AACN News—July 2004—Opinions

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Vol. 21, No. 6, JUNE 2004


President's Note
Live Your Contribution

Editor’s Note: Following are excerpts from the President-Elect speech delivered by 2004-05 AACN President Kathy McCauley, RN, PhD, CS, FAAN, on the last day of AACN’s National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition in Orlando, Fla. The full text is available online at www.aacn.org > NTI > Past NTI Web Sites Orlando, FL-2004 > President-Elect’s Speech.

Dorrie Fontaine’s vision for all of us—to rise above our current realities—has resonated with so many of us that we continue to be inundated with touching stories about our members’ extraordinary contributions. I continue to be inspired as I hear about how they manage to find the elusive solutions to the challenging problems we face in caring for patients and their families.

Traveling around the country and at my own hospital, I hear more and more nurses raising the tough questions, creating new solutions and making their personal and optimal contributions to creating healthier work environments and better care for patients and their families. What do their stories have in common? These nurses realize they have a contribution to make, and they have chosen to live their contribution.

Because I Was Here
At the end of a long and busy shift, have you looked back and realized with satisfaction that “because I was here today,” something remarkable happened. Your presence, your actions made the critical difference in achieving a positive outcome.

Someone once said that the world is run by those who show up. But being there to make a contribution means much more than just being physically present. It means bringing together clinical practice expertise, strategies for getting the system to work and comfort with technology so that your presence becomes a critical force in making an ailing healthcare system work for patients and families. And for each other. Being there to make a contribution means making a commitment to use your best talents. To stay engaged. To intentionally make a difference. It means truly living your contribution.

A Logical Follow-On
So, I have chosen “Live Your Contribution” for my theme as the 35th president of AACN. I see this as a logical follow-on to Dorrie Fontaine’s theme of “Rising Above.” If “Rising Above” represents reaching beyond personal and professional barriers to excellence, then “Live Your Contribution” urges us to translate those insights into positive actions, both individual and collective.

In the year ahead, we will seek new ways to rise above and live our contribution, making a difference with a bold voice. If each of us lives our contribution, it will be amplified like a pebble dropped into a pond, its waves reaching far beyond the area of impact.

I don’t need to convince you that your contribution to patients, healthcare and society is invaluable. The absence of this contribution is too chilling to imagine. I know that you can think of a dozen examples when your individual presence made that kind of a difference in someone’s life. Please take the time to reflect about these experiences because they represent the real reasons we became nurses. When we take these experiences for granted, when we don’t celebrate them with each other and with our patients and their families, we shortchange ourselves and our profession.

Living our contributions means that we commit to staying engaged in solving the really tough problems. But these long-standing and challenging problems will not be resolved until we do more than just show up. We must motivate others to join us in being part of the solution. Our success depends on each of us fully committing to a new reality—the reality of living that optimal contribution that drives a better health system for patients and families and a healing and humane care environment.

Your Contribution
What will your contribution be? How can you improve your practice and that of your colleagues so that it becomes effortlessly evidence based? How can you share what you learned with your colleagues?

You could consider living your contribution by co-mentoring—being a mentor and being mentored. For now, please recognize that we each have something valuable to offer one other. We can help each other to learn and grow. We can support each other while holding each other accountable. Above all, we can celebrate each other’s lived contributions. As we do this, we raise everyone’s expectations so that the benefits of those contributions are sustained. Each has a part to play in defining a new reality.

I pledge that together during the next year, we will discover new ways to live our contributions. New ways to be that critical presence that makes our efforts matter and multiplies the difference we make. We are blessed with competent, compassionate and committed nurses, though too few to meet the need. But that means the value of each contribution is ever more precious, and it becomes ever more important that it be lived.

Defining New Realities
If we begin to recognize and protect these special contributions in ourselves and in each other, we will be able to rise above some of the toughest challenges thrown across our path, and discover real and tangible reasons for optimism. Our contributions will nurture our souls and define new realities of practice in our units.
Because of the strength that our connection through AACN brings, our contributions will be amplified. AACN will remain a relentless partner in ensuring that our contributions are optimized by providing the evidence and resources we need to make our work and care environments healthier; to institute safe staffing; and to ensure that every patient facing death receives the expert palliative and end-of-life care we would want for ourselves.

Remember the many times that your presence made something wonderful happen for a patient, a family, a new nurse, an experienced nurse nearing the end of his career. Ask yourself how you will use this inspiration to stay in the game.

As I travel across the country during the coming year, I hope you will tell me about your contributions. As your AACN president, I pledge to live my contribution to each of you. And through you to each of our patients and their families.