PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Engaging in Lifelong Learning to Lead the Way VICTORIA M. STEELMAN PhD, RN, CNOR, FAAN, AORN PRESIDENT
his month we celebrate National Nurses Week, which starts on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. To recognize nurses’ leadership in promoting high-quality cost-effective care, AORN is partnering with the American Nurses Association1 to commemorate National Nurses Week with the theme, “Nurses: Leading the Way” (Figure 1). This theme reflects the importance of the leadership role that we nurses play in our pursuit of excellence. I cannot think of a more influential nursing leader than Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. While providing care to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she identified unmet patient needs and redesigned patient care. As a researcher, she systematically collected data and created evidence for use in practice. Next, she used this evidence and improved patient outcomes. She understood the importance of standardizing care, and she established a nursing school to ensure nurse competency. She advocated for improving health care for all segments of society and expanding the role of women in the workforce. Through her prolific writing, she shared her knowledge with others in ways that they could understand and thereby influenced public policy. Based on these roots of professional dedication and leadership, nursing is a well-respected profession today. The public holds nurses in high regard and trusts us to advocate for patients. In the annual
Gallup survey,2 the public has ranked nursing as the top profession for honesty and ethics for the past 12 years. With this respect and trust comes an obligation and commitment to continuously dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of excellence. This pursuit requires lifelong learning to develop the knowledge and the skills to effectively lead the way. LIFELONG LEARNING Two recommendations from the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, are to “prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health”3(pS-12) and “ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning.”3(pS-11) These recommendations go hand in hand. To effectively lead change to enhance health, we need the knowledge about best practices and successful implementation of changes. To gain this knowledge requires a commitment to lifelong learning because the available knowledge changes rapidly and continuously. Lifelong learning is twofold, academic education and professional development. Academic Education Much of the Institute of Medicine report focuses on overcoming the barriers that nurses face when considering continuing their academic education. State coalitions are actively revising and integrating the various nursing programs, making transitions between academic programs seamless.
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Figure 1. The theme for National Nurses Week 2014 is “Nurses: Leading the Way,” which reflects the importance of the leadership role that nurses play in our pursuit of excellence.
Accredited online programs and classes are available to meet the needs of working nurses. Perioperative managers and directors are in key positions to advocate for tuition reimbursement programs that are currently available in many health care facilities and that can be used as a recruitment and retention tool. These nurse managers are also in key positions to establish a culture that promotes continuing academic education by allowing reasonable flexibility in shift and on-call scheduling for nurses pursuing degrees. Yet, what can perioperative nurses do to support this recommendation and enhance their leadership skills? Lifelong learning requires a commitment and recommitment on the part of every nurse. The Institute of Medicine report recommends that “Nurses should take responsibility for their personal and professional growth by continuing their education and seeking opportunities to develop and exercise their leadership skills.”3(pS-12) Networking with nurses who have completed additional degrees (eg, BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD) provides a source of creative strategies for balancing school with work and family obligations. I have found these discussions to be inspirational and motivating as well as a source of ongoing support. The AORN Foundation has scholarships to assist nurses with continuing their academic education.4 Many of AORN’s leaders, including me, have used these scholarships to continue our education. Donations to the Foundation are an excellent priority for consideration when making charitable contributions. Additionally, many employers offer educational grants or tuition reimbursement.
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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Professional Development Lifelong learning is not limited to pursuing a degree but can be achieved through a variety of other activities, including attending conferences or local nursing meetings, reading journals, reviewing evidence when revising policies and procedures, collaborating with researchers to answer clinical questions, and precepting students. The AORN Surgical Conference & Expo is an outstanding opportunity for continuous learning and is a source of inspiration for many nurses. The Conference provides a range of learning opportunities that include presentations, posters, and networking. Local AORN chapter and state council meetings are another source of lifelong learning because they offer a culture of community learning in which shared experiences provide alternative solutions to clinical issues and practice questions. Reading journal articles provides a more thorough understanding of evidence-based practices. This depth of knowledge is needed to ensure that nursing interventions are used in an effective manner and not merely as tasks on a checklist. Many of the AORN Journal articles are available online for continuing education credit.5 Learning from journal articles is enhanced by discussing the articles with colleagues. This form of community learning is used by journal clubs. The AORN Journal Club is available on ORNurseLinkTM and uses a question-and-answer format. The February discussion can be found online at http://www.ornurse link.org/forums/viewtopic/41/2000. There also are options within health care facilities for lifelong learning, such as participating in an evidence-based practice project or reviewing evidence to update a policy and procedure. This develops the expertise of the nurse who can then educate colleagues about best practices. When evidence is not available to guide practice, the nurse should collaborate with a nurse researcher to generate the knowledge needed. In this way, the clinician learns from the researcher about what issues research can or cannot address, and the researcher
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE learns what clinical practice questions remain unanswered and are important to clinicians. Precepting a nursing student is another opportunity to share a learning experience. The nursing student learns from the clinician and vice versa. When a nursing student questions the rationale for clinical practices, for example, the clinician is prompted to critically appraise practices and seek more knowledge. RENEWED COMMITMENT TODAY These are some of the strategies available to use for lifelong learning in our pursuit of excellence. There are others. What is most important is not which strategy we select but rather that we select the strategies that work for us and that we use them on an ongoing basis. As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”6 In celebration of National Nurses Week, it is time for each of us to recommit to lifelong learning and take the first steps today to use this learning to lead the way. Editor’s note: ORNurseLink is a trademark of AORN, Inc, Denver, CO.
References 1. NursingWorld. American Nurses Association. http:// www.nursingworld.org. Accessed February 25, 2014. 2. Nurses retain top spot as most ethical profession [news release]. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association; December 16, 2013. 3. Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine; Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2010. http://thefutureof nursing.org. Accessed July 2, 2013. 4. Scholarships and grants available. AORN, Inc. http:// www.aorn.org/AORN_Foundation/Scholarships_Available/ Scholarships_and_Grants_Available.aspx. Accessed February 25, 2014. 5. Journal CE articles. AORN, Inc. http://www.aorn.org/CE. Accessed February 25, 2014. 6. Mother Teresa quotes. Goodreads. https://www.goodreads .com/author/quotes/838305.Mother_Teresa. Accessed February 25, 2014.
Victoria M. Steelman, PhD, RN, CNOR, FAAN, is the AORN president and an assistant professor at The University of Iowa College of Nursing, Iowa City. Dr Steelman has no declared affiliation that could be perceived as posing a potential conflict of interest in the publication of this article.
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