1. Stewart, Leslie BA, RN, CGRN

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"Well, where are you heading?" "What is really important to you?" These are questions posed to me by an instructor who asked me to consider my answers as I entered into a program called Transformation, advertised to help an individual deal with life-changing events in our world and personal and professional lives. The title seemed appropriate enough as we are all being inundated with transformational challenges daily within our environment, jobs, and family dynamics. Yet, some people fall into change easily and others, like myself, resist and wail against the surrounding wind, eventually submitting to change.

Leslie Stewart, BA, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowLeslie Stewart, BA, RN, CGRN

Change is the nature of life; it happens to us all. Transformation, however, is more deliberate; it is intentional. It calls for thought and most times a good deal of planning. It occurs at those pivotal moments of your life when in an instant, your circumstances change dramatically. Somehow you cope, but you also recognize that this is an opportunity to redefine yourself or your circumstances. It becomes your new reality.


As I have been preparing the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) 2011-2012 theme, I have had much time to think about the transformation that has occurred within my own professional life. I came across a picture of myself at my graduation from nursing school. Nursing cap and starched white uniform-so young, so proud, filled with ideals to save the world and bring the best care to my patients. I look at the picture provided with this editorial, taken for the coming year. Was there any resemblance to the woman I see today? Well I am no longer young, but have learned that I am not as old as I thought. I am still proud of professional nursing but now that pride is based on experience, knowledge, and evidence-not lofty ideals and unfounded truths. I still strive to provide the best care options to my patients, but I also have learned that to be a good nurse takes those clinical skills and the ability to communicate, educate, and listen to bring both wellness and disease prevention into their lives. That young nurse is still here but changed in many ways by life's events and lessons. The spirit of that young self lives on in me still but is transformed into the nurse I am today.


SGNA has given me that opportunity to define where I am heading and what is important to me. Twenty years ago I felt I had outgrown my professional life. I found that I was easily bored and felt underutilized in my nursing career choices. A good and trusted friend, Peggy DeAngelo, came forward and asked me whether I dared to step out into a bigger arena, a growing specialty, and enter the wonderful world of endoscopy nursing. I wasn't sure I could do this; how did this fit into my plan for professional growth? I had long since fallen into the "should" trap. I should complete my education, I should select a nursing specialty to devote myself to, I should do something-but in the "should" trap nothing ever gets done, and it didn't for me. I needed to clear the way for transformation to occur; it required a powerful resolution to intentional action.


Sometimes the simplest change in perspective changes a life. I always spent so much time with the "what if's" I could hardly think. Spending time looking back at things I could not change or looking so far ahead and worrying what the future would bring that I had forgotten how to live in the moment. That day my intentional action to say yes began my lifetime journey to a professional transformation that finds me here today with all of you.


Transformation is a process that is served best and more comfortably in tiny steps. This is how I began learning my role in gastrointestinal/endoscopy, learning the needs, preparing myself to meet them, and suddenly excited about my professional future. Attaining certification was a high achievement for me as it provided me with the validation of the professional standards I sought to attain and bring into my practice. Completing my degree and continuing into graduate study was a high achievement to me as I learned the skills needed to bring the message of hope, healing, and health to our global community. Being a part of our newly founded Ocean-Monmouth SGNA Regional was exciting as it then tied our endoscopy community together into common goals and networking power. Tiny steps tied together with hard work but intentional transformation at its best.


Sometimes transformation is a process that demands action and taking big strides into unknown areas is necessary. Another phone call came in the late 1990s from a wonderful SGNA President, Delores Saddler, who said, "Leslie, I would like to see you work on the national level." Those "should" and "what ifs" wandered around in my head again, but this time I recognized their feeling of inertia and took a giant step into SGNA national committee work and eventual election to the Board of Directors. Serving in these roles for SGNA has defined some of the very proudest moments of my life. Representing gastrointestinal/endoscopy nurses in Washington, DC, in conference sessions with our collaborating partners, giving Congressional testimony for our patients, physicians, nurses, and associates' needs was enough to fill that transformational dream. I am the product of the power of intention of many individuals in both SGNA and my professional life that mentored and nurtured that transformation into the reality of this moment in time. I am truly humbled and most grateful.


As we look to the future, I ask you to look at the power of intention and the role that transformation can play in your life. My 2011-2012 theme, titled Finding the Leader in You: Making the Choice to Lead, and my vision for SGNA are to prepare our members to take that step and intentionally choose to lead. This is a call to a leadership that needs no defining title but the recognition of bringing professional excellence and high quality into our everyday actions, driven by the intention of our convictions and aspirations. The power of intention will guide your transformation into the leader that this world needs you to be-and the leader that SGNA needs to help define and shape the future.