Thursday October 30th 2014

Caring and learning: Interwoven components of leadership

I recently read an editorial written by a person with lung cancer who described the strength and comfort he gained from his caregivers — not just from the confidence and technical expertise of his oncologist — but also from the caring encounters that inspired and guided his path toward recovery as he underwent and overcame weeks of grueling chemotherapy.  I understood the power of the caring he described, not only because I have witnessed it in my own practice, but also because I experienced it in my own life.

Throughout my own career, including my years as ANA president, my professional grounding comes from the difference I know knowledge and caring can make in the life of a patient — or even another nurse. As a person who suddenly faced an unknown and uncertain future after being infected with HIV and hepatitis C from a needle stick, I experienced for myself the comfort and caring of another provider who took the time to reassure me that I would be OK — despite odds and experience that argued against it at the time. I can recall his words and the relief I felt as he took the time to sit with me, answer my questions and allay my fears during our first face-to-face encounter. That moment took place more than 13 years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I also came to understand that the power of lifelong learning is that it informs and enriches the caring aspect of what we do every day for patients. An important obligation and aspect of our role is to assure the care we provide is guided by best practices based on up-to-date knowledge and by patients themselves. No longer should we as providers make unilateral determinations of what is in a particular patient’s best interest. Rather, caring is about relationship and mutual understanding of what has meaning in a person’s life with respect to health, illness and quality of life.

ANA has many initiatives underway to help nurses seize upon learning opportunities and fulfill the vision of the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report. We provide continuing education for nurses in a variety of new and innovative ways. We recently hosted our inaugural Staffing Conference, where more than 700 attendees came together and used a variety of interactive learning modalities, including a graphic artist who captured the sessions, to reset the dialogue and spur innovative thinking about this critical issue.

ANA also hosts monthly webinars on a wide range of topics, and has a robust online CE library to allow nurses to earn contact hours. Another initiative, the ANA Leadership Institute, is aimed at helping nurses develop their leadership abilities. Underlying the leadership institute is the belief that, regardless of whether a nurse is an emerging, developing or advanced leader, there is always more to learn about leadership. Nurses are being summoned to assume more leadership roles as the health care system changes — the institute is helping nurses answer the call.

Just as the health care system is transforming, so are society’s expectations of nurses. As part of being caring clinicians, we must be committed lifelong learners to keep our practice current. It does not matter whether this is achieved as part of the pursuit of formal academic learning, through a process of online learning, by attending sessions at a conference, or within care settings as part of patient care rounds or on unit discussions. The important point is that, in order to never stop caring for our patients and their families, we must never stop learning. ANA is committed to supporting you in the interwoven processes of caring and learning so you can contribute fully to the quality and safety of health care delivery.

— Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN

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