AACN News—October 1998—Opinions

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Vol. 15, No. 10, OCTOBER 1998

The Power of Nursing: Collaboration Is an Effective Tool

Mary McKinley, RN, ,MSN, CCRN
AACN President

A lot of emphasis seems to be placed nowadays on teams and groups. Phrases such as “working together works” and “there is no ‘I’ in team” are increasingly used throughout many institutions. These adages certainly apply to the world in which we work today.

When I think about working together, I think of the broader concept of collaboration. Imogene King defines “power” as “the capacity of a group to attain its goals.” In this context, collaboration is a power tool. It means not only working together but focusing on a common goal, even though we may use different approaches and processes.

Collaboration is essential in today’s world. As we approach the new millennium, it is apparent that only those who know how to collaborate will be successful.

The complexity of patient care in critical care units today dictates the need for collaborative efforts. For example, a patient who has multiple trauma and is mechanically ventilated, hemodynamically monitored, neurosurgically monitored, and in need of orthopedic support, will receive the most effective care through the collaborative effort of nurses; physicians; dietitians; respiratory, physical, and occupational therapists; and a whole cadre of other healthcare professionals.

How do nurses view collaboration? What do they really think about collaboration?

Historically, nurses were the ones who coordinated care. Today, nurses are on duty 24 hours a day, control when patients can and cannot leave the unit, and regulate their patients’ routines. Many other disciplines gain access to the patient through nurses.

This power must not be abused. If our definition of collaboration is “my way or the highway,” what can we accomplish? Haven’t nurses experienced this type of collaborative attitude in some relationships? Is this how we want other professionals to feel when they work with us?
Most important, of course, are the patients. We do our patients a disservice if we think that nursing is the only discipline they and their families need.

Collaboration with other professionals as well as with patients and families is at the heart of our caring. We must work together if we are to create a healthcare system driven by the needs of patients, where critical care nurses make their optimal contribution.

As an organization, AACN is involved in many efforts requiring agreement, unity, and partnership. An excellent example of an organizational initiative that supports all of these definitions—and one of which we can be proud—is the Best Practice Network.

The Best Practice Network reflects partnership and collaboration at its finest. Currently, 30 healthcare organizations are signed on. In focusing on a common goal, participants give the Best Practice Network power through their combined efforts.

The common goal of the Best Practice Network is to make real-time, online best practices available as a resource for healthcare practitioners. The Best Practices Showcase, which was held earlier this month in Chicago, Ill., highlighted the power of this collaborative effort as participants shared information and ideas. Healthcare professionals from operating rooms, critical care, and otorhinolarynology attended. Working together does work!

Collaboration is a power tool. If your view of collaboration is narrow and limiting, your efforts won’t be effective. As with any power tool, we must learn to use it correctly and safely to achieve optimal results.

There are Many ways to Make an Optimal Contribution

By Michael L. Williams, RN, MSN, CCRN

Last January, I wrote an article for AACN News about my first 6 months’ experience as a new member of the AACN Board of Directors. When our current president, Mary McKinley, RN, MSN, CCRN, invited board members to contribute articles to AACN News this year, I decided it would be appropriate to share my experiences during the remainder of my first year on the board.

In the 1997-98 term, I served on the Finance and Audit Committee, Nominating Committee, and Practice/Research Think Tank as well as the Group of 100.

The work of the Group of 100 and the Practice/Research Think Tank, both of which met only once, was forwarded to the National Office for incorporation into future AACN projects.

The Finance and Audit Committee met in March 1998 to review the finances, project financial revenues and expenditures, and finalize the budget for board consideration at the April 1998 board meeting.

The Nominating Committee worked diligently throughout the year. In addition to crafting a ballot of qualified board and Nominating Committee candidates to present to the membership, it revised the “Foundation for Future Leaders” document into the new “AACN Leadership Framework.” We believe this framework is clearer and more consistent with the leadership characteristics that AACN leaders must possess. The AACN Nomination Application booklet was redesigned to incorporate this new framework, and self-assessment questions were revised and, hopefully, simplified. The Nominating Committee requested that the next year’s Leadership Development Work Group continue to work on the leadership framework as well as on methods to improve feedback to applicants for national positions. This year’s Nominating Committee will continue to improve the nominating process.

The spring board meeting was held in April in Seattle, Wash. This meeting differed considerably from the fall board meeting. I never knew that 3-ring binders could be 4 inches thick, but that was the agenda—pages and pages and pages of it! At this meeting, information from committees, work groups, and think tanks was considered to determine policy and the strategic direction for the next year. This meeting required considerable time, concentration, and deliberation. We were honored to have 3 members of local chapters participate in the board meeting as learning partners. They were Debbie J. Brinker, RN, MSN, CCRN; Jill T. Jesurum, RN, MN, CCRN; and Ellen G. Wilson, RN, MSN, CCRN.

Of course, the most notable activity at the end of the year was the National Teaching Institute™ and, for the first time, the Advance Practice Institute.™ Not only was the location (Los Angeles) outstanding, but the learning opportunities were plentiful and the networking active. Tim Porter-O’Grady, RN, EdD, PhD, CS, CNAA, FAAN, and Suzanne Gordon were among the speakers who helped to make the essence of nursing visible and palpable. The opening session speech by 1997-98 President Gladys Campbell, RN, MSN, received the standing ovation it truly deserved, and the spirit of the participants has sustained me over the summer.

As I reflect on my first year and consider my board assignments for this year (Resource Development Work Group, the AACN Certification Corporation Board, the National Critical Care Curriculum Work Group, and yes, voluntarily the Nominating Committee), I am in awe of the “optimal contributions” I have observed. When I think of the Chapter Advisory Team, the Board Advisory Team, the Public Policy Advisory Team, and the many other AACN volunteer groups and individuals who serve on them, it is clear that many nurses are making optimal contributions to our vision of a healthcare system driven by the needs of patients and families. It is apparent that some members participate by sacrificing many hours to AACN’s vision and mission, in addition to those who contribute by providing outstanding care to patients and families on a daily basis.

When I close my eyes and envision our preferred future—a healthcare system driven by the needs of patients where critical care nurses make their optimal contribution—I see a variety of possibilities. I see nurses at the bedside continuing our tradition of excellence in patient and family care. I see nursing faculty who teach nurses the concepts of, and the beginning skills and passion for critical care nursing, and who are appreciated for their expertise and contributions. I also see nurse managers in ICUs who are understood for their contributions to patient, family, and health system outcomes. And, I see advanced practice nurses who provide sophisticated high-level care to patients, families, and health systems that desperately need their services.

Mostly, I see nurses who contribute in an optimal way to a role that serves patients and families first, at a level that stems from their love of nursing, and in a manner that demonstrates their uniqueness and greatness. I see nurses who receive unconditional care and support from their colleagues when they are in

need of contributions from others.

I look forward to serving on this year’s AACN Board of Directors. The opportunity to be a part of a group of nurses who are brilliant, articulate, caring, and truly outstanding is a gift I will treasure always. It continues to be an absolute pleasure to meet and work with a variety of people, including members within the regions and at the various AACN-sponsored programs as well as my talented board colleagues and the national office team. Although I am aware that considerable work is involved with my board assignments for this year, I view them as opportunities to serve you and the association, and to provide my optimal contributions. Thank you again for this opportunity.

Michael L. Williams is assistant professor of nursing at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich. He is serving the second year of a 3-year term on the AACN Board of Directors.


Using Titles Shows Respect

It has been a while since anyone has commented on the use of titles in the nursing profession. As a critical care nurse, I constantly hear nurses addressed by their first names. Why has nursing allowed this to happen?

In our society, other professions are addressed in a respectful manner. Why not nurses?

Recently, I started introducing myself to physicians as Nurse Hudley. The reaction has been positive. Most doctors see it as an attempt to interact in a more professional manner.

It saddens me that our profession continues to be unrecognized by our physician colleagues. A title is not everything, but it does show a certain amount of respect. I believe that nurses are entitled to this respect.

Thomas E. Hudley, RN, CCRN
Dallas, Tex.

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