AACN News—July 1998—Keynote Speeches Challenge Nurses to See New Ways

AACN News Logo

Back to AACN News Home

Vol. 15, No. 1, JULY 1998



From cross-cultural healing to ways to maneuver through change, keynote speakers at the 1998 National Teaching Institute and Advanced Practice Institute challenged participants to approach their environments and their circumstances in new ways.
Following is what each of these speakers had to say:

Janet E. Lapp, RN, PhD
Instead of fighting the future, draw energy from it, Lapp urged the audience at the closing session.

A former nurse, who is a licensed clinical psychologist, editor, publisher, and television personality, Lapp took participants on an emotional ride through laughter, tears, and retrospection in her speech, titled “Plant Your Feet Firmly in Mid-Air: Guidance Through Turbulent Change.”

“Either we create our future, or somebody else will create it for us,” she said. “You have a choice.”

Stressing attitude as a key leadership trait, Lapp urged critical care nurses to “get outside your comfort zone.”

“Promote what you believe in, the power you have,” she said. “Don’t ever stop trying. Don’t ever forget your passion.”

Managed care is good, Lapp contended, noting that insurance companies finally want to keep people healthy.

“I’m a psychologist; this is managed care. We have one session; get over it,” she said.

“We are mission-driven people. We get it,” she added. “We are better than anybody.
“Just show up with an attitude. If you can’t promote yourself, what can you accomplish? It’s about letting people know what you do.”

Lapp is editor and publisher of The Change Letter and author of Dancing With Tigers. She created and hosts the CBS television series, “Keep Well.”

Suzanne Gordon
Nurses must have a greater voice in creating a healthcare system that is grounded in the ethic of care, not the ethic of profit, Gordon told participants at the second-day general session.

“Reinforcing the Real Life Supports in Healthcare: Valuing the Community-Building Work of Nurses” was the title of the speech by Gordon, a healthcare writer and nursing advocate.

Nurses can help change the emphasis of healthcare by uniting and speaking out in a positive voice, she said.

“There is a huge backlash against the mismanagement of care,” Gordon said. “I urge you to speak … to raise all your voices and tell the world what you do.”

Gordon described nursing as a “tapestry of care,” woven by the performance and dedication of those in the profession. That care now needs to be expanded to the healthcare system, she said.

“Today, it is no longer enough to administer care at the bedside,” Gordon said. “Today, another patient is in need of care. The patient is the American healthcare system itself.”

The failure of the healthcare system should be communicated to the public by nurses through speaking to friends, writing letters to the editor, lobbying legislators, and picketing, she said.

Criticizing the profit mentality of the healthcare system, Gordon said: “We are turning sick people into consumers. When I’m on your critical care unit, I don’t want to be viewed as a customer strolling through a shopping mall. I want people to know I am vulnerable, and so is my family.

“Nurses are the only ones experienced in patient care who can perform tasks in a way that preserves dignity,” Gordon said. “Dignity is so important to patients. We cannot afford to lose dignity in healthcare.”

Gordon is a frequent contributor to the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times. She is author or coauthor of eight books including Prisoners of Men’s Dreams, Life Support, and Caregiving: Readings in Knowledge, Practice, Ethics, and Politics.

Angeles Arrien
Arrien delivered touchstones that drew on fairy tales, metaphors, cultural proverbs, and wisdom from a variety of sources in her keynote speech at the opening session.

To the astute listener, Arrien’s message was clear: Critical-care nurses are “stewards of transition” who can help people through their transitory stages.

Founder and president of the Angeles Arrien Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research, Arrien offered integrated wisdom culled from her studies of various cultures. She used the address, titled “Cross-Cultural Healing Practices,” to explain how intangible concepts like forces and salves can help bring focus and explanation to each day.

Arrien examined universal forces at work every day, including healing, creativity, and initiation. The definition of initiation, Arrien said, is the capacity to learn something new and demonstrate that learning.

“I feel illness or disease is an initiatory process and anyone committed to the calling of medicine and healing is involved in this initiatory process,” Arrien said.

Arrien emphasized that there must be more trust and faith in the unknown and the healing process. She also said that the four most vital bones in the human body are simply overlooked in most medical textbooks: the backbone, the funny bone, the wishbone, and the “hollow little bone—the bone that lets mystery work us rather than us trying to work the mystery.” She said there are also four universal healing salves: singing, dancing, storytelling, and silence.

She credited critical care nurses for their keen ability to listen and look and to be intuitive. She said true healers are shape shifters, those who have the capacity to shift the shape of an experience.

“Critical care nurses attending to those in a transition are not only shape shifters but have the opportunity to witness and create many small miracles, and to have the holy privilege to witness the miracles that occur,” she said.

Arrien is an award-winning author, educator, anthropologist, and corporate consultant. Her address was sponsored by Nellcor Puritan Bennett.