Some Florida Inspiration for Nurse Admins and Execs

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief



A pep talk on being open to possibility. While it was cold late last week in Orlando, Florida (ok, maybe not so bad at 64 degrees and sunny blue skies, but cold by their standards) the audience at the opening session of the annual meeting of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) was definitely warmed up after listening to the engaging keynote speaker, Benjamin Zander.

Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. You may be thinking he was probably a bit stuffy and formal, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Zander is, at 75, a dynamo, strolling up and down aisles, exhorting the audience to be likewise expressive, waving arms, smiling and connecting.

His message was to be open to the notion that everything is subject to change depending on how one frames it. He challenged the 1500 listeners to “stand in the realm of possibility.” His message is that everything—the rules, perceptions, games we play—are invented and can be changed. He maintains that every situation can be dealt with three ways: resignation, anger, or recognizing the possibility.

When he began (by coaching and conducting all participants in singing “Happy Birthday” not once but three times to a participant named Wendy, who will, I’m sure, NEVER forget this birthday!), I had doubts whether this audience of mostly hospital nurse administrators would go along. But he kept everyone engaged for 90 minutes with stories, piano playing, and messages, finishing with everyone singing “Ode to Joy” in German!

Letting patients see physician notes. Another noteworthy session was a presentation of a study conducted in three hospitals (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania) to evaluate the effects of allowing patients access to physician notes about them. Despite initial misgivings, the results were startling in that there were many benefits and no reported disadvantages. It was so successful that all participating hospitals expanded access. For more information, go to the site

The “buzz” from participants was that it was a great meeting. The sessions I most enjoyed were the ‘Conversations’ with noted leaders such as Linda Burnes Bolton (CNO at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles) and Marlene Kramer (author of the 1974 book, Reality Shock: Why Nurses Leave Nursing, which changed my view of hospitals and nursing). Set up like TED talks, these sessions offered a glimpse into the thinking and experiences of these leaders who shaped nursing. These sessions were being taped and will be posted soon on AONE’s YouTube channel.

Not just for nurse execs. While many see AONE as an organization directed at the executive level, it does have resources for those just beginning their leadership journey, such as the Emerging Nurse Leadership Institute, and offers educational resources for all levels of managers. We are collaborating on a quarterly column in AJN, Perspectives on Leadership, with AONE’s Care Innovation and Transformation initiative, which provides leadership development and educational opportunities to nurse managers and staff to improve the quality and safety of patient care. (See the February issue of AJN for a recent column installment, “Hard Facts About Soft Skills,” free until the end of April.)

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

One Comment

  1. Joni Watson March 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Excellent update! I didn’t get to attend the AONE conference, but it sounds like it was amazing.

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