December wraps up a yearlong celebration of triumphs and milestones to commemorate AACN’s 50th anniversary. To conclude, AACN’s current president and two past presidents look at what’s next for nursing, with a nod to our storied past. AACN President Megan Brunson, nurse leader at Medical City Dallas; AACN past president Karen McQuillan, lead clinical nurse specialist at University of Maryland Medical Center; and AACN past president Teri Lynn Kiss, chief quality officer at Foundation Health Partners, discuss the accomplishments of our community of exceptional nurses and the future of critical care nursing.
Where do you envision nursing in the next 10, 20 or 50 years?
Megan: I envision a healthier workforce where nurses not only take excellent care of patients but also take excellent care of themselves through self-care and lifelong learning. I think two roles will be vital for nursing to advocate for in the future — advanced-degree nurses who have a deep understanding of business and finance, and nurse engineers who can support innovation and the creation of medical technology.
Karen: Fifty years from now, I see nurses using a strong collective voice to advocate for what is needed to provide the best possible care to patients and their families. It is likely our role will change but remain pivotal in transforming a healthcare system focused on ensuring optimal patient outcomes.
What challenges are on the horizon for critical care nursing? What do you see as AACN’s role?
Karen: One of the biggest challenges in the next 10 to 20 years is that a lot of nurses are retiring. We really need to keep nurses at the bedside — nurses who want to be there taking care of patients. I think AACN has really taken a great stance of looking at staffing to ensure the appro¬priate nursing resources match the needs of the patients.
We need to be able to very clearly define what the job of a nurse is. We need to make sure others are aware of the role of the nurse and under¬stand what is needed to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and families. As nurses, it is important to make sure we articulate clearly what resources are necessary to ensure appropriate staffing.
What do you see as the biggest need in nursing right now? Or, if you had a magic wand, how would you change nursing now?
Teri: My fantasy scenario is one where decisions are made only when nursing’s voice is represented in the process. Nurses are essential in the value equation of healthcare quality and need to be part and parcel of decision-making across the continuum.
Megan: There are two major needs I see in nursing today — keeping experienced nurses at the bedside in tandem with protecting scope of practice. I feel that our scope of practice is being chipped away at all levels. Plus, I believe it is possible for nurses with advanced degrees to remain at the bedside. The experience gap is widening with more and more nurses obtaining advanced degrees (which is great), but there is not an avenue in nursing to be able to remain in the clinical environment and support nurses with high-level roles.
What can AACN do to engage new nurses and inspire them to lead and innovate?
Karen: When you provide nurses with a strong knowledge base and you assist them in developing critical thinking skills, they will be respected as clinical leaders by physicians, other disciplines and nursing peers with whom they work. AACN offers many ways to learn and apply clinical knowledge. Also, there’s lots of opportunity within AACN to take on leadership roles, such as with chapters, work groups and ambassador programs. Nurses can take the knowledge gained from AACN programs, publications and leadership development opportuni¬ties to teach and develop their nursing colleagues and to lead efforts to improve patient outcomes.
Megan: AACN has already championed nurses’ commitment to ‘thinking time’ with the CSI Academy teams and voice advocacy. However, a new generation of nurses will insist on this in their personal practice and to advance the profession. AACN must continue elevating our voice for ‘protected time’ for nurses to give back to the profession.
What would you tell a new nurse or nursing student about being an acute or critical care nurse and why they should join AACN?
Teri: The beautiful thing about nursing is the myriad practice environments that are available to you. The beautiful thing about AACN is how the organization transcends geographical pigeonholing and recognizes that acute and critical care occurs across the continuum. Everyone can certainly find something to meet a need.
Karen: Well, I think the decision to practice as a nurse in an acute or critical care field is an awesome choice. You will learn so much about how to care for patients and families. Not just the physiologic piece, but also how to provide compassionate care. I think that those two things are incredibly important as nurses move forward and go into whatever field they may choose. AACN provides the resources for learning about the physiologic aspect of the patient, for being a leader in the healthcare setting, and for being able to appreciate how to provide compassionate care, not just for patients, but also for their families. AACN also really encourages nurses to care for themselves.
Megan: There are a lot of practical reasons to belong to AACN tied to member benefits (publications, CEs, lower conference fees, chapter connections and scholarships). These alone could enhance a nurse’s professional journey, but it is the priceless ‘non-tangibles’ that should draw someone to AACN. It is the vast connections they will make in a large community that lives and breathes a mission of nursing excel¬lence. It’s like having a family of 124,000 other nurses rooting you on and supporting your nursing journey.
How did you first learn of AACN, what were your first impressions of the organization and its work, and what surprised you most about AACN once you became part of it?
Teri: I found my professional home when I started working in the ICU at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital [Alaska]. There was an active AACN chapter that embraced me as a critical care nurse and invited me into the group. The first time I read the mission and values of AACN, I knew AACN was my North Star. The slogan ‘Excellence. Because nothing less is acceptable’ resonates with me to my deepest core.
Megan: I think when I step back and think about how I joined AACN, it tells the story. It was a tap on my shoulder by someone who knew I wanted more in nursing. In every interaction, in every committee or group, email or social media interaction, AACN has a foundation so strongly built on a commitment to its mission. I have turned to AACN for my own leadership development and to connect with likeminded nurses who strive for excellence.
What are your favorite memories of your tenure as AACN president?
Teri: It’s the recognition that creating, sustaining and living in a healthy work environment is absolutely possible as evidenced across all my experiences with AACN.
Karen: My favorite memory is when a young nurse walked up to me and said, “I cannot tell you how much your theme [Courageous Care] inspired me as a nurse. I was ready to just completely throw in the towel. Then I listened to your NTI speech, and I listened to how you spoke about courageous care, and it just really inspired me to want to still be a nurse.”