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Gifts that keep on giving


December turns our hearts and minds to the holiday season. We juggle work time and family demands to prepare for holiday celebrations. We reflect on the diversity of our cultural and religious traditions, preparing for our own rituals and gatherings.

Almost universal in our culture is the tradition of gift-giving. As nurses, though, we give all year long. We give personalized care in many settings with no expectation of thanks or recognition. For this month’s cover story, Dr. Jean Watson shares her perspectives from a lifetime of groundbreaking work studying the phenomenon of nurses’ giving. She describes the selfless acts of nurses who provide care for desperate people living in unimaginable conditions. These nurses’ gifts of caring and healing are transforming lives.

Nurses also give consultation and advice to friends, family, and coworkers. And we give our expertise to professional organizations in an effort to better the profession and advocate for improved healthcare in this country.

So how should others give back to nurses? One of the best ways to reward nurses and raise the bar for practice is having every hospital in this country embark on the journey to achieve Magnet recognition. Hospitals remain the dominant job setting for nurses, employing more than half of the nursing workforce.

Recently, 10 staff nurse leaders from my facility returned from the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) 10th National Magnet Conference. They were energized and full of enthusiasm for sustaining the momentum of our facility’s recently earned Magnet designation.

The forces of Magnetism are the motherhood and apple pie of nursing. Who can argue with having a strong professional practice environment that supports autonomy and control of practice, coupled with inclusion of staff nurses in decision making throughout the organization? For anyone unfamiliar with the forces of Magnetism and the recognition process, I encourage you to visit the ANCC website (www.nursingworld.org/ancc/index.html).

I’ve had the honor of living the Magnet journey with my staff for the past 6 years. The organization’s effort to support and seek this designation underscores its commitment to supporting nurses and nursing practice—and more importantly, to patient care. The “gift” of Magnet recognition gives back to nurses, and keeps on giving. It’s a continuous journey that strengthens care delivery and professional practice. It validates for nurses that their efforts strength­en practice and draws other high-quality nurses, physicians, and interdisciplinary colleagues to their organizations. Nurses pass this gift along to patients, helping to ensure the best outcomes. Consumers express greater confidence in the quality of care in Magnet facilities.

What about nurses who don’t work in hospitals? These nurses can give themselves the gift of individual recognition and the most prestigious individual credential through certification. Achieving certification shows to your peers and others that you meet national standards. The certification exam validates nursing knowledge, recognizes specialization, and enhances one’s professional ability. For many, it also enhances career opportunities and advancement. It’s a clear hallmark of being a professional. Nurses who possess the knowledge, skills, and ability to achieve certification pass this gift along to patients through their expert patient care and sharing of knowledge with other team and family members. Nearly 80 specialty exams offer nurses many options to demonstrate their expertise in general and advanced practice.
But the simplest gift of all is showing intentional kindness each day to coworkers. This may involve simply thanking and complimenting them for helping out or for a job well done or jumping in to reduce a colleague’s workload.

No matter the “size” of the action, the impact of showing kindness can be immeasurable. If each of us encourages colleagues to respond by showing one act of kindness each day, we can create a “pay-it-forward” wave of kindness, caring, and support. Often, it’s the little things in life we remember and cherish the most. Nurses live the “pay-it-forward” way of life. We help others return to their daily lives, regain health, and resume their roles as mother, father, partner, or trusted friend. Seeing others thrive is a gift beyond measure.

Whether it’s with patients, coworkers, family, or friends, may you give and receive many little things this year—the gifts that will keep on giving.
Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN

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