President’s Column: The Solstice & Shifting Perspective

Dec 12, 2017

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The winter solstice — Dec. 21 — will soon be upon us. In the Pacific Northwest, many dread winter's darkest day because it rains. A lot. It's cold, and on the never-ending overcast days, the streetlights come on at 3:45 in the afternoon. Folks are thankful for the pleasant distractions and excitement of the holidays because otherwise we might just curl up and hide under a blanket, much like a bear in a cave, and refuse to come out until spring!

Having lived in this area for most of my life, I've learned that it is useful to have a different perspective on this (or, as we say at the AACN Board of Directors' table, "a divergent view"). I believe that Dec. 21 is a day to celebrate.

From this point forward until the summer solstice, the days get longer; we steadily move toward lighter, warmer days and the outdoor adventures that come with them. My energy level and demeanor definitely improve when I view the solstice through this different lens.

Considering different perspectives is an important skill — and absolutely essential when ways of being and doing are evolving. In our world of nursing, for example, there is justifiable concern about impending shifts in the nursing workforce.

Nearly 700,000 RNs/APRNs are projected to retire or leave the labor force soon, resulting in an alleged "brain drain," because they'll take their collective wisdom, clinical skills and leadership experience with them. To further complicate things, serious challenges face people who are just now entering — or hope to enter — the nursing community.

Nursing school enrollment capacities are projected to fall far short of anticipated demands for nurses for a variety of reasons. The exodus from the bedside is sometimes prompted by heavy workloads, challenging work environments and the push for nurses to quickly return to school to pursue advanced degrees. This "churn" — the accelerated rate of relatively new nurses leaving the bedside — deeply concerns academics and employers. It also profoundly disappoints experienced nurses remaining at the bedside.

Given that we all have the power to change our perspective, I propose that instead of lamenting this impending and oddly named brain drain, that we view this transition as a brain gain. This shift in perspective then leads me to wonder, how can we make the most of the gifts these new careerists bring in the short time that we may have them?

Enthused newcomers to nursing are often quick learners who are adept at technology and social media. Excited about their chosen field, they strive to do meaningful work.

It's refreshing that new nurses aren't afraid to challenge the status quo to make things work better. I welcome these strong backs, resilient feet, sharp eyes and energetic intellects that power them through their days.

Two shifts in perspective might help us navigate the reality of the churn. First, the ability of young nurses to learn quickly could mean orientation processes might be expedited without jeopardizing patient care. Second, we can accept that departure for other career opportunities is often a reality, but we can also hold ourselves accountable for building fantastic work environments and professional relationships that could influence them to stay longer than planned.

When colleagues do move on, perhaps they would enthusiastically and affectionately claim that their first experience as a nurse was the best ever! and encourage others to seek jobs in that particular unit.

WHY is shifting perspective important? It's an effective and innovative way to explore how nursing can adapt to meet our evolving needs. It's also an energizing way to light the path from our current reality toward our preferred future.

Please share with me your fresh perspectives on WHY and how we can support our newest nursing colleagues at