The Importance of Asking ‘Why?’

Wednesday’s SuperSession started with a parade, as attendees waived large glow sticks and celebrated Chapter and Beacon Award recipients and an outstanding week in Houston for NTI 2017.

Emcee Jon Holmer asked for a moment of silence for the victims of deadly bombing in Manchester, England, delivering a sober reminder of a nurses’ critical role in such tragedies.

“You are all on the front lines of things like that, and it’s never easy,” he said.

What an excellent reminder of what we do and why It Matters. AACN’s 2016-17 theme inspired many of us to think about the impact of our jobs on our patients and their families.“In today’s healthcare, nurses are the masters overcoming obstacles to accomplish what’s important,” said AACN president-elect Christine Schulman.

Guided by Why

Rejuvenation was the message as Schulman recounted parts of her journey to becoming a critical care and trauma clinical nurse and unveiled the 2017-18 AACN theme, Guided by Why.

In her speech, Schulman marveled at a child’s ability to make sense of things by asking the question “Why?” — something she said has become a lost art for adults.

“I wonder,” Schulman asked, “Have we stopped asking why?”

She traced her own desire to become a nurse back to when she was a 5-year-old watching episodes of “Ben Casey” at her grandmother’s house. Years later, Schulman drove through the night to visit her seriously ill mother in a Wyoming hospital and again found herself watching nurses providing excellent care.

“But you know what made the most difference to me in those two long weeks?” Schulman asked. “The three nurses who sat down to learn about who her mother was and ask about her home in the mountains. Who talked with me and asked me how I was doing. Who asked how my 85-year-old dad was holding up.”

She explained that she became a nurse because she was fascinated by how the human body works and wanted to have the knowledge and skills to make sick people well again. She then challenged us to remember why we chose to be nurses.

“Why — such a simple, three-letter word. And yet so powerful!” she said. “Why is really our professional and personal compass. Why we became nurses. Why we go to work each day. Why we come to NTI.

“It’s obvious to me that we nurses faithfully use why as our guide. And that is what inspired our theme for the coming year.”

Be dreamers

In a thoughtful keynote address, artist and best-selling author Erik Wahl urged us to tap into our creativity — like preschoolers using crayons — and use imagination as a breakthrough for strategic thinking in our jobs.

Wahl addressed the crowd in a wheelchair after recently having a herniated disk. He persevered “through a mixture of pain and adrenaline” and was able to quickly create paintings of Elvis and the Statue of Liberty that awed the crowd. He announced that he was going to hide a painting of Mother Theresa somewhere in Houston — finders keepers — and that he would provide clues about its whereabouts through social media.

“It is with a great deal of gratitude that I’m able to be here today largely because of quality caregivers like yourselves,” Wahl said. “I have been speaking for 10 years and have done 1,390 shows in a row without ever canceling a date — and AACN wasn’t going to be the first.”

And the SuperSession crowd of more than 6,000 nurses was glad it wasn’t.