President’s Note: Share the Gift of Giving Year-Round
The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.
—Ethel Percy Andrus
Christmas—that wonderful time of year for sharing—has come and gone. Once again, we have wrapped and unwrapped the gifts and survived the rush of returns and after-Christmas sales. Perhaps now is a good time to reflect on the concept of gift giving.
Think back to Christmas morning when you approached the Christmas tree with a mixture of excitement and fear. Maybe the following thoughts raced through your mind: Would your family like the gifts you selected? Did you choose just the right ones? Is the gift you want under that tree? Such mixed feelings encompassing both enthusiasm and dread are familiar to all of us in nursing.
As a nurse, you give your patients and their families gifts every day. You give by sharing who you are, what you believe, what you know, and how you feel. You reveal these gifts not only by your words, but also through your presence, your dress, your posture, and—most importantly—your attitude.
Each day you give of yourself. And with each interaction, you leave an imprint on something or somebody. Is what you leave behind positive or negative? It is important that you take the time after this busy holiday season to reflect on this question. If what you leave behind is positive, then your caring is genuine.
I believe that when you give, you also receive, and that each of your gifts will be returned to you in some way. The spirit of giving parallels the law of reciprocity that is at work in nature. Humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide; plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. It is a give-and-get cycle. We give of ourselves, and in return our patients and families give to us. They give their time, attention, and gratitude; they trust that we are doing the best we can in caring for them or their loved ones.
Nevertheless, there is a nagging, inherent risk in giving, and, sometimes, we can’t overcome our fear of it. Giving can be scary, particularly in this time of staffing shortage and overwork, when it seems easier to just “do your time” and not become involved. However, the funny thing about taking this risk is that we actually risk very little but stand to gain a great deal.
When you open your talent bank and give of yourself, you actually stand to gain a great deal. This is perhaps the only bank account that gets replenished when the resources are given away. In fact, it can never be overdrawn. If you don’t withdraw from it and share the resources, your balance will begin to shrink and disappear.
In this issue of AACN News is the annual call for volunteers for various AACN national committees. Volunteering is an excellent way to give—to share your talent. I began giving my time and energy to AACN at the chapter level, then moved to national level opportunities. I have received more than I had given in each of these activities. I have acquired leadership skills, as well as tools that help me and my staff in our work with patients and families. I have met new nursing colleagues and gained new perspectives on critical care nursing.
Although the busy holiday season is over, gift giving is never out of season. Take the time to consider the gifts you give to your patients and families every day. Think about giving your time and talent to AACN. I promise that these gifts won’t wind up in the return pile with the magenta socks that Aunt Agnes gave you or the robe that doesn’t fit. Sharing of yourself is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
My Turn: Board Focuses on the Best Use of Association Resources
By Debra Byram
Each year, the AACN Board of Directors schedules 2 official business meetings, usually in November and April. At these meetings, the 13-member board assesses the association’s progress toward implementing effective initiatives that support our mission and vision and ensures that the association’s financial resources are being managed soundly.
Joining the board for the meetings are key staff of the AACN National Office and the chair and chair-elect of the AACN Certification Corporation Board of Directors. However, only the 13 AACN board members vote on agenda items.
The agenda for the November 1998 board meeting focused on ways our members are affected by the current healthcare environment and how AACN can best prioritize its resources to assist them in responding to the challenges presented.
All discussions and decisions integrated information about the association’s current revenue and expenditure outlook.
To help the board make informed decisions, data from a variety of sources were obtained. Included was feedback gathered at the 1998 Fall Regional Meetings, recent member and nonmember market surveys, and input from AACN work groups and task forces. Each board member also shared suggestions and concerns from members with whom they met at various AACN functions throughout the country.
In November, the Board of Directors reviewed more than 32 initiatives to determine if each, as currently structured, provides the best value for our members. The focus was always on how “to do things better.”
As these lively discussions unfolded, it became apparent that some changes were needed. Some of these changes involved simply “fine tuning” an initiative, but others required more extensive reworking to improve their value for our members.
For example, the board agreed that the work of the volunteer Group of 100 and Groups of 100 East and West are important to members, but needs to be expanded. The primary purpose of these groups is to assist with the translation and application of AACN initiatives to members. The board believes the agenda for these groups should be broadened to include more educational and developmental activities. To allow time for this redirection, the Groups of 100 meetings originally scheduled for January and February 1999 have been postponed until the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
Although many difficult decisions were before the board at the November meeting, the directors strongly agreed that reworking some initiatives would help AACN improve support for its membership. In all, the meeting was challenging but full of great ideas and enthusiasm about the task of making good things even better!
Debra Byram, RN, MSN, is a member of the AACN Board of Directors. She is a nurse consultant in critical and acute care patient services at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
What Do You Think?
Your opinions are important! Share them with others by contributing to the printed dialogue each month in AACN News. Send your written communications to: AACN News, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; fax, (949) 362-2049; e-mail,