By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief
For me, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) is a great venue for networking and connecting with old friends (including some from nursing school days 40 years ago). And there are always interesting sessions such as the Living Legends awards and a presentation about veterans’ health.
Few schools of nursing teach nursing history anymore, and unless you’re plugged into a professional association you won’t know about the accomplishments of those who’ve shaped the profession. That’s a shame. Nursing has been rich with women and men of action who’ve forged new ways of thinking about, practicing, and teaching nursing. At this year’s AAN meeting, four nursing movers and shakers were added as “living legends” (the Academy’s highest honor) during the event that’s always a highlight at the annual meeting. This year’s “class” includes:
(Ret.) General Clara Adams-Ender, whose army career began as a private and ended as a brigadier general (she was the first nurse to become a general!) and chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Hattie Bessent, a staunch advocate and leader in creating opportunities in nursing for minority groups.
Margaret Miles, a pioneer in pediatric nursing whose research and work with parents of critically ill children has led to family-centered care practices in ICUs.
Jean Watson, whose ground-breaking theory development, research and practice around the science of caring is known around the world.
The health needs of veterans. Another highlight was the presentation by Linda Schwartz, the nurse who is the commissioner of Veterans Affairs for Connecticut, who spoke eloquently about the health needs of veterans. She noted that there are currently 22.3 million living veterans, 2.2 million of whom are women. She stressed the importance of knowing whether a patient has a military service history because many health issues may be service associated. For example, toxic effects from depleted uranium and heavy metals such at those found in ordinance or from exposure to agents like Agent Orange may not manifest themselves for years.
Since many veterans get care outside of the VA system, the Academy is working with several veterans groups to promote health care for veterans and has launched an initiative (“Have You Ever Served in the Military?”) to remind nurses and other health care providers to ask patients about their military history. (You can get resource materials at the link above.) Additional resources for veterans’ health care are available at AJN : we highlighted veterans’ health in the July 2013 issue with an editorial and a CE feature, “Enhancing Veteran-Centered Care: A Guide for Nurses in Non-VA Settings.” Both are open access on our Web site.