By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief
In Denver for the annual National Teaching Institute of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), I’m once again overwhelmed by the size and breadth of the meeting. It’s not just the attendance, though it drew over 7,000 nurses. Perhaps it’s the Colorado Convention Center, which seems to go on forever. (Fittingly, there’s a mammoth blue bear two stories high peering in one of the glass walls.)
While trying to find my way to a session, I met a nurse who was there with her mother. Mom’s a Boston ER nurse and her daughter is a critical care nurse in New Hampshire. Every year they do a mother-daughter trip to either this meeting or the Emergency Nurses Association meeting. Kudos to them!
Sociologist, inspirational speaker, and comedian Bertice Berry mc’d the opening session, quickly warming up the audience. A highlight was the presentation of AACN’s Pioneering Spirit awards to Loretta Ford (founder, along with physician Henry Silver, of the first NP program in 1965), Carrie Lenburg (pioneer in nontraditional and distance learning), and Lucian Leape (a physician who spearheaded the movement to reduce medical errors).
Some quotes from these feisty folks who had major impacts on nursing and health care:
“Earl Warren said that any time he tried to do something worthwhile, he took hell. I was happy to take hell for all of you.”
—Loretta Ford on the opposition to the NP role she encountered
“If you want to transform health care, you need to think about a triangle, with the sides representing caring, knowledge, and risk taking. You need all three to move forward.”
—Carrie Lenburg on changing the health care system
“I took a lot of flak from my medical colleagues when I suggested the way to reduce errors was to change the system rather than punish our colleagues. I got no flak from nurses—they got it.”
—Lucian Leape after his 1994 article on reducing medical errors
Another highlight was the moving presentation of keynote speaker Alex Sheen, founder of the “Because I Said I Would” movement. Sheen began an online site to honor his deceased father, who always kept his promise. It quickly became a national movement, with people writing in how they were keeping promises on everything from quitting smoking or drug use to not committing suicide. Sheen now works full-time fundraising to help people keep their promises.
It was a good way to start the day. Next up: the opening of exhibits, which is like an industry Disneyland. In prior years, there have been a helicopter, a complete MASH unit and a herd of COWS (computers on wheels). I wouldn’t be surprised to see a functioning OR. Tomorrow, I interview the AACN president and president-elect to get a read on where the association is headed for the next year.