Becoming an Advocate for HWE

Jan 08, 2018

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There is abundance of opportunity for nurses to do great things. It could be from a smile that lights up the room, a hug, a moment of silence, a brief pause, and helping out a colleague. Each small humble moment defines and helps you grow as a nurse.

Maureen Sain

There is not much that Maureen Sain has not seen as a nurse. From her beginning in critical care to her transition as a nurse leader and staunch proponent of healthy work environments, she even saw this past May, for the first time, AACN’s NTI conference.

How did you get started in nursing or decide to become a nurse?

Nursing is in my blood. My grandmother is a nurse. My mother is a nurse. My older brother and I are nurses. I have first and second cousins in the Philippines who are also nurses. Nursing has been the family's passion that originated from my grandmother who inspired the whole family to the call to take care of the sick. The nursing blood runs in our values as a family and we lead with our hearts that beat strong from our passion.

Why is being a nurse important to you?

Nursing is a calling. It’s beyond then just a profession itself. It’s a service to just to the community, to the patients, to my family.

How is it that you came to be involved in critical care?

I have been a critical care nurse in an intermediate care setting since 2008.  In November 2015, I transitioned to lead an 18-bed IMU unit as a nursing clinical manager. My foundation as a nurse has always been in critical care setting.  

What is it about nursing to you that makes it the great career that it is?

There is abundance of opportunity for nurses to do great things with small random acts of kindness. It could be from a smile that lights up the room, the white scrubs that symbolizes an angel, a hug, a moment of silence, a brief pause, and helping out a colleague. Each small humble moment defines and helps you grow as a nurse.

How do you try to bring positive change into your hospital or your unit?

Positive changes, you have to deliver it in a very clear and concise manner and that’s starting with the why. Why is the change very important? When people understand the why, they are more easily acceptable to change and it really promotes that positive outcome. It’s-- changes happen a lot in the healthcare. Everything changes so fast. And how do you have that positive outcome to begin with is to have that effective communication and to have that clear communication and to deliver that mission. And AACN really delivered that mission for all of the critical care nurses around the nation. 

Can you think of one crisis you’ve had during your career – either personally or perhaps as a unit – and the manner in which it came to be resolved?

It was Christmas Eve. I had a patient who was actively dying from lung cancer. I came in the beginning of my shift and she was in a lot of pain and her husband was at the bedside crying. The patient was restless, confused, and breathing rapidly. I sat at the bedside and held her hand. I sang Silent Night, "sleep in heavenly peace." Her breathing slowed down and she became peaceful. I sat at the bed and continued singing since it brought comfort to her and her husband. When she passed away, we had a moment of silence and prayer with the chaplain. 

Later that shift, I found out that my grandmother had passed away. It was hard. 

I lost my grandmother and my patient within hours on Christmas Eve.

The chaplain was with me as well as I learned how to cope so that I could finish my shift and take of myself and the other patients. Resiliency has always been my focus as a nurse and as clinical nurse manager. In a critical care setting, where moral distress, compassion fatigue, and moral distress occurs, the call for resiliency is great. AACN Healthy Work Environment standards have been my beacon to ensure the well-being of the team. 

Is there something in particular that fuels your passion for nursing and compassion towards others?

If not me, then who? If not now, then when?

The first step into leadership was the hardest but I remember the 2013 AACN theme was to step forward. I took that as my sign to step out my comfort zone and to focus my passion in nursing (2014 - Focus the Flame) to lead with courageous care (2015 theme) because it matters (2016). AACN has been a strong source of influence that help guide the passion for nursing and compassion towards others for patients, their families, and for critical care nurses. 

My first NTI was this year in Houston. I shared the moment with Whitney, one of my new nurse graduates working in my unit, who has only been a nurse of six months. I found something that I was passionate about and I was able to empower and inspire others to join AACN. It's truly an honor to see the impact of AACN on me as leader to introduce AACN and create a foundation of excellence for new nurses. This is my "WHY."

Please share about your experience at NTI. How was it for you? What was maybe the top things you learned, and how do you plan to implement them or share with colleagues?

NTI. I cannot talk enough about NTI. 

Being on the stage as a host chapter and welcoming everyone to Houston was amazing! The room was full of exceptional critical care nurses and there was so much positive vibes!

The icing on the cake was seeing my college nursing school roommate, Grenellie Raymundo. It had been 10 years. We’d gone our separate ways (she went to New York and I went to Boston) and to be reunited was indescribable. Our passion (our why) remained the same despite our different journey (she is an Educator and I went into Leadership).

Excellence. Because nothing less is acceptable.

I am going to take all the best practices back and apply them to achieve the Beacon Award and be the first Beacon unit in our hospital!

Talk a little bit about your transition to nurse manager and what that means to you.

I was promoted as a nurse manager because of my critical thinking, because of my bedside care. The transition itself was very hard and I was lost but AACN gave me the tools and the resources for me to succeed. Now, I can see the changes, not just in the unit but also in myself, that using the Healthy Work Environment standards, I can not only transform a unit but it has really impacted me as a nurse leader. So it has given me a much more of a global perspective and I’m able to impact with much more greater skill than I was when I was a nurse clinician.   

You are an ardent and staunch proponent of HWE – the need for a healthy work environment. Please share your thoughts on this concept and why is it so important? Perhaps you have a clearer idea, as a nurse manager, of the need for this concept?

 The transition from bedside to boardroom has been difficult. I've been reading alot of leadership books that defined leaders but however failed to define clinical leadership. What is clinical leadership? AACN has been my source of information and so I took the HWE standards to define clinical leadership. I used it as as a tool to assist me during my transition. 

Am I an authentic leader? Am I being directed by my why? Did I effectively communicate?

Are the decisions I make effective with true collaboration from the nursing team and other disciplines? Is the staffing appropriate? Do I have or give meaningful recognition?

These are all things I have learned and have made me better at what I do.