AACN News—May 2008—Opinions

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Vol. 25, No. 5, MAY 2008

President’s Note - Reclaiming Our Priorities

Dave Hanson RN, MSN, CCRN, CNS

It’s About Time

There is never enough time, unless you’re serving it.
— Malcolm Forbes

Reviewing the topics we’ve discussed in this column, I’m happy to report that I managed to cross off many from my list. Not bad, I thought. Although I also admit one of my goals was to stop making lists. It’s just that crossing things off is so satisfying. Old habits die hard, don’t they?

Had I not made a list of topics, we would never have known about the ones we hadn’t yet explored. If only we had the time. But aside from next month’s synopsis of my NTI address, this is my last column as AACN president.
Most of us wear watches at work. If not, there are plenty of clocks around. We’re pretty skilled at keeping track of the time because so much of our work is time oriented. We administer medications at scheduled times. We measure ECG intervals by time. We predict the success of CPR based on elapsed time. We assess and reassess patients at defined moments in time.

Reflecting on my experience as an acute and critical care nurse, I cannot recall even one situation where I didn’t feel like I needed more time. A second. A minute. An hour. A day. A week. It didn’t matter. Just a little more time. And the very mention of time causes me to think about everything I haven’t done. (So I can cross it off my list, of course.)

Malcolm Forbes was right. There is never enough time. And while his ironic quote refers to serving time in jail, maybe we’ve become unsuspecting co-conspirators in a scam where the tables have been turned on us. Do you ever find yourself wanting to say to time, “You’re not the boss of me!” Yet we continue acting as if time is the master and we are its servants.

What if we turned the tables a different way? Why not consider time based on quality instead of quantity? Then we could think differently about our work. Instead of measuring how much we do, we would measure what we do. Instead of working harder, we would find ways to work smarter.

We would be open to finding basic and innovative ways to keep patients safe. We would redeploy our skill in working around broken and dysfunctional systems toward inventing
systems that work. We would expertly use the power of a positive No to protect and preserve nurses’ valuable energy, resources and time.

Nurses are a hospital’s most precious resource and the one that is in shortest supply. Would you expect a precious resource to go chasing after urinals and linen?
—Dorrie Fontaine, past AACN president

Changing our perspective we would not squander time on meaningless work. Instead we would use our bold voice and boundless influence to control how we use our time, placing ourselves in the driver’s seat to reclaim the priorities that only acute and critical care nurses can reclaim. If we wait around for others to decide how our time can best be used, we’ll be gravely disappointed. So will our patients and their families.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
—Carl Sandburg

What about my time as AACN’s 38th president? Like the adage says, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Studies at the French Laboratory of Neurobiology and Cognition even found a possible scientific basis for the adage (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3532195.stm). Yes, I’ve had plenty of fun this year and was never bored for a minute.

It seems as if only yesterday I finished performing with the “Blues Brothers” on the 2007 NTI stage in Atlanta and subsequently started my journey as president. But it’s time to wrap things up. Just like anything that we as acute and critical care nurses take on, serving you in this very visible leadership role has been hard work. And you have repaid it a hundredfold. Your candid e-mails inspired and challenged my AACN News columns. Knowing that your welcoming hospitality awaited, I eagerly anticipated thousands of travel miles. Experiencing respect and awe for AACN, I represented you with pride at numerous national events.

In short, your commitment and dedication have filled me with energy and inspiration. Thank you for helping make this the ride of a lifetime. I am confident that working together we will indeed succeed in reclaiming our priorities.

P.S. Your thoughts and perspectives continue to be so important to AACN and to me. I invite you to share one final thought by writing to me at priorities@aacn.org. If by chance, you find yourself too busy and with not enough time to write, let’s plan to talk while I’m out and about this coming year as immediate past president.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Dave,
I attended my first NTI last year and really identified with the three core values you discussed during your president’s speech. So this past year, I tried to live and contribute to those values by getting to the second round of interviews for the Nominating Committee, giving two chapter presentations with Clareen Wiencek titled “Reclaiming Our Priorities: Patient- and Family-Centered Care in the ICU” and “Reclaiming Our Priorities: Our Students, Our Futures,” and conducting IRB-approved research on the “No Interruption Zone” in two ICUs at my hospital; subsequently my creative solutions poster abstract, “The No Interruption Zone,” was accepted for NTI 2008.

I have gotten the AACN bug and could not be happier! However, my efforts would not be where they are today without the help from my mentor, Clareen Wiencek, who always helped me take my ideas to the next level and become more involved in the organization. She is a phenomenal person, nurse and a true life member. It is people like her who keep the organization alive.

Thank you so much for your passion, energy and commitment and all you do every day. I know it must be very difficult to juggle so many commitments, but there is no greater feeling than being a bedside nurse and knowing I always have AACN’s support. Whether it is through practice alerts, Critical Care Nurse articles or other members at the bedside, AACN is always there. I am looking forward to hearing your speech at NTI 2008.

Kyle Anthony, RN, BA
Medical Intensive Care Unit
University Hospitals Case Medical Center
Cleveland, Ohio

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