AACN News—June 2002—Opinions

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Vol. 19, No. 6, JUNE 2002


President's Note: A Journey of Rediscover: Looking In and Reaching Out

Editor�s note: Following are excerpts from the address delivered by AACN President Michael L. Williams, RN, MSN, CCRN, at the opening session of AACN�s 2002 National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition in May in Atlanta, Ga. The delivered version of the speech is available on audiotape from National Nursing Network, 4465 Washington Street, Denver, CO 80216; phone, (800) 373-2952. Printed copies are available from AACN, 101 Columbia Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; phone, (800) 899-2226. Request Item #006101.

Today, we stand at a crossroads in our journey as nurses, still facing a future that is uncharted, uncertain and unpredictable. We face our journey of rediscovery with wonder, trepidation and courage. We have a vision of how our ultimate destination will look, of a place that is healing and humane for our patients, for their families and for us. A place where we will guide our patients on their journey to recovery or to a peaceful death. A place where we will find fulfillment by providing exceptional care.

Like any journey, ours has an origin and a destination. As we forge our path, we will become open to new ideas. To new strategies for care. To seeing ourselves in new ways. There will be new things to observe and understand. New lessons to learn. And new challenges to our beliefs and skills.

As an ambassador for AACN and for nursing this year, I journeyed more than 50,000 miles, connecting with nurses, physicians, educators, legislators, policymakers and others who share our vision that the healthcare system must be driven by the needs of patients and their families. I revisited familiar issues and discovered new ones. I heard the realities of those who work at the bedside and was reminded of the roadblocks we encounter as we forge a pathway to our destination. But I also experienced something far greater�the extraordinary passion that is the life force of our work as nurses.
As we reflect on the responsibilities that passion demands of us, our attention turns to the promises we make each time we say, �I am a nurse.� We pledge to our patients and their families that we will maintain our three essential passions: our passion to care, our passion to know and our passion for justice.

The Passion to Care
If nurses have a shared passion, it is clearly our passion to care. We have cornered the market on caring for others. This is our calling. This is our journey. This is our inextinguishable inner fire.
This association exists because of the passion of a group of dedicated colleagues who responded to the need for nurses who could expertly care for patients in the newly created coronary care units of the late 1960s. Today, their example guides the care that is required by nearly every hospitalized patient because, whether in an ICU or not, most patients today require critical care for much of their stay.

We must understand that our passion to care proclaims our profession as unique and elite within healthcare. This passion gives us our edge. But it must extend beyond patients and families to include our colleagues, especially the next generation of nurses. How we nurture and support them will either squelch or foster their own passion to care. It is time for nurses to muster the will and political courage to care for each other, to abolish the hostile environment that new nurses face. Let�s commit to creating work environments where caring for each other isn�t the exception, but expected and valued.

The Passion to Know
Nurses are incurably curious, driven to learn the newest science and the latest technologies. We are equally compelled to be certain, to always know the right answer and always be the best. Unfortunately, when we can�t even find time to take a lunch break, we sometimes think of knowledge and scholarship as unattainable and esoteric concepts.

That�s not how nurse and anthropologist Melanie Dreher sees it. �Clinical scholarship is about inquiry and implies a willingness to scrutinize our practice,� she says, �even if it means challenging the theories and procedures that we learned and practice. It�s looking for a different and better way to nurse and refusing to accept anything just because that�s the way in which it always has been done.�

How do we find a better way? By continually stretching to learn new things. Once we let go of our perceived certainty, sources of knowledge are all around us. Some are comfortable and familiar. Others are quite unexpected.

Knowledge is about our command of our clinical practice and our willingness to learn from our own successes and mistakes and from the successes and mistakes of others. Knowledge is about searching for what makes a difference. Because the science of nursing is dynamic, we are compelled to ensure that our knowledge never becomes static. We can never stop learning or we will quickly lose ground.

The Passion for Justice
When I first learned about having a passion for justice, I thought about being fair and equitable. Then I learned of a definition in Walter Burghardt�s book, Hear the Just Word and Live It, in which John Donahue describes justice as being faithful to the demands of a relationship. Nursing is, after all, about relationships. Our passion for justice, for remaining faithful to the demands of a relationship, is especially evident in our relationship with the community of nursing, the healthcare system, our work environment and ourselves.

In our tireless work caring for others, we often forget to care for ourselves. How often do we give of ourselves until there is just no more to give, and then punish ourselves for not giving more? We must make time for deliberate, focused renewal.

Each of us renews in a different way. But none of us can get away without doing so. Let�s commit that we will take this time for ourselves so that we can be faithful to those for whom we care.

Continuing the Journey
Like early explorers, we stand on the edge of a new world�a world that we will shape together. We must forge our own path to that new world. No one else will do it for us.

We are ready, though sometimes hesitant, to step into the unknown. But we are determined to make the trip meaningful and to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter along the way. Critical care nurses, like few other people, understand life, death and the importance of making the most of our journey.

As we go forth, we do so with our heads held high. We are nurses. Strangers and friends have entrusted us with their lives, making nursing among the noblest of professions. We journey forth proudly and boldly, sharing our passion to care, our passion to know and our passion for justice, helping others recognize the priceless value of our contribution.

We treasure the privilege of caring and keep the sacred space between our patients and us close to our hearts. Keeping this in focus will keep us safe and whole on our journey.

I hope you�ll always remember that, by being a part of AACN, you are not alone on your journey. There are 65,000 other travelers with the same destination who struggle to overcome the same roadblocks and whose passion remains strong. If we focus on this passion for making a difference, I have every confidence that we will reach our destination