President's Column: Courage to Soar

Jul 03, 2024

Added to Collection

New AACN President Jennifer Adamski begins her term by exploring courage as a challenge and a gift, revealing our new theme – Courage to Soar – and sharing her own vulnerabilities. "I want you to know the messiness of who I am as we walk side by side, supporting each other with our individual courage in the coming year."
Courage to Soar theme artwork

Courage to Soar

Courage has been and continues to be the theme of my life.

I learned about courage from my mom, a single mother who reinvented herself. From my brother, who refused to let his deafness define him. From my daughter, Quinn, who is a brave boss.

I learned courage by trying new things. Like becoming a flight nurse even though I have motion sickness and I’m afraid of heights.

Let’s explore the challenge and the gift of courage.

It takes courage for AACN to be AACN. It takes courage to be a nurse. Maybe even more, it takes courage to be ourselves.

Yet, I wondered what it would look like if we didn’t show up? No AACN. No nurses. No us.

A day without AACN means a day without advocacy.

A lot of advocacy requires the power of numbers and influence that only a professional organization can bring to the table.

Often, AACN advocates on its own, but many more times we do it collaboratively, joining the other 64 associations of the Nursing Community Coalition to advocate on issues that matter most to nurses and patients.

A day without AACN is a day without a bold voice to champion patient-centered care and healthy work environment standards, and a day without “AACN Standards for Appropriate Staffing in Adult Critical Care.”

A day without AACN is a day without vocal support for urgent issues, such as workplace violence, bullying and moral distress.

It takes enormous courage to be the voice and influence behind three-quarters of a million acute and critical care nurses.

But even a day with AACN would be meaningless if it’s a day without nurses.

A day without nurses is a day without anyone to guide interdisciplinary collaboration that responds to patient needs comprehensively. It’s a day without advocates for system-wide changes when they’re needed, and without someone who maintains continuity of care when the members of interprofessional teams rotate in and out.

Who will ask the tough moral and ethical questions that ensure the wishes and values of patients, families and caregivers are respected and supported?

It’s a day without role models, coaches and mentors. Without nurses to guide and support new and seasoned clinicians faced with fresh challenges.

A day without nurses means no one is promoting meaningful recognition, inclusivity and equity in our practice. Even though we know that an equitable, diverse and inclusive work environment makes a safer, healthier place to work.

Now, what would a day look like without you or me.

Our individual humanity is what we uniquely bring to our patients, their families and one another.

So a day without you or me is a day where someone might not have the friend, mentor, coach, confidant or ally they needed.

Who will guide the eager new nurse, the terrified medical student, the overconfident resident?

Who will show others what they’ll find on the other side of courage? Because you’ve been scared just as many times as they have.

I think of the nurse whose single mother showed her every day what courage looks like and how to manifest it.

I think of the nurse whose first trip out of the house as a baby was to the welfare office.

I think of the nurse who longed to have a child at any cost and endured seven rounds of IVF so that one day someone would call her Mommy.

I think of the nurse who said, “No more” when she put aside the guilt of being a healthcare professional who was keeping herself in an abusive relationship.

I think of the nurse who never had mentors early in her career. Now she dedicates her life to being the mentor she never had.

Each of these could be a different nurse. But they’re not. These are all my experiences.

I want you to know where I’ve been and what I bring as we walk side by side, supporting each other with our individual courage during this coming year’s journey.

If you’re up for it I’d like to suggest some homework for us to take on between now and NTI 2025 in New Orleans.

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. When did I do something that seemed courageous to me?
  2. Why was it courageous?
  3. What’s stopping me now from doing things that require courage?

If we answer honestly, we’ll discover hidden sources of courage we’ve forgotten or overlooked.

With Courage to Soar as our call to action, three things are clear to me:

  1. A day – even an hour – without nurses changes healthcare for the worse
  2. It’s not just big things that require us to have courage
  3. Courage looks different for each of us

Together we have the Courage to Soar.

What does “Courage to Soar” mean to you? Tell me in an email to