Use Your WHYs as a Portal to the New

As critical care nurses, we devote our professional lives to the care of our patients. Then, we spend a week together at NTI to return to our patients and their families renewed and recharged. Since NTI convened last year in Houston, hurricanes, wildfires, mass shootings and other tragic events continue to remind us of life’s uncertainty and the way in which we must live: guided by WHY.

This NTI week in Boston began at Monday’s SuperSession with a moving tribute to our WHYs by the Silhouettes, a performance group that used shadow and acrobatics to refuel the audience with messages of hope, courage and compassion.

“You’ve earned this week together rejuvenating, pretending that you’re mere mortals like the rest of us,” said AACN CEO Dana Woods. “I invite you to have fun and relax while you’re here. Refuel yourselves in preparation for the next storm. We normal humans need your super powers. We need you. And we are grateful beyond words for you.”

In fact, the next storm might be closer than we think: the quest to achieve appropriate staffing. During AACN President Chris Schulman’s keynote address, the mere mention of ‘staffing’ earned passionate applause from attendees. “Inappropriate staffing has plagued us for far too long,” Schulman said. “Obviously, if this was easy to solve, we would have already done it.”

Schulman said that AACN will soon lead the charge to address staffing problems in critical care units across the country. “Guided by Why, we can do any work that is worth doing. Guided by our WHYs, we will look this staffing challenge squarely in the eyes. WHY will serve us, now more than ever.”

Schulman reminded the audience that a disturbance in life can often be “unwelcome, devastating, unexpected and sometimes even life-threatening, but it is always a ‘portal to the new.’ The new state that results from disturbance may be better. It may not. But it will certainly be different.” Our dreams of appropriate staffing will become reality if we remember our WHYs, and staffing is our latest ‘portal to the new.’

Board members celebrated AACN’s most prestigious examples of WHY by presenting Pioneering Spirit Awards to those who exhibit “fierce compassion” for changing critical care nursing.

“Nothing happens unless first, a dream,” said Bernadette Melnyk, professor and dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University (OSU) and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at OSU’s College of Medicine, upon receiving her award for her groundbreaking work, putting evidence-based practice at the forefront of critical care. “You’ve got to keep your dreams bigger than your fears. Then you have to discover. We must persist through our character builders to deliver our dreams.”

Honored along with Melnyk were Curtis Sessler, Orhan Muren Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Richmond, Virginia; Jonathan Bartels, palliative care nurse liaison at the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville; and Beth Ulrich, professor in the doctor of nursing practice program at the University of Texas Health Science Center Cizik School of Nursing, who received the 2018  Marguerite Rodgers Kinney Award for a Distinguished Career.