Editing a Journal: Not Bedside Nursing, But Still an Urgency to Get Things Right

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

‘Nurses practice based on what’s in the literature; we need editors who will draw lines and stand firm against publishing biased and inaccurate papers.’

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

I recently returned from a meeting in Las Vegas, the land of lights and bells and six-story marquees—and heat (it hit 109 when I was there, but “a dry heat”). The long flight home gave me time to reflect on the meeting I’d attended (of editors of nursing journals) and on what I do.

When I began my nursing career, I always thought I would stay in the acute care setting. I found the fast pace of the ER challenging and never boring. When I moved into a clinical specialist position and then an administrative one, I could still get involved in challenging situations, from dealing with problems that occurred on clinical units or with staff to navigating the politics of hospital committees and community liaisons.

But time passes and paths twist and turn, and here I am the editor of AJN—and it’s the most challenging and professionally fulfilling job I’ve had.

The International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE for short) meets annually. It’s a loose networking group, mainly held together through a Web site, blog, and listserv. There are no officers or bylaws, no dues. Each year someone volunteers to host the annual meeting and whoever would like to help joins in. Anyone can propose a project, and those who want to work on it volunteer. We pass the hat to raise funds to support the Web site and incidental expenses and to help new editors attend the INANE meeting.

But don’t accuse this laid-back group of being inactive or frivolous—serious issues are tackled on an ongoing basis. True, they are not as exciting as the situations one might encounter in the clinical arena, but they have an effect on what many nurses do and think and implement in practice.

In Las Vegas, sessions focused on some important topics, including

  • the retraction of articles, i.e., when a publisher basically admits that an article is flawed and should not have been published.
  • the ethics of authorship and what to do when authors don’t want to disclose who actually wrote the paper, thus leaving room for conflicts of interest, bias, and skewed results and conclusions.
  • when and how much to fact-check authors’ references.
  • how to ensure students are getting the correct information about scholarly writing and publishing.
  • how to help new authors get their articles published.

(It wasn’t all serious stuff—the closing luncheon speaker was a physical therapist from Cirque du Soleil!)

Standing firm against inaccuracies. Editors of nursing journals, at least the ones that I’ve met through INANE, take great pains to meet the needs of readers and the profession at large and to ensure that what is being published in their respective journals is evidence based and free of errors and bias. Nurses practice based on what’s in the literature; we need editors who will draw lines and stand firm against publishing biased and inaccurate papers. Last week, you could find them in Las Vegas.

The editors from the Royal College of Nursing in London volunteered to host the meeting next year to coincide with their 100th anniversary.

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Editor-in-chief, AJN


  1. anniecoops August 16, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Well I would love to see you all in the UK! I have high respect for editors. They act as the bridge between academics (of many types) and the rest of us, channeling hopefully good ‘stuff’!
    Enjoy the RCN – they are an amazing organisation 🙂 I speak as a member!

  2. Jacob Molyneux August 14, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Mary, very good point. We certainly try to combine those with journalism, writing, editing, scholarly, and nursing knowledge at AJN….not always in the same person!

  3. Mary Caulfield August 14, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Are there any trained journalists among the group? If not, inviting one to speak may help. I’m a former journalist, but not with a degree, who turned to nursing late in life. Great nurses are not necessarily great writers and editors, but people with both skills could contribute greatly.

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