandedly define which cultivars or products are best for sex because it is both too broad and too subjective a question. Instead, I assured them, you must figure it out for yourself. How? MASTURBATION. Yep, that’s right. You have to masturbate to figure out how a product impacts your body for sexual purposes. It seems quite obvious when you think about it, but you’d be shocked by how many people have never even considered that might be a useful way to mine for data. My parting words at the end of my talk were, “Okay, now go masturbate!” The presentation was a hit. I had a line of people afterward exclaiming that they’d never had anyone talk to them about sex like that in their entire lives, much less in their careers.
The panel on Friday had a more somber tone. It was called “Post Traumatic Growth” and featured Nique Pichette, MSN, RN; Heather Sobel, RN; Fame Conway, RN; and me. Plus, it was moderated by the incredibly talented Maureen McNamara of Cannabis Trainers. Maureen spent months coaching the panelists on how to create dazzling, impactful presentations, and her instruction was well taken. The panel was polished and perfectly executed. It started out with Nurse Heather explaining the concept of post traumatic growth and how it intersects with cannabis, followed by Nurse Nique sharing her story of surviving breast cancer twice by using cannabis, followed by my story of using cannabis to combat the sexual side effects of my repeated sexual traumas resulting in my diagnosis of PTSD and vaginismus, and ended with Nurse Fame sharing how she recovered from a horrific car accident that claimed the life of her 15-year-old son and left her with a steel rod in her leg. It was a deeply inspiring panel, and the audience gave multiple standing ovations during the 45 minute presentation.
This conference was groundbreaking. It gave licensed medical professionals the opportunity to receive continuing education on cannabis as medicine. It brought people from all over the country together to learn, connect and grow. It gave me the opportunity to address those who are already having hard conversations with people in their most vulnerable moments. It created opportunities and inspiration for real and lasting change — in the cannabis industry, in the nursing profession, and in the world.