President's Column: Rising Together

Jul 10, 2023

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New AACN President Theresa "Terry" Davis begins her term by discussing the profound sea change we have experienced in nursing and says that there is more change to come. But, "Rising Together we will lift each other up, advance our journey and manifest the future of healthcare.”
Rising Together theme artwork

Tides rise and fall.

We have experienced a profound sea change in nursing.

Generations will remember this historic time, and how nurses rode this powerful, massive wave to shore, and together found calm in the chaos and sought hope on the horizon.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. Stories allow us to understand someone else's reality. To see the world through their lens as their experience unfolds.

I'd like to share a really personal story.

Last year, I suffered a devastating loss. Ed, my husband of 46 years, died unexpectedly. As a trauma nurse, I've seen a lot, but nothing prepared me to hear that they were performing CPR and were unable to gain a rhythm. I nearly fell to my knees.

When I arrived at the emergency department, I was not allowed to see Ed. For the first time, I was on the other side of the door. After years of caring for unstable patients, I was the family member who couldn't come in, because Ed was too unstable.

After Ed was sedated and intubated, and with the support of a compassionate healthcare provider, I finally got to see him. I kissed his head and his hand, and I told him, "You have my heart." In these final moments, my family was allowed dignity and peace. Compassion made such a difference in keeping me breathing just enough to put one foot in front of the other.

As nurses, we have the power to rise together and open those doors for patients' families at critical moments. What a difference it makes.

Nurses can lead with humanity. Beyond advocating for patients and their families, we can create true shared governance and shape our work environments with our colleagues. Shared governance models help put decision-making about patient care back in the hearts and hands of nurses. We are so much better working together.

We must also share our care for one another. Some days we are thriving, and other days we're surviving. As nurses, we can recognize distress in others, but it's harder to see in ourselves. On many occasions, a fellow nurse recognized my distress, understood what was going on, and covered for me so I could reset.

Mental health experts tell us that to help someone in distress we can ask, "Do you need help or advice, someone to listen or a distraction?" What a great way to understand how you can help a teammate in the moment.

This sense of teamwork and synergy helps us rise together and lift each other up, especially in the multigenerational reality of our workplace.

As the third of 10 children, I'm an accomplished negotiator and a great team player. Having so many siblings meant that my family was 75% of the neighborhood kickball team! It also helped me recognize that every member of the team is on their own journey.

Some of us applaud nurses for pursuing new roles and degrees early in their careers. Others may worry that it isn't healthy for the profession or for healthcare. I imagine you're hearing these conversations in your workplace, too. This kind of change can be frightening. I try to encourage my own team members to follow their heart, even if it takes them away from the bedside or from nursing entirely. Or, to some new, unimagined place in nursing.

In the early days of telemedicine, I was part of a community of pioneering nurses. We stood tall with great courage even though many people did not want telemedicine, especially in the ICU. We had to have some difficult conversations, but now, as director of teleICU at Inova Health System, I've seen the art and science of nursing combined.

Lean into those uncomfortable conversations. We won't always feel ready to face difficult situations, but we can always be prepared to do what we believe is right. Be brave. Use your bold voice. Listen to new ideas and discover new possibilities.

What a profound sea change we've experienced in nursing. And there is more to come. Someone must drive that change. If not us, then who? Our future is too important to let others design and define it without nurses' deep wisdom, powerful voice and presence at the table.

We need each other. We need an ocean of interconnected teams and caregivers bringing their authentic selves to work every day. Lifting each other up, we can meet the needs of our teams, our patients and their families.

How will you use your confidence, your voice or your presence to create the future of nursing? Think of one way, one change you can make, and then build on that. For example:

  • If you are a new nurse, explore your path, one that fills your heart. Be brave, share your ideas and know you are valued.
  • If you are an established nurse, understand the precious knowledge that you have and the critical role you play in creating an environment grounded in caring for the generation who follows you.
  • If you are a nurse leader, create an initiative to implement the six standards of Healthy Work Environments across your health system.
  • If you are an administrator, actively facilitate inclusion and a deep appreciation for diversity. Ensure that no voice is unheard.

Like a ripple in the ocean, that one change you make will manifest and build into a wave that can touch every shore. It won't be easy, but together, we've got this. Absorb the power of this community, and know that we are all in and Rising Together!

What's one way or one change you can make to help create the future of nursing?
Share your ideas with me at