It’s Time to Take Your Next Step

Fifty years of AACN … it’s hard to believe we’ve come this far in what seems like no time at all. But emcee Jon Holmer’s personal choreography of music through the years during Monday’s SuperSession reminded us that, indeed, much has changed (just how did we go from The BeeGees to Beyonce?)


Our taste in music may have changed — and technology has certainly changed — but AACN founding member Penny Vaughan told the audience that “the one thing that hasn’t changed is YOU.” In 1969, she and a handful of nurses gathered around a kitchen table in Nashville and set down a path of critical care nursing excellence.

“Thank you for walking down the path with us,” she said.
Pioneering Spirits are just one example of nursing excellence. Sharon Inouye, who developed the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM), was honored with a Pioneering Spirit award, as well as a hall-full of recognition and applause. With tears in her eyes, Inouye, professor at Harvard Medical School (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center), holder of the Milton and Shirley F. Levy Family Chair, and director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, humbly reminded us that, “If you save a life, you’re a hero; if you save a hundred lives, you’re a nurse.

In her address, AACN President Lisa Riggs revealed just how many heroes we have: “There are four million registered nurses in the US; it is the 5th largest profession. Talk about Our Voice, Our Strength!” Riggs said that hospital leaders need to start thinking of nurses as an investment, not an expense. She said hospitals need to allow nurses time to work together, away from the bedside, to come up with new staffing solutions. “AACN is committed to advancing this initiative,” she said, “and we are partnering with many other agencies and associations to help get us there.”
Riggs went on to share with the crowd what she has learned along the way: We must be united in our efforts. We need to be clear about our unique contributions. We must engage and collaborate with partners in healthcare. And, we must never forget our true north: the needs of patients and families.

“Why?” she asked. “Because we are the voice of the voiceless. Our patients need us. When Mrs. Norma Shepherd and that dozen or so nurses met around that kitchen table 50 years ago, who knew what would result from that first step?”

Taking that next step can be scary, though, as keynote Michelle Poler reminded us. Poler followed Riggs onstage to tell us about her 100 Days Without Fear project, in which she forced herself to face all of her fears. Poler found that instead of failure, she was really tapping into her inner strength that was there all along. Fear is the one obstacle to achieving our dreams, Poler said. If we can move out of our comfort zones, we can change the future.

“Don’t ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’” she said. “Ask, ‘What’s the best that can happen?’”

Monday’s SuperSession repeatedly reminded attendees what can happen when we are fearless and take that first step.