“Everyone knows that meaningful recognition is one of the Healthy Work Environment Standards, and we hope this special luncheon is meaningful to you,” AACN President Clareen Wiencek said as she opened Wednesday’s Chapter Presidents’ Luncheon.
Wiencek asked the chapter presidents to stand and be recognized, noting that many in AACN leadership began in these roles. She predicted that there might be a future AACN president among those in attendance.
“You are our most devoted and loyal members,” she said.
Wiencek thanked the chapter presidents for working hard to deliver the mission and vision of AACN and for boldly promoting the organization’s mission. “I really stand in awe of you and with deep respect for the work that you do,” she said.
Guest speaker Marcus Engel, an author and professional speaker, said he was also awed by the nurses who cared for him while he recovered from a devastating car crash that broke all the bones in his face, robbed him of his sight and left him with numerous other serious injuries.
In an emotional address, Engel recalled a fateful night more than 20 years ago when he and his friends were broad-sided by a drunken driver while crossing an intersection. Engel awoke face-down on the pavement, every bone in his face broken, struggling to clear his airways of blood.
Engel, with his guide dog Elliott by his side, cut the seriousness of his story with a joke that filled the room with laughter.
“How many of you have broken a bone?” he asked. Many attendees raised their hand as Engel said, “How many of you are raising your hand at a blind guy?”
Following his accident, Engel woke up in the hospital to feel a hand clutching his own. It was a patient care technician named Jennifer who later became a clinical nurse manager in the same St. Louis hospital. Engel credited Jennifer’s presence with helping ease his anguish.
“She held my hand and said over and over, ‘I’m here, Marcus,’” Engel said.
Before he underwent facial reconstructive surgery, Engel met another nurse named Barb who introduced herself by announcing: “I get to take care of you for the next eight hours.” Engel was struck by the word “get.” Caring for Engel was Barb’s privilege.
“Let me ask you this,” Engel said to the chapter presidents. “Do you get to work in the sacred field of nursing?”
“Yes!” the nurses replied.
“You bet you do,” he said.
And then the big surprise: In a tear-jerking moment, AACN arranged for Jennifer to appear in person to surprise Engel at the end of his speech.