President's Column: How Do We Bridge the Divide?

Nov 01, 2021

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At a recent AACN regional chapter meeting a member asked, “How do we bridge the growing divide within nursing?”

For almost two years, divisiveness and incivility among friends, families and strangers has often risen to new and disturbing levels. And social media sometimes provides a platform for mistrust and misunderstanding, while also amplifying discord.

Even within healthcare, we see persistent and growing divisions and intolerance of others’ views and perspectives. Now, several issues including vaccine hesitancy and opposition to vaccine mandates have widened the divide, both nationally and within our nursing community.

I’ve reflected on this topic a lot the past 18 months and wondered, “How do we rise above it? How do we build a bridge that brings us closer?” A bridge to transcend the discord and focus on what we have in common.

I believe there are several steps we can take. A critical step is how we choose to communicate with each other. We must respectfully listen to the perspectives of others, even – or perhaps, especially – when those perspectives differ from our own. Sometimes, we might have to agree to disagree. That is not just OK. It may be necessary and helpful during these challenging times.

Psychosocial researchers have studied how people can be more understanding of others. One way is to seek interactions with people who may not share our views. Just interacting in an open, willing manner contributes to increased empathy and openness to seeing others’ perspectives.

AACN’s Hear Us Out campaign offers a toolkit for having difficult conversations, such as conversations with those who are not yet vaccinated. Sarah Delgado, AACN clinical practice specialist, recommends an approach that builds trust over time. One that recognizes what the other person is feeling, and, first and foremost, communicates that you care about the other person, no matter what. It’s about creating space for open honest dialogue without being judgmental.

Not only is this a way to begin, it provides an excellent road map for how to come together in our communities and within nursing. Each of us can choose the role we will play – and whether our individual actions will widen the divide or help bridge the gap

Rooted in strength, I choose to focus my energy on building trust and narrowing the divide. I choose to rise above, by committing to sit down with others who do not share my views; to connect, listen and start a conversation. I choose to post on social media only content that encourages open and civil discourse. I try to influence my friends, family and colleagues to do the same, and be part of the solution.

What is your commitment to help bridge the divide? Tell me at