Arnold Inspires Nurses to ‘Think Big’

Jennifer Arnold urged the audience to “think big” in a lively Tuesday SuperSession that also featured the presentation of AACN Circle of Excellence awards.

Emcee Jon Holmer warmed up the crowd with a hilarious sketch about replacing call signals with popular songs. Attendees roared with laughter as the DJ played — among others — “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls for the times when nurses care for patients that are far apart and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” for cardiac ICU patients. 

Twenty-five nurses were recognized with AACN Circle of Excellence awards in a ceremony highlighted by the recipients describing the contributions they make to patient care.

Arnold then took the stage. Medical director of a state-of-the-art simulation center at Texas Children’s Hospital here in Houston, she is widely known as the star of TLC’s “The Little Couple” and for her television appearances on “Oprah,” “The Today Show” and “Dr. Oz.”

Board certified in pediatric and neonatal medicine, she engaged the audience in her personal journey, recounting her diagnosis as a child with a form of skeletal dysplasia.

“You make a difference in everyone’s lives, and I have so much to be thankful for the work that you do,” she said. “I’m here today because of all the good care I got from so many nurses and doctors.”

She also described learning four years ago that she was battling a rare form of cancer.

Arnold reflected on her life and the lessons she has learned along the way as someone who overcame a disability to achieve her dream of becoming a physician. Her experiences led her to create a philosophy she explains using the acronym T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. — a blueprint that can help nurses accomplish their goals. It encourages people to try, hope, initiate by taking the first step, never listen to the “no’s,” know your capabilities and limitations, believe, improve and go for it.

She said the best possible outcomes are achieved when patient care is approached with humility and teamwork.

“You know how complex our system is today,” she said. “It can be a challenge. Healthcare has gotten to the point where we no longer need cowboys; we need pit crews.”

Pit crews, she said, allow team members to contribute their particular expertise to produce a desired result.

“The most important thing is that, no matter what obstacle comes our way, you have to remember that life is short. Sometimes, you just have to go for the things you want because you never know what may come around the bend.”