AACN News—January 2002—Opinions

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Vol. 19, No. 1, JANUARY 2002

President's Note: A Journey of Rediscovery: Look Within to Find Yourself

By Michael L. Williams, RN, MSN, CCRN
President, AACN

I recently heard a speaker on legal issues in nursing say, �You can�t sue people for being obnoxious. You would find it almost impossible to find a lawyer to take your case.� Her comment made me realize that I really don�t understand people who demonstrate inappropriate behavior.

I thought that if I could observe obnoxious behavior, I could identify a motive for it. I didn�t have to look far to encounter obnoxious behaviors. I concluded that many people don�t recognize when they are being discourteous. They don�t realize that others may find their behavior offensive. They simply lack the self-awareness to know how their behavior affects and is perceived by others.

AACN�s Leadership Development Work Group defines self-awareness as �personal wisdom�the understanding of one�s values, beliefs and attitudes and how they impact one�s responses and behaviors.� It is one of four skills the group has identified as necessary to influence our practice and our work environment.

How can we help overcome inappropriate behavior? How can we increase self-awareness in others as well as in ourselves? Fortunately, there are strategies that can be used to accomplish this.
� Take time to reflect on your behaviors and your motives. For example, ask yourself why you become frustrated with your coworker in the first place.
� Seek feedback from others. Ask a friend to observe you and share what they observe about your behaviors. Encourage them to be honest and frank with you. This can be an excellent way for you to see
yourself differently.
� Participate in self-evaluation exercises and self-assessment programs. This will help you see yourself in new ways and may help you see yourself the way others do. At AACN, we use the DISC tool. Many
others, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Neurolinguistic Communication tools, are available.
� Find a mentor. Seek out someone you admire and ask them to provide you with feedback regarding your performance. Compare his or her perceptions to your own.
� Recognize that you control your behavior. You can change it or at least be more aware of how you perform in future contextual environments.
� Visualize how you want to be perceived. If you want to be perceived as kind and caring, visualizing that style can help you become that.

How can you help others become more self-aware?
� Provide feedback to others about the way you perceive their performance. Use assertive statements, such as, �I perceived you as angry in that meeting ...� By doing so, you �own� the perception and are not
forcing your desired behavioral change on another.
� Always approach another individual with a positive approach. Ask, �How can I help you grow?� This will help assure him or her that your motive is well intended and not spiteful. Be genuine in your approach
to help them. Offer tangible strategies for improving obnoxious behaviors.
� Recognize that feedback generally is more effective if requested. Nevertheless, you still have an obligation to yourself and to others to provide even unsolicited feedback to people whose behavior is affecting
others. Sometimes, doing so can open the door for discussion and dialogue in which the offending individual may want to share personal tragedies and ask for help.

Self-awareness is a journey of constant rediscovery. It is contextually bound. Factors such as your socialization and life experiences influence how you perceive yourself. The bigger question is: Do you want to discover and know the real you? Once you decide you do, you are truly on your way to being in a position to influence others in a positive way.


Pay Is the Issue
I read with dismay the comments about our critical nursing shortages (�President�s Note,� AACN News, October 2001). How can you discount the fact that the main reason we cannot get new nurses into our field or get our seasoned nurses to stay is money? You are right that it�s not only money that will retain nurses, but money is a main factor in recruiting and retaining and it has historically not been there.

Full-time nurses have never been paid as professionals. They routinely get squashed the most in salary compression. For example, engineers with four-year degrees and 15 years of work experience make on average $50,000 to $75,000 per year. They do not have to work most holidays or weekends, pay for liability insurance or have to worry about legal issues. Nurses with BSNs and 15 years of experience make on average $30,000 to $40,000 per year. They must work weekends, holidays, keep current on competencies, keep up certifications, pay for liability insurance and cover RN shortages. In addition, it�s insulting when a seasoned RN makes $23 an hour and a new grad can make $18 to $20 dollars per hour.

I have recently started a retention committee at my place of employment and will not rest until nurses are paid as the professionals we are. I would bet that if the salaries are there, the RNs will come and stay.
I would like this issue to receive the proper backing from AACN. AACN�s response to �Nurses Need Better Pay� (AACN News, September 2001) was political. Come on, AACN, get your hands dirty! We have the power to do something great for our careers.

Nursing staff is at a critical low, which gives us even more power. AACN can recommend standards of pay for the nursing field for hospitals and clinics to follow. Written standards of pay from AACN would help retention committees throughout the U.S. and hopefully bring the pay for a full-time professional nurse up to where it should be.
Susan Zimmermann, RN, BSN
Appleton, Wisc.

Editor�s note: AACN agrees that nurses should be recognized as providers of quality, cost-effective healthcare, compensated for their value and supported through public policy. To ensure this vision can become a reality, AACN joined more than 60 nursing organizations in September 2001 to identify ways that the profession can, together, address shortages of nurses and resolve the myriad issues causing shortages, including compensation of nurses. Each nursing organization will commit human and financial resources to achieve objectives that everyone agrees are critical to nursing�s success. In the domain of economic value of nurses, it is deemed essential that nursing leaders capture and ensure evidence of the link between quality, value and costs of nursing services; bring forward and evaluate innovative compensation packages to recruit and retain nurses; design a model for reimbursement of nursing services; advocate for tax relief; and create new educational reimbursement programs for those pursuing nursing
By combining the power of our voice with these other organizations, AACN believes we will create significant improvements not only in salaries, but also in benefits and recognition for nurses and in workplace conditions that are also impacting our ability to deliver care.
AACN applauds the efforts of critical care nurses who have joined this effort in a variety of ways at their own hospitals. Thank you, Susan, for using your voice to emphasize what a critical issue this is.

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