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The unintended consequences of being unremarkable


Did you make an investment in 2007 in your future? What nursing conference did you attend last year? Have you used anything from that conference to improve your nursing practice? Have you done anything else for your own professional development? Are you prepared to set out on your 2008 professional practice journey? 

If your answer to the above questions is “no,” you may be a “negaholic.” What is that, you say? It’s the person who goes to work, whines to colleagues about how awful the changes in practice we are expected to make are, and complains about the newest thing to be charted, or learned. It’s the person who keeps saying “no” when asked to volunteer for a new committee or project. It’s the person who doesn’t belong to her professional nursing group, her specialty nursing organization, her community group, or even the neighborhood association or PTA. Why does that matter? Because each of us is on a journey, to do the best that we can for our patients, to provide remarkable care, to be remarkable parents, grandparents, community leaders, or sons or daughters to our aging parents.

Maybe you think you are stuck in a dead-end job, or a hospital that is less than stellar, or in a profession that doesn’t do enough for you. Well, if you are a negaholic, the unintended consequence of that way of thinking may be that you are discouraging those around you. Your lack of meaningful contribution may be bringing your hospital down and making the work environment more unpleasant. Your unhappiness may be making those around you want to leave. Do you think others don’t notice? They do; your nursing colleagues notice, physicians remark on it, and patients become dissatisfied and even fearful of a bad outcome. The unintended consequence of your being someone who goes to work just for the paycheck, resists getting involved, or radiates negative energy is that you become the reason for that dead-end job, that undesirable work environment, that community of nurses who are getting older at a time when there isn’t a sufficient number of new nurses to resupply the workforce.

In contrast, when I reflect on 2007, I think about those nurses who attended three very successful national conferences that I have been connected to in the last year. In January was the NDNQI conference in Las Vegas with 900 attendees. I heard so much passion from nurses who talked about data describing the care their patients receive and the changes they made to improve care. In June, I was at the Quadrennial Policy Conference in Atlanta on Disaster Preparedness. As participants, we had repeated opportunities to weigh in on the country’s national policy regarding the responses of nurses to disasters.

In October, nearly 5,000 Magnet™ conference attendees met in Atlanta to share lessons from their journeys to achieve or maintain Magnet hospital recognition. Clearly, the exemplary nurses who work for these hospitals are remarkable in the care they provide to patients and families. Every session featured Magnet nurses seeking to contribute in a meaningful way to the improvement of the profession, the care provided, or the work environment where care is delivered. Anyone who goes to a Magnet conference remarks on the enormous positive energy that flows throughout. It’s palpable.

2008 is the beginning of the rest of our careers and nursing’s future. Who will take care of the patients, and frankly, who will take care of us? Will nurses be well enough educated to have their voices count? Will nurses receive pay and recognition for remarkable performance? Will patients have fewer negative outcomes? I believe that will only happen if each of us contributes to our professional practice. To do so will require ongoing investment in our profession, in terms of time, service, additional education, financial support, recruitment and mentoring of new nurses, and dedication to practice improvements. Are you making that investment? Or are you are a negaholic—a deadbeat nurse? Nursing needs each and every one of us to contribute positive energy every time we go to work.

If this has inspired you to become a positive force for nursing, I know a way you can do that—join ANA, either as a full member in your constituent member association or as an individual affiliate member who receives benefits virtually. Reach out and be positive.

Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR


American Nurses Association

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