1. Cupec, Pamela Ann MS, RN, ONC, CRRN, ACM
  2. President of NAON, 2013-2014

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One evening as I was manning the grill, I was looking out over the grass in the back yard. It was a fine late summer night, warm during the day, but starting to cool after the sun went down. But as the warm air rose into the night, so did many blinks of light, offering the glow of hundreds of lightning bugs over the yard, each bringing back the delight of childhood. One could hear the giggles of young children darting around this way and that in their yards, clasping their hands around the yellow and green specks of light and trying not to let them fly away when they crawled out between chubby fingers. Their parents had jars at the ready, with the plastic wrap punched with breathing holes, so that the youngsters could deposit the wriggly insects into these containers, ready to be placed on bedside stands as they drifted off to sleep, watching the collection of lightning bugs make an even bigger glow.

Pamela Ann Cupec, MS... - Click to enlarge in new windowPamela Ann Cupec, MS, RN, ONC, CRRN, ACM, President of NAON, 2013-2014

So, too, is the lifeblood of an organization, where it is the individual contributor who augments the variety and the strength of the entity. Everyone has something inherent in his or her being that makes that person shine, standing out and ready to share his or her lights. Our task as an organization such as NAON is to gather these talented members and illuminate the growth and strength a thousand-fold. Our members are the ones who get things done-the ones who can identify a problem; present an issue, an element that we want to change for the betterment of patient care; streamline a process; or make a task easier and more efficient. We are not afraid to roll up our sleeves and tackle a problem and see it to its resolution, which is evident in our hundreds of current volunteers, from those who started a chapter in their hospital setting, to those who continue to carry the passion of NAON by holding monthly meetings, to those who continue to recycle their chapter board members because they enjoy the camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment, and those all the way up to serving on committees and making changes at the national level.


I am truly humbled by the depth and breadth of the knowledge, skills, talents, and expertise in the wealth of members in our organization. How many of you have gone on to obtain your master's degrees, your doctorates, or even finishing your bachelor's degree after sending the last offspring to college? How many of you poured over review courses and curriculums and proudly passed your certification and added those hard-earned letters after your name? We are one of a handful of organizations that offer those levels of certification, proud to be a certified orthopaedic nurse at the ONC level, and certification at the advanced practice levels of ONP-C and OCNS-C designations. I know that many of you were thrilled when you submitted a proposal for a poster or podium presentation and it was accepted. Following that, you had the opportunity to stand in front of your peers and present the information that you worked on so diligently. Looking in our exhibit hall, I saw an increase in the number of wonderful posters presented with the wealth of research and professionalism behind them. I know how rewarding it was for many of you to see a ribbon attached to your poster, winning in that category and having your colleagues ask thoughtful questions about the content. Many of our bright and rising stars in the organization contributed to our fine products and educational materials; from the extraordinary Core Curriculum, to reviewing Clinical Practice Guidelines, to our patient handouts and teaching the Orthopedic Review Courses. Many of you put forth many countless hours of work on our committees. Members were willing to sacrifice time with family and friends to make things happen in NAON to bring the products to life, to bring the Congress to a successful conclusion, and to craft documents that went on for publication for others to use in their practice.


You are the volunteers of NAON. You are what makes us successful and a proud organization. You are the lights that are flickering out there that we pull in to share the brilliance. I thank you for your passion and your drive, and your willingness to give your all to make the profession a better place and to make a name for NAON. You make us stand out in our achievements as an organization run by volunteers of the most special kind, which is why I am proud to be a part of this organization. In fact, that very passion is the foundation of the profession of orthopaedic nurses.


In this month of October, we honor the first nurse to be considered the mother of orthopaedic nursing, who understood the contribution of her time to the advancement of the causes that were her passion. In 1866, Dame Agnes Gwendoline Hunt was born in London, and as a child, she contracted tuberculosis of her left hip, and suffered repeated outbreaks of the painful condition. Eventually, Ms. Hunt developed septicemia and then osteomyelitis in this hip and had a painful limp that required a crutch for ambulation. She had a strong desire to become a nurse despite the many schools that refused to accept a "crippled girl." Over time, she was accepted into the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and went on to qualify to be a Queen's nurse, trained in midwifery.


When Ms. Hunt was in her early 30s, she started her life's work in the care of disabled children in the village where she lived. She and a friend found a three-sided shed on a farm and cared for "four crippled girls and four crippled boys" with the philosophy of fresh air, rest, good food, and loving kindness (Ellis, 2008.) The number of children grew, along with their specialized needs, as well as the buildings to house them.


Three years later, Ms. Hunt challenged her own orthopaedic surgeon to see the more complex cases in his clinic in Liverpool, which would be no easy feat, as it involved a three-hour ride on the train with children in wheelchairs and carts, then onto a ferry, and then through the streets of Liverpool (Ellis, 2008). After three years of this arrangement, Dr. Robert Jones came out himself one Sunday a month, seeing 40 to 50 patients and performing as many as 20 surgeries in a day (Ellis, 2008).


As the care of the children expanded, so did Dame Agnes Hunt's skills with splints, plaster of paris, and orthopaedic frames, learned under the guidance of Dr. Jones. Interestingly enough, he was taught this art by his uncle, Dr. Hugh Owen Thomas, who worked with immobilization of fractures and diseased joints and devised the Thomas splint. The children were responding to the regimen of good food, rest, and fresh air, and they were noted to be in good spirits, lively, and in good health. Dr. Robert Jones brought distinguished visitors to the hospital and they marveled at the outcomes. Formerly, children suffering with bone and joint tuberculosis were thin, pale, and dying of amyloid disease (Ellis, 2008). The advances were all because of a very dedicated and passionate orthopaedic nurse!


For all of her service in the work she did with the "crippled" children and also during World War I, with the orthopaedic injuries and amputations requiring rehabilitation, Ms. Hunt was appointed Dame of the British Empire in 1927. The hospital was renamed the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopedic Hospital. Her work continued by caring for these children as they grew and needed to have independence as well as a means of employment. In 1927, Dame Hunt established the Derwen Cripples' Training College, where men and women would receive training in trades suited for their individual disabilities (Ellis, 2008). She gave purpose and sense of well-being to those who had disabilities, increasing their level of independence and giving them the ability to lead productive lives in the community (Ellis, 2008).


Dame Agnes Hunt was a woman who had a passion and was persistent in doing what was right. She overcame many obstacles and was a pioneer, with a single focus in mind. She was insistent on doing the right thing in the care of those suffering with musculoskeletal disorders and turned their lives around. She won much support over time for her methods. May her passion and energy be an inspiration to you: in your workplace, at home, in your community, and may you be one of the lights that shine in NAON.


How to get started? It is as simple as volunteering and lending a hand. You may not realize how valuable and important your contributions may be. NAON is in the midst of revamping our process to volunteer, matching your talents to where the need is most prevalent and where your passions lie. Yes, we all have many commitments to family, friends, work, school, children, elderly parents, and health issues, but there is always room for something that you are enthusiastic about. NAON is an organization that is alive and vibrant with the pulse of the many volunteers who make it evolve and grow. Fortunately, we do not need to care for children with musculoskeletal diseases out in a shed on a farm, or travel several hours by train and ferry to seek medical help for our charges. We are involved in planning conferences, sitting at discussions about the future of our nursing practice, working on standards that guide care, or reviewing content in an article. Every little bit of help that is given by a volunteer is returned ten-fold. You are the blinks of light in a field, rising in the cool of the evening, joining in with one another. You are what makes this organization outstanding and I thank you for adding to the glow of the passion of orthopaedic nursing.


Ever Growing. Ever Strong. Ever Green.




Ellis Harold. (, 2008). Dame Agnes Hunt: pioneer of orthopedic nursing. Journal of Perioperative Practice, 18(11), 510. [Context Link]