1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

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This week I have the pleasure of working with our seven new Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) Fellows who will be in Fort Worth on the Texas Christian University campus to focus on increasing their skills in translating evidence into gastroenterology nursing practice. This cohort is SGNA's third as we continue to emphasize our commitment as gastroenterology nurses to use quality evidence to transform nursing practice.

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

As I contemplate my opportunities to work with this new group, I can't help but smile as I think about the two previous cohorts of Fellows who had this same experience. They not only are making differences in their practice, but have grown professionally and personally. They are becoming leaders at the national level, publishing and presenting their work, and encouraging others to take risks and volunteer for opportunities that seem to be "big steps." I love that they are passing on what they have gained from the Fellowship. That is exactly what our Board of Directors had in mind when they initiated this amazing opportunity for our members.


As I think of the Fellows' path to leadership, I can't help but reflect on my own journey within SGNA. I was so thrilled when I entered our specialty (a mere 25 years ago) to learn there was a national organization for nurses practicing in gastroenterology endoscopy. Even more exciting was the news there was a local regional and I could become a member! Having that support as a manager in a new specialty was invaluable to me. I met other managers who shared information with me that quickly allowed me to become more effective and efficient in managing my unit. They readily shared their lessons learned, strategies for success, and tricks of the trade. Colleagues who were experts at delivering patient care shared their knowledge and quickly moved me from novice to competent practitioner much quicker than if I had been on my own. I looked forward to our monthly meetings and was even given the opportunity to serve as a regional leader, first as a newsletter editor and eventually serving in every executive leadership role in our regional including President. I love knowledge, I love serving, I love people-SGNA was a perfect fit for me!


It didn't take more than 1 SGNA meeting for our regional president (and former national president), Flo Shaffer, to begin to push me toward national membership and leadership roles within the national organization. At the time, I was overwhelmed with just having the opportunity to lead at the regional level. I couldn't fathom I had anything to offer at the national level. But after several years of attending national meetings and being impressed with SGNA leadership, I decided to take a tiny step toward becoming more involved outside my region. I submitted my "interest in serving" form to headquarters and indicated that I was interested in being involved with certification.


I became certified as a Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse as soon as I hit my 2-year mark in the specialty and was so very proud of the recognition that certification provided me in the practice setting. Since I loved knowledge and learning, I decided there might be something I could do in the certification arena at the national level. Believing that many people were submitting their own names to serve nationally, I suspected it would take several years of making my willingness to serve known to SGNA leadership before an opportunity might present at the national level. I was therefore stunned when President Elect Dorothy Sherman contacted me to say she was putting my name forward to the Board of Directors for approval as a new member of the certification board (then known as Certification Board of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates).


From that moment forward, my life was transformed through the opportunities SGNA has afforded me over the years. Serving as the Editor of Gastroenterology Nursing would never have happened if I had not pursued my desire to serve SGNA in some way. The people I have met who have become both role models and dear friends, the opportunities to participate in shaping our organization's strategic plan and influence practice and patient outcomes, the invitations to speak around the world to other gastroenterology colleagues-never would I have dreamed these things would happen to me just because I was willing to put my name forward as someone who would take a risk to serve if chosen.


I am grateful for people who have seen potential in me that I did not see. I am grateful for the confidence I had to at least volunteer to serve, even when I was not expecting to be selected for leadership. I am grateful for an amazing SGNA organization that invests in its members and develops leaders to be effective not only within the organization, but within our discipline of nursing and wherever opportunities take us. To those of you who have been hesitant to step forward as volunteers, don't doubt yourself! Talk to the SGNA Fellows and Scholars about their experiences. Visit with a board member or committee member about their role in SGNA-ask how they got started and how their service has unfolded in the organization. Don't pass up an opportunity that will most likely transform your life just as mine has been transformed. Give leadership a try! You have nothing to lose-and incredible satisfaction and success to gain.