President's Note: Make Waves: Find Your Oasis in AACN
Can you imagine anything more inhospitable than the Sahara Desert? Think about the arduous, hard, hot journey Bedouins make, and how they must look forward to reaching an oasis--a place where there is water, shade and shelter, where they can stop, rest, eat and visit within their community. Picture the conversations, protected shelters and the replenishment they must receive from this oasis in the desert.
Although we are not trekking across the Sahara, our workplace can sometimes be "hot" and inhospitable. AACN can be an oasis for us, a place where those with shared values, dreams, struggles and stories can gather and receive support, acknowledgement, resources and inspiration.
For me, AACN has always been a safe harbor, a special community that offers the type of encouragement and support we all need from time to time. Following are some of the “oasis” moments I have seen or experienced:
• For the past 18 years, the Greater Richmond Area Chapter of AACN has been an oasis by supporting and encouraging me and providing a community where my fellow critical care nurses are centered on a common vision. More importantly, my fellow chapter members have helped me to grow and strengthen myself professionally, even when my workplace was not able to do so.
• Chapter programs themselves create an oasis, both for the participants and the groups who organize them. I recently found this type of oasis while attending several large chapter programs, including “Trends” in Philadelphia, Pa.; “Wealth of Knowledge” in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and “Currents” in Seattle, Wash. I saw members visiting and learning together as they enjoyed a day away from their usual hard work. I also saw the satisfaction and comradeship of the planning committees and chapter board members in their successful programs. This was especially true as I watched current and past leaders of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Trends” in October 2000. What a special legacy our chapters provide in our communities.
• Through participation in volunteer committees at the national level, I have gained dear friends, fabulous role models and a network of critical care nurses across the country. When I was in Southern California in August 2000 to meet with many of AACN’s work groups, I felt the spirit of those who had come together. This positive, motivating spirit left me refreshed and invigorated. I also heard from the work group members, the national office staff and the board members who attended how much they gained from the experience. I was not surprised, because I have felt this every time I have participated in work groups during my AACN career.
• AACN’s annual National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition provides a sense of community and shared experiences. From the opening session--the music, the people and the inspiration—through the energy generated by 5,000 to 6,000 nurses during the week of sessions and activities, the uplifting feeling cannot be denied. I remember being overwhelmed initially by the sheer number of people when I attended my first NTI, then loving the entire experience. I knew then that I was not alone in my critical care experiences and that there were people participating who could help me on my professional journey.
• AACN helps create small oases in my workplace. When I see an AACN article that inspired or addressed the art of our work copied and posted in the report room, or when I read columns or articles that articulate current concerns or policy issues, I am reminded that I am not alone. Although it may not be as palpable as the NTI opening session, it, nevertheless, touches me and reminds me that others face difficult issues and that I am not working in the only ICU confronted with a certain issue.
• AACN’s Circle of Excellence recognition program acknowledges and honors those whose contributions represent our best, whether in clinical practice, as a preceptor, as a chapter or as a team. We can all feel pride as we read the exemplars of the recipients and see, in their stories, our own specialness. Those of us who are privileged to work with the award recipients can all celebrate and enjoy the sense of value in the special contributions of critical care nurses everywhere.
I am certain that there are many more moments of oasis I have yet to capture. Any association activity that allows us to feel acknowledged, valued and celebrated, and to make friends and connections represents the benefit of an association built around our area of practice, where members are joined by common values and vision.
Whether called an oasis, a community, a safe harbor or some other term, the experience is similar to those times when I gather with cherished colleagues and friends, in the hallway at work or under my umbrella at the beach. Through these interactions and moments, I find myself replenished.
However, I must caution about a common mirage, which you may mistake as an oasis. This mirage involves gatherings where you are invited and encouraged to jump in and wallow in the “alligator pit” of negative energy. This is a place where you are inspired and encouraged to complain, belittle, bemoan and blame, a place where cynicism, despair, anger and frustration flourish. I have often heard this referred to as a “victim mud puddle.” Entering and allowing yourself to become mired in this community will not energize you or support you to move forward. This place should be avoided, even though it may provide momentary affirmation of “ain’t it awful.” It will drain you of the energy and spirit you need to create the type of professional life and practice you desire.
How can you build an oasis with AACN?
1. First, become a member and join in! This benefit, which stems from involvement and action on your part, won’t
be truly experienced if your involvement is passive.
2. Participate in the Circle of Excellence awards program. Nominate others or nominate yourself, and share the
winners’ exemplars to inspire and motivate others and yourself
3. Volunteer for and participate in a volunteer committee, whether in your chapter, or as a member of a national
level advisory team or work group. If there is not chapter in your area, start one.
4. Inspire others by sharing an article you have read. You might even want to use an article to tell someone how
much he or she exemplifies what the article is addressing.
5. Come to the NTI. The week of oasis can tide you over for a long time! If you have never attended an NTI, start
this year. We are going to have a fabulous time in warm, sunny Southern California. It will be an investment in
yourself, money you will never regret spending.
6. Read AACN News, Critical Care Nurse and the American Journal of Critical Care, or visit the AACN Web site
www.aacn.org to find a wealth of information and resources and to be affirmed, encouraged or receive
support as you try to create care driven by the needs of patients and families and where you and your
colleagues can practice in an optimal way.
7. If you have a practice question or are looking for a particular resource, call the National Office at (800)
899-2226. Staff will make every effort to address your needs and treat you to great service, with speed and
admiration for the special work you do.
AACN is the place where you can come together with others who support your values and visions and understand your journey. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a 24-bed hospital or a large, academic healthcare center; whether you live in sunny Miami or beautiful Alaska, whether you work within the ICU or in the telemetry unit, or whether you have been a nurse for less than a year or for more than 20 years. Regardless of the type of patients you care for or the role you are in, AACN can be your oasis. It is a place that will help you gain needed skills and knowledge, tell your story, connect with others, and give you ideas and resources. Most importantly, it is a place where you can feel valued for your special skills, talents and contributions. Join us and enjoy the oasis.
Share Your ‘Oasis Moments’
Can you remember a special moment in the oasis of AACN? I would love to hear about your experiences. Send them to me at AACN, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo CA 92656, or e-mail them to me at